Texas A&M faces first SEC obstacle
Notebook: Surprising UF looks ahead to LSU; Arkansas plummets
Everything is becoming more and more familiar for Texas A&M as it starts to settle into its new conference. After an offseason turnover with coaches, personnel, playbooks and conference, the Aggies are looking to make their move toward the top of the SEC West.
For anyone who thought A&M was going to take a year to adjust to the SEC, think again. Behind redshirt freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M is putting up impressive numbers game after game. In his latest outing, Manziel set school records in both passing yards (453) and total yards (557) while throwing for three touchdowns and running for another.
In his past three games, Manziel has thrown for 921 yards and 10 touchdowns to go along with five more rushing touchdowns and zero turnovers.
"I felt like it was the best game he has played in the pocket," offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury said. "It was nice to see him be confident in his throws and be accurate."
Led by Manziel and an effective defense, Texas A&M rolled by Arkansas 58-10 in route to its first SEC victory. After giving up 10 first-quarter points, the Aggies rallied to score 51 unanswered.
The Aggies will now turn their attention to a difficult task ahead. A&M has five of the next six games on the road, four of which are against SEC opponents. If it really wants to make a name for itself, and prove that it didn’t need a transition season into the SEC, this is its best chance.
Although A&M has been rolling as of late, first-year head coach Kevin Sumlin still realizes there is a lot of work to be done, and that his team is not where it is capable of being.
"We've got to continue to improve," Sumlin said. "It's not about the opponent, it's about us. How we can get better, how we can eliminate mistakes and become a smarter team? Our guys are listening and trying to do what we ask.
No. 1 Alabama (5-0, 2-0 SEC)
• Alabama trailed in a football game for the first time all season -- it lasted 15 seconds. After a quick score by Ole Miss, Alabama return man Christion Jones took the ball 99 yards to the house and the Tide never trailed again.
• Alabama went on to cruise to a 33-14 victory despite giving up a surprising two touchdowns to Ole Miss. The Crimson Tide have their bye week before a stretch of five consecutive SEC games, including at No. 4 LSU in a few weeks.
Next Game: at Missouri Oct. 13
Arkansas (1-4, 0-2 SEC)
• Arkansas’ performance this season has sub-par by any standard. After being a preseason top-10 team, one that many pundits thought may make a run to a BCS game, the Razorbacks have now been outscored 110-10 in their first two SEC games and given up 179 points in four games against FBS opponents.
Next Game: at Auburn Oct. 6
Auburn (1-3, 0-2 SEC)
• Auburn will have its best chance at earning that crucial first SEC victory. With a struggling Arkansas team coming to town, head coach Gene Chizik has to feel confident going into the weekend.
• After a bye week last week, and hanging with then No. 2 LSU the week before, the Tigers are on the verge of putting all the pieces together and getting back to their winning ways.
Next Game: vs. Arkansas Oct. 6
No. 10 Florida (4-0, 3-0 SEC)
• Florida may be the most impressive team in the SEC outside of Alabama. The Gators have beaten three SEC teams in their first four games and are going to be well prepared after having two weeks to game plan for No. 4 LSU on Saturday.
• This will be the first real test against Florida’s rush defense as LSU is going to look to pound the ball up the middle, an area where the Gators haven’t been tested.
Next Game: vs. No. 4 LSU Oct. 6
No. 5 Georgia (5-0, 3-0 SEC)
• It was the same old offensive story for the Georgia Bulldogs last weekend as they threw up 51 points in a wild victory against Tennessee. Running backs Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall, each a freshman, ran for more than 100 yards apiece and five combined touchdowns.
• The high-flying affair marked the fifth consecutive game the Bulldogs scored 40-plus points but Mark Richt never saw this coming.
“If you guys could have seen our first practice in the spring, you would have just shook your head and said we had no chance,” Richt said.
Next Game: at No. 6 South Carolina Oct. 6
Kentucky (1-4, 0-2 SEC)
• The Wildcats almost pulled off their second upset against South Carolina in three years before surrendering 31 unanswered second-half points to the Gamecocks. Kentucky led 17-7 at halftime despite losing starting QB Maxwell Smith during the first series due to an ankle injury.
• It was an entirely different ballgame in the second half as Kentucky only totaled 65 yards and freshman QB Jalen Whitlow threw two interceptions and was sacked six times.
Next Game: vs. No. 20 Mississippi St. Oct. 6
No. 4 Louisiana State (5-0, 1-0 SEC)
• Once again, LSU fell down a spot in the rankings as it stumbled to a 38-22 victory against visiting Towson. The Tigers played sloppy football for the second week in a row. They committed three turnovers and were flagged 10 times in the contest.
• This is not the performance that LSU and Les Miles would have liked going into a tough road game at No. 10 Florida. The past couple weeks, the Gators and LSU looked like two teams heading in opposite directions, meaning this could be an important early contest if the Tigers want their matchup with Alabama to still mean something.
Next Game: at No. 10 Florida Oct. 6
No. 20 Mississippi State (4-0, 1-0 SEC)
• Mississippi State will look to continue to climb the rankings as it travels to Lexington to face Kentucky. The Bulldogs will try to continue their undefeated play and prove they’re a contender in the SEC.
• After Kentucky, Mississippi State has home games against Tennessee and Middle Tennessee before it travels to play No. 1 Alabama. The Bulldogs could really prove their worth if they can get to the Alabama game unbeaten.
Next Game: at Kentucky Oct. 6
Missouri (3-2, 0-2 SEC)
• Missouri rebounded from its loss to South Carolina with a win at Central Florida but the Tigers still don’t look SEC ready. The Tigers are hoping this momentum will propel them into the next two weeks against an underrated Vanderbilt team and No. 1 Alabama.
• The Tiger’s defense has now forced a turnover in 23 consecutive games.
Next Game: vs. Vanderbilt Oct. 6
Ole Miss (3-2, 0-1 SEC)
• The bright side for Ole Miss was that it was the first team to be leading Alabama at any point this season. The Rebels didn’t look intimidated in a tough environment, which should lead help them heading deeper into SEC play.
“We were short-handed at some spots and I couldn’t be more pleased from the effort that was given from our young men [Saturday] that represented Rebel nation and our great university very well,” head coach Hugh Freeze said following the game.
Next Game: vs. Texas A&M Oct. 6
No. 6 South Carolina (5-0, 3-0)
• The Gamecocks won their ninth consecutive game dating back to last season after beating Kentucky 38-17 on Saturday.
• After just 12 yards on five carries in the first half, Marcus Lattimore caught stride in the second half with 108 yards on 18 carries. It was the perfect time for Lattimore to figure his game out as South Carolina hosts No. 5 Georgia Saturday.
• Head coach Steve Spurrier is going to need a big effort out of both Lattimore and QB Connor Shaw if the Gamecocks are going to outduel the high-powered Bulldog offense which ranks 11th nationally in total offense (536 ypg).
Next Game: vs. No. 5 Georgia Oct. 6
Tennessee (3-2, 1-2 SEC)
• Tyler Bray and the Volunteers offense showed up but it was the defense that couldn’t handle the offensive clinic that Georgia put on.
• Tennessee gave up 51 points and 560 total yards. It heads into a bye week with unanswered defensive questions ahead of another game against a ranked opponent in two weeks (Mississippi State).
Next Game: at No. 20 Mississippi State Oct. 13
Vanderbilt (1-3, 0-2 SEC)
• Vanderbilt is still not where it wants to be but it is making strides toward success. A talented, underrated Commodore team will travel to Missouri coming off a bye week.
• In order to start sustaining success, head coach James Franklin is going to have to find a quarterback who is going to be in there for the long run. Jordan Rodgers and Austyn Carta-Samuels had been switching off at the starting QB position the past couple weeks.
Next Game: at Missouri Oct. 6