Florida win shifting SEC power?
Notebook: South Carolina joins elite; Georgia, LSU stumble
The SEC continues to be the most dominant conference in the country despite having two AP top-five teams lose on Saturday. Still, the SEC holds three of the top four spots in the latest AP rankings even after No. 4 LSU lost at No. 10 Florida and No. 5 Georgia fell at No. 6 South Carolina.
We all already knew the conference was deep, but did anybody really consider any other team besides Alabama and LSU to be at the top of the conference? The perennial powers in the SEC could be changing as South Carolina (6-0, 4-0 SEC) jumped up three spots to take a hold of the No. 3 position in the rankings while Florida (5-0, 4-0 SEC) moved up six positions to fourth.
Despite LSU and Georgia seemingly dropping out of the national title conversation, the SEC proves again it might still have more than one legitimate contender to challenge the Tide for the conference -- and national? -- title.
The third-ranked Gamecocks dominated then-No. 5 Georgia in every phase of the game Saturday night en route to a 35-7 throttling of the Bulldogs. Led by their powerful front seven, the Gamecock defense held the previously explosive Georgia offense to 224 yards of total offense. Mark Richt’s offense was averaging more than 40 points and 500 yards of total offense in the first four games before South Carolina completely shut it down.
Approximately 350 miles south of Colombia, Florida was doing the exact same thing to then-No. 4 LSU. Head coach Will Muschamp’s defense held LSU QB Zach Mettenberger to less than 200 yards of offense while completing only 44 percent of his passes. The Gator defense only allowed LSU into UF territory once in the second half, helping the Tigers fall another five spots in the rankings.
South Carolina has put itself in a position to contend for the national title in January but Head Ball Coach Steve Spurrier is making sure his team doesn’t get overconfident.
“All we have to do is remind ourselves of that Kentucky first half and the Vandy game. We were very fortunate to beat Vandy,” Spurrier said. “Sometimes that's how you hope your season goes. We still have a tough road ahead of us.”
Florida’s Muschamp echoed Spurrier after his team continued its hot start to the season. This weekend, the Gators play host to a Vanderbilt team that is coming off its first SEC win.
“We need to understand, as you continue to climb the mountain, it gets a little more dangerous,” Muschamp said. “We need to do a better job of playing and coaching as we start to move forward here.”
After a trip to Death Valley to play LSU this weekend, South Carolina will travel to Gainesville in two weeks in a game that might decide who books a trip to Atlanta -- and maybe a date with history.
No. 1 Alabama (5-0, 2-0 SEC)
• Coming off a bye week, Alabama has a stretch of five consecutive SEC games, including four games against ranked opponents and three contests on the road. The Tide travel to Missouri, No. 9 LSU, and Tennessee while hosting No. 19 Mississippi St. and No. 22 Texas A&M. The Tide will definitely be put to the test during the next month.
Next Game: at Missouri Oct. 13
Arkansas (2-4, 1-2 SEC)
• We finally caught a mere glimpse of the Arkansas team we used to know. Arkansas won its first game in five weeks behind strong QB play of senior Tyler Wilson, who completed 20 of 27 passes for 216 yards.
• Arkansas’ defense came into the game allowing 40.6 points in SEC play this season but held the Auburn attack to seven points while managing to drop the Auburn quarterbacks eight times.
Next Game: vs. Kentucky Oct. 13
Auburn (1-4, 0-3 SEC)
• After playing relatively well the previous couple weeks, and having two weeks of preparation, Auburn regressed back to looking like the Tigers of the beginning of the season when it turned the ball over five times. Head coach Gene Chizik was forced to make a quarterback change at halftime after another dismal first half by Kiehl Frazier.
"You saw the game. We had two weeks to prepare, and I really felt like we had two good weeks of practice,” Chizik said. “I certainly didn't expect to play like we played [Saturday], but the reality of it is, we did all of the things you can't do and win, and we know that.”
Next Game: at Ole Miss Oct. 13
No. 14 Georgia (5-1, 3-1 SEC)
• Georgia’s offense finally came back to Earth; unfortunately it happened on the biggest stage of the season to date. The best offense in the SEC was held to 7 points and less than half the total yards it averages for the season.
• The duo of freshman running backs Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall were held to a combined 75 yards on the ground on 25 carries.
• QB Aaron Murray continues to struggle on the big stage. So far, Murray is the only quarterback in the Mark Richt era to not beat a top-10 team in his career.
Next Game: at Kentucky Oct. 20
Kentucky (1-5, 0-3 SEC)
• Despite Kentucky losing, it did have a glimmer of hope. Freshman quarterback Patrick Towles replaced starter Jalen Whitlow in the second quarter and led the Wildcats on an 80-yard scoring drive.
• The third Kentucky QB to get behind center for the Wildcats this season ultimately had to leave the game with an ankle injury. Outside of the 80-yard drive by Towles, Kentucky just couldn’t get anything going as it totaled 228 yards for the day.
Next Game: at Arkansas Oct. 13
No. 9 Louisiana State (5-1, 1-1 SEC)
• LSU’s apparent struggles in the previous two weeks finally came full circle as it was delivered its first loss of the season. QB Zach Mettenberger struggled again, leading the Tigers to only 200 yards of total offense and two field goals. The LSU running game managed only 42 yards on the ground.
Next Game: vs. No. 3 South Carolina Oct. 13
No. 19 Mississippi State (5-0, 2-0 SEC)
• The Bulldogs continue to climb the rankings and remain one of the final 16 teams to have a zero in the loss column. People may not realize it but Mississippi State is keeping pace with Alabama as the only unbeaten teams remaining in the SEC West.
• The Bulldogs have Tennessee and Middle Tennessee at home the next two weeks before traveling to face the Tide, in what could be a battle of unbeaten teams.
Next Game: vs. Tennessee Oct. 13
Missouri (3-3, 0-3 SEC)
• Missouri’s struggles continued Saturday as it fell at home to Vanderbilt despite MU leading in almost every statistical category. The Tigers outgained Vandy by 100 total yards and beat them up in the rushing game 150-89.
• Missouri’s inconsistent quarterback play has been its downfall as QB James franklin left the game with a knee injury. Backup Corbin Berkstresser struggled to find any consistency.
“Franklin injured his medial collateral ligament and, will be out for a few weeks," head coach Gary Pinkel said.
• The timing of losing a starting quarterback couldn't be worse as the Tigers play host to Alabama this weekend.
Next Game: vs. Alabama Oct. 13
Ole Miss (3-3, 0-2 SEC)
• After leading through three quarters, Ole Miss gave up 13 fourth-quarter points and fell to its 16th consecutive conference loss dating to 2010. Ole Miss was leading by 10 with less than eight minutes remaining.
• QB Bo Wallace threw for 305 yards and a touchdown but turned the ball over twice. Jeff Scott continued his powerful running as he had 108 yards and a touchdown on the ground.
Next Game: vs. Auburn Oct. 13
Tennessee (3-2, 1-2 SEC)
• Tennessee has had two weeks to regroup from the wild loss at Georgia and will have its hands full again as it travels to No. 19 Mississippi State this weekend.
• Tennessee will need strong play from QB Tyler Bray along with receivers Justin Hunter and Cordarrelle Patterson if it is going to upset the undefeated Bulldogs on the road.
Next Game: at No. 20 Mississippi St. Oct. 13
Texas A&M (4-1, 2-1 SEC)
• QB Johnny Manziel was no where near what he has been so far this season, contributing to three Aggie turnovers against Ole Miss. However, he pulled off the victory in his first start on the road in the SEC. Manziel led the Aggies to two scoring drives with less than nine minutes remaining to steal a victory from Ole Miss and preventing the Rebels from their first conference win of the season.
• It was supposed to be A&M’s bye week but it has to play a make-up game against Louisiana Tech, which was cancelled at the beginning of the year due to Hurricane Isaac. The timing is ironic as it would not have been a highly watched game nationally in early September, but both teams are now in the national rankings. La. Tech enters with a perfect 5-0 record and is playing at home.
Next Game: at No. 23 Louisiana Tech Oct. 13
Vanderbilt (2-3, 1-2 SEC)
• Vanderbilt is slowly putting the pieces together and starting to figure out how to win. After losing close games early in the season, a victory at Missouri gave the Commodores their first conference win.
• Vandy won behind a solid effort from running back Zac Stacy who ran for 72 yards on 29 carries and ended up in the end zone twice for the Commodores.
Next Game: at Missouri Oct. 13