Here’s your weekly breakdown of all the SEC action from the previous weekend. We provide one key stat as well our own MrSEC.com takeaway from each contest.
As usual it’s done in no-huddle, up-tempo fashion.
Florida 14, Missouri 7 in Gainesville - Video Highlights
Key Stat: 4 interceptions. That’s how many picks Mizzou QB James Franklin tossed during Saturday’s squeaker of a loss to Florida. The Tigers actually out-offense’d the Gators by about 60 yards, but the turnovers were the difference in the game. Pure. And. Simple.
* Franklin really wasn’t all that bad… aside from the INTs. The last one came on a desperation throw into the end zone on the Tigers’ final play, too. Considering that he rushed — with a bum knee — for 29 of Missouri’s 99 yards on the ground (MU averaged just 2.8 yards per carry), and that he was facing the league’s third-best defense overall, Franklin’s 24-of-51 performance for 236 yards wasn’t quite as bad it seemed. The man didn’t get a whole lotta help from his offensive teammates.
* On the defensive side of the ball, however, the Franklin did get help. Or was that just a product of QB Jeff Driskel’s bad day passing? The sophomore finished 12-of-23 for just 106 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions (credit him for that). After the game, Will Muschamp promised that his offense would some day be more explosive. It doesn’t appear that day will come this year, however. Florida’s pass offense specifically has mustered only two games of plus-200 yard passing all season (against Kentucky and Tennessee, fittingly). UF averaged five yards per carry on the ground and they were the recipient of four turnovers, but if the Gators don’t find a passing offense soon — they currently rank dead last in pass yards per game in the SEC — it’ll be a challenge for them to best Florida State and a bowl opponent to close out the season.
Vanderbilt 40, Kentucky 0 in Lexington – Video Highlights
Key Stat: 40 points. That was the largest margin of victory for Vanderbilt over Kentucky in a jaw-dropping 96 years. When you’re shutout and throttled at home like that by a school with the toughest admissions policy in the conference, your coach is probably going to get himself fired. And that’s indeed what happened with class act Joker Phillips on Sunday, just one day after his Cats hit their nadir.
* Last Friday we suggested that QB Jordan Rodgers would likely be the difference in this game and he was. While the Commodores ran for an impressive 227 yards — more on that in a minute — Rodgers steered the Dores offensive ship with a calm hand. 18-of-29, 220 yards, two touchdowns, just one interception. He was consistent and he helped Vandy convert 11 of 17 third down plays. Safe, smart and steady.
* When Phillips looks back at his tenure he may regret bringing back his old boss Rick Minter as UK’s defensive coordinator. Kentucky ranks 10th or worse in every major defensive category in the SEC. Against the run, the Wildcats have allowed four opponents to break the 200-yard barrier and five more to top 150. You just can’t win games when nine of your 10 run the ball with such ease.
Texas A&M 38, Mississippi State 13 in Starkville - Video Highlights
Key Stat: 440 yards. Take a guess: What player accounted for that many yards of total offense on Saturday? Yep, Aggie QB Johnny Manziel. Check this stat line: 30-of-36 passing for 311 yards, 21 carries for 129 yards, two touchdowns (on the ground) and one turnover. That turnover was a third quarter fumble into the end zone that actually spared Mississippi State a worse beating and prevented “Johnny Football” from padding his Heisman-worthy stats a bit more.
* Texas A&M’s offense had no problem whatsoever with what was at one point believed to be a solid Mississippi State defense. The Ags rolled up 693 yards of total offense. That marks the fifth time Kevin Sumlin’s new attack has posted 600 or more yards through nine games. A&M leads the SEC in total offense as they’re the only league team to break the 5,000-yard barrier already. The Aggies will be tested mightily by Alabama on Saturday — and who knows what would happen if Manziel were to roll an ankle — but to date Sumlin has to be the frontrunner for the SEC’s Coach of the Year honors. All that has to be driving Texas Longhorn fans absolutely batty.
* MSU’s great 7-0 start — it can now be said — was a mirage. The Bulldogs feasted on lighter fare and worked their way all the way to #11 in the BCS standings before being exposed the past two weeks. In its first seven games, State allowed just 2,294 yards (327 per game) and was plus-16 in turnover margin against teams with a combined record of 24-40. The Bulldogs three SEC wins came against foes who are now a combined 0-18 in league play. The last two weeks, State has faced teams with a combined 16-2 record. In those games, MSU has allowed 1,107 yards (554 per game) and it’s minus-three in turnover margin.
Tennessee 55, Troy 48 in Knoxville – Video Highlights
Key Stat: 721 yards. In more than a century of football, Tennessee had never allowed that many yards to an opposing offense. But they gave up that many on Saturday… against Troy. The Trojans had 10 big plays alone that accounted for a whopping 385 yards. They moved the ball with ease through the air (496 yards passing) and on the ground (225 yards rushing). In the worst season in UT’s history in terms of defensive stats, Saturday provided the icing on what must be one terrible tasting cake.
* The “did that reall just happen” explosion by Troy overshadowed QB Tyler Bray’s school-record 530-yard passing today. Bray tossed five touchdowns against no interceptions as he once again annihilated a nonconference foe. For some on Rocky Top, a win is a win is a win. But it seems that group grew smaller on Saturday. Check a messageboard and you’ll find that for many Vol fans, Saturday’s 55-48 win felt much more like a loss.
Arkansas 19, Tulsa 15 in Fayetteville – Video Highlights
Key Stat: 11 for 177 yards. Those were the receiving numbers for Arkansas WR Cobi Hamilton. And they were par for the course. Not only did they help the Hogs fend off 7-2 Tulsa, but those 11 receptions moved Hamilton into first-place all-time on Arkansas’ single-season receptions list. Those 177 yards moved the 6-3 senior to within 40 yards of former Razorback Jarius Wright’s school record 1,117 receiving yards in a single season. To date, Hamilton has amassed 69 catches for 1,077 yards and four touchdowns.
* Kudos to Paul Haynes’ defense (and it’s not been often we could say that this year). Tulsa came in with one of the nation’s 10 best rushing attacks, yet the often porous Razorback defense held the Golden Hurricane to just 106 yards on the ground and 2.9 yards per carry. Tulsa managed just 328 yards of total offense. That’s marked improvement for a defense that had allowed more than 500 yards to nonconference foes Louisiana-Monroe and Rutgers earlier this season.
Auburn 42, New Mexico State 7 in Auburn – Video Highlights
Key Stat: 311 yards. Leading just 7-0 at the half against a now 1-8 team from the WAC, Auburn’s offense finally woke up. The run game we said Friday the Tigers would have to find, they found. RB Tre Mason and RB Onterio McCalebb combined for 265 of Auburn’s 311 rushing yards. At the end of the day, the Plainsmen averaged 6.9 yards per carry against the Aggies.
* QB Jonathan Wallace — making his first start for Scot Loeffler’s offense — showed some promise. He completed nine-of-16 passes for 164 yards, one touchdown and one interception. No one will be clearing out a space for him in College Football Hall of Fame after that performance, but at least he managed the Tiger offense well. His reward will be another start this Saturday against #5 Georgia. It’s doubtful he’ll get quite so much help from his running backs on Saturday, so we’ll get a better estimate of his quarterbacking prowess at that time.
Georgia 37, Ole Miss 10 in Athens – Video Highlights
Key Stat: 37-0. That’s how the scoring went after Ole Miss nabbed a 10-0 lead with 11:45 to play in the second quarter. Georgia responded just 45 seconds later with a 66-yard touchdown pass to WR Marlon Brown that began to wake the Dawgs from their post-Florida victory hangover. UGA still fumbled on back-to-back possession and turned the ball over on downs before scoring again, but from the time of QB Aaron Murray’s pass to Brown until the final gun, Georgia outgained the Rebels 413 to 74 (according to the game’s drive charts).
* 21-0f-28 for 384 yards, four TDs and no INTs. Those were the passing numbers for UGA’s Murray against an outmanned Ole Miss defense. Unfortunately for Georgia, the win was a costly one. The aforementioned Brown tore suffered an ACL injury during the game that has brought his senior season to a premature halt. Now the Bulldogs must have someone else step up to replace the receiving production that’s been lost to the ACL tears of Brown and WR Michael Bennett (who was injured last month).
* QB Bo Wallace and company were held in check by a Georgia defense that’s clearly responded to the tongue-lashing it received from S Shawn Williams before last week’s Florida game. The Rebels managed just 234 yards of total offense and they never could kick Hugh Freeze’s up-tempo offense into warp speed. A Mississippi squad that came in averaging 71 plays per contest ran just 57 against Georgia. Credit the Dawgs’ defense — and a successful offense that ate up clock — for that decline in Rebel snaps.
Alabama 21, LSU 17 in Baton Rouge – Video Highlights
Key Stat: 5 plays, 72 yards, 43 seconds. That was the difference between victory and defeat for Alabama on Saturday night at Tiger Stadium. Those three numbers are why the Crimson Tide is still #1 in the BCS standings and still looking like shoe-in for the BCS Championship Game if it keeps winning. Bama controls its own destiny today because it controlled 43 of the final seconds in Saturday’s classic contest. Five plays, 72 yards, 43 seconds.
* There is a reason that this particular writer doesn’t bet on football. It’s an unpredictable sport. If there was one sure thing going into this past weekend’s big game it was this: Alabama had a clear advantage at quarterback. Tide QB AJ McCarron had been coolly efficient on the season. Tiger QB Zach Mettenberger had been rather pedestrian. Throw them up against a pair of good defenses and the better passer would prevail… and that would be McCarron. Well, McCarron did win in the end with a clutch drive against an LSU defense that gave up way too much cushion until finally bringing the heat — and getting burned by it — on the game-winning screen pass to RB TJ Yeldon. But Mettenberger riddled what had been an impenetrable Alabama pass defense for most of the night. The guy with a seven-to-four touchdown-to-interception ratio passed for a season-high 298 yards against Alabama. He had bettered his 68.6 completion percentage only twice all year — against Idaho and North Texas. Mettenberger’s performance was what had LSU in a position to win the game heading into the final minutes. The Tigers lost the game, but they may have finally found their passing attack. No one saw that happening against Alabama. (Except Les Miles who had the guts to trust his signal-caller to wing it 36 times.)
* As for Alabama, the Tide allowed 435 yards on the night. Nick Saban’s team came in giving up an average of 203 yards of total offense per game. So was Bama exposed? Is this defense really as strong as we’d thought? Strong enough to win the SEC and then the league’s seventh straight BCS title? We’re going to get a better idea on Saturday. ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit said last week that he believed Texas A&M would provide a tougher test for Bama’s D than LSU would. Turns out, the Tigers were pretty darn good themselves. If Herbstreit’s correct then A&M could really challenge Alabama’s reign. But just as the Mettenberger performance shows us that anything is possible on a given Saturday, this weekend’s defensive effort by the Tide might have simply been “one of those nights.” In other words, it’s probably way to soon for people to start falling off the Crimson Tide bandwagon. Over the past six years we’ve seen a lot of high-flying, fast-paced, scoring machines match up against tough, fast SEC defenses in BCS title games. The results have always been the same — the team averaging 40-something points per contest musters 24 or fewer points against the big, bad SEC defense. For now, here’s betting that’s what would happen if Oregon or Kansas State faced this Alabama team in Miami for the national crown. But check back with us after Saban and crew face off with Texas A&M!