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Week Six SEC Recap

By Matt Smith
SouthernPigskin.com
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Looking back at week six in the SEC.

Scores

(1) Alabama 65, Arkansas 31

South Carolina 37, Missouri 35

(22) Florida 27, (5) LSU 19

Ole Miss 70, Louisiana-Monroe 21

Texas A&M 20, (13) Kentucky 14 (OT)

Mississippi State 23, (8) Auburn 9

(2) Georgia 41, Vanderbilt 13

10 Things I Learned

-That’s why Florida hired Dan Mullen. The Gators physically pushed around a top-five LSU team to the tone of 215 yards in their 27-19 victory. Feleipe Franks, while likely never to be an efficient passer, continues to limit mistakes and let the ground game and defense dictate the outcome of games. Mullen and his offensive staff called an excellent game, including a reverse pass that helped set up a go-ahead touchdown. The defense sacked Joe Burrow five times and intercepted him twice. This isn’t a great team, but it’s good enough to hang with any team not named Alabama.

-I don’t come away any less impressed by LSU. The Tigers schedule has been brutal and will only get more challenging, but they fought hard on a steamy day in Gainesville. Joe Burrow, despite a game-ending pick-six, again made some big throws on a go-ahead touchdown drive in the fourth quarter. The running game cranked out 180 yards, and only a couple crucial drops prevented a chance to force overtime even after the interception. The consolation prize for LSU? Georgia comes to Baton Rouge next week.

-I’m not concerned about Alabama’s defense. No, allowing 400 yards to a previously lifeless Arkansas offense isn’t a great result, but the Crimson Tide offense was again so dominant that Alabama was able to go to a heavy rotation on defense. That meant a lot of young players got to play, and while they struggled a bit, the circumstances of the games are dictating the final defensive stats much more than the actual play. Missouri should be able to move the ball next week too, but again, the outcome won’t be in doubt after halftime.

-Mississippi State caught a wounded Auburn team and showed it is still a very engaged football team despite two ugly losses to Kentucky and Florida. The Bulldogs defense held the Tigers to just nine points and 304 yards of offense, overwhelming an offensive line that is one of the SEC’s worst at the moment. The ground game rediscovered its stride, rolling up 349 yards and more than six yards per carry. Now comes a week off before an interesting trip to LSU, who will be in between games with Georgia and Alabama.

-Auburn may be past the point of no return. Gus Malzahn offenses, even with a capable thrower at quarterback, simply can’t function without an effective running game, and the Tigers have nothing close to that at this point. They’ll beat Tennessee next week, but even the trip to Ole Miss now looks quite losable. The defense is still very good, but it got pushed around way too much by a Mississippi State offense that had scored 13 points in its previous two games. That’s not good enough to win many games with the schedule ahead. This is a 7-5 football team.

-The Wrecking Crew is back. Texas A&M’s defense completely shut down Benny Snell and Kentucky in the Aggies overtime win, as the Wildcats were held to just 178 yards and 2.3 yards per carry. It’s a new day in College Station, as Texas A&M overcame a blunder-filled offensive performance to knock off the unbeaten ‘Cats. The hiring of Mike Elko to run the defense looks like a major coup for Jimbo Fisher, and the Aggies now enter a three-game road stretch with the best recipe for success away from home: a standout defense.

-Like LSU, I’m not down on Kentucky after its first loss. The defining moment for the Wildcats comes in three weeks at Missouri. Win that game (and don’t flub the Vanderbilt game at home), and Kentucky will be guaranteed to be playing for first place in the SEC East when Georgia comes to the Commonwealth on the first Saturday of November. The defense continues to be opportunistic, and while offensive balance is a concern, this is still a confident team that went into a hostile atmosphere and nearly pulled off another upset. A week off now should help before the biggest of stretch of games this program has had in over a decade.

-Georgia appears to have shed its late-September funk. It wasn’t a completely crisp performance against Vanderbilt, but Jake Fromm played his best game in a month, and the ground game had no problem pushing the Commodores around. Injuries, particularly on the offensive line, are a concern as the schedule gets set to ratchet up a couple levels, but the Bulldogs are mostly right where they wanted to be after a cushy first-half slate. 

-Missouri couldn’t get out of its own way. The Tigers outgained South Carolina by more than 100 yards, but the Gamecocks were the tougher team and handled bad weather (and a lightning delay) to squeak out a crucial victory. The Tigers kicked four field goals inside the red zone. Simply put, that’s losing football. Drew Lock misfired on more than 50 percent of his throws, including two interceptions. He will no doubt hear about Saturday’s struggles in the face of adversity during NFL Draft preparations in the spring. Any hopes at crawling back into the SEC East title race are now dashed with Alabama on deck, and this is a loss that definitely could linger the rest of the season for the Tigers.

-The score doesn’t make it feel that way, but that was a classic Will Muschamp win. The numbers were quite ugly, but South Carolina found a way to win with big stops in the red zone, turnovers, and good special teams. The season was teetering heavily for the now 3-2 Gamecocks, but without their starting quarterback, they hung tough and climbed back to .500 in SEC play with their next two games also at home. 7-4 is probably the ceiling for this team, but that’s not a failure, especially after a memorable win on a wild day.

Around The Nation

-The “Texas is back” lines are tired, but Saturday’s 48-45 dramatic win over Oklahoma in The Red River Shootout/Rivalry/Showdown was the program’s biggest of the decade. The Longhorns now have wins over two of the other three top contenders for the Big 12 Championship Game and will get West Virginia in Austin in November. The loss to Maryland to open the season will doom any hopes of a playoff run, but Texas will be playing important games in November for the first time since Colt McCoy was playing quarterback. As for Oklahoma, the Stoops family era looks over. Mike Stoops wasn’t going to fix the Sooners defense, and despite head coach Lincoln Riley being hand-picked for the job by Mike’s brother, Bob, Riley made a business decision to move on from Stoops as Oklahoma enters a bye week.

-Speaking of coaching changes, Bobby Petrino may not be long for Louisville. Yes, Petrino’s eight-figure buyout is a major problem, and the university isn’t swimming in cash like some other big-time programs, but it’s gotten incredibly stale. He can’t find a quality defensive coordinator who will work for him, losing Todd Grantham after the 2016 season and settling for Brian VanGorder this year. Petrino’s offense has been highly inconsistent as well. This may be the best job to come open during what looks to be a quiet coaching search season, if it even comes open at all.

-After its three-touchdown win at Virginia Tech, it’s at least fair now to have the 12-0 conversation with Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish should be a double-digit favorite in their next five games, with the toughest test perhaps being Syracuse at Yankee Stadium. The likelihood of Notre Dame running the table for the second time in seven seasons is still below 50 percent, and 11-1 would make them a longshot for a playoff berth, but they have as good of a chance of any team not named Alabama to end in up the top four. The Irish are getting great quarterback play, can hit chunk plays in the running game with Dexter Williams, and have a nasty pass rush. That’s winning football.

-The ACC Coastal continues to make no sense. How could Miami look so bad before rallying past Florida State? How did Pitt rise up and beat a Syracuse team that had Clemson beat a week ago? Is Georgia Tech competent again? My dream of a 7-way tie for the division title remains only a dream, but it would be the perfect outcome for the most unpredictable division in college football (although the Pac-12 South has an argument).

-Please, let’s not talk about any playoff scenarios that involve more than three undefeated Power 5 teams. It’s not going to happen. Hypotheticals might be fun, but when they involve something that’s never happened before in the 150 years of this sport, they’re not worth anyone’s time.

-Illinois ended the longest conference losing streak in the Power 5 on Saturday with a 38-17 rout of Rutgers. Kansas and Oregon State are now the active leaders with 12 straight Big 12 and Pac-12 defeats respectively. Tennessee is just behind them with 11 straight SEC losses. The Volunteers’ and Jayhawks’ last conference wins actually came just minutes apart back on Nov. 19, 2016. The Volunteers won a shootout against Missouri, and Kansas memorably stunned Texas. Oregon State won the Civil War over Oregon a week later, and hasn’t beaten an FBS team, let alone a Pac-12 team, since.

-I’m still not a believer in West Virginia thanks to a soft early schedule (the cancelation of the N.C. State game is a huge bummer), but if the Mountaineers go into Ames next Saturday night and handle always-plucky Iowa State, I’ll be the last person to believe that this team is a legitimate Big 12 title threat.

-Hawaii is 6-1. While he won’t win any national awards, Nick Rolovich’s name has to at least be mentioned in coach of the year discussions. Playing without injured quarterback Cole McDonald Saturday night, the Rainbow Warriors used their defense to knock off Wyoming and remain perfect in Mountain West play. They’ll need another win to become bowl-eligible because they play 13 games, but there’s no doubt they’ll get it, perhaps as soon as next week in Provo against BYU.

-In other Group of Five developments, a week after Louisiana Tech overtook North Texas as the Conference USA West favorite with a win on the road over the Mean Green, UAB went into Ruston and took apart the Bulldogs, 28-7. The 4-1 Blazers host North Texas in two weeks, and a win there could very well mean a division title in just their second season back from a two-year football hiatus. Bill Clark continues to be a miracle worker in the Magic City.

-Legendary Division III head coach John Gagliardi passed away over the weekend at age 91. Gagliardi spent 60 seasons as the head coach at Saint John’s University in Collegeville, Minn., (about an hour northwest of Minneapolis), compiling 489 victories and four national titles. No coach in NCAA history has won more games than Gagliardi. His final season at Saint John’s came in 2012. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1996.

The five non-SEC results that shocked me the most:

1. Air Force 35, Navy 7

2. Utah 40, Stanford 21

3. Northwestern 29, Michigan State 19

4. Pittsburgh 44, Syracuse 37 (OT)

5. New Mexico 50, UNLV 14

The week’s wildest stat lines:

1. Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa – 10-of-13, 334 yards, 4 TD (W, 65-31 at Arkansas)

2. Iowa State QB Brock Purdy – 18-of-23, 318 yards, 4 TD; 19 carries, 84 yards, 1 TD (W, 48-42 at Oklahoma State)

3. Mississippi State DE Montez Sweat – 3 sacks, 1 forced fumble (W, 23-9 vs. Auburn)

Top 25 Resume Rankings

1. Ohio State

2. LSU

3. Notre Dame

4. Alabama

5. Kentucky

6. Clemson

7. Texas

8. Florida

9. Georgia

10. Michigan

11. Oklahoma

12. Texas A&M

13. Penn State

14. Stanford

15. Auburn

16. West Virginia

17. Iowa

18. San Diego State

19. N.C. State

20. TCU

21. USC

22. UCF

23. Colorado

24. Washington

25. Wisconsin

The 5 Week 7 SEC Games I'm Most Interested In

1. No. 2 Georgia at No. 13 LSU (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS)

2. No. 22 Texas A&M at South Carolina (3:30 p.m. ET, SEC Network)

3. Missouri at No. 1 Alabama (7 p.m. ET, ESPN)

4. No. 14 Florida at Vanderbilt (Noon ET, ESPN)

5. Ole Miss at Arkansas (Little Rock) (7:30 p.m. ET, SEC Network)

The 5 Week 7 National Games I'm Most Interested In

1. No. 15 Wisconsin at No. 12 Michigan (7:30 p.m. ET, ABC)

2. No. 7 Washington at No. 17 Oregon (3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)

3. No. 6 West Virginia at Iowa State (7 p.m. ET, FS1)

4. No. 19 Colorado at USC (10:30 p.m. ET, FS1)

5. No. 10 UCF at Memphis (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC)

Matt Smith - Matt is a 2007 graduate of Notre Dame and has spent most of his life pondering why most people in the Mid-Atlantic actually think there are more important things than college football. He has blogged for College Football News, covering both national news as well as Notre Dame and the service academies. He credits Steve Spurrier and Danny Wuerffel for his love of college football and tailgating at Florida, Tennessee, and Auburn for his love of sundresses. Matt covers the ACC as well as the national scene.