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SPOOKY SEC Round-Up Week 9: Will Levis a phantom as Vols slash Kentucky

Tennessee and Georgia cruised to wins, setting up Week 10 clash of unbeatens

Kentucky v Tennessee Photo by Eakin Howard/Getty Images

There were just five games this Halloween weekend in the SEC, but a lot happened, both on and off the field, and in the spirit of the season, we’ll ham it up. With that being said...Do you like scary movies?


SEC East

1 Georgia | 8-0 (5-0) | +250 PD (334 F, 84 A)
T2 Tennessee | 8-0 (4-0) | +227 PD (395 F, 168 A)
Kentucky | 5-3 (2-3) | +32 PD (191 F, 159 A)
Missouri | 4-4 (2-3) | +19 PD (191 F, 172 A)
South Carolina | 5-3 (2-3) | +45 PD (242 F, 197 A)
Florida | 4-4 (1-4) | +1 PD (240 F, 239 A)
Vanderbilt | 3-5 (0-4) | -80 PD (213 F, 293 A)

SEC West

6 Alabama | 7-1 (4-1) | +212 PD (345 F, 133 A)
15 LSU | 6-2 (4-1) | +112 PD (281 F, 169 A)
11 Ole Miss | 8-1 (4-1) | +143 PD (337 F, 194 A)
Mississippi State | 5-3 (2-3) | +71 PD (254 F, 183 A)
Arkansas | 5-3 (2-3) | +15 PD (270 F, 255 A)
Auburn | 3-5 (1-4) | -56 PD (183 F, 239 A)
Texas A&M | 3-5 (1-4) | +7 PD (181 F, 174 A)


Tennessee: We’ll tear your soul apart

Dark mode uniforms. Halloween Eve. 44-6. Things just feel different right now in Knoxville.

Josh Heupel and Tennessee stole Kentucky’s lunch money as the Vols laid the ‘Cats in its grave early.

Whether Tennessee took the comments to heart or not (they did) has yet to be determined, but Tennessee was like a predator toying with its prey all day long. Tennessee’s opening drive of the game ran like clockwork. Hooker to Hyatt, 55 yards, touchdown. Record set. Hyatt added another later in the game and is now the single season receiving touchdowns record holder for Tennessee.

Two drives later for the Vols, they played some “real football”, churning five minutes off the clock in a 15 play, 75 yard touchdown drive where they ran the ball on 13 of the 15 plays. This was a message sent, loud and clear, and it signified a tonal shift in the game. That drive started a 37-0 run the rest of the game for Tennessee, and while the offense was its usual explosive self, Tennessee’s defense, specifically its secondary stepped up in a big way.

Tennessee held Kentucky to 205 total yards of offense all game and totally neutralized NFL First Round Pick Will Levis to just 98 yards passing and three interceptions. The weakness on this defense all season has been against the pass, so seeing that unit perform strongly was a very pleasant sight.

Now comes the final boss. Tennessee will enter enemy territory for the first time in four weeks, and it will be in Athens against the number one ranked, reigning national champion Georgia Bulldogs. The winner of this game likely seals up the SEC East representative in Atlanta. No pressure.

Georgia: “I never”

Georgia was out for blood at the World’s Largest Cocktail Party. The Dawgs got out to a 21-0 lead early, and though Florida mounted a 17-0 run to begin the second half to cut the lead to eight, Georgia quickly cut off any hope Florida mounted with a pair of TD drives and three straight stops to end the game.

Georgia’s defense played well as expected, but Georgia’s passing attack continues to look beatable.

Stetson Bennett threw a pair of interceptions in this game and it should have been four, and while the first was really just an incredible play by Jadarrius Perkins, the second was a poorly thrown ball behind Daijun Edwards. Georgia turned the ball over three times, resulting in 10 points for Florida.

That being said, Brock Bowers continues to be a dude, and Georgia’s ground game is getting cranked up to another level right now. The Bulldogs, behind Daijun Edwards and Kenny McIntosh, are averaging just over 38 attempts and 226.2 yards per game over their last six games, good for 5.9 yards per carry. While Bennett hasn’t been anywhere near as efficient as a year ago (his completion percentage is up, but his adjusted yards per attempt are a full 2.0 yards lower than a year ago), Georgia hasn’t just found their identity, they’re burying teams with it.

Whatever Kentucky was saying about long drives and establishing the run to keep Tennessee’s offense on the sideline, they simply weren’t built to do that and win. Georgia is, and that’s what makes this matchup so enticing, outside of the major season implications it already has. Tennessee allows just 104.5 rushing yards per game in conference play, the third best mark in the SEC, while Georgia is averaging 220 yards and 5.85 yards per carry a game in conference play. It’s strength versus strength on Saturday in Athens on each side of the ball, and something’s gotta give.

Kentucky: Oh, no tears please. It’s a waste of good suffering

My goodness, Kentucky.

Mark Stoops’ squad did its best disappearing act, barely cracking 200 total yards, scoring just six points, allowing 37 unanswered points over the final three quarters, first round quarterback throwing three picks and not even throwing for 100 yards?

But hey, at least you play real football.

Missouri: It’s Halloween. I guess everyone’s entitled to one good scare

This was the upset I saw coming. Everything just fit perfectly in place for what Missouri’s defense does. Missouri’s run defense has been very good in SEC play, allowing just 3.5 yards per carry, and while South Carolina’s ground game had carried them to four straight wins, if a team can take that away from them, they get into deep trouble very quickly, and that’s exactly what Mizzou did.

Marshawn Lloyd had been great in South Carolina’s win streak, but Missouri completely neutralized him as a threat and forced Spencer Rattler to beat them, and when you can do that, there’s a good chance you’ll win. Missouri got pressure on Rattler on 39.5% of his 38 dropbacks, sacking him four times to go with 11 tackles for loss overall.

Missouri is a quarterback away from being competitive with more than just the bottom half of the SEC.

South Carolina: 30 seconds after you’re born you have a past, and 60 seconds after that you begin to lie to yourself about it

Coming off wins over Kentucky and Texas A&M, South Carolina found themselves ranked. It will be the only time that happens this season. We all lied to ourselves. They are who we thought they were.

The Gamecocks gave away all the momentum and good will they had built up over the last month and laid a egg against Missouri, totaling just 203 total yards of offense.

Marshawn Lloyd had carried this offense to their four game winning streak, averaging 113 yards per game at 6.8 yards per carry, and he only touched the ball seven times on Saturday. In all three of South Carolina’s losses, Lloyd has received fewer than 10 carries. It’s not coincidental, and it’s beyond time they learned the truth about Spencer Rattler.

Rattler cannot win you games, in fact, all he’s done at the collegiate level is lose them. This reclamation project has not worked, and putting this game in his hands because they struggled to run the ball sealed their fate.

Florida: Well, Billy, have the lambs stopped screaming?

It has been a rough inaugural season for Billy Napier down in Gainesville. Florida has now lost five of the last six Cocktail Parties, and this was another game where Florida showed glimpses of life, but another loss. All the energy has been drained from the Swamp since their COVID year magic as the difference between where Florida is at as a program versus the top teams in their own division continues to show.

My confidence that Anthony Richardson can become anything beyond an inaccurate, high variance quarterback has begun to wane pretty steadily. He doesn’t see the field well at all, and no amount of contribution he can make on the ground makes up for the liability he is as a thrower right now. I still think he develop into something, I just don’t know what that ‘something’ is anymore.

Vanderbilt: IDLE


Alabama: IDLE


Ole Miss: It’s alive! It’s alive!

This was the “Pit of Despair” trap game that I feared would suck Ole Miss in. In College Station against an A&M team that hasn’t played a home game in over a month felt like a recipe for disaster, but they skirted it behind a career day for their spectacular running back, Quinshon Judkins.

The true freshman carried the ball 34 times for 205 yards and a touchdown, eclipsing the 1,000 yard mark on the season and tying a record in the process. Judkins now has 14 rushing touchdowns, tied for the most in a single season by an Ole Miss running back, and with three games left, it’s a safe bet that he breaks it.

Jaxson Dart played good complementary football off of Judkins’ big day, throwing for 140 yards on 20 attempts with a trio of short yardage touchdowns.

This was a trap game in every sense. Yes, there was a bye week coming, but Ole Miss was coming off a demoralizing loss in Death Valley and Alabama was on the horizon next. They did what they needed to do, and now with an extra week of prep for the Tide, Ole Miss looks like they have a bit of their swagger back.

Mississippi State: IDLE

Arkansas: Congratulations. You are still alive. Most people are so ungrateful to be alive. But not you. Not anymore

What would this Arkansas team be with a defense? The question that keeps Hog fans up at night. Arkansas rolled late to a win over Auburn, 41-27, using a 14-0 third quarter to extend a 17-13 lead to 31-13, all but sealing the game heading into the final 15.

Offensively, this team is scary good. KJ Jefferson continues to be great as he completed 16-of-24 passes for 234 yards and a touchdown and then added two more scores on the ground, and Rocket Sanders also continued his breakout season, rushing for 171 yards on just 16 carries. Matt Landers had a big day, hauling in four passes for 115 yards, and Jadon Haselwood totaled 61 receiving yards and caught Jefferson’s lone touchdown.

Defensively, this team is horrifying. Auburn had accrued over 450 total yards of offense just once this season, against Mercer, until Saturday. Their pass defense was the stuff of horror, allowing arguably the worst passing offense in the conference to average 9.2 adjusted yards per attempt.

This very much feels like your stereotypical Big 12 team within the SEC, and because their offense is *so* good, they can get away with it. Arkansas also has a pulse again, and it’s just in time. They’ll get a trio of home games against ranked opponents coming up as they host a very good Group-of-5 Liberty team this week before welcoming LSU and Ole Miss to Fayetteville.

Auburn: They’re coming to get you, Brian

At long last, it finally happened. Bryan Harsin has been fired. Pretty much everyone is wondering why it took so long or why it didn’t happen long before the season started, and for that I say, they had no clue what they were doing.

Harsin’s brief time at Auburn can be summed up as a colossal failure, one that set a once competitive program back a very long way. It wasn’t that long ago that this team was competing for SEC Championships and perennially reaching eight or more wins.

Harsin’s year-and-a-half tenure has bottomed out this program. Prior to last season, Auburn hadn’t had a four game losing streak since Gene Chizik’s final season in 2012. It’s now happened in consecutive seasons. With one big hire, they probably can be rescued, but things are dire right now for Auburn.

Texas A&M: To die, to be really dead, that must be glorious!

Don’t bother checking for a pulse, Texas A&M is dead.

The good: Conner Weigman looked great in his first start. Moose Muhammad III and Evan Stewart are very good weapons for him on the outside.

The bad: A&M just lost their first home game in over a month, making that a winless month of October, and they gave up just shy of 400 yards rushing in the process.

It’s all bad in Aggieland. Just roll with Weigman the rest of the year and let the chips fall where they may because this is a lost season in the worst of ways.


NCAA Football: Mississippi at Texas A&M Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports

Judkins ran 34 times for 205 yards and a touchdown, becoming just the second SEC running back to eclipse the 200 yard mark this year. The freshman sensation carried the Ole Miss offense all game long and tied the team’s single season rushing touchdown record in just his ninth game.


Kentucky v Tennessee Photo by Eakin Howard/Getty Images

Slaughter was fantastic in coverage for the Vols on Saturday, not allowing a completion on the three times he was targeted. Slaughter had a pass break-up and a spectacular interception in Tennessee’s rout over Kentucky.