Each week, the stories of college football revolve around the players on the field. This week in the Southeastern Conference, it appears the story was the players who were not on the field.
Vanderbilt continues to play hard after being hammered by COVID-19 defections, South Carolina lost both starting cornerbacks who left following last week’s firing of Will Muschamp, Mississippi State took the field despite having fewer scholarship players dressed out than an FCS team, Arkansas and Kentucky were hit hard by the coronavirus protocols while Texas A&M and Ole Miss could not even play because of the virus.
But here is what we learned from this week’s SEC games:
NO. 1 ALABAMA 63, KENTUCKY 3
At this point, we have stopped learning about Alabama, we just confirm information. The Crimson Tide’s offensive weapons are the envy of most every team in the country. Mac Jones is in the Heisman conversation even though he only threw for 230 yards Saturday and Najee Harris is proving to be one of the most durable backs in the league. Oh yeah, Harris did not even lead Bama in rushing Saturday. Jace McClellan led the Tide with 99 yards on the ground, Harris had just 83. And did we mention DeVonta Smith caught a pair of touchdowns that put him on top of the SEC’s all-time touchdown reception list?
— Southeastern Conference (@SEC) November 21, 2020
Kentucky was hit hard by COVID-19 this week, but even at full strength would be no match for Alabama. Quarterback Terry Wilson could only muster 120 yards through the air and just five more on the ground. Asim Rose, Jr. gained 68 yards, but the Wildcats could only manage 179 total. The Wildcats have Florida next week and a loss dooms a winning record this season.
NO. 6 FLORIDA 38, VANDERBILT 17
The Gators continue on their collision course with Alabama for the SEC Title. Saturday, Florida started slowly, even falling behind Vanderbilt, 10-7. Then Kyle Trask played like Kyle Trask. The SEC’s other quarterback Heisman candidate threw for 383 yards and had an off day for him by only throwing three touchdowns.
Kyle Trask 2020 vs Joe Burrow 2019
(Through 6 games)
— CBS Sports HQ (@CBSSportsHQ) November 20, 2020
Vanderbilt can be deemed a successful failure this season. The Commodores have yet to get into the win column, yet each week Vandy performs better than it did the week before. Saturday, the ‘Dores compiled an impressive 406 total yards paced by freshman quarterback Ken Seals’ 319 passing. Next week, Vanderbilt plays Tennessee and do not bet against the improving Commodores.
NO. 13 GEORGIA 31, MISSISSIPPI STATE 24
The “J.T.” in J.T. Daniels stands for Jonathan Tyler. A nickname for John is Jack. After Saturday, Georgia fans are sloppy drunk on this case of Jack Daniels. In his UGA debut, he threw for 401 yards and four touchdowns and showed a talent for delivering the long ball. Jermaine Burton was the primary recipient of Daniels’ throws, catching eight passes for 197 yards and a pair of touchdowns. On the downside for Georgia, it could only gain eight yards on the ground. Yes, that is not a typo – eight yards rushing.
JT Daniels first career touchdown for the Georgia Bulldogs goes to none other than George Pickens… pic.twitter.com/TKhXX230cm
— 𝐂𝐅𝐁𝐋𝐢𝐯𝐞𝟐𝟒𝟕TM (@CFBLive247) November 22, 2020
Mississippi State was the surprise of the week in the conference. The Bulldogs fell below the threshold of scholarship players and could have opted out of the game. The team decided it wanted to play and put a huge scare into Georgia. Freshman Will Rogers completed 41-of-52 passes for 336 yards and a touchdown. Jaden Walley caught seven passes for 115 yards and like its Bulldog counterparts, MSU had trouble running the ball as well, gaining only 22 yards.
NO. 23 AUBURN 30, TENNESSEE 13
In some ways, Auburn was outplayed in this game, but aided by a 100-yard interception return by Smoke Monday, the Tigers got through with the victory.
SMOKE MONDAY 100-YARD PICK-SIX 💨💨 pic.twitter.com/dHEsX7bzYT
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) November 22, 2020
Bo Nix threw for 220 yards and after Tank Bigsby had a pair of capable replacements take up the slack. D.J. Williams gained 66 yards and Shaun Shivers added 65 more as the ground game sealed the win. The Tigers will need more offense than that as they head to Tuscaloosa this week for the Iron Bowl.
Tennessee found its ground attack this week behind Eric Gray’s 173 yards and two Volunteer quarterbacks combined for 242 yards. According to the stat sheet, the Vols led this game in all aspects, but as they say, the game is not played on paper. Again, Tennessee played well but just could not find a way to get the win.
LSU 27, ARKANSAS 24
Well, how about that? LSU has not simply mailed in the rest of the season. Freshman quarterback T.J. Finley played beyond his years throwing for 271 yards and two touchdowns.
Ty Davis-Price on true freshman TJ Finley showing poise against Arkansas: "He showed leadership. We love TJ and he held it down for us this game. He's been holding it down for us … since Myles [Brennan] went out. And I commend him for being a leader on and off the field." #LSU
— Jeff Nowak (@Jeff_Nowak) November 21, 2020
The running game was paced by Tyrion Davis-Price who picked up 104 yards and a touchdown. The Bayou Bengals’ defense held just enough, and the win was sealed by the special teams as LSU blocked a field goal late in the game.
Arkansas did not play badly, but the attrition the Hogs felt from COVID-19 left them a little too thin to win an SEC game. Feleipe Franks did throw for 339 yards with Mark Woods hauling in four passes for 140 yards. But the Razorbacks could not stay on the field, never converting on ten third down situations and only possessing the ball for just over 18 minutes the entire game.
MISSOURI 17, SOUTH CAROLINA 10
Missouri had not played a game since Halloween night, but was able to shake off the cobwebs to get just enough offense to beat the Gamecocks. The Tigers only managed 301 total yards as Connor Bazelak was a serviceable 21-of-33 for 202 yards and a touchdown. The Mizzou defense held its ground led by Nick Bolton who had 14 tackles, eight of them solo and two for loss.
Let's talk defense:
NICK BOLTON 😤
— Southeastern Conference (@SEC) November 22, 2020
South Carolina found itself at an immediate disadvantage before the Gamecocks even took the field at Williams-Brice Stadium. After Will Muschamp was fired last Sunday and Mike Bobo installed as the interim head coach, starting cornerbacks Jaycee Horn and Isreal Mukuamu, along with two other players opted out of the rest of the season. After falling behind 17-0 at the half, Carolina just did not have enough in the tank to mount a comeback. South Carolina did gain 283 total yards but shot itself in the foot with 11 penalties for 85 yards, many coming at critical points in the game.