Week Seven in the SEC: A recap of action around the league
OXFORD, Miss. — There are four games left in the Southeastern Conference regular season. Yes, just FOUR games left. This season is passing faster than a Florida drive through the Georgia defense.
Coincidentally, there were only four games in the SEC this week.
Speaking of the Gators, it would appear they are on a collision course with Alabama for the SEC championship.
Florida stormed through the ‘Dogs in Jacksonville, Texas A&M made a case as the second-best team in the conference, Arkansas doesn’t mind falling behind at the half and Vanderbilt has miles and miles of heart.
NO. 8 FLORIDA 44, NO. 5 GEORGIA 28
You know, Florida quarterback Kyle Trask is not bad. After waiting about 75 years to become a starter at the high school or college level, it appears his resume is good enough to attract some attention from the NFL level. Despite losing tight end Kyle Pitts during the game, Trask threw for 474 yards and four touchdowns.
Florida is easily in the driver’s seat to win the SEC East and probably take on Alabama in the conference championship game. The way the Gators’ offensive line performed, and the variety of rushing and receiving weapons Florida has, it could be interesting in Atlanta should this matchup come to fruition.
Georgia learned running out of defensive backs can hurt. Injuries the week of the game, injuries during the game and ejections can leave a defense exposed. And wow, were the Bulldogs exposed. Even more detrimental to UGA was its passing game. Stetson Bennett missed numerous open receivers, many in critical situations. When he was on target, his Bulldog receivers dropped balls that were easily catchable.
Georgia was schooled in the discipline of missing opportunities will kill your chances to win. D’Wan Mathis fared little better missing open receivers in relief of Bennett. Georgia winning out is probable, but not a certainty unless it cleans up some messes on both sides of the ball.
NO. 7 TEXAS A&M 48, SOUTH CAROLINA 3
Texas A&M liked games in the Eastern time zone Saturday. First the Aggies took care of South Carolina in Columbia in short order and a few hours before in Jacksonville, Florida obliterated Georgia. The latter game put the Gators in charge in the SEC East. Should Florida meet Alabama in the conference championship game and get blown out by Alabama, the Aggies are in a good position. If A&M wins out, it would have one loss – to the league winning Crimson Tide. That could be a back door into a college playoff berth. As for Saturday, it was a walk-through for the Aggies.
South Carolina could get nothing going against A&M. The run game had a burst here and there, but went backwards more than it went forward. The passing game was non-existent. And when the Gamecock defense was not admiring the Texas A&M offense’s precision, they were attempting to play two-hand tag. The worst part of the USC performance was by halftime, it seemed to just want to get back to the dorm and get the game done.
ARKANSAS 24, TENNESSEE 13
We learned Arkansas believes in head coach Sam Pittman. Trailing 13-0 at the half, a different Razorbacks’ team emerged from the locker room. The offense immediately scored to start the third quarter and then the Hogs’ defense stepped up and slammed the door on Tennessee. Feleipe Franks threw for 215 yards as Arkansas scored 24-unanswered points. The Razorbacks are a team no one wants to see on its schedule the rest of the season.
Tennessee opened the game by showing its dominance against the Hogs and took an early lead as the Vols imposed their will. At least for a half. In the second half, Tennessee went away and let the Razorbacks have it. UT had a chance to cut the lead late in the game to eight points with a field goal, but opted to attempt a fourth-down conversion that ended in an interception. Although the Vols drove to the doorstep of the end zone and the clock melted, Arkansas had built its insurmountable lead.
MISSISSIPPI STATE 24, VANDERBILT 17
The coolest thing about Mississippi State Saturday was its helmets. The Bulldogs wore a throwback “Flying M” helmet which was donned in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Back then it was to honor the school’s ties to the U.S. Space Program. Today it could be to publicize Mike Leach’s air-raid offense. Well, maybe not in this game. Mississippi State was only able to total 204 yards against a defense that most SEC teams get healthy against. The Bulldog defense was not much better. MSU surrendered 478 total yards and 30 first downs. Had Vandy not turned the ball over five times, it would have easily been an upset.
Winless Vanderbilt simply does not quit. The game’s leading passer (Ken Seals, 336 yards), leading rusher (Keyon Henry-Brooks, 115 yards) and leading receiver (Cam Johnson, 114 yards) each wear Commodores’ uniforms. No team in the country – that actually has the ability to field a team – has had the mass exodus of Vandy when it comes to opting out. Yet here Vanderbilt is still scratching, clawing and not throwing in the towel. At this point of the year, Sam Pittman of Arkansas probably is in the lead for the SEC Coach of the Year. But throw some recognition to Derek Mason. There are not many coaches in the conference, or the country, that could hold a team together as well as Mason has this season.
Steve Barnes joins The Rebel Walk staff as a senior writer and brings a trifecta of journalistic experience. As a writer, he has covered college sports for Rivals.com, Football.com and SaturdayDownSouth.com as well as served as a beat writer for various traditional newspapers.
He has been a broadcaster for arena football and several national tournament events for the National Junior College Athletic Association as well as hosting various shows on radio.
A former sports information director at Albany (Ga.) State University and an assistant at Troy and West Florida, he has helped host many NCAA conference, regional and national events, including serving five years on the media committee of the NCAA Division II World Series.
Barnes, a native of Pensacola, Fla., attended Ole Miss in 1983-84, where his first journalism teacher was David Kellum. The duo has come a long way since that time.
He will bring a proven journalistic track record, along with a knack for finding the out-of-the-ordinary story angles to The Rebel Walk.
Barnes continues to reside in Pensacola a mere ten minutes from the beach because he does have taste and a brain.