With six conference games on tap, this weekend proved to be a busy one in the SEC. The night-time slate featured five different conference games. Would Georgia and LSU experience letdowns after their thriller in Athens last week? Who would survive the Auburn/Ole Miss showdown? Would Florida hold serve against Arkansas? Here's what we learned this weekend....
Alabama 45 Georgia State 3
What can you learn when the best team in the FBS plays the worst? Not much. We learned that Nick Saban has some compassion. Up by 38 at half-time, Saban pulled in the reigns on the Tide express as they coasted to a 42 point victory.
Georgia 34 Tennessee 31 (OT)
Georgia jumped out on top 17-3 but Tennessee fought back with a key blocked punt for a TD. As this game went on, Georgia players started dropping like flies and Tennessee started to believe more and more that they could win this game. What Tennessee is missing is the high-end talent that makes plays when needed but overall they aren't a horrible football team. They've just been beaten down so much that they don't think they can win. If the Vols can find a QB and some play-makers they will be just fine.
For Georgia, for the second straight week we learned that Aaron Murray has matured and he's a lot more comfortable being the man. Murray got the ball with 1:54 left in the game at his 25 and drove the entire field for the game tying TD to send the game into overtime in a hostile environment. Georgia needed a little help (a Pig Howard fumble out of the end zone in overtime) but they were able to win on the road without Todd Gurley (out for the game), Malcolm Mitchell (out for the year), Keith Marshall (left game w/injury), Michael Bennett (left game w/injury) and Justin Scott-Wesley (left game w/injury).
Georgia won the battle, but with all of these injuries we will have to see if they can win the war. For Tennessee, can they build on this moral victory?
Auburn 30 Ole Miss 22
Auburn QB Nick Marshall is really starting to find his rhythm in this offense especially in terms of running the football. Marshall finished the game 11/17 for 93 yards passing but he added 140 yards on the ground with 2 TD and he was the difference in this game. The Auburn defense continues to take a step forward. Through five games they are now third in the conference in points allowed and they were able to get a ton of pressure on Bo Wallace as they sacked him six times.
At this point the Alabama game looks like the turning point of the Rebels season. They really needed to win this game with A&M and LSU on deck and now they face an uphill battle. Bo Wallace struggled with 2 INTs (including a pick six on an overthrow into the flat) and 6 sacks. The Rebels controlled the time of possession in this game (especially early) but the offense continually stalled once they got into Auburn territory. The Rebels are still very young and they will grow but you have to wonder if Bo Wallace is the right guy to run this team.
Florida 30 Arkansas 10
In the first quarter, the Razorbacks put together a solid drive on their third possession that featured a steady diet of the Hogs running the ball with one key 31 yard pass from Brandon Allen to Hunter Henry. The Hogs took a 7-0 lead but from there it was all downhill. The key play of the game was Florida DB Loucheiz Purifoy intercepting Brandon Allen and going 42 yards for a TD. Ultimately it was a bad read by Allen as there were two Gators covering the flat and Allen had a defender bearing down on him. Allen will have to learn to eat the sack on that play or throw the ball into the stands.
Coming into this game, the Razorbacks had made their bones running the football but the Gators shut that down giving up just 111 yards rushing and forcing the Razorbacks into a passing game that they weren't that comfortable with (Allen went 17 of 41 for 164 yards). Florida QB Tyler Murphy had a good game going 16/22 but most importantly he didn't turn the ball over and he let his players (Soloman Patton in particular) make plays for him. When the Gators don't shoot themselves in the foot, they will be very hard to beat this season.
LSU 59 Mississippi State 26
The LSU offense is now averaging 45.5 points per game. This was a tight game through three quarters with the Tigers having a five point lead but the fourth quarter was all LSU as they won that stanza 28-0. Four different Tigers scored in the 4th quarter (Odell Beckham, Jeremy Hill, Alfred Blue and Kenny Hilliard). Zach Mettenberger went 25 of 29 in this game for 340 yards. Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry combined for 17 receptions. Jeremy Hill and Kenny Hilliard combined for 5 rushing TDs. This isn't your daddy's LSU. This is a team that is stocked with offense talent and with a man, Cam Cameron, who is not afraid (and is able) to use them.
Mississippi State and Dan Mullen seem to be stuck in molasses. Has Mullen gone as far as he can go at Mississippi State and ,maybe more importantly for him, has he missed his chance to upgrade to a better job?
Missouri 51 Vanderbilt 28
Are the Tigers for real? Missouri took care of Vanderbilt early in this one and then cruised to a 23 point victory. Missouri's James Franklin went 19/28 for 276 yards with 4 TD and 0 INT and added 63 yards rushing. The Tigers featured a balanced offense gaining 278 yards through the air and 245 on the ground.
Missouri's 5-0 record this season has been built on the back of beating bad to average football teams. It's a similar story as the Tigers have been here before. Every year from 2006 to 2010, the Tigers jumped out to at least a 4-0 record against question-able competition. Are they for real this time? They head to Athens next week and they could be catching an injury riddled Georgia squad at just the right time.
South Carolina 35 Kentucky 28
South Carolina is 4-1 and in a very good position to have a great year but everything doesn't feel like it's quite right with them. Their last three games (against Vandy, UCF and Kentucky) have all resulted in games that finished with a ten point win or less. Last year, the Gamecocks defense gave up 18.2 ppg and this year they are giving up 25.8. The big story for the Gamecocks coming out of this game is the tension between Steve Spurrier and Jadaveon Clowney as the coach and the star aren't on the same page.
For the Wildcats, their offense came into the game struggling but they might have found a QB in Jalen Whitlow. Whitlow finished 17/24 for 178 yards with 2 TD and also ran for 69 yards and a score. He also finished the game without a turnover. If Kentucky can continue the offensive play they had today with their improved defense, they will knock somebody off this season.
Top Performer: Nick Marshall, QB, Auburn
Statistically there were better performers on Saturday than Nick Marshall but no one meant more to their team on Saturday. Playing in just his fifth game at Auburn and in just his third conference game, Marshall had his best game as a Tiger. He ran for a career best 140 yards and 2 TD and went 11 of 17 (64%) through the air. This was a big win for Auburn and they couldn't have done it without Marshall.