Bulldogs on track for SEC title shot
Notebook: Gamecocks survive Vols; Bama dominates Miss. St.
After being virtually ruled out of the race in the SEC East, Mark Richt’s Georgia Bulldogs find themselves in the driver’s seat once again heading into the final weeks of the regular season.
With a 17-9 victory against then-No. 2 Florida on Saturday, Georgia (7-1, 5-1 SEC) climbed to No. 7 in the rankings and finds itself two wins away from the SEC title game in Atlanta. Its two remaining games are against a much-improved Ole Miss squad and an Auburn team that has one win on the season.
Georgia beat the Gators in an unfamiliar way, with stifling defense that held a potent Florida rushing attack to 81 yards and didn’t allow a touchdown. After the term “soft” was being associated with the Bulldog defense, Richt was happy they showed what they have on the defensive side of the ball.
“They’ve been accused of some things that probably don’t want to be accused of and I think that helped them,” Richt said.
Georgia’s defensive leader, Jarvis Jones, reiterated how his team felt disrespected and they wanted to show the world exactly what they are capable of.
“As a man, you’re going to take that personally,” Jones said. “I took it personally, they took it personally. We came out here to show everybody that we have a great defense and we can execute and be one of those teams leading the nation in defense.”
With six turnovers leading the way, Jones and the Bulldog defense pushed past Florida and now could help lead Georgia back to the SEC title game. However, the offense is going to have to find its beginning-of-the-year form as it stumbled and failed to find the end zone until quarterback Aaron Murray completed a 45-yard touchdown pass to Malcolm Mitchell midway through the fourth quarter.
For a team that started the year with more than 40 points in five consecutive games, Georgia has yet to eclipse the 30-point barrier in its last three games, and has only surpassed 20 in one of those games. One of the perils of playing in the defensive-minded SEC.
No. 1 Alabama (8-0, 5-0 SEC)
• Alabama proved once again that it is the best team in the country, and it is starting to distance itself from everyone else. If the Tide’s dominance was ever in question, those questions went to the wayside on Saturday after Alabama destroyed then-undefeated No. 11 Mississippi State 38-7. Alabama’s biggest threat remains to be No. 5 LSU, which is looking for a chance at bringing down the Tide this weekend in Death Valley.
• QB A.J. McCarron is slowly and quietly becoming a Heisman contender as he threw for 200-plus yards and two touchdowns while almost flawlessly managing the potent Tide offense.
Next Game: at No. 5 LSU Nov. 3
Arkansas (3-5, 2-3 SEC)
• After a loss to Ole Miss on Saturday, Arkansas has an important climb ahead if it is going to become bowl eligible. Arkansas still needs three wins in its final four games to become eligible. Three of those games are against ranked opponents.
Next Game: vs. Tulsa Nov. 3
Auburn (1-7, 0-6 SEC)
• Gene Chizik’s Tigers were blown out by visiting Texas A&M on Saturday. Auburn gave up more than 650 yards of total offense to the Aggies and was outgained 196-3 in the first quarter. Auburn’s defense is the story here, giving up 63 points and 342 rushing yards. The lone bright spot was the fact that backup QB Jonathon Wallace came in and threw for 122 yards and two touchdowns after replacing starter Kiehl Frazier.
• Auburn has games against No. 7 Georgia and top-ranked Alabama remaining as it tries to fill in the win column at least once in conference play. That's a tough road to fly down.
Next Game: vs. New Mexico State Nov. 3
No. 8 Florida (7-1, 6-1 SEC)
• Just like that, Florida lost control of its own destiny into the SEC East title game with a loss against Georgia on Saturday. Florida just couldn’t get anything going on the offensive side of the ball, managing only three field goals. The Gators turned the ball over six times and looked out of sync against a hungry Bulldog defense.
"We're just not quite explosive enough offensively to overcome six turnovers at the end of the day,” Florida head coach Will Muschamp said following the game.
Next Game: vs. Missouri Nov. 3
No. 7 Georgia (7-1, 5-1 SEC)
• Georgia QB Aaron Murray has been known for repeatedly not showing up in the Bulldog’s biggest games. He looked like he was going to continue the trend after a difficult first half, going 4 for 8 with 34 yards and three interceptions. Not so fast. Murray regrouped to throw a huge fourth-quarter touchdown and led the Bulldogs to a victory. With the win, Georgia will only need to beat Ole Miss and Auburn to find itself heading to Atlanta for the SEC title game.
Next Game: vs. Ole Miss Nov. 3
Kentucky (1-8, 0-6 SEC)
• Same old, same old for the Wildcats. Kentucky turned the ball over three times and only managed 179 yards of total offense en route to a loss against fellow SEC bottom feeder Missouri. Kentucky will have games against Tennessee and Vanderbilt with hopes of finding its first conference game win of the season.
Next Game: vs. Vanderbilt Nov. 3
No. 5 Louisiana State (7-1, 3-1 SEC)
• If LSU wants to remain in both SEC title and national title contention it will have to beat No. 1 Alabama in a rematch of last year’s national title game. Coming off a bye week, the Tigers will have had two weeks to prepare for the nation's best team. If LSU is going to have any chance, it is going to need a huge effort out of QB Zach Mettenberger, who has struggled at times to live up to the preseason billing.
Next Game: vs. No. 1 Alabama Nov. 3
No. 17 Mississippi State (7-1, 4-1 SEC)
• A dream of an undefeated season went away for the Bulldogs on Saturday as they ended up being no match for the No. 1 team in the country. Alabama just looked better and more physical. Dan Mullen is still in contention for coach of the year and realizes there is hope to win the SEC West.
“This season is far from over for anybody in the SEC West at this point,” Mullen said. “We have a really big home game next week; we’re going to have to bounce back.”
Next Game: vs. No. 16 Texas A&M Nov. 3
Missouri (4-4, 1-4 SEC)
• Missouri finally figured out what it took to win a game in the best conference in the country. All it took was to play against a team that has recorded only one win on the season. Although it is not an impressive victory, it is a step in the right direction.
• Things are looking up for the Tigers as QB James Franklin played relatively well in a reserved role coming off a knee injury he suffered earlier in the season.
• Missouri can turn its season around with a win in Gainesville on Saturday. The Tigers need two more wins to become bowl eligible in their debut SEC season and one against the Gators would go a long way.
Next Game: at No. 8 Florida Nov. 3
Ole Miss (5-3, 2-2 SEC)
• Ole Miss has been nothing but impressive this season as it is only one win shy of bowl eligibility and finds itself sitting at a .500 record in SEC play. That is a big milestone, as Ole Miss hadn’t won a conference game in almost two years before winning consecutive games.
• The Rebels will travel to Georgia before playing Vanderbilt, LSU and Mississippi State. It’s a tough road ahead for Hugh Freeze’s squad, but the team has more confidence then it has had in the past two seasons.
Next Game: at No. 7 Georgia Nov. 3
No. 17 South Carolina (7-2, 5-2 SEC)
• South Carolina barely squeaked bye Tennessee on Saturday but it wasn’t all smiles after the game. Gamecocks' running back Marcus Lattimore fell to the ground, cringing and grabbing for his knee. Coach Steve Spurrier said Sunday that Lattimore has a dislocated knee and will miss the remainder of the season. It is the second year in a row that Lattimore is going to be unable to finish the season due to a knee injury.
Next Game: vs. Arkansas Nov. 10
Tennessee (3-5, 0-5 SEC)
• Tennessee cannot seem to find a win in SEC play after losing a close game 38-35 to South Carolina on Saturday. The Volunteers played much better than they have been thanks to the right arm of QB Tyler Bray, who threw for 368 yards and four touchdowns.
Next Game: vs. Troy Nov. 3
No. 16 Texas A&M (6-2, 3-2 SEC)
• Texas A&M ran at will against Auburn and Johnny Manziel transformed back into Johnny "Football." Manziel only needed a little more than two quarters of play to surpass the 350-yard mark of total offense along with five touchdowns.
• A&M continues to impress in its inaugural season in the SEC, improving to 3-2 in conference play. A&M will try to make a name for itself as it has consecutive games against Mississippi State and Alabama looming.
Next Game: at No. 17 Mississippi St. Nov. 3
Vanderbilt (4-4, 2-3 SEC)
• Vanderbilt has worked its way back to .500 and is two games away from becoming bowl eligible after everyone was expecting it to be at the bottom of the SEC. Vandy has a realistic chance at finishing with seven or eight wins and above .500 in SEC play.
Next Game: at Kentucky Nov. 3