Tigers not playing for second place
Notebook: Vandy playing tough despite loses; Arkansas surging
Louisiana State proved once again that the SEC is the deepest and most unpredictable conference in the entire country. A week after LSU got pushed around by then No. 4 Florida, the Tigers took care of the third ranked Gamecocks and showed the country that they are not going down without a fight.
We should know better than to think that a Les Miles led team was going to settle for playing for second place in the SEC West. The Tigers, who after last week’s loss, had everyone calling for the benching of junior quarterback Zach Mettenberger, proved they should still be mentioned in the same breath as No. 1 Alabama.
LSU won a game in which its back was up against the wall and a loss would’ve ended any hope the Tigers had of winning the SEC. The Tiger’s players understand that they cannot afford another loss and it showed Saturday.
“We gotta win out. That’s the big thing that we all know,” wide receiver Jarvis Landry said. “Every game for us is a national championship to us. It’s that type of mentality that we’re going to take every Saturday from here on out.”
Mettenberger still has room to improve but he effectively ran an offense against a good Gamecock defense. Coupled with a great effort on the ground -- 258 yards from three different carriers -- LSU managed to squeak by South Carolina 23-21.
Finally, after a string of three consecutive games in which everyone was questioning if LSU really belongs in the national title conversation, the Tigers played like they did in 2011. With a stout defense and an effective offense, LSU improved to 6-1 (2-1 SEC) and climbed back up to No. 6 in the AP poll.
A win like that can really get the momentum going and the Tigers will try to carry it into Saturday's game at offensive powerhouse No. 20 Texas A&M. The Tiger defense is going to have a handful trying to contain freshman sensation Johnny Manziel of A&M but a win this week will give them the confidence they need with No. 1 Alabama looming on the horizon. LSU will be coming off its bye week before the SEC West showdown in Death Valley on Nov. 3.
No. 1 Alabama (6-0, 3-0 SEC)
• Alabama passed Phase 1 of its five-game stretch against SEC opponents as it beat up on Missouri on Saturday. The Tide looked like nothing would slow them down, jumping out to a 27-0 lead midway through the second quarter. Alabama cruised to a 42-10 victory led by a potent rushing attack.
• Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon each ran more than 100 yards while the Tide piled up 351 yards on the ground. All of Alabama’s six touchdowns came via the ground. Alabama now moves on to Phase 2, at Tennessee, before the showdown with No. 6 LSU in Death Valley.
Next Game: at Tennessee Oct. 20
Arkansas (3-4, 2-2 SEC)
• Arkansas isn’t giving up on its season just yet. After a horrible September, October has been much nicer to the Razorbacks. The Hogs look like they are slowly on their way to becoming bowl eligible after consecutive wins against Kentucky and Auburn.
• Arkansas is now only three wins shy of being bowl eligible after a period of time where it looked like it might not win another game. Kudos to head coach John L. Smith who hasn’t let this team quit despite not having the season it originally had in mind.
Next Game: vs. Ole Miss Oct. 27
Auburn (1-5, 0-4 SEC)
• Auburn remains winless in SEC play after a brutal loss to Ole Miss on Saturday. Auburn’s defense looked dismal after giving up 41 points to a team that hadn’t won a conference game since 2010. The Tigers was outscored 24-3 in the second half and gave up 451 yards and five touchdowns.
Next Game: at Vanderbilt Oct. 20
No. 3 Florida (6-0, 5-0 SEC)
• Florida continued its success as it beat a confident Vanderbilt team 31-17 on the road Saturday. It doesn’t get any easier as the Gators get a shot at the ninth-ranked Gamecocks this weekend.
• Quarterback Jeff Driskel ran for three touchdowns and 177 yards on only 11 carries last Saturday. Those 177 yards set a school record for most rushing yards in school history by a quarterback.
• Florida’s win against Vandy was the 22nd consecutive time the Gators have came out victorious against the Commodores.
Next Game: vs. No. 9 South Carolina Oct. 20
No. 13 Georgia (5-1, 3-1 SEC)
• By the time Georgia kicks off its game with Kentucky this weekend, the Bulldogs will have had two weeks to regroup from their loss at South Carolina. Expect the Bulldogs to come out guns blazing against a struggling Kentucky team. Georgia will need a confidence boost before it plays in a pivotal SEC East matchup at Florida in two weeks.
Next Game: at Kentucky Oct. 20
Kentucky (1-6, 0-4 SEC)
• Kentucky’s problems are not being solved any time soon as it continues to struggle against SEC opponents. Luckily for the Wildcats, the game was called due to weather in the third quarter. Arkansas led 42-0 at halftime and had outgained the Wildcats 444-88 in terms of yards in the first half.
• It won’t get any easier for Kentucky as it has three consecutive games against the SEC before a much needed bye week.
Next Game: vs. No. 13 Georgia Oct. 20
No. 6 Louisiana State (6-1, 2-1 SEC)
• LSU may have a 1 in the loss column, but after its win against South Carolina -- at home, where it almost always wins at night -- the Tigers are still in prime position to challenge for the SEC title and potentially even a spot in the national title game. The win lifted LSU to sixth in the initial BCS standings. Amazingly, the Tigers are the third SEC team in the standings, and one of six in the top 12.
• The Tigers won't have long to celebrate the win against the Gamecocks as another big matchup looms. Texas A&M has seen freshman QB Johnny Manziel grow up before its eyes this season, as the gun-slinger has broken the SEC record for single-game total offense twice in the past three weeks. Now, it's the Tigers' turn to try to stop him. LSU has been effective in that area, as it ranks No. 2 in the country by allowing just 219.6 yards per game, more than half of what the Aggies are averaging (543.7 ypg) behind Johnny "Football."
Next Game: at Texas A&M Oct. 20
Mississippi (4-3, 1-2 SEC)
• For the first time in its last 16 SEC contests, Ole Miss came out on top and snapped a losing streak that dated back to 2010. Running back Jeff Scott ended up with 207 yards of total offense in Ole Miss’ 41-20 victory against Auburn.
• Ole Miss is two wins away from being bowl eligible in Hugh Freeze’s first season at the helm.
“Obviously words really cannot describe the feeling in that locker room and in the stadium,” Freeze said. “For the better part of two and a half years the Rebel fans and students and players and administration have had to put up with some disappointing times.”
Next Game: vs. Arkansas Oct. 27
No. 15 Mississippi State (6-0, 3-0 SEC)
• Mississippi State continues to be one of the most surprising teams in the country as it remained undefeated after beating a struggling Tennessee team. The Bulldogs are still trying to get to the Alabama game unbeaten for a chance at the top spot in the SEC West.
• Mississippi State is off to its best start since 1999, the year it went to the Cotton Bowl.
Next Game: vs. Middle Tennessee Oct. 20
Missouri (3-4, 0-4 SEC)
• Missouri lost again last Saturday and continues to search for its first victory within the SEC. The offense struggled without starting quarterback James Franklin under center. Missouri’s only touchdown came on a 98-yard kickoff return by Marcus Murphy. Murphy has now set a school record for return touchdowns in a season with four.
• Missouri’s next -- maybe best? -- shot at its first SEC victory will come this weekend as it hosts Kentucky.
Next Game: vs. Kentucky Oct. 20
No. 9 South Carolina (6-1, 4-1 SEC)
• South Carolina suffered its first loss of the season Saturday as it fell to LSU 23-21. The loss makes the SEC East even more competitive and the Gamecocks won’t have much time to recover. They now travel to No. 3 Florida this weekend and look to hand the Gators their first loss of the season.
• The score was closer than it should’ve been as the Gamecocks were outgained by more than 200 total yards.
• With a win against Florida this weekend, South Carolina will own the tiebreaker against both Florida and Georgia, which may be critical as the season unwinds.
Next Game: at No. 3 Florida Oct. 20
Tennessee (3-3, 1-3 SEC)
• After a hot start, which had it ranked in the top 25, Tennessee has lost three of its last four including three in conference. Bad news for the Volunteers is they now have consecutive games against top-10 teams. After they host Alabama this weekend, they travel to South Carolina.
Next Game: vs. No. 1 Alabama Oct. 20
No. 20 Texas A&M (5-1, 2-1 SEC)
• Freshman QB Johnny Manziel just might be the best player in the SEC. Through six games, he has passed for 1,680 yards and 14 touchdowns and is completing 67 percent of his passes. Not to mention he leads the SEC in rushing with 676 yards to go along with 10 touchdowns.
• We will see if Johnny "Football" can handle the pressure on the big stage as sixth-ranked LSU comes to town this weekend.
Next Game: vs. No. 6 Louisiana St. Oct. 20
Vanderbilt (2-4, 1-3 SEC)
• Vanderbilt hung with Florida all afternoon but, yet again, found a way to lose a close game. Head coach James Franklin might have found something in his hurry-up offense late in the second half. Only problem was it was too little, too late again for the Commodores.
• Don’t sleep on Vandy, as it may be that team that steals a victory away from one of the perennial powers in the SEC.
Next Game: vs. Auburn Oct. 20