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SEC Weekend Wrap – 9/9/13

weekend-wrapGood Monday afternoon to you.  As is the norm, here is our full around-the-SEC Weekend Wrap complete with game-by-game comments and several bonus observations on Alabama/Texas A&M, South Carolina feuding, Vanderbilt attendance, ex-SEC coach Lane Kiffin and more.

Here goes…

 

1.  Kentucky 41, Miami (OH) 7

Saturday marked the first home game and the first win for new Wildcat coach Mark Stoops.  But the big story in this one was the play of quarterback Max Smith.  Oh, UK continued to use both of their quarterbacks — in a bit of a surprise move — and both had good days throwing the football, but Smith is clearly his team’s best passer.  While Jalen Whitlow finished 10-of-12 for 103 yards and another 48 on the ground, Smith went 15-of-23 for 310 yards, three scores and no interceptions.  We’ll see home Smith does — and how the quarterback rotation works — when Louisville visits on Saturday.

 

2.  Miami (FL) 21, Florida 16

Many Gators fans weren’t thrilled with winning ugly a year ago.  One can imagine how losing ugly sits with the UF faithful.  First things first: A little credit to offensive coordinator Brent Pease for guiding his offense to a plus-400-yard day.  Unfortunately, five turnovers — four in the red zone — killed any hope of a Gator victory.  Quarterback Jeff Driskel’s passing line wasn’t that bad –  22-of-33 for 291, one TD and two picks — but he also fumbled for a third giveaway and his TD pass came a little too late.  From Urban Meyer’s last season through Charlie Weis’ failures right on through to Pease, Gators fans haven’t seen a consistent offense since Tim Tebow graduated.

 

3.  Tennessee 52, Western Kentucky 20

On Saturday morning, the feeling was that we’d all know more about Tennessee after its session with Bobby Petrino.  But seven WKU turnovers muddied the water quite a bit.  Butch Jones’ Vols were in the right place at the right time — a big improvement over last year’s defense — and they forced several of the Hilltoppers’ errors.  Credit must be given for that.  However, with Oregon and Florida coming up next, it’s doubtful UT will be on the receiving end of five turnovers in six plays as they were last Saturday.  Well, OK, maybe they can get those kinds of breaks against Florida.

 

4.  Missouri 38, Toledo 23

With 10:29 to play, the Rockets trailed the Tigers by a touchdown and two-point conversion.  Blame it on the high temperature if you like, but many Mizzou fans had already left Faurot Field by that point.  They missed Marcus Murphy’s TD run to clinch the victory.  For Gary Pinkel, this was not the kind of game he needed.  Not only did his team struggle to subdue a team that Florida held to six points a week ago, but his 0wn offensive stars were only so-so.  James Franklin (16-of-25 for 212 yards, one score, one interception and 77 yards rushing) and Henry Josey (nine carries for 26 yards and two touchdowns) did enough to get the win, but Toledo actually gained more yards than Missouri (387 to 384).  Sometimes you have to win ugly and in the end Mizzou did just that.  But Saturday’s game will leave some Tiger fans worried about the weeks and months ahead.

 

5.  Mississippi State 51, Alcorn State 7

Now this is the kind of game Dan Mullen’s teams excel in.  An overmatched foe from far down the football food chain has become the staple of the Bulldogs’ diet.  Without concussed quarterback Tyler Russell, State turned to Dak Prescott who led his team to the easy win.  Overall, MSU cranked up its offense for 556 yards and did so in balanced fashion (279 passing, 277 rushing).  Mullen’s team will dive into SEC play at Auburn on Saturday night.  The Tigers don’t figure to be the pushover that FCS-level Alcorn State was.

 

6.  Georgia 41, South Carolina 30

Where’s the Georgia fan who cried — literally — for the firing of Mark Richt post-Clemson?  Also, enough with the “Aaron Murray can’t win the big one” talk.  Murray was fantastic on Saturday.  In addition to Murray’s 309 through the air, the Dawgs rushed for 229 behind Todd Gurley’s 134-yard effort.  A gritty, gutty win that keeps Georgia’s BCS title hopes alive.  For a change, UGA now owns the East Division tie-breaker but Carolina appears to have the easier schedule.  If the Gamecocks ride Mike Davis (16 carries, 149 yards) they’ll beat a lot of teams this year.  USC’s defense stuffed what’s expected to be a pretty good North Carolina offense two weeks ago and on Saturday they were owned by a team that also tallied 500+ yards against Clemson.  Carolina’s coaches will need to figure out a way to get Jadeveon Clowney more involved — Steve Spurrier might have some tips for his defensive coordinator — but we chalk up Saturday’s game more to Georgia’s offense than to South Carolina’s defense.

 

7.  Arkansas 31, Samford 21

After building a 17-7 halftime lead in front of a disappointing crowd in Little Rock, Bret Bielema’s team saw its pilot light go out.  Samford — of the FCS — entered the fourth quarter with a 21-17 lead.  Arkansas scored twice in the fourth quarter and forced three-and-outs on Samford’s final two drives to record the victory, but don’t you think Bret Bielema was secretly pleased to see his team get the win and a wake-up call?  The Razorbacks likely won’t underestimate Southern Miss or Rutgers the next two weeks.  To this point, it also looks like O-coordinator Jim Chaney is happy calling the kind of game Bielema enjoyed at Wisconsin.  The Razorbacks lead the SEC in rushing at this point, they have two of the SEC’s top three running back (#1 Alex Collins and #3 Jonathan Williams), and their run-pass ratio is 104 carries to 40 throws.

 

8.  Ole Miss 31, Southeast Missouri State 13

What can you say about this one?  The Rebels rushed out to a 31-0 halftime lead — five scores on five straight possessions at one point — against a terrible opponent, then turned things over to the backups.  The backups weren’t able to build upon UM’s lead, which shows that Hugh Freeze still has a ways to go when it comes to building SEC-caliber depth on his roster.  The win was still good enough to land Ole Miss in the top 25 as Freeze’s team heads to wounded Texas on Saturday.  Either Texas is going to get well in a hurry, or Mississippi is going to do their conference brother, Texas A&M, a Lone Star State-sized favor.

 

9.  Texas A&M 65, Sam Houston State 28

Speaking of the Aggies, Johnny Manziel and his offensive mates were all business on Saturday.  In his first start of the year, the dual-threat quarterback did more damage with his arm (28-of-41 for 403 yards and three TDs) than his legs (36 yards and one score) this week.  Overall, Texas A&M exploded for 714 yards.  That’s the good news.  The bad news is that A&M’s defense looked pretty porous for a second straight Saturday.  A week after allowing 500+ yards to Rice, the Aggies surrendered 390 yards to their FCS guest.  Most frighteningly with Alabama coming to town, A&M allowed 240 yards on the ground.  Kevin Sumlin’s ground defense is the worst in the SEC — and #117 of 125 teams nationally — allowing 273 yards on the ground per game.

 

10.  Auburn 38, Arkansas State 9

Gus Malzahn’s new squad didn’t have much trouble with his old squad.  At least not on the scoreboard.  While the Tigers coasted in terms of points, Ellis Johnson’s defense did allow 422 yards to the Red Wolves including 272 through the air.  Nine days ago, Washington State passed for 344 on Auburn.  Obviously, there’s room for improvement in that area.  There is a silver lining, however — AU gives up yards, not points.  The Tigers have allowed just three touchdowns in eight red zone trips by their opponents.  Their red zone D is third best in the SEC at this point.  On offense, new quarterback Nick Marshall made some strides on Saturday (10-of-17 for 147 yards and two TDs through the air with another 53 yards on eight rushes).  He’s not a finished product by any stretch, but he has shown promise.

 

11.  Vanderbilt 38, Austin Peay 3

Since when did Vandy become a passing team?  New signal-caller Austyn Carta-Samuels looked good again on Saturday, throwing for 223 yards in one half’s work.  He’s now averaging 261 yards per game which is good for fourth place on the SEC’s passing chart through two weeks.  Vanderbilt was less successful on the ground Saturday — aside from two Carta-Samuels touchdown runs — and that has to be a concern facing a trip to Columbia and a date with Jadeveon Clowney, the league’s most feared pass rusher.  If Vandy could only muster a 4.8 yards-per-carry average against a bad FCS team — and Austin Peay is a bad FCS team — they’re not likely to run well against South Carolina.  Go one-dimensional against the Clowney crew and Carta-Samuels could be in for a long day.  It’s time for the Commodores — #13 in the SEC in rushing — to crank up the ground game.

 

12.  LSU 56, UAB 17

Tiger quarterback Zach Mettenberger seems to be taking to Cam Cameron’s tutelage like a duck to water.  Or like a Bengal to a Bayou.  Something like that.  LSU’s new offensive coordinator has not only improved the QBs accuracy — his completion percentage is up from 59% to 63% — but he’s helped his decision-making as well.  Mettenberger was a sizzling 16-of-19 for 282 yards on Saturday.  On the season, he’s tossed six touchdowns to nary an interception.  Overall, he trails only Georgia’s Aaron Murray on the SEC passing list.  Credit Les Miles for hiring his old buddy Cameron and for giving him plenty of freedom.  The 2-0 Tigers have thrown 52 passes compared to 82 rushes on the season.  To LSU fans used to watching Miles’ teams run, run and run some more, those numbers must seem like practically Saints-esque.

 

13.  Is The SEC Down?

Last week we wrote that it was too early in the season to start with “The SEC is down!” talk.  Well, fair or not that talk is going to grow this week.  After Georgia fell to Clemson and Oklahoma State whipped Mississippi State eight days ago, Florida dropped the SEC banner in its rivalry game with Miami (FL).  Granted, two of those losses were by less than a touchdown and on the road in ACC stadia, but the national storyline will focus on a slipping Southeastern Conference.  That storyline will be gulped down quickly by SEC-fatigued fans everywhere outside of Dixie.  Might these losses came back to haunt the league come BCS selection time?  It’s possible.  For now, perception is reality.  For years, SEC squads have benefited from the commonly held belief that their league is Big King Football.  Three early-season, high-profile, out-of-conference losses have given ammunition to the anti-SEC crowd.  Don’t be surprised if folks all across America suddenly start questioning the SEC’s dominance more loudly than ever.

 

14.  Tennessee’s Lucky Lane Kiffin Left

If Lane Kiffin had stayed at Tennessee and not fled to Southern Cal after one, lone season in Knoxville, the Volunteers’ roster would have never been razed and Derek Dooley would have never been hired in an absurd “We’ve gotta save the recruiting class!” panic.  That said, Vol fans should still — to paraphrase Roy Clark — thank God and Greyhound that Kiffin’s gone.  Had he stayed, he would not have had a strong AD to reel him in as Pat Haden has done in Los Angeles.  That means he and Ed Orgeron could have finished what they started and really gotten UT into NCAA hot water.  Worse, Kiffin is proving to be a run-of-the-mill crummy coach out there on the Left Coast.  Southern Cal shouldn’t have been ranked #1 last preseason and the scholarship limits Kiffin’s been dealt are brutal.  But now in his fourth year with the Trojans, his team is in a freefall and the once hotshot assistant no longer looks like a quarterback whisperer.  He dealt himself a bad hand by leaving Knoxville.  In hindsight, Rocky Toppers should be glad he did.

 

15.  Alabama/Texas A&M Hype

Where will this one rank in terms of hype?  Alabama versus LSU in 2011?  A Super Bowl?  Prince William and Kate’s baby?  Any trial the 24-hour news channels decide to cover?  Oh, it’s going to be huge.  ESPN will beat the drum for this one all week long.  There’s the AJ McCarron/Johnny Manziel, good guy/bad guy angle to play… complete with tales of a once-promising bromance gone horribly wrong at the Manning Passing Academy and SEC Media Days.  There will be talk about Nick Saban and his place in history.  Then there will stories of Saban downplaying — with plenty of disgust to be sure — the talk of his place in history.  It’s the almost mechanical, methodical dynasty of Alabama versus an up-start, brash, wide-open Texas A&M squad.  Oh, and there’s also the revenge factor for Bama.  Get ready.  By Saturday we’ll all be shouting at our flatscreens: “Just play the damn game already!”

 

16.  Vanderbilt Attendance

Head coach James Franklin campaigned last week for Vandy fans to sell out Saturday’s night’s contest with Austin Peay.  Now we’ll give you that most schools wouldn’t sell out a game against and FCS foe, but still, when your first winning coach in a century asks you to turn out, you turn out.  On Saturday, VU announced 33,162 as paid attendance.  That’s about 6,500 less than the capacity of Vanderbilt Stadium/Dudley Field.  This isn’t the first time Franklin has talked about the number of fans showing up to support his team.  We’ve written in the past that Vanderbilt lacks a large contingent of “sidewalk alums” and that that’s a hindrance to ticket sales.  That is a legitimate excuse.  However, if Franklin eventually tires of beating his bald head against the wall and splits from Nashville, empty seats at Vanderbilt Stadium will probably play a big role in his decision-making.

 

17.  Turnovers, Turnovers, Turnovers

So far this season, there have been 25 games involving SEC teams.  In five of those contests, neither team held a turnover advantage at game’s end.  Of the other 20 games involving SEC squads this season, 16 times the team winning the turnover battle won the game.  The exceptions:  Kentucky was plus-one versus Western Kentucky and lost, Miami (OH) was plus-one versus Kentucky and lost, Samford was plus-two versus Arkansas and lost, and Southeast Missouri State was plus-one against Ole Miss but lost.  One of these weeks the turnover stat won’t hold up and everyone will say, “What about your turnover stat?”  Those who do will be foolish.  Because the turnover stat will return the next week to smite them.  Turnovers are 75-80% of the game.  He who scoffs at the importance of turnover margin will surely see his team punished by the Fates.

 


5 comments
Gamecock in ATL
Gamecock in ATL

Give credit to UGA for an incredible offensive gameplan. Playcalling was tremendous.

I just hope that the chemistry isn't coming unglued in Columbia.

Tusk
Tusk

A shout out to Bobo, a good game plan that mixed the run & pass really well with some great third down calls.  It wasn't too long ago the faithful wanted to run him out of town.

VagabondVol
VagabondVol

I'm nonplussed that you wrote a whole paragraph on LSU's victory with nary a word about Odell Beckham's otherworldly performance. Four TDs, including a 100 yard return, and not a mention? By the way, as you might have figured from the username, I'm no LSU fan.

sojourner
sojourner

don't get me wrong.  this is one vol grad who's happy with weasel boy being three time zones away from volville, but in all honesty, i'd take him back in a new york minute over the guy in orange pants with a famous last name who followed him.  as for the so-called a.d. who hired both (and worse), I wouldn't wish him on bama or florida (well, maybe florida).  what kind of fool hires a coach with a career losing record, then gives him a five million dollar golden parachute when he lives down to his resume?

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