Other than No. 17 Mississippi State at No. 11 Georgia, it was supposed to be a fairly routine Saturday in the SEC. It was anything but. And in the process we learned a whole lot about the conference. Specifically:
YOU DON’T TUG ON SUPERMAN’S CAPE
Vanderbilt was feeling pretty good about itself after upsetting Kansas State (14-7) on Sept. 16. So a student-athlete for said Commodores enjoyed his post-game celebration by looking into a television camera and saying, with no reservations:
“Alabama, you’re next.”
Alabama (4-0), the nation’s No. 1 team, was already a little bit grumpy after giving up 391 yards and 22 first downs to Colorado State. Winning, you see, is never enough in Nick Saban’s program. His teams play to a standard. So the Alabama coach challenged his players to meet that standard for a full 60 minutes on the road against Vanderbilt, which had given up only 13 points in three games.
The final from Nashville: Alabama 59, Vanderbilt 0.
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”Until we learn how to do that (play dominating football for 60 minutes), which I think we did today, I don't think you'll ever get the respect you deserve," Saban said after the game. "I think they earned a lot of respect today."
Yep. And today the rest of the SEC is thinking: “Thanks, Vandy. You woke them up.”
Ole Miss? You’re next
GEORGIA IS THE SECOND BEST TEAM IN THE SEC
The winner of Saturday night’s game between Georgia and Mississippi State was going to be tagged as the primary challenger to Alabama in the SEC. Georgia left no doubt that it is that team in a 31-3 win in Sanford Stadium where Kirby Smart’s team dominated every phase of the game. It was easily the most complete game Georgia has played since Smart became head coach last season.
“We finally came out and showed you tonight that Georgia’s back,” said receiver Terry Godwin, who caught a 59-yard touchdown pass off a flea flicker on Georgia’s first offensive play of the game.
Freshman quarterback Jake Fromm completed his first eight passes and finished 9 of 12 for 201 yards. I could be proven wrong, but I think Georgia has found its quarterback. We’ll see how this show plays on the road Saturday at Tennessee, where Butch Jones and the Volunteers have their backs collectively against the wall. Lose to Georgia and Tennessee is pretty much eliminated from the SEC East race before the calendar turns to October. That will make things most uncomfortable on Good Old Rocky Top.
KENTUCKY HAS NO ONE BUT ITSELF TO BLAME
My Twitter feed blew up late Saturday night after a late controversial holding penalty against Kentucky all but assured that the Wildcats were going to lose to Florida for the 31st consecutive time.
Without the penalty, Kentucky’s Austin MacGinniss, one of the best clutch kickers in the SEC, would have had about a 39-yard field goal to win the game. Instead his 57-yard attempt at the final buzzer felt short and the Gators prevailed 28-27.
It was an incredible heartbreak for the Wildcats, who led the game for 59 minutes and 17 seconds and had a 27-13 lead in the third quarter.
But officiating didn’t cost the Wildcats’ their first win over Florida since the Reagan administration. Failing to cover an open receiver not once but twice is what will—and should—haunt the Kentucky coaching staff. Florida turned both mistakes into touchdowns, the last one coming with just 43 seconds left.
UT, SOUTH CAROLINA WERE VERY LUCKY TO WIN
Both Tennessee (vs. Florida) and South Carolina (vs. Kentucky) lost tough conference games on Sept. 16. Both schools came out flat on Saturday and both were almost beaten by undermanned non-conference teams.
Tennessee needed a late defensive stop to beat UMass 17-13. Tennessee Coach Butch Jones, whose team hosts improving Georgia on Saturday (3:30 p.m. CBS) seemed at a loss to understand why his team struggled so much against the 0-5 Minutemen.
“At the end of the day it’s all about getting the victory,” said Jones. “But the performance was flat out unacceptable.”
South Carolina fell behind 13-0 and fought back to take the lead. But the Gamecocks appeared to be beaten when Louisiana Tech kicked a field goal to take a 16-14 lead with 55 seconds left in Columbia.
But sophomore quarterback Jake Bentley added to his growing legacy with a 25-yard run for a first down and then a 41-yard pass completion to put the Gamecocks in position to win. Parker White, who had not made a field goal in four attempts this season, made the winning kick with four seconds left.
“There weren’t a lot of positive things going on and our guys fought through it,” said South Carolina coach Will Muschamp.
What’s moral to the story. In the SEC, sometimes you lose even when you win. Just ask Florida’s Jim McElwain.
**--I can’t tell you how bad Texas A&M’s Kevin Sumlin needed the 50-43 overtime win over Arkansas in Arlington, Tex. The Aggies had four explosive plays over 44 yards and their freshman quarterback, Kellin Mond, got a little better, throwing for 216 yards and running for 109 more. Texas A&M (3-1, 1-0) hosts South Carolina on Saturday and then No. 1 Alabama on Oct. 7.
**--With the loss to Texas A&M, his fifth straight to the Aggies, Arkansas coach Bret Bielema is now 10-23 in SEC games. His first season (2013) in Fayetteville Bielema was 0-8 in the conference. Three of Bielema’s losses to Texas A&M have been in overtime.
**--We knew Auburn’s running game would be better with the return of Kerryon Johnson (hamstring) and it was. Johnson scored five touchdowns as Gus Malzahn’s team just embarrassed Missouri 51-14 in COMO. Auburn (3-1, 1-0), which hosts Mississippi State this week, has only one loss, that being to No. 2 Clemson (14-6) on the road.
**--Missouri (1-3, 0-2) is bad but it shouldn’t be this bad. Barry Odom’s team has played three FBS schools (South Carolina, Purdue, Auburn), getting beat by a combined score of 117-20.
After it was over Odom unleased a passionate “State of the program speech” to the media, guaranteeing “we’re going to win.” Here it is, courtesy of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.