On the first Saturday in October:
No. 5 LSU lost to Florida.
No. 7 Oklahoma lost to Texas.
No. 8 Auburn lost to Mississippi State.
No. 13 Kentucky lost to Texas A&M.
No. 14 Stanford lost to Utah.
The first set of College Football Playoff rankings will be released on Oct. 30, just 21 days from this Tuesday.
Buckle up gentle readers. We are about to a start a very wild ride.
Five things we learned from Week Six of SEC football:
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1—No coach is getting more out of his talent than Florida’s Dan Mullen:
On Sept. 29 Mullen and his staff put together a brilliant game plan to win a 13-6 fight-in-a-ditch with Mississippi State. On Saturday at the re-energized Swamp, Mullen called one of the best games I have ever seen him call as the Gators literally pushed No. 5 LSU out of the way with 215 yards rushing in a 27-19 victory.
Here were two big things that jumped off the screen:
**-- LSU took a 19-14 lead over Florida with 11:14 left in the game. The Gators didn’t flinch, driving the ball 75 yards for a 20-19 lead with 8:48 left to play.
**—Clinging to a 20-19 lead, Florida got the ball back at its own 4-yard line with 6:05 left. Against a defense stacked to stop the run, Florida ran nine plays, knocked out two first downs, and ran 4:03 off the clock. Florida also made LSU use two timeouts.
That is football at its best.
But here is the most impressive thing of all. Florida was just as tough—if not tougher—than LSU. We haven’t been able to say that about the Gators in recent years.
“We got punched right in the face and we didn’t flinch,” Mullen told The Gainesville Sun.
Florida’s trip to Jacksonville to play No. 2 Georgia on Oct. 27 looks a little different now.
2—Speaking of Georgia. The Bulldogs’ trip to Baton Rouge this Saturday just got a little more difficult:
Playing in Baton Rouge is always a challenge but things have changed for LSU after losing to Florida. The Tigers (5-1, 2-1 SEC), previously ranked No. 5, are now in a must-win situation if they want to stay alive in the SEC West. Beat Georgia and LSU can still win the West by running the table, which includes a Nov. 3 date at home with No. 1 Alabama. Lose to Georgia and LSU has to run the table AND hope that Alabama loses twice.
And friends, I have to tell you. I am pretty confident that Alabama ain’t gonna lose twice.
Georgia Coach Kirby Smart made quite a few trips to Baton Rouge during his time at Alabama. He knows what his team is going to face.
“Their season will be a stake,” Smart said after Saturday night’s 41-13 win over Vanderbilt. “We have to bow our back and get ready to play a good football team. It’s always physical when you play LSU.”
3—Auburn is in big, big trouble: Auburn’s inability to run the ball and lack of an offensive identity finally caught up with the Tigers on the road at Mississippi State. Auburn had only 304 yards of total offense and the defense finally collapsed under the weight of having to carry the entire team in a 23-9 loss.
So now what? The Tigers (4-2, 1-2) are, for all intents and purposes, out of the SEC West race with Texas A&M, Georgia, and Alabama still left on the schedule. They’ve put too much of the offense on quarterback Jarrett Stidham because they can’t run the ball. For the third straight game Auburn was held to under 100 yards rushing. That hasn’t happened since 1999.
Auburn was destroyed in time of possession, 41:53 to 18:07.
I don’t know what this is but it’s not Auburn football. The Tigers have gone nine straight years with a 1,000-yard rusher. That ain’t gonna happen this season.
And there is no point in talking about changing coaches. Gus Malzahn has a new 7-year contract worth $49. Malzahn was a good enough coach to beat Georgia and Alabama and win the SEC West last season.
It is Malzahn’s job, however, to fix this.
4—Kentucky can still win the SEC East: Despite having its offense all but shut down, it looked like Kentucky was going to find a way to win at Texas A&M and remain unbeaten.
But due to a call that will be widely second-guessed—and should be—Kentucky did not give the ball to its best player, running back Benny Snell, when it faced a third-and-2 in overtime. Instead, offensive coordinator Eddie Gran went to a passing play that Texas A&M sniffed out. Quarterback Terry Wilson took a sack and a long field goal attempt hit the cross bar.
Texas A&M made the kick irrelevant with a touchdown to win 20-14.
It was a brutal way to lose but give Gran credit. He stepped up after the game and said “I wish I had given it to 26 (Snell).”
And to be fair to Gran, the straight run by Snell out of the Wildcat had been run six previous times. Texas A&M knew what was coming.
But here is what Kentucky coach Mark Stoops can tell his team during this off week: “Fellas, we can still reach all of our goals.”
Kentucky (5-1, 3-1), will host Vanderbilt (2-3, 0-2) on Oct. 20. Then the Wildcats go to Missouri (3-2, 0-2). Win those and its sets up a Nov. 3 showdown with No. 2 Georgia (6-0, 4-0) in Lexington. Upset the Bulldogs and beat Tennessee (2-3, 0-2) the following week in Knoxville and the Wildcats are SEC East champs.
Long shot? Sure. But Kentucky can reach November and still be in the hunt for the SEC East championship. We’ve never said that before.
5—South Carolina’s win over Missouri was a statement game for Will Muschamp’s program:
It would have been very easy for the Gamecocks (3-2, 2-2) to throw in the towel when they faced Missouri on Saturday at home.
Quarterback Jake Bentley could not go (knee). In his place was Michael Scarnecchia, who had thrown a grand total of 13 passes in his four years at South Carolina.
Missouri had a first-round draft choice (Drew Lock) playing quarterback.
After a long weather delay, Missouri’s Tucker McCann crushed a 57-yard field goal to give Missouri a 35-34 lead with 1:18 left in the game.
But Scarnecchia drove the Gamecocks into position and Parker White kicked a 33-yard field goal with two seconds left to give South Carolina a 37-35 lead.
“You can question a lot about our football team but don’t ever question our heart,” Muschamp told The SEC Network after the game. “And don’t ever question our mental toughness.”
Fans were questioning a lot after South Carolina, which won nine games last season, was physically dominated by Georgia (41-17) and Kentucky (24-10).
It will be interesting to see how South Carolina plays on Saturday at home against Texas A&M.