It was a peaceful week for Vols fans. Elsewhere in the SEC, however, not so much. Two top-25 showdowns highlighted week five while the loss that almost was highlighted the night cap. Let’s take a look around the SEC.
2 Georgia | 5-0 (2-0) | +141 PD (195 F, 54 A)
8 Tennessee | 4-0 (1-0) | +118 PD (194 F, 76 A)
13 Kentucky | 4-1 (1-1) | +70 (144 F, 74 A)
Florida | 3-2 (0-2) | +26 PD (161 F, 135 A)
South Carolina | 3-2 (0-2) | +42 PD (178 F, 136 A)
Missouri | 2-3 (0-2) | +10 PD (134 F, 124 A)
Vanderbilt | 3-2 (0-1) | +2 PD (171 F, 169 A)
1 Alabama | 5-0 (2-0) | +187 PD (242 F, 55 A)
9 Ole Miss | 5-0 (1-0) | +127 PD (186 F, 59 A)
25 LSU | 4-1 (2-0) | +104 PD (178 F, 74 A)
23 Mississippi State | 4-1 (1-1) | +82 PD (191 F, 109 A)
Auburn | 3-2 (1-1) | +4 PD (112 F, 108 A)
Texas A&M | 3-2 (1-1) | +20 PD (109 F, 89 A)
Arkansas | 3-2 (1-2) | +7 PD (160 F, 153 A)
Georgia: Second straight mediocre showing drop Dawgs in rankings
Things aren’t pretty in Athens right now, but they remain unbeaten after five weeks. Missouri gave Georgia quite the scare, and right now, Georgia’s offense is entering a figure-it-out process because it just isn’t clicking on that side of the ball.
Stetson Bennett failed to throw for a touchdown in consecutive weeks, and overall, the passing game looks like Brock Bowers and a bunch of receivers who can’t get open. On the ground, Georgia is efficient, but similar to their passing game, its most explosive plays continue to come from Brock Bowers. The offensive line did Bennett no favors here either. Bennett was sacked twice on 10 pressures, and it felt like he was constantly running for his life outside of the pocket.
Defensively, there were some gash plays, but overall, not too concerning. As a whole, though, there’s teams in Tuscaloosa and Columbus, Ohio, that are objectively playing better ball right now.
Kentucky: Return of Rodriguez not enough, ‘Cats fall 22-19 in Oxford
Mistakes are bad. Mistakes that take points off the board are much worse. And then there’s mistakes that give the other team points. All of this happened to Kentucky on Saturday, not once, not twice, not three times, not even four. FIVE times.
39-yard missed field goal? Check. Blocked PAT? Check. Intentional grounding in the end zone for a safety? You bet. Failed 2-point conversion? Yep. A touchdown pass to take the lead with less than a minute left that gets called back for illegal motion? Most painfully for Kentucky, yes. If you’re doing the math at home, that’s 12 points off the board right there. Following the penalty that wiped the possible game-winning TD off the board, Will Levis got strip sacked by Jared Ivy, effectively ending this game.
It was a sloppy game all around for Kentucky, clearly. Kentucky’s defense was a tale of two halves. They got gashed all first half, unable to stop Ole Miss’s potent rushing attack. In the second half, they held Ole Miss to three points and came up with a huge goal line stand to keep their hopes to win alive.
Kentucky returns home for games against South Carolina and Mississippi State. They have a lot to clean up offensively, especially against a surprisingly solid Mississippi State defense.
Florida: Much needed bounce back week for Gators
Developing news: Anthony Richardson has now posted back to back great performances. Sure, it’s Eastern Washington; yes, they’re FCS level, but just two weeks ago, Richardson was struggling with his confidence and throwing the ball in general as Florida barely escaped USF. Now, he’s out here posting a perfect 100 QBR a week after great performance against the Vols in a losing effort (don’t forget that).
Overall, Florida did what they were supposed to here. The Gators will host Missouri next week before welcoming LSU to the Swamp. The World’s Largest Cocktail Party is just four weeks away. They’re going to need a lot more good Anthony Richardson.
South Carolina: One final tune-up
Not sure how they managed to get Charlotte and an FCS opponent back to back, but they took care of easy business against South Carolina State, 50-10.
The easy weeks are over for Beamer and the Gamecocks, however, as they hit the road for Lexington.
Missouri: Oh so close
I’m sorry Mizzou, but...
It’s not that Missouri was close to beating Georgia, but they were doing *everything* they had to do in order to make it happen. Georgia didn’t find the end zone until there were less than 10 minutes left in the game! However, that slow, painful pulling up of the rope on the guillotine that every major near upset faces as the clear favorite begins to slowly assert its dominance over the underdog set in about halfway through the fourth quarter here.
A Kendall Milton touchdown run capped off a 75-yard drive where Georgia began moving the ball at will as the blade reached the top crossbar. Missouri still led 22-19, but damn if the obvious dread wasn’t fully drowning out the hope by now.
A Mizzou punt later, and Georgia was driving again, and the answers the Tigers had at one point in this game were gone. Daijun Edwards capped off a 68-yard drive with a rushing touchdown. Down swung the blade, off with the head.
It was an impressive performance from Mizzou, regardless of result, though I’m sure moral victories are meaningless. That being said, I thought this team was dead. They impressed me, but it’ll take building off of this performance to truly make a difference, and with Florida, Vandy, and South Carolina coming up, there have to be two wins there, bare minimum.
Alabama: Tide reclaim top rank in impressive win in Fayetteville
I don’t know who needs to hear this, and though admitting it is worse than the taste of cough syrup, Alabama is National Championship good, and they proved that on Saturday.
No Bryce Young? No problem. Alabama took a 28-0 lead into halftime as the Tide rolled into Fayetteville and dominated in a way that shouldn’t be surprising—we’ve seen it many times from them before—but in one way, it was.
Alabama’s defense is really damn good. How good? They rank top 10 in predicted points added against (collegefootballdata.com’s EPA data measurement—garbage time excluded) at -0.027, and their success rate against of 36.03% ranks within the top 25 nationally. A lot of this is carried by their pass defense, largely predicated by their pass rush. Led by Will Anderson Jr’s seven sacks, the Tide get after the quarterback to the tune of 15 sacks as a team on the year, good for top 20 in the country, adding three against the Hogs.
Alabama stymied what had been an explosive Arkansas offense up to this point, and while Arkansas made this a game in the third quarter, scoring 23 unanswered points, the Tide defense locked it back down.
Despite the Heisman winner at QB, this isn’t your prototypical Alabama offense with NFL receivers destroying future CPA’s playing corner, and it’s what makes this defense’s continued lockdown performances week to week that much more impressive.
Ole Miss: Rebs get biggest win in Kiffin Era
Ole Miss has had some ranked wins over SEC opponents under Kiffin before, but none have felt more important than this one. A dominant first half on the ground saw Ole Miss rack up 137 rushing yards at 7.8 yards per carry as the Rebels took a 19-12 lead going into halftime. The second half was a struggle offensively, but this defense stepped up in a big way.
The Ole Miss offense only totaled 121 yards in the second half, leaving their defense on the field a lot. The time of possession edge by game’s end favored Kentucky by over 13 minutes, but constant pressure and key turnovers down the stretch aided the cause. The Rebels brought heat on the majority of Will Levis’ dropbacks, and the pass rush pressured Levis on 38% of his dropbacks per PFF, totaling two sacks, including the game-sealing strip sack.
Kiffin, a well known passing game expert, has fully adopted the rushing attack a his primary resource. A season ago, Ole Miss ran the ball 587 times, the most in the conference, and this year, they’re poised to do the same. The two-headed monster of Quinshon Judkins and Zach Evans have combined for 924 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns at 6.04 yards a carry. It’s their identity.
Quarterback play is a bit disconcerting out of Jaxson Dart, but between this rushing attack and the surprisingly stout defense, they’re primed to make noise in the SEC West, but they have to run the gauntlet from October 22 to the end of the year.
LSU: Tigers steal a win at Jordan-Hare, 21-17
Until late in the second quarter, LSU just couldn’t find its footing offensively, finding themselves down 17-0 with seven minutes to go in the half. In fact, it was the Tiger defense that got them on the board as Jay Ward scooped up a fumble off a sack and returned it 23 yards for a touchdown. From there, it was all Bayou Bengals.
It wasn’t pretty, but a win is a win. You can’t help but look at both the box score and the tape of this game and not feel a bit concerned moving to next week if you’re an LSU fan, though. The pressure was there all game, it’s this defense’s calling card. However, they got gashed a lot down the field in the passing game. Robby Ashford threw for 337 yards and two touchdowns on 38 attempts. LSU allowed multiple chunk plays to an Auburn team that largely struggles to throw the ball. That doesn’t bode well with Tennessee on the horizon.
Offensively, it was Jayden Daniels’ first clunker of a game under center. He went 8-for-20 for 80 yards, just not very good. LSU ran for 185, but it was a largely inefficient 185 outside of John Emery’s impressive 20-yard TD as they only went for 3.8 yards per carry. The offensive line has some work to do as well. Auburn got pressure on Daniels on 37.5% of his drop backs per PFF, sacking him five times. LSU has a lot to clean up with the Vols looming.
Mississippi State: Bulldogs trounce A&M, 42-24
Well, well...if it isn’t me having to eat crow this week.
I fully anticipated A&M to roll into Starkville, offensive woes and all, and shut down Mike Leach and co. fairly convincingly. I was wrong. A few things happened that really swung the game in favor of Mississippi State, but the most emphatic, to me, was State out-rushing A&M 144 yards to 136.
The biggest knock I’ve had on Leach’s offense is its lack of a multi-dimensional attack. State had cracked 100 yards rushing once all season (106 against Arizona), and yet they completely owned A&M on the ground, putting up 6.0 yards per carry against an A&M defense that has surprisingly struggled against the run this year.
The other big aspect of this game that went the way of the Bulldogs was the turnover battle. A&M’s first half drives went like this: punt, punt, fumble, punt, fumble. In the second half, the points came for the Aggies, but so did two more turnovers by way of Haynes King to Emmanuel Forbes twice, the second being a pick-six that sealed the game for good.
14-10 was the closest this got, and it didn’t stay there long. It was a thorough beatdown in Starkville.
Auburn: Close, but no cigar this time
A week ago, it felt like everything involving luck, prayers, and football gods shining favorably on you went the way of Bryan Harsin and the Auburn Tigers. This week, not so much.
Auburn led 17-0 at home in this one late in the first half. They held LSU to 270 total yards of offense. However, it’s hard to win when you turn the ball over four times, and that proved to be Auburn’s undoing here. Auburn tried to get too cute down by the goal line early in the fourth, and wow did it blow up in their face spectacularly.
They never got this close to scoring again. They went 3-and-out on their following drive, muffed a punt away, and then threw another interception on their final drive to seal it. You can’t gift wrap a game more than Auburn did here. Truly ironic considering the happenings in their game a week ago.
Texas A&M: Jimbo Phisher
It’s time to have a talk about Texas A&M.
This team is not good.
Why is that? Well, there’s a multitude of reasons, so let’s get to a few of the big ones.
First and foremost, this offense is abysmal.
Per collegefootballdata.com, Texas A&M has the second worst offense by PPA per play in the conference, barely trailing behind Missouri. What is creating the issues? Why, it’s the man leading the way, of course. For many teams, an issue of underperforming is team-wide, and while A&M’s is as well—we’ll get to the defense in a second—it’s largely on the shoulders of Jimbo Fisher.
Let’s start with a fun fact: Jimbo Fisher’s record through 53 games: 37-16. Kevin Sumlin’s record through 53 games: 37-16. One of these men got fired, one replaced the other with a 100 million dollar contract for 10 years.
Jimbo Fisher on his offensive system: "The plays are there and were there."— TexAgs (@TexAgs) October 1, 2022
On why it's not working: "We're not executing."
No, the plays really weren’t, and everyone around the country is seeing that. I’m also imagining what it’s like to be Devon Achane in that locker room, hearing that coming out of his coach’s mouth. The house is burning down and Jimbo is sat firmly inside wondering who turned up the heat, and this is nothing new from him. The offense is outdated, and the worst part is it probably never changes so long as Jimbo is calling the plays.
Ironically, this feels very Bowden-esque on Fisher’s part. He can out-recruit just about anyone in the country. He has arguably the best recruiting class ever coming in next year, and yet he refuses to get with the times, wasting wildly talented players, because he’s hellbent on thinking his system can work in 2022.
Saban moved to a spread attack, brought in a staff who could execute that, and recruited more substantially at QB. Ryan Day saw his lack of toughness and consistent rushing attack, so he went out and got Jim Knowles to re-establish a scheme and identity defensively and Justin Frye to completely revamp their rushing attack. The proof is right there that the best in the game are still trying to evolve to become better. Why is Jimbo different? Who knows. It could just be an ego thing, but until he catches up, those recruiting classes will mean very little.
Defensively, this unit is a shell of what they were a year ago. A&M a season ago allowed 3.7 yards per carry to opposing rushing attacks. This year, they rank 83rd in the nation, allowing 4.5 yards per carry. Last season, they allowed 4.6 yards per play, the 10th best in the nation. They currently sit at 5.2 yards per play, barely cracking the top 50. A great pass rush a year ago had an 8.25% sack percentage. They are currently 129th out of 131 teams at 2.17%. With as bad of an offense as this team has, the defense is finally showing the cracks of that. They can’t get off the field.
Can it be fixed? Not this year. I’m not usually one for writing teams off five weeks into the season, but making any changes to A&M within this season is like putting lipstick on a pig. The problem is systemic and has to be addressed in the offseason. Jimbo is not on the hot seat now, but if nothing has changed this time next year, we may be having a different conversation.
Arkansas: Hogs defense can’t stop anyone
There are major problems afoot in Fayetteville right now, all on the defensive side of the ball. Coming into the week, I thought their pass defense would be their undoing against Alabama, but, with Bryce Young getting hurt, they lucked out there. However, they could not stop anyone on the ground if they tried.
The Tide ran for 317 yards and five touchdowns overall, dashing any hopes that Arkansas’ fervent 3rd quarter comeback would amount to anything in the blink of an eye.
Thus far this season, Arkansas ranks dead last in the SEC in PPA per play against, and their 1.60 explosiveness rate against is the worst among any power five school and second to last in the country.
They have to clean it up if they want to turn this season around, but beware Hogs fans, it’s a treacherous couple weeks. Arkansas hits the road for Starkville this week only to turn around and head to Provo, Utah, to play BYU the following week.
OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE WEEK: JAHMYR GIBBS - ALABAMA
Jahmyr Gibbs lost his mind against Arkansas. The Georgia Tech transfer rushed for 206 yards on 18 carries, good for 11.4 yards per carry. Gibbs broke off 72 and 76-yard touchdown runs, stamping a very easy choice for OPOW.
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE WEEK: EMMANUEL FORBES - MISSISSIPPI STATE
Another easy choice this week. Forbes was on the receiving end of two Haynes King interceptions, the second of which he returned for a touchdown. Forbes was targeted four times, allowing just one catch for five yards with an additional pass break-up, per PFF.