Although it is 2020, it seems the SEC lacks a clear vision of what is happening so far this season. Two ranked teams had a fuzzy look at their Saturday match-ups and both were tripped up.
Florida and LSU appear to need to need bifocals after each failed to see the challenges in front of their faces this week, while Texas A&M and Missouri appear to have found the correct prescriptions to allow them to focus on winning.
NO. 21 TEXAS A&M 41, NO. 4 FLORIDA 38
Sure, it was an upset, but just imagine what Jimbo Fisher’s team could have done if it had gotten out of its own way. The Aggies struggled with bad clock management and committed four costly penalties, or the game would not have been in doubt as the clock wound down.
But A&M has found a running game. Isaiah Spiller ran for 174 yards, many of them coming after first contact. The most important thing the Aggies learned was they can win games like these.
Florida has an offense that has shown it can move the ball against any team in the SEC. But the Gators’ defense has got to find a way to at least slow down opponents’ offenses. In week one, Florida gave up 613 yards to Ole Miss and Saturday allowed 543 yards. With Georgia and Tennessee looming on the horizon, the scoreboard operator working UF games might be busy.
MISSOURI 45, NO. 17 LSU 41
As coach at Appalachian State last season, Eli Drinkwitz’ team beat both North Carolina and South Carolina on the road. He taught the Mountaineers to ignore what uniform was on the other side of the ball because they could compete with anyone.
Mizzou has bought into that philosophy. Connor Bazelak torched the Bayou Bengals for 406 yards and four touchdowns and the Tigers’ defense stopped LSU on four-consecutive plays from the one-yard line in the final seconds to preserve the win.
Attention, SEC: Mizzou is not an automatic win anymore.
It is safe to say there will not be a repeat national champion this season. Perhaps a title-winning team cannot lose a zillion players to the NFL and be as good the next year. Actually, LSU fans might just want their team to not lose to Missouri and Mississippi State. Coach Ed Orgeron is a master at the motivational speech. This season will put his talent to the test as Alabama, Texas A&M and even the potent Ole Miss passing attack are still ahead.
NO. 2 ALABAMA 62, OLE MISS 48
Alabama showed it has one of the best offenses in the nation. The Crimson Tide tallied 723 yards paced by Najee Harris’ 206 on the ground and Mac Jones’ 417 through the air. It seems everyone knew how great Bama’s offense was, but how many predicted the Tide defense would be sliced and diced by Ole Miss?
The big question for Alabama right now is how gassed are they after the track meet in Oxford heading into next week’s game against Georgia?
Is there a team in the country that wants to play Ole Miss right now? A team is guaranteed to be pushed to its defensive limits with Matt Corral’s arm, a slew of explosive receivers and a stable of running backs that are interchangeable. A team is also guaranteed very little resistance from the Rebels’ defense. Chances are Ole Miss will not face an offense like Alabama’s the rest of the year and if the Rebs’ offense keeps up the production, they are going to stop just scaring teams and start beating them.
NO. 3 GEORGIA 44, NO. 14 TENNESSEE 21
After Saturday, Georgia has proven it is the best team in the East so far. The Bulldogs made a few mistakes but minimized them and powered late to take down Tennessee. UGA did gain 428 yards, but it was the Dawgs’ defense that was dominant. The Vols only mustered 214 yards against Georgia. It was an impressive final score, but Georgia seemed to be lackluster through a lot of the game. Who could blame the Bulldogs? Next up for UGA is Alabama.
Tennessee wanted to go blow-to-blow with the Bulldogs, but late could not measure up. Jeremy Pruitt’s bunch has improved vastly from where they were starting last year’s schedule. Now, the Volunteers need to take the next step. Clearly UT could not keep up with Georgia Saturday, but the question is can they surpass Florida as the next-best team in the East?
NO. 13 AUBURN 30, ARKANSAS 28
Auburn got away with one Saturday. By all accounts, Arkansas outplayed the Tigers, but a field goal in the waning seconds gave Gus Malzahn’s team the win (not to mention what looks like a missed call by the officials).
Auburn QB Bo Nix threw for only 187 yards but Tank Bigsby picked up the slack by running for 146. Auburn, however, did something Saturday that all good teams do – the Tigers won a game in which they did not play their best.
Heading into the season, all the attention went to Lane Kiffin and Mike Leach as the hottest new coaches in the league. Three weeks into the schedule, how about the job that Sam Pittman has done at Arkansas?
So far, the Hogs have ended a 20-game SEC losing streak and came close to starting a winning streak. Trelon Smith is a name fans need to learn. Against Auburn, he had 159 total yards, 81 on the ground and 78 receiving.
SOUTH CAROLINA 41, VANDERBILT 7
South Carolina picked up its first win of the season, gaining 485 yards of total offense against Vanderbilt. Eight Gamecocks got to carry the ball and another five had receptions to allow South Carolina a chance to get several players some much-needed game experience.
Colorado State transfer Collin Hill threw for 196 yards and Kevin Harris ran for 171, but against a depleted Vanderbilt team, not much was learned about Carolina. Also, the Gamecocks scored 31 of their points in the second half.
A wise coach once said, “What wins football games is football players.” After the mass exodus of players opting out at Vanderbilt after COVID-19, head coach Derek Mason does not have a lot to work with this season. With the schedule ahead – the Commodores finish with Florida, Tennessee and Georgia – Vandy needs to find a win against Mizzou, Ole Miss, Mississippi State or Kentucky to avoid a winless season. But without a lot of players, neither Vince Lombardi nor Bear Bryant could do much with this team.
KENTUCKY 24, MISSISSIPPI STATE 2
Kentucky finally got into the win column Saturday despite gaining just 73 yards passing and 84 on the ground. What the Wildcats had was a ferocious defense that grounded Mississippi State’s air-raid offense. UK picked off six passes and returned one of them for a touchdown. The ‘Cats also had two sacks and five tackles for loss.
Was it really just a few weeks ago that Mississippi State stunned LSU? Saturday, the air-raid offense turned into the air-raided offense. The Bulldogs’ passing game was plundered at will. K.J. Costello threw for 272 yards but was intercepted four times. He was pulled in favor of Will Rogers—who was picked off twice and continued an ominous trend by throwing an interception that was returned for a touchdown. State has thrown a pick-six in each game so far this season.