Saturday was a day that Neyland Stadium will never forget. With a 38-33 victory over Florida, Tennessee snapped their five game losing streak to the Gators, finally getting a W in their column in a rivalry that has not exactly gone in their favor in the 21st century. Josh Heupel’s first two years in Knoxville continue to be a resounding success filled with high octane offense, potential and hope, most importantly. In fact, Tennessee’s win on Saturday makes Heupel the first coach since Bill Battle in the early 1970’s to defeat Florida within his first two years heading the program.
Now, as hard as it is to believe, there were other games in the SEC on Saturday, so let’s take a look at the updated standings and a summary of all the goings on within the Southeastern Conference in week four.
1 Georgia | 4-0 (1-0) | + 137 PD (169 F, 32 A)
7 Kentucky | 4-0 (1-0) | +73 PD (125 F, 52 A)
8 Tennessee | 4-0 (1-0) | +118 PD (194 F, 76 A)
Vanderbilt | 3-2 (0-1) | +2 PD (171 F, 169 A)
Missouri | 2-2 (0-1) | +14 PD (112 F, 98 A)
Florida | 2-2 (0-2) | -9 PD (109 F, 118 A)
South Carolina | 2-2 (0-2) | +2 PD (128 F, 126 A)
2 Alabama | 4-0 (1-0) | +164 PD (193 F, 29 A)
Auburn | 3-1 (1-0) | +8 PD (95 F, 87 A)
LSU | 3-1 (1-0) | +100 PD (157 F, 57 A)
17 Texas A&M | 3-1 (1-0) | +38 PD (85 F, 47 A)
14 Ole Miss | 4-0 (0-0) | +124 PD (164 F, 40 A)
20 Arkansas | 3-1 (1-1) | +30 PD (134 F, 104 A)
Mississippi State | 3-1 (0-1) | +64 PD (149 F, 85 A)
Tennessee: Is it time to rev up the Heisman campaign in Knoxville?
It was time to get off the schneid against Florida, and that’s exactly what this team did. Hendon Hooker led the way as he always does, but this game was different. Hooker had one of the great games in this rivalry’s history, completing 22 of 28 passes for 349 yards and two touchdowns. Hooker was the ultimate difference maker on the ground as well, leading the Vols in rushing with 112 yards and another TD. Simply put, Hooker was on another level. This 44-yard run anchored a Vols TD drive that put them up 10 late in the third quarter:
The biggest question surrounding this offense coming into the game would be whether or not Cedric Tillman would play. He did not, forcing an inexperienced group of wideouts to step up in a rivalry game, and folks, I think these kids are legit.
Bru McCoy led the Vols with 102 receiving yards on five catches and a touchdown, and Jalin Hyatt added 58 yards on five catches as well. Senior Ramel Keyton flashed in a big way in this game as well. He totaled 69 yards on three catches, and 43 of them came on this momentum shifting catch on Tennessee’s 99-yard touchdown drive right before half.
The Vols led 17-14 at half, and the offense in the second half took off like a rocket ship. The Vols scored touchdowns on three of their four drives in the second half, and every point was needed.
If there were one area of concern, it would be the secondary. Tennessee controlled most of this game and never trailed after the half-ending touchdown drive, but the Vols secondary got cooked like a Thanksgiving dinner all game long. Florida was aggressive, playing this game as if their season depended on it, and though they got gashed often, they limited Florida’s rushing attack, making them one-dimensional, it just turned out that the one dimension’s name was Anthony Richardson.
Richardson is as dynamic as any player in the country despite the fact his game is played on two polarities: good or bad, nothing in between. The Vols saw a very good Anthony Richardson on Saturday, and he aired out the secondary to the tune of 453 yards and four total touchdowns. It’s fair to say that much of the Vols’ struggles defensively were because of their inability to stop the Gators on fourth down. Florida converted on five out of six fourth downs, and of those five, four of them directly led to touchdowns on that same drive.
They definitely have things to clean up, but this defense ate Florida’s fastball at every turn and came up with turnovers and stops when they were needed.
The Vols get a much deserved bye week this week before hitting the road for Death Valley against LSU. Dark memories loom in Baton Rouge for the Vols, let’s see if they can exercise that demon as well.
Georgia: A rare paper jam in the machine
Georgia did not look like Georgia on Saturday, despite a 39-22 win. Who were they playing, you ask? Oh, you know, Kent...State...? It’s hard to believe they were looking past Kent State considering the cupcake start to SEC play Georgia has, but they were far from on point in this one.
Stetson Bennett struggled to find consistency, failing to throw a touchdown in a game for just the third time as a starter. Georgia continued to dominate on the ground, but outside of Brock Bowers (this team’s real Heisman hopeful), they’re lacking in playmakers in the passing game.
22 points against Georgia’s defense is bizarro world, but outside of a very uncharacteristic long touchdown, there’s nothing to be concerned about on this side of the ball.
Kentucky: ‘Cats hold off late rally against 1-3 Northern Illinois
Seventh ranked Kentucky is off to consecutive 4-0 starts for the first time since 2007 and 2008, as they continue to climb in the AP poll despite a poor showing against an inferior Northern Illinois team on Saturday.
This was a tie game at halftime, and though Kentucky pulled away, they let NIU right back in it at the end. Outside of Will Levis (18/26, 303 yards, 4 TD), it was a pretty sloppy game all around for Kentucky. They continue to struggle in the ground game, and though Kavosiey Smoke broke off a pair of nice 20-plus yard runs, only two other carries eclipsed five yards, and one of his big gainers were all for naught because he fumbled it away.
A season ago, Kentucky averaged just about 200 yards per game on the ground at 5.3 yards per carry. They currently sit at 81.5 yards per game on 2.4 yards per carry this season.
Wideouts Tayvion Robinson and Barion Brown had big days, both eclipsing the century mark in yards and hauling in two touchdowns each. Kentucky gets back into SEC play this coming week as they hit the road to Oxford for a top-15 showdown with Ole Miss.
Vanderbilt: Commodores get trounced by Tide, 55-3
Not really much to see here. This was your run of the mill, “Vandy bye week” special.
I don’t think this Vanderbilt team will lay down like this all conference schedule long, but this was a very predictable egg laid by them.
Missouri: Football gods frown upon Tigers yet again
Ozzie said it best when he said “Happiness I cannot feel, that love to me is so unreal”. That is Missouri football right now. The Tigers lost a heartbreaker to Auburn on Saturday in overtime, 17-14, in a game that perfectly encapsulates where Missouri is as a program currently.
Missouri had what felt like infinite chances to win this game. Mizzou drove the ball down the field in a minute and 18 seconds, leaving two seconds on the clock for Harrison Mevis to make a 26-yard chip shot field goal for the win. He pushed it wide right, sending this game to overtime.
In overtime, Auburn kicked a field goal to take a three point lead, so Missouri needed three points bare minimum to extend the game, six to win.
Excruciating. Your surrender Tigers are here to stay.
Remember this stat from a week ago?
That unbeaten record is now broken. Missouri held Auburn to 82 yards on the ground, and their only two scores came from Ashford and Bigsby. Auburn overall only totaled 217 total yards of offense.
There were 29 first downs total in this game. Florida had 31 on their own on Saturday. Tennessee had more total yards than Mizzou and Auburn combined.
There’s also trouble in paradise with five-star freshman wide receiver Luther Burden. Definitely a developing story to keep your eye on.
Florida: Gators fall, Anthony Richardson has arrived
Yes, losing your biggest rivalry game hurts. Yes, giving up 576 total yards to Tennessee in said game is bad. Not everything is gloomy in Gainesville, however. You’ve got a quarterback, and a damn good one at that, albeit a little inconsistent.
I’ve been big on Anthony Richardson for well over a year. First round pick-type big? No, but that’s the way this works, unfortunately, for Richardson. His poor play the previous two games had many pointing fingers and laughing at the reactionary college football heads that were screaming “Richardson first round!” after his impressive performance against Utah in their opener. No one should be laughing now.
The kid is legit. The inefficiency is real. Both things can be true because they are. Richardson has a very Vince Young-ish vibe about his game in that regard. He’s a big play threat every single down because of his cannon arm and lightning speed which he showcased on Saturday time after time, but with the high reward comes the equal risk. Richardson threw his first two touchdowns of the season on Saturday and rushed one in. He totaled 515 total yards (453 passing, 62 rushing) with big play after big play, but a fumble on a drive that would have cut Tennessee’s lead to four early in the fourth quarter proved costly in the game.
You take the good with the bad, but there is a lot of good set to come from Richardson.
South Carolina: Gamecocks get rebound win over Charlotte, 56-20
There’s not a ton here to talk about. Charlotte is bad (1-4 overall), this serves as a game just to get the Gamecocks back in the win column. Next.
Alabama: Tide kick off SEC play with blowout win
Bryce Young played his best game of the young season, throwing for 385 yards and four touchdowns on Saturday. The Crimson Tide defense suffocated Vandy all game long, totaling five sacks—Will Anderson Jr. had half of those—in the 55-3 win.
Not a ton to say here, either. This was expected. Now comes the first real test. Saban’s squad travel to Fayetteville to face a very pissed off Arkansas squad.
Auburn: Harsin buys another week...somehow
Yeah, we don’t know how you did it either, Bryan Harsin. Out-gained by nearly 100 yards with no real quarterback play to speak of, Auburn somehow pulled out one of the more improbable wins of the 2022 season.
Sure, a missed 26-yard game winning field goal and fumble into the end zone in overtime by Missouri ensured the win, but you take ‘em how you can get ‘em. Harsin’s hot seat warmer is still firmly on its highest setting, though.
LSU: Things are beginning to click in Baton Rouge
LSU handled business at home against New Mexico, 38-0. The offense looked good as LSU threw for 414 yards while rushing for 219 and four scores. Defensively, this unit continues to impress. Yes, it’s New Mexico, but they held them to 88 total yards on the day.
LSU hits the road this week to face aforementioned Auburn before heading back to Death Valley for a big time game against Tennessee.
Texas A&M: A little luck goes a long way
Two plays can summarize Texas A&M’s 23-21 win over Arkansas on Saturday. The first came late in the first half with Arkansas on the cusp of going up 21-7 heading into the break. KJ Jefferson tries to dive over the line into the end zone, but Tyreek Chappell strips him and starts a convoy down the field on a return, but it appears Arkansas have it bottled up. Then this happens:
This insane turn of events created what likely would’ve been a 14 point swing. From down two touchdowns to tied just like that.
The second will be what this game is forever remembered by.
the Oink Doink & Titanic music were meant to go together. pic.twitter.com/NBkNbvHhRa— Mikey McNuggets (@MikeLucasTV) September 25, 2022
Your luck will never be this good again, Aggies fans.
Devon Achane led a still lifeless Aggie offense with 159 yards rushing and a touchdown while A&M’s stout defense held Arkansas to seven points in the second half.
A&M heads to Starkville to face Mississippi State. The opening line for this game is Mississippi State -3 per DraftKings. Interesting to say the least.
Ole Miss: Rebels survive Tulsa’s annual top 25 scare
A 28 point second quarter carried Ole Miss to victory in this one as they defeated Tulsa, 35-27. Jaxson Dart put together a solid albeit inconsistent game on Saturday, throwing for 154 yards and two scores while also rushing for 116. His ball placement and overall accuracy wasn’t great, but a huge second quarter from Dart and this offense proved to be enough.
Tulsa does this every year. They play way tighter with a top 25 team early in the season than anyone expects them to. Last year, it happened twice. Tulsa got CJ Stroud’s worst performance as a college QB, and though the Buckeyes pulled away late, 41-20, it was tight for three quarters. In 2020, they did it to Oklahoma State in a game they lost 17-6, and then they upset 11th ranked UCF the week after.
Ole Miss will have to tighten up some screws, but overall, there isn’t much cause for concern. Kiffin and co. play host to seventh ranked Kentucky this week in one of the two top 25 showdowns that headline week five in the SEC.
Arkansas: Oink Doink
Yeesh...rough week to say the least. It’s one thing to lose to a team you outplayed, but it’s entirely another thing when you lose on a field goal that hits the TOP of the goalpost and doesn’t go through.
As a resident Jimbo “hater”, this was painful. That being said, the best form of this Arkansas team you could want to play against Alabama is one that’s really pissed off. Fayetteville is going to be rocking like it’s 2006 on Saturday. This defense still scares the hell outta me in a matchup like this, though. Figure it out back there!
Mississippi State: Bulldogs get right against BGSU, 45-14
Will Rogers threw for six touchdowns and 409 yards on 50 attempts Saturday as State rolled Bowling Green.
Remember Leach’s offense looking like this now. A&M is coming to town and things certainly won’t look so pretty. For all its success here, State still ran for just 45 yards. They only ran for 30 in a game they won against A&M last year, so who knows!
PLAYER OF THE WEEK: HENDON HOOKER - TENNESSEE
For the first time since Peyton Manning was taking snaps in Knoxville, there’s a real deal Heisman contender at Tennessee. Hooker etched his name into the memory bank of every Vol—and Florida—fan forever on Saturday. He completed 22 of 28 passes, scored three total touchdowns, and amassed 462 total yards of offense in Tennessee’s win over the Gators, earning himself SEC Offensive Player of the Week honors, so naturally, he’s the obvious choice here.