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Week Ten SEC Recap

By Matt Smith
SouthernPigskin.com
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Matt Smith looks back at week ten with top takeaways, resume rankings, bowl projections, and more.

Scores

Texas A&M 45, UTSA 14
(8) Georgia 24, (6) Florida 17
Mississippi State 54, Arkansas 24
Tennessee 30, UAB 7
(11) Auburn 20, Ole Miss 14
South Carolina 24, Vanderbilt 7

The Big Story

The Cocktail Party was about as expected. Jake Fromm wasn’t perfect, but he played like a quarterback making his 36th career start in a mistake-free performance to help Georgia outlast Florida, 24-17. Fromm’s best throw of the day was his last, as he threw a beautiful ball to tight end Eli Wolf on a corner route to pick up the game-clinching first down and avoid having to give Florida a chance for a game-tying touchdown drive.

Neither running game could do much of anything. Georgia averaged just over three yards per carry, and Florida just under three on non-sack run plays. D’Andre Swift’s 30-yard dash to set up a Georgia field goal just before halftime was the only run of more than 10 yards in the entire game. The defenses came to play, but Fromm was better than Kyle Trask at handling pressure. Add in a dominating performance on third down on both sides of the ball, and that was the difference in the de facto SEC East title game.

Florida’s loftier goals are off the table, but a 10-2 season is still in the cards. Two of the final three are at home, but a trip to Missouri in two weeks will likely dictate whether or not this season goes down as a success or a mild disappointment. Georgia continues a loaded close to its schedule with Missouri next week before facing Auburn and Texas A&M. The ‘Dawgs don’t need all three to get to Atlanta, but they will if they hope to take a swing at LSU or Alabama with a playoff berth at stake.

Top Takeaways

-OK, Chad Morris time. The buyout for Arkansas is around $10 million, on top of the $4 million they’ll be paying Bret Bielema in 2020. That’s a big number, but there are offsets in the form of fundraising and ticket sales. Here’s where I’m at with Arkansas. If you’re going to go into 2020 saying Morris needs to win “x” number of games to survive, then you’ve made your decision. Just fire him now. Next year’s roster isn’t going to be magically that much better than this year’s, which, after a 54-24 home shellacking to 3-5 Mississippi State yesterday in front of 25,000 empty seats, is headed for a second straight SEC winless season.

Arkansas has good fan support and a ton of money. Recruiting is always going to be a problem. Most would say it’s Mississippi State, but to me, Arkansas is the toughest job in the SEC West. Expectations don’t always account for that, however, and that’s why Morris could be two-and-done in Fayetteville. Maybe freshman K.J. Jefferson, who played well in mop-up duty on Saturday, will dazzle down the stretch and offer some hope. That’s all Morris can sell right now, and that’s probably not enough for a team that will likely end the season with 19 straight SEC losses.

-Yuck, Auburn. Let’s first credit Ole Miss’ defense, which has taken incredible strides in Mike MacIntyre’s first season in charge, but the Tigers, despite dominating the Rebels in total yards, 507-266, found themselves clinging to a 20-14 lead in the final minute with Ole Miss in Auburn territory. How did a statistically lopsided game get to that point? Three missed field goals don’t help, but the Tigers offense needed to finish drives. They did so only twice on seven trips inside the Ole Miss 35-yard line.

Bo Nix was sharp, finishing 30-of-44 for 378 yards, and the run game was OK, but finishing drives has been a major problem for Auburn. Against Oregon, Florida, LSU and Ole Miss, the Tigers have just six touchdowns in 14 red-zone trips. Three of the other eight possessions resulted in no points due to missed field goals in turnovers. Now, it’s Georgia and Alabama time. The season, and Gus Malzahn’s future, will be determined over the next four weeks. Field-goal attempts aren’t beating the Bulldogs or Crimson Tide. Finishing drives is the next step for Nix’s career progression, but it can’t wait until his sophomore season to start happening.

Quick Hitters

-The only reason to be surprised that Tennessee hammered UAB was the Vols’ Week 1 loss to Georgia State. In a way, the Georgia State game should have actually served as a reason to not be surprised by Tennessee’s 30-7 win on Saturday night. The Vols are by no means a good team. They are atrocious in the red zone, but they were able to dominate a 6-1 UAB team, albeit one that had played the easiest schedule in college football to this point. We’ll see if their recent play carries over on the road now, as they head to rested Kentucky next Saturday night. A loss likely means this season still goes down as a disaster, but a win puts the Vols on the precipice of a bowl and would render this season only a mild disappointment. That’s a huge step forward after the disastrous 0-2 start.

-I don’t know what’s going to happen at Ole Miss. I lean towards Matt Luke returning in 2020, but apathy is beginning to set in within that fanbase. Like with Chad Morris, putting everything on the Mississippi State game means you need to go ahead and fire Luke regardless of what happens on Thanksgiving Night. The selling points are a true freshman quarterback who, despite his low ceiling as a passer, is an entertaining player, and a defense that is light years ahead of where it was last year. It’s a tough call. Ole Miss still doesn’t have a permanent athletic director either, so who exactly is making the decision?

-Has there been a less interesting SEC team this season than Texas A&M? The Aggies are 6-3, but have been non-competitive in their three losses, albeit all to Top 10 teams. They were fortunate to beat Ole Miss and Arkansas. There just isn’t much to say, and now the Aggies are idle before hosting South Carolina. Nothing has suggested that Texas A&M can compete at Georgia or at LSU in their final two games. It’s just been a stale, predictable season in College Station.

-Ugly stuff from Vanderbilt, which failed to score in the final three quarters of its 24-7 loss at South Carolina to fall to 2-6. The Commodores were without two of their top three quarterbacks, as Mo Hasan failed to clear concussion protocol, and Riley Neal left the game early with a head injury. Adding insult to the injuries, star wide receiver Kalija Lipscomb did not play for personal reasons. The Commodores didn’t even reach 200 yards. There won’t be a bowl trip this year, and Vanderbilt’s only potential season-salvaging opportunity ahead will be to ensure rival Tennessee is also home for the holidays when they head to Knoxville to face what could very well be a 5-6 Vols team on Thanksgiving weekend.

-BOWL PROJECTIONS. They’re dart throws with more than a month left, but you love them. Here goes:

Peach Bowl (CFP semifinal): Georgia vs. Clemson
Fiesta Bowl (CFP semifinal): Alabama vs. Ohio State
Sugar Bowl: LSU vs. Oklahoma
Orange Bowl: Florida vs. Louisville
Citrus Bowl: Auburn vs. Wisconsin
Outback Bowl: Missouri vs. Michigan
Belk Bowl: Tennessee vs. North Carolina
Music City Bowl: Kentucky vs. Virginia Tech
Texas Bowl: Texas A&M vs. Oklahoma State

Around The Nation

-With top five teams either idle or playing an FCS team, the Pac-12 had the national spotlight on Saturday. The league’s CFP hopes hinged on both Utah and Oregon surviving tricky road tests. Utah’s 33-28 win at Washington would classify as survival, as the Utes used a 20-0 run, started by a pick-six, to turn a 21-13 deficit into a 33-21 lead. Utah’s offense, which in recent history has been thwarted by injuries come November, is healthy and clicking. The Utes are 8-1, and face UCLA, Arizona and Colorado to close. Oregon, meanwhile, also dug itself a big hole at USC, but went on a 56-7 run after falling behind 10-0. After skating by Washington and Washington State, the Ducks looked like a viable playoff contender on Saturday night in Los Angeles. Saturday could not have gone better for the Pac-12. The league produced entertaining games and got the two key results it needed.

-On the other side of the Oregon-USC game is, of course, Clay Helton. The 56-24 defeat was an inexcusable performance, as the Trojans fell to 5-4. It’s over. A Pac-12 South title could have potentially saved his job, but that’s all but gone now after USC handed over control of the division to Utah. Just way too many no-shows from Helton’s teams. His stock has fallen a bit since a 4-0 start, but Cal’s Justin Wilcox would be a good hire for USC. He could keep offensive coordinator Graham Harrell if so desired, and Wilcox’s track record of success on defense would pair nicely.

-USC was the dominant program of the 2000s, but the two dominant programs of the 1990s, Florida State and Nebraska, are also in turmoil. Both fell to 4-5 on Saturday with ugly losses to Miami (FL) and Purdue respectively. Willie Taggart fell to 9-12 in two seasons with the Seminoles, while Scott Frost fell to 8-13 with the Cornhuskers. Frost isn’t going anywhere, but Taggart was surprisingly fired on Sunday afternoon.

-Where does Florida State go now? I make James Franklin say no, but I’d imagine he would in fact say no after using the interest to get a raise from Penn State. Mark Stoops was the defensive coordinator at Florida State before helping to resurrect Kentucky. Stoops has long been linked to his alma mater, Iowa, when Kirk Ferentz retires, but Stoops may be exactly what Florida State needs. Like Dan Mullen at Florida, he would give FSU a high floor, even if he can’t recruit at the level of division rival Clemson. If this is the direction Florida State ultimately goes, after initial hesitation, I would be on board.

-Ian Book had fallen out of favor with many Notre Dame fans, but the junior quarterback engineered a brilliant 18-play, 87-yard game-winning touchdown drive against Virginia Tech to prevent a second loss in two weeks. The Hokies’ upset bid was aided by a 98-yard fumble return touchdown just before halftime, but Bud Foster’s defense shut Notre Dame out for 29 ½ minutes of the second half. It couldn’t quite get to 30 minutes however, and now 6-2 Notre Dame still can right the ship that began to teeter last week in Ann Arbor.

-The ACC Coastal 7-way tie dream took a big hit yesterday when Georgia Tech fell to 1-4 in ACC play with a home loss to Pittsburgh. There are a couple different 13-element paths to the 7-way tie, but all require the struggling Yellow Jackets to win out against Virginia, Virginia Tech and N.C. State. At 4-2 after a big road win at North Carolina, Virginia is in good position to earn the right to be blown out by Clemson. We will keep believing until it’s impossible, but Saturday was undoubtedly a blow.

-Memphis took a big step towards a Cotton Bowl berth in handing SMU its first loss of the season, 54-48, in a fun shootout in the Bluff City. Cincinnati and Memphis, who meet on Thanksgiving weekend, are in the driver’s seat for the Group of Five’s New Year’s Six bowl bid. Lurking are 7-1 Navy, 7-1 Boise State, 7-1 Appalachian State, 7-1 San Diego State and 7-2 UCF. Air Force is also 7-2, but Boise State’s comeback win late Saturday night at San Jose State was a major blow to the Falcons’ chances to win the Mountain West.

-Teams that know they will be in the CFP if they win out: Ohio State, LSU, Alabama, Penn State, Clemson, Georgia, Baylor and Minnesota. That’s probably it. Oregon, Oklahoma, and Utah all need help.

-Other teams to catch my eye in Week 10, in a good way: Boston College, Georgia Southern, Kansas State, Oregon State

-Other teams to catch my eye in Week 10, in a bad way: N.C. State, Northwestern, Utah State

-Division-clinching scenarios for Week 11:

*Georgia clinches the SEC East with a win over Missouri and a Florida loss to Vanderbilt.
*Clemson clinches the ACC Atlantic with a win over N.C. State and a Wake Forest loss to Virginia Tech

Resume Rankings

1. Ohio State
2. LSU
3. Alabama
4. Clemson
5. Penn State
6. Oregon
7. Auburn
8. Utah
9. Baylor
10. Georgia
11. Florida
12. Michigan
13. Memphis
14. Oklahoma
15. SMU
16. Minnesota
17. Cincinnati
18. Notre Dame
19. Navy
20. Boise State
21. Iowa
22. UCF
23. Wisconsin
24. Wake Forest
25. Appalachian State

The 5 Week 11 SEC Games I'm Most Interested In

1. No. 1 LSU at No. 2 Alabama (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS)
2. Missouri at No. 6 Georgia (7 p.m. ET, ESPN)
3. Tennessee at Kentucky (7:30 p.m. ET, SEC Network)
4. Vanderbilt at No. 10 Florida (Noon ET, ESPN) 
5. Appalachian State at South Carolina (7 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

The 5 Week 11 National Games I'm Most Interested In

1. No. 5 Penn State at No. 13 Minnesota (Noon ET, ABC)
2. Iowa State at No. 9 Oklahoma (8 p.m. ET, FOX)
3. No. 18 Iowa at No. 16 Wisconsin (4 p.m. ET, FOX)
4. No. 20 Kansas State at Texas (3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)
5. No. 15 Notre Dame at Duke (7:30 p.m. ET, ACC Network)

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.