Photo: USA Today Sports
Once again the SEC took center stage this weekend as Georgia and LSU put on a fantastic game featuring offensive fireworks. Who came out on top in this battle of SEC powers? How would the other conference games (Ole Miss/Bama and Arkansas/A&M) turn out? Would South Carolina survive a tough road test against UCF? Here's what we learned this weekend....
South Carolina 28 UCF 25
South Carolina won a tight road game against a tough UCF squad. The Gamecocks came out flat and UCF came out firing on all cylinders. The Gamecocks lost QB Connor Shaw early to a shoulder injury but they came out motivated in the second half and put up 28 points in the second stanza to win this game. This Gamecocks team has been very uneven this season. They seem to either lack preparation or motivation or perhaps both. One thing is for sure, the Gamecocks need to give the rock to RB Mike Davis a lot more. He was a non-factor in the first half due to lack of touches. In the second half, he had 3 TD runs. Connor Shaw will be out "2 to 3 weeks" and that has to be a concern for the Gamecocks as his back-up Dylan Thompson played like a back-up in the win against UCF.
Tennessee 31 South Alabama 24
The Vols went into half-time with a 24-7 lead yet they had to hold on at the end of this game to beat a school that just recently started playing football. The Tennessee fan base was expecting a quick turnaround under Butch Jones but it's clear that this is a re-building job that won't be accomplished over night. Vols fans need to pump the brakes and understand that this team is going to need some time and some slack. Jones needs to hit the recruiting trail long and hard.
Georgia 44 LSU 41
The LSU offense has come a long way in a short time under Cam Cameron. The Tigers could not get their running game started in the first half and they had to rely on the arm of Zach Mettenberger to move the ball. LSU finished the game with 372 yards passing and Mettenberger looked like he had full control of this offense. The LSU defense looks like they definitely need to go back to the drawing board after their mass exodus of talent to the NFL. The lack of a consistent pass rush really hurt the Tigers as Aaron Murray was allowed time to sit back in the pocket (for the most part) and hit his receivers. This is a very good LSU team and honestly the only thing that separates the trio of Clemson, Georgia and LSU is home field advantage. If the LSU offense continues to play at this level, I expect Cam Cameron to get a head coaching gig at the college level this off-season.
For Georgia, we learned that Aaron Murray can win the big game. Not only has he beaten South Carolina this season but now he has beaten LSU. In the Clemson game, when Todd Gurley went down with an injury everything changed. This time, Murray grabbed the reigns and took control as he hit 9 different receivers on the night and threw TDs to 3 different players. The Georgia defense still gave up 41 points but they have some really strong young talent. The Georgia defense features 14 under-classmen in their two deep (14!). That's scary and the Bulldogs defense is only going to get better. Sophomore OLB Jordan Jenkins and freshman DE Leonard Floyd showed the Nation a taste of this on LSU's last drive of the night.
Alabama 24 Ole Miss 0
All we heard all week long was how this wasn't the same Alabama team as in the past and that Ole Miss had the potential to pull an A&M on the Tide. Not so fast my friend. Alabama dominated this one from beginning to end and while it might not have been pretty, it was effective. The Tide effectively put little brother in a headlock and gave him nuggies all night long. Ole Miss is still headed in the right direction but they aren't deep enough to challenge the Tide yet and they still have to find their franchise QB.
Texas A&M 45 Arkansas 33
Coming off of a road loss to Rutgers, the expectation was that the Razorbacks would get rolled by the Aggies. With Brandon Allen back at QB, the Razorbacks hung tough with true freshman RB Alex Collins putting together another 100 yard rushing game. Despite a 3-2 start, Bielema has this team headed in the right direction and with a couple of recruiting classes under his belt the Hogs should be back up to where they were just a few years ago when they were coached by the sleaze ball who shall not be named. A&M continues to be A&M. The Aggies are almost impossible to stop when their offense is on the field but when their defense is on the field you have to shield your eyes. The defense is holding A&M back from being a truly elite team.
Florida 24 Kentucky 7
The Kentucky offense against the Florida defense might be the most lopsided match-up in the SEC. Because of that, this was never a game. The Wildcats are showing improvement on defense but the offense continues to sputter. Florida QB Tyler Murphy had a very efficient 15/18 performance (though he did throw a pick) and ran for 36 yards on the ground. There really is no drop off from Jeff Driskel to Tyler Murphy other than the depth that Florida now has (or doesn't have) at QB. In fact, Murphy might give the Gators a better chance to win due to his mobility. The biggest thing Florida has to overcome right now is it's offensive play calling.
Missouri 41 Arkansas State 19
The Red Wolves aren't the same team that they've been over the past few years. That happens when you go through four coaches in four years and then lose your starting QB on top of that. But, they looked like they might upset the Tigers on Saturday. Missouri played uninspired football as they thought they could simply show up and win. The Tigers finally broke out of their malaise in the fourth quarter as they put three TDs on the board and broke this one open. We will learn a lot more this coming weekend when the Tigers travel to Nashville to take on the Commodores.
Vanderbilt 52 UAB 24
Much like Missouri, it took Vandy a bit to wake up on Saturday night but when they did they put UAB away. After five games, Vanderbilt sits at 3-2. The two teams that Vandy has lost to have a combined record of 6-2 with those losses coming to Alabama and Georgia. The three teams that Vandy has beaten have a combined record of 1-11 with that one win coming against Northwestern State. I think it's fair to say that we haven't learned anything about Vandy yet this season.
Top Performer: Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia
Murray has been plagued throughout his career with the notion that he can't win the big one. Four games into 2013, he has two victories against top ten opponents. Over the last 16 years only four teams have faced three top ten opponents in their first four games, and Georgia is the only team to win at least two of those games. Murray often gets overlooked because of Georgia's stout RB Todd Gurley but on this night Gurley got injured and it was Murray that had to shoulder the load. Murray answered the call throwing for 298 yards and 4 TDs (he also added a rushing TD) as well as engineering the game winning drive.