Another GREAT year of SEC football. Who saw A&M being this good? Hey you with your hand up, put it down because you're lying. Who thought Ole Miss would be respectful after the year they had last year. And of course we all have to give Vandy their props for a 8 win season. And the best part ladies and gentlemen is playoffs start this weekend. I'm just sad knowing August can't get here soon enough.
Here’s 2012′s final weekly breakdown of all the SEC action from the past weekend. As is the norm, we provide one key stat as well our own MrSEC.com takeaway from each contest.
And as usual it’s done in no-huddle, up-tempo fashion.
LSU 20, Arkansas 13 in Fayetteville – Video Highlights
Key Stat: 2 turnovers. Arkansas rolled up 462 yards of offense on LSU’s once stout defense. QB Tyler Wilson and WR Cobi Hamilton set career records as they helped the Hogs pass for 359 yards. And Arkansas even outgained Les Miles’ club on the ground, 103 yards to 89. But UA turned the ball over on its first two possessions of the game — a fumble at LSU’s two-yard line and an interception at its own 34 that led to a Tiger field goal. Twelve Arkansas penalties for 111 yards didn’t help, but the Hogs gave away 10 points in the first quarter of a game they lost by seven.
* LSU’s ground game is grinding to a halt. In the Tigers’ first eight games this season they rushed for 1,667 yards (208 per contest) and averaged 4.9 yards per carry. But in four November games, LSU has gained just 492 yards (123 yards per game) with an average per-carry rush of just 3.01 yards. The Tigers will have a month of bowl preps to fix that two-yard-per-carry drop off. Not good for a team that wants to run with power.
* Fans weren’t happy with John L. Smith’s decision to kick a fourth-quarter field goal from the one-yard line. The coach stood by his decision to eschew a fourth-down try trailing 17-10, but the Razorbacks never fully recovered. Wilson’s final 18-yard heave toward WR Mekale McKay in the Tiger end zone fell incomplete on the game’s last play and Wilson’s career, the Smith era, and a bitterly disappointing Arkansas season all fizzled away.
Georgia 42, Georgia Tech 10 in Athens – Video Highlights
Key Stat: 306 yards. That’s how much yardage Tech’s triple-option attack rolled up on the Georgia defense. But they were 306 of the most hollow yards to ever find their way onto a stat sheet. Tech ran the ball, yes, but the Yellow Jackets didn’t find the end zone until the 7:25 mark of the fourth quarter. Meanwhile, UGA had posted two touchdowns in each of the first, second and third quarters. Georgia Tech exerted a lot of effort but the Jackets never got anywhere. They might as well have been spent three hours running on a treadmill.
* Georgia’s defense allowed 169 yards in its first seven games this season (24.1 points per game). Then UGA safety Shawn Williams called his defensive teammates “soft.” Since Williams’ long rant the Bulldog D has allowed nine, 10, zero, 14 and 10 points over the final weeks of the season (8.6 points per game). Needless to say, it sure seems Williams’ challenge worked.
Tennessee 37, Kentucky 17 in Knoxville - Video Highlights
Key Stat: 4-0. That was Vol QB Tyler Bray’s touchdown-to-interception ratio. On the day he was 20-of-34 for 293 yards as well. His TD passes went to four different receivers. A week earlier, Bray’s performance led to his benching and Derek Dooley’s in-season firing. With offensive coordinator Jim Chaney calling the shots at UT’s interim coach, Bray appeared ready for action and happily dumped Gatorade on Chaney’s head after the final whistle. The difference in Bray seemed to validate the murmurs in Knoxville that the quarterback (and his family) never truly saw eye-to-eye with Dooley.
* The win by Tennessee allowed the Vols to avoid back-to-back losses to Kentucky for the first time since 1976-77. It also prevented UT from losing to Vanderbilt and Kentucky in the same season for the first time since 1964. And it kept the Volunteers from suffering their first-ever eight-loss season in conference play.
* Kentucky QB Jalen Whitlow became the final SEC passer to set a season-high mark for passing yardage against Tennessee’s woeful defense. Coming into the game he had never thrown for more than 114 yards in a game and that performance (against South Carolina) marked the only time all year he’d even broken the century mark. Against UT he was 29-of-45 for 225 and a touchdown with no interceptions. Still, Whitlow missed a number of open deep receivers or else the Cats might have been able to hang with the Vols longer.
Florida 37, Florida State 26 in Tallahassee (Highlights Not Available)
Key Stat: 5 turnovers. In Florida’s lone loss of the season, the Gators turned the ball over six times against Georgia. Well, the football gods giveth and the football gods taketh away. Saturday in Tallahassee, the Seminoles turned the ball over five times to Will Muschamp’s defense… making us very glad that we pointed out in Friday’s game preview that FSU had a penchant for giveaways while the Gators were — aside from the UGA game — good at creating takeaways.
* Trailing 20-13 going into the fourth quarter, Florida rung up 24 consecutive points. First came a field goal from K Caleb Sturgis. That was followed by an FSU fumble that quickly turned into a 37-yard TD run by RB Mike Gillislee. After a Seminole punt, QB Jeff Driskel found WR Quinton Dunbar for a touchdown pass (yes, Gator fans, a pass). State then turned the ball over on downs and just four plays later the RB Matt Jones tacked on a 32-yard touchdown run. FSU added a score on the game’s final play, but the 24-point run covering less than nine minutes were enough to completely turn the game around and give UF the victory.
Vanderbilt 55, Wake Forest 21 in Winston-Salem (Highlights Not Available)
Key Stat: 17-of-23 for 229 yards. Those were the number for Vandy QB Jordan Rodgers. He also threw two TDs against only one interception. As the Dores opened the season 2-4, Rodgers was just 74-of-134 (55.2%) with three touchdowns and two interceptions. During Vanderbilt’s six-game winning streak to close the season, Rodgers was 101-of-160 (63.1%) with 10 TDs against three INTs. He tossed two touchdown passes in each of the Commodores last five games including against Wake Forest. As he improved, Vanderbilt improved.
* Commodores RB Zac Stacy put the exclamation point on Vanderbilt’s big win — it’s eight of the season (for the first time since 1982). His fourth-quarter 90-yard touchdown run accounted for half of his 180 yards on the night and nearly half of Vandy’s 203 rushing yards for the game. The play also pushed VU in front by a score of 55-14 over the Deacons (who would add a defensive touchdown to make the game look a tad more respectable).
Alabama 49, Auburn 0 in Tuscaloosa – Video Highlights
Key Stat: 483 to 163. As if the score wasn’t bad enough — and it was 42-0 at halftime — the difference between the two teams in total offense was some bad icing on an awful cake. The Tigers weren’t able to muster 100 yards on the ground (92 total) or through the air (71 total). Yes, Alabama’s performance was that dominating… Auburn’s that poor.
* Alabama followed up its two toughest games of the season — a 21-17 win over LSU and a 29-24 loss to Texas A&M — with a pair of identical 49-0 scrimmage-type games against Western Carolina and Auburn. If not for the fact that Georgia finished the season with three breathers (38-0 over Auburn, 45-14 over Georgia Southern, 42-10 over Georgia Tech) we might be worried about Bama’s edge going into the SEC Championship Game. As it stands, both teams will have to ratchet back up the intensity a bit next Saturday.
* In Gene Chizik’s final three SEC contests as Auburn’s coach, the Tigers lost to Texas A&M, Georgia and Alabama by a combined score of 150-21. They were outgained offensively 1,651 yards to 736. Those kinds of numbers spell “c-u-r-t-a-i-n-s” in the SEC, folks.
Ole Miss 41, Mississippi State 24 in Oxford – Video Highlights
Key Stat: 527 yards. Hugh Freeze’s up-tempo offense might have put the final nail in the coffin of Mississippi State defensive coordinator Chris Wilson’s coffin. Saturday’s game marked the third time on the season that the Bulldogs had allowed 500 or more yards to an opposing offense. Six of MSU’s last seven opponents averaged more than 5.7 yards per play. In the Egg Bowl, State appeared to wear down as the game went on in spite of the fact that Mississippi is the team that’s supposed to have paper-thin depth.
* Rebel QB Bo Wallace came into the season with little fanfare. In fact, there was debate over who decided the starting job and Freeze came close to benching his signal-caller due to a number of turnovers. Well, Wallace never did completely ixnay the interceptions, but became the poor man’s Johnny Football. Against State he finished 15-of-22 for 294 yards with five — yep, five — TDs and two interceptions. He also tacked on another 40 yards rushing as UM somehow, someway managed to become bowl eligible with its blowout win.
* Meanwhile, MSU QB Tyler Russell finished 18-of-33 for 268 yards, a touchdown and a pair of picks. The junior — who along with what was supposed to be a dazzling, veteran receiver corps — had a good year, but the not the great year many expected. Despite a superb 22-to-6 TD-to-INT ratio, Russell finished the regular season as the SEC’s eighth-rated passer (140.46), two slots behind the aforementioned Wallace.
South Carolina 27, Clemson 17 in Clemson (Highlights Not Available)
Key Stat: 23-of-41 for 310 yards. That was the stat line for backup quarterback Dylan Thompson who also tossed three scoring passes against just one interception. Without RB Marcus Lattimore and QB Connor Shaw, it seemed clear that Clemson’s high-scoring offense would feature the most talent at the skill positions. Not so. Thompson’s aerial performance helped move Steve Spurrier to the top of USC’s all-time win list (now, all by his lonesome) and helped lead Carolina to its first four-game win streak over its in-state rival since way back 1954. Thompson and the Cocks ran 51 second-half plays to Clemson’s 19.
* While Carolina’s offense was having more success than expected, the Gamecock defense was also doing its part. Clemson QB Tajh Boyd — the nation’s 10th-best passer coming into the contest — completed just 11-of-24 passes for 183 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. He managed just 26 rushing yards on 17 carries as USC’s defensive line pressured him for most of the evening. Sophomore DE Jadeveon Clowney recorded his 13th sack to set a new single-season school record.
Texas A&M 59, Missouri 29 in College Station – Video Highlights
Key Stat: 439 yards. Aggie QB Johnny Manziel awed onlookers once more as the completed 32-of-44 passes for 372 yards (with three TDs and one INT) and added 67 more yards and another couple of touchdowns on 12 carries. In 12 games, Manziel now has exactly 4,600 yards of total offense which is 273 yards better than the SEC record 4,327 former Auburn QB Cam Newton recorded in 14 games back in 2010. Just give him the Heisman now and be done with it. If Manziel doesn’t win the honor, it will be the biggest rip-off since former Tennessee QB Peyton Manning lost out to defensive back.
* Texas A&M cranked out 647 yards of total offense giving the Aggies 6,628 yards for the season. Last year Arkansas led the league with 5,695 yards in 13 contests. Auburn led the conference with 6,989 through 14 games two seasons ago. So, hey, there’s still one record for Kevin Sumlin and crew to shoot for. Mississippi’s Freeze and Florida’s Muschamp did great work this season, but the job A&M’s coach has done should have Aggie fans signing his praise… and looking forward to the future. Who said the SEC was gonna be tough?
* And on the opposite end of the spectrum you have Mizzou. Unlike the surprising Aggies, the underachieving Tigers found that life in the Mike Slive’s league can be a beast. Injuries along the offensive line and to starting QB James Franklin prevented the squad from ever gaining any momentum. And DT Sheldon Richardson’s selfish attitude toward class attendance — which led MU to suspend him for its loss to Syracuse — made sure that the Tigers would not go bowling for the first time since 2004. It will be a long offseason in Columbia filled with a whole bunch of soul-searching.