Saturday marked the tenth week of SEC play and as the season winds down, a few teams have punched their ticket to the post season, while a few “old school” powers are struggling to reach .500.
Ole Miss and Kentucky went to the wire, Georgia clinched a trip to Atlanta, Missouri got their third straight win with a route of Florida, Alabama put away LSU for their ninth straight win and Tennessee topped Southern Miss to break a four game losing streak. Here’s a look at what went down on Saturday.
Missouri 45 Florida 16
We all knew Florida was bad and any time you lose a head coach mid-season that brings with it distractions that can effect your play. But did anyone expect the previously winless-in-league-play Tigers to put up 45 on the Gators?
Missouri’s offense, led by Drew Locke, got on Florida early and often, racking up over 450 yards of total offense. Needless to say, Randy Shannon’s first coaching debut since his stint at Miami ended in 2010 did not go well and any hope he had of being considered for the gig full time is virtually gone. Florida needs to win out to make the post season, but judging by Saturday’s performance, the Gators may not have any interest in extending their season past November.
Missouri on the other hand notched their first win in SEC play this season, and their third straight. Not only is their offense returning to early season form, their defense which was notoriously bad a few weeks ago, has played well through the last three games. The Tigers will look to make it four straight as the play host to Tennessee next Saturday. Florida travels to the other Columbia to take on South Carolina.
Mississippi State 34 UMass 23
Tennessee wasn’t the only SEC team that the mighty Minutemen of UMass gave a run for their money this season. UMass traveled to Starkville on Saturday to face a surging Mississippi State team, and nearly came away with the upset. The Minutemen even took a 17-13 lead into the half before the Bulldogs, behind their stout defense, held them to only a field goal in the second half.
Mississippi State, now 7-2 on the season, will welcome Alabama to Stark Vegas next week for a big SEC West showdown.
Auburn 42 Texas A&M 27
It has been a roller coaster of a season for Texas A&M’s Kevin Sumlin, who was able to quell hot seat talk with a four game win streak after going 0-1 to start the season, is feeling the heat now more than ever following the Aggies second straight defeat. Time may be running out on Sumlin as Texas A&M fell to 5-4 on the season with trips to Ole Miss and LSU still on the docket. They will look for bowl eligibility next week versus New Mexico in College Station.
Speaking of hot seat talk, Gus Malzahn is a guy who has heard plenty of it, but he’s been able to get the Tigers clicking on all cylinders the last two weeks with convincing road wins over Arkansas and now, Texas A&M. Outside of two close losses at Clemson and LSU, the Tigers could have been a serious playoff contender. Still, upcoming match ups versus Georgia (next week) and Alabama loom large.
Vanderbilt 31 Western Kentucky 17
Following a 3-0 start to the season, Vanderbilt proceeded to lose their next five. On Saturday, the Commodores returned to their winning ways with a two touchdown win over Western Kentucky in Nashville.
Vanderbilt now sits at 4-5 on the season, and they’ll look to make their second straight bowl game under Derek Mason starting with a trip to Lexington to face Kentucky next Saturday.
Ole Miss 37 Kentucky 35
The match up between the Wildcats and the Rebels was by no means one of the conference’s marque games on Saturday, but it was definitely the most exciting. Kentucky, coming off only their second win over Tennessee since 1984, was looking to avoid a let down versus a struggling Ole Miss team at Kroger Field.
In a back and forth affair, Kentucky held a 35-30 lead with only four seconds left when Ole Miss QB Jordan Ta’amu hit D.K. Metclaf in the corner of the end zone for the go ahead score. Kentucky’s desperate attempt at scoring off the ensuing kickoff was snuffed out to preserve the win for the Rebels.
Kentucky, which fell to 6-3 with the loss, will face Vanderbilt on Saturday while Ole Miss will try for win number five on the year when Louisiana-Lafayette comes to Oxford.
Georgia 24 South Carolina 10
There was one team that was happy with the result of the Kentucky-Ole Miss game and that was the top ranked Georgia Bulldogs. South Carolina came into Athens on Saturday and gave Georgia the biggest fight they’ve seen out of a team since facing Notre Dame in week two. Despite their efforts, it was Georgia’s ground game, as has been their mantra all season, ruled the day. Sony Michel and Nick Chubb combined 242 yards and a score, as Jake Fromm added two through the air to put away the pesky Gamecocks.
With the win and Kentucky’s loss, Georgia clinched the SEC East division championship for the first time since 2012. They will head to the Plains to face Auburn next week in a renewal of the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry. Will Muschamp and South Carolina will face Florida in Columbia.
Arkansas 39 Coastal Carolina 38
I’m sure Bret Bielema and Arkansas will take the win, but they’ll take it with a grain of salt. The Razorbacks, coming off of an emotional come from behind win at Ole Miss last week, avoided what could have been a massive upset at home against the now 1-8 Chanticleers. They’ve probably never felt worse about a win in Fayetteville.
Arkansas, now 4-5 on the season, will travel to Baton Rouge next week to face LSU in Tiger Stadium.
Tennessee 24 Southern Miss 10
The Vols were finally able to break a four game losing streak that started with a 41-0 loss to Georgia on the last Saturday in September. It was by no means pretty, but given the fact starting quarterback Jarrett Guarantano did not play in the second half due to an ankle injury he sustained before half time, I’m sure Butch Jones and company were glad to get a win on homecoming.
Tennessee will prepare to travel to Columbia to take on Missouri next Saturday and the Vols need to snag two more wins to get a shot at bowl eligibility. The big question this week will be the status of Guarantano and if the coaching staff will have to again turn to true freshman Will McBride in what could be his first start in the SEC—and on the road, nonetheless.
Alabama 24 LSU 10
If you were to look at the stat sheet in this one before looking at the score, you might have assumed LSU came into to Tuscaloosa and pulled off the monumental upset. You would be wrong, however. The Tigers were able to post over 300 yards of offense, won the time of possession battle by nearly ten minutes, and had more first downs than Alabama. It was not enough to knock off the 2nd ranked Crimson Tide on their home turf thanks in large part to Jalen Hurts, who did just enough to lead Alabama on four scoring drives and no turnovers.
Ed Orgeron and LSU may not have won Saturday night, but they survived, especially when you consider the fact that Alabama may have been looking to make a statement after being snubbed by Georgia for the top spot in the latest CFP poll.
The Bayou Bangles will play Arkansas in Death Valley next Saturday, as Alabama will travel to Starkville to take on Mississippi State. Georgia will head to Auburn for their final true test before heading to Atlanta.