OXFORD, Miss.— From the first four weeks in the Southeastern Conference season, it is apparent there is a balance to the competition.
After its 41-24 win over Georgia, it is clear Alabama is the best team in the league. Sorry Vanderbilt, but with your depleted roster, it looks as if you will have a hard time winning a game this season.
But as for the rest of the SEC, it seems any of the other 12 can beat any of the other 12 on any given day. Saturday, two ranked conference teams went down to unranked teams and one was not close.
And as for the theory of conference teams not playing defense? That was shot down Saturday.
NO. 2 ALABAMA 41, NO. 3 GEORGIA 24
Alabama set itself apart from the rest of the SEC Saturday. In the second half, the Crimson Tide dominated in all phases of the game. Mac Jones has become more than just the next Bama quarterback; he has become a great Bama quarterback. If there is a weakness to Alabama…the fourth string left guard is not quite as good as the third string left guard?
That thud that was heard in the third quarter in Tuscaloosa was Georgia crashing back into reality. The second half performance Saturday looked a lot like the first half performance against Arkansas a few weeks ago. But the Bulldogs got away with it in Fayetteville, not so much against Bama. The good news is UGA could have another shot at Alabama should it take care of business in the East.
ARKANSAS 33, OLE MISS 21
Arkansas showed the country it had a defense that could stop the high-octane Ole Miss offense, and the Razorbacks did it without star linebacker Bumper Pool. As impressive as the Hogs’ defense was – and wow – head coach Sam Pittman had to be pleased with the play of quarterback Feleipe Franks. The graduate transfer played like someone who had the experience to handle any situation.
It is now gut-check time for the Rebels. After moral victories against Florida and Alabama, Ole Miss now stands at 1-3. The good news is quarterback Matt Corral’s performance Saturday was an aberration. The chances of him playing like that again are slim and none. The better news is the Landshark defense finally made an appearance this season. When the Rebels play with a total team effort, they will be tough to beat.
NO. 11 TEXAS A&M 28, MISSISSIPPI STATE 14
Oh, so this is the Kellen Mond we have been hearing about for three years? The Aggies looked sluggish at times, call it a hangover after beating Florida last week, but they did what they needed to do to beat an inferior team. It is safe to say A&M is the second-best team in the West. They are still miles behind Alabama, but the Aggies are improving as the season progresses.
Well, in last week’s loss to Kentucky, the Mississippi State defense outscored the offense 2-0. Saturday, at least they tied 7-7. Fans are looking for the team that shocked LSU in the opening game of the season. Perhaps that game showed more about the Bayou Bengals than State. Mike Leach’s air-raid had better get off the ground soon – Alabama is next on the schedule after getting this week off.
SOUTH CAROLINA 30, NO. 15 AUBURN 22
South Carolina is on a bit of a roll. After dropping its first two game of the year to Tennessee and Florida, USC had won two in a row. Saturday, the Gamecocks proved the only stat that really counts is points. They were outgained by 184 yards but came up with three interceptions at critical times. Look out, momentum is clearly on the South Carolina bandwagon.
Auburn is looking like the disappointment of the SEC West so far. The Tigers stole a win last week over Arkansas but could not find a way to pilfer one in Columbia. Quarterback Bo Nix not only did not perform well, but he also looked rattled most of the afternoon. Auburn had better figure things out soon. Texas A&M and Alabama are still ahead.
KENTUCKY 34, NO. 18 TENNESSEE 7
Just imagine if Kentucky had held off Ole Miss a couple of weeks ago. The Wildcats would be 3-1 and rolling. Instead, UK just rolled over Tennessee in Knoxville. Kentucky’s defense turned in a pair of interceptions that went for touchdowns and presented problems the Volunteers never came close to solving. Offensively, five players rushed for over 20 yards including quarterback Terry Wilson who threw for another 101.
Tennessee will likely fall out of the Top 25 this week, but that is the least of its worries. Who will be the quarterback for the Vols moving forward? UT used three quarterbacks Saturday and they combined for just 112 yards. Eric Gray did run for 125, but with no passing attack, the Vols are going to be easy to defend. It does not look good for Tennessee heading into the Bama game this week.