Lights-Cam-Action! SEC Report Cards, Week 7
Alabama- Grade: B
Ole Miss 10, Alabama 23
The Alabama defense came ready to play and put forward a much better effort than their loss last week against South Carolina. The Crimson Tide held the Rebels to just 242 yards of total offense. Perhaps most impressive about the defensive effort is that they held Jeremiah Masoli to just 18 for 40 passing for only 110 yards. They did allow Ole Miss to get some yards on the ground, 133 of them to be exact, but the defensive scheme more than did its job. On the flip side, the Alabama offense failed to impress. Alabama only scored two touchdowns against a Rebel defense that has been abused all year. The running game has looked exceptionally average over the last three weeks, and this week was no different. The Tide only racked up 319 yards of total offense- 85 of those yards coming on a screen pass to Trent Richardson. With Alabama’s young but talented defense, the offense needs to get back to their early season form, or they could suffer another loss before the regular season is over and done. Games against LSU and Auburn still loom large on the schedule.
Auburn- Grade: B+
Arkansas 43, Auburn 65
It is becoming more and more apparent that Auburn can win a shootout with anyone. How many points would an Auburn versus Oregon national championship game have? Cam Newton has to be near the top or at the top of everyone’s Heisman short list at this point. Newton was electric against the Hogs. The Heisman hopeful proved he could do it all. He ran over Hog linebacker Jericho Nelson to bowl his way into the end zone. He showed the light feet of a dainty ballerina as he dipped and dodged Hogs on long scrambles. Oh, and he threw the ball 14 times too. Yes, he did that well also. Newton completed 71% of his passes, tossed a touchdown and didn’t throw an interception. In all, he was responsible for well over 300 yards of total offense and four touchdowns. As good as Cam Newton was, the special teams may have been better. They blocked a punt and suffocated Arkansas returners the entire game. Tiger kickoff returns averaged over 40 yards per try, giving their offense great field position. Defensively, Auburn was again exposed. The Tigers relinquished upward to 600 yards of total offense to the Hogs. They were not good in defending the run or the pass. The defense got some help via what appeared to be a blown call. Broderick Green’s knee certainly looked down before the ball po pped loose. The officials saw it differently, and the result was a 47 yard touchdown return by Zac Etheridge. This call late in the game changed the complexion of the game as Arkansas was driving to retake the lead. If the Auburn defense was even remotely good, the Tigers might be far and away the best team in the nation.
Arkansas- Grade: D+
Arkansas 43, Auburn 65touchdownbutreallyfumble
The Razorbacks had no answer for Cam Newton. They tried everything. They played back in coverage with linebacker spies. That didn’t work. They tried blitzing. That didn’t work. They tried sending safeties. That made it worse. They tried playing back in coverage again. Rinse, repea t, same result- Cam Newton running wild. The Razorbacks have gone to the Jimmy Johnson school of defensive thought this year. They have moved some linebackers to play defensive end. Two of their starting linebackers are former safeties, and at least one of their starting safeties is a former corner. The additional speed for the Hogs has proven to be just what the doctor ordered…until Saturday. As it turns out, the Hogs could have used the extra bulk at both safety and linebacker in trying to tackle a hoss like Cam Newton. While the defense struggled mightily, the special teams might have been even worse. Again and again, the Razorback coverage un it saw kickoffs returned near midfield. Once, they didn’t manage to tackle Onterio McCalebb until he scampered 99 yards to the Arkansas one. The Hogs also had a punt blocked that promptly resulted in a touchdown. Offensively, the Hogs were still magnificent. This is important because they were just as magnificent, if not more so, after Ryan Mallett left the game with a concussion. Sophomore Tyler Wilson shredded the Tiger secondary for over 300 yards, most of which came in the second half. The Razorbacks seem to have found a running game, and Knile Davis looks to be the running back that has taken that job. Of course two very controversial calls hurt the Razorbacks. The Broderick Green fumble call was costly, as was the “touchdown” by Fannin that certainly appeared to be a fumble. No official can be found on camera that actually signaled touchdown. The closest official (and the one with the best angle as he looking down the goal line) threw the fumble indicator bag. The Razorbacks have little time to mu ll over the loss. Another dual threat quarterback awaits as Jeremiah Masoli and Ole M iss visits Fayetteville next week.
LSU- Grade: D
McNeese State 10, LSU 32
Ah, there is the LSU team we have grown to love to make fun of. After LSU’s rather impressive and balanced offensive performance against Florida, some were worried that LSU might become the team to beat in the SEC. Instead, the LSU offense looked absolutely abhorrent. Forget the 32 points. LSU was back to their old offensive tricks of not throwing a touchdown pass. Jarrett Lee and Jordan Jefferson combined to go 14-22 passing for a whopping 103 yards. At this point in the season, a top 10 team should handle an FCS opponent handily. Instead, the Tigers were ahead by less than a touchdown at halftime. The game wasn’t truly decided until late in the fourth quarter. At least the defense was as stingy as ever. The one McNeese State touchdown was setup by a Jordan Jefferson fumble deep in their own territory. Once again, the special teams were very good, and Patrick Peterson continues to impress as both an elite cornerback and return specialist. One thing is certain. LSU better put on their big boy britches the next two weeks. They next travel to Auburn before hosting the Crimson Tide of Alabama.
Ole Miss- Grade: C-
Ole Miss 10, Alabama 23
The Rebels gave it the old “colleg e try,” but Alabama was just much too athletic and too fundamentally sound on defense to lose this football game. The Rebels did run the ball with some effectiveness, but the lack of a downfield passing game meant that Alabama could just play defense. The longest pass completed for the Rebels was only 15 yards. Averaging only 2.8 yards per pass attempt will not get the job done in the SEC, especially against one of the best defenses in the country. Defensively, the Rebels played a solid game. They contained Richardson and Ingram in the running game, holding the pair to a combined 105 yards rushing. They did, however, surrender a long touchdown on a screen pass to Trent Richardson. Penalties plagued the Rebels during the ballgame. Ole Miss was flagged 12 times for over 100 yards.
Mississippi State - Grade:misstate A-
Mississippi State 10, Florid a 7
The Bulldogs celebrated like it’s 1929…or that is what their offense more closely resembled. It’s hard to win an SEC road game, particularly in a place like the swamp when you attempt nine passes and complete only four. However, that is exactly what Dan Mullen’s Mississippi State Bulldog’s did on Saturday. With the Bulldogs knocking off Florida in Gainesville, and with Kentucky’s victory over South Carolina, it begs the question- Are the five best teams in the SEC all in the SEC West? While that might be going a bit far, Mississippi State has reeled off four straight victories including two very impressive offensive performances and two great defensive performances. While nobody is going to mistake Mississippi State for the best team in the SEC West, one might to start to wonder if Mississippi State is the most well-rounded team in the toughest division in football. For this win, the Bulldogs played relatively mistake free. They did not turn the ball over to the Gators but instead forced two. Certainly, 10 points on 245 yards of total offense is far from an offensive explosion, but the run game was solid and the defense outstanding.
Florida- Grade: D+
Mississippi State 10, Florida 7
Alright, this one hurts. You can forgive Florida for losing to Alabama on the road, even in the fashion they did. You can forgive Florida’s performance against LSU and the loss even though it was at home. At this point, teams sit inside the top 10 and have only one loss between them. Losing at home to Mississippi State is a different matter altogether. Florida did some things right. Defensively, Florida played a pretty good football game. They held Mississippi State to just 245 total yards, almost all of it on the ground. Florida played pretty good run defense, despite the yards. Keep in mind that Mississippi State ran almost 50 running plays. But offensively, Florida has struggled mightily and that did not change against the Bulldogs. Despite throwing nearly 40 passes, Florida quarterback John Brantley only threw for 210 yards. He never threw a touchdown pass, but did toss an interception. The running game for Florida was solid, but nothing spectacular. The biggest problem was missed opportunities. Two turnovers and two missed field goals were the biggest deciding factors in this SEC contest. All of a sudden, with a Georgia team that is starting to impress and South Carolina still on the schedule, the Gators are in danger of finishing below .500 in conference play. Throw in Florida State at the end of the year, and 6-6 is a real possibility. Ouch.
Georgia- Grade: A+
Vanderbilt 0, Georgia 43
Remember before the season started, and there were all of those people that predicted Georgia to win the SEC East? This was the Georgia team they were expecting to see. Georgia played a near perfect game against a Vanderbilt squad that up until Saturday looked like a competitive SEC team. Instead, Georgia was a buzz saw both offensively and defensively. Not only did Georgia pitch a shutout against the Commodores, but they only allowed 140 yard of total offense. Georgia allowed only eight first downs defensively and forced two turnovers. Offensively, the Bulldogs were just as dominating. Running, throwing, it didn’t matter. Georgia handled their business. Freshman quarterback Aaron Murray suddenly is challenging Marcus Lattimore for top freshman honors in the SEC. Murray threw for 287 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Washaun Ealey led Georgia on the ground with 17 carries for 123 yards and a score. The special teams unit also put in a very good performance. Just to put the ribbon on the wrapping, Georgia was only penalized three times in the ballgame. With South Carolina looking vulnerable, Georgia may still have a shot at the divisional title. The Bulldogs can help themselves by winning their next two games, Kentucky and Florida, both of whom are divisional opponent that are still in the title hunt.
Kentucky- Grade: B
South Carolina 28, Kentucky 31
How does a team that beats a top 10 team only get a B score? You give up nearly 500 yards of offense, that’s how. Truth be told, had Marcus Lattimore not gone down with an ankle injury early in the third quarter, South Carolina likely is able to run out the clock and leave Lexington with a win. Despite the defensive deficiencies, the Wildcats showed some moxy as they fought back from being down 28-10 at halftime. While giving up a ton of yards to the Gamecocks, 472 to be exact, the Wildcats did force four turnovers- two fumbles and two Stephen Garcia interceptions. Kentucky continued clawing their way back into it. Mike Hartline owned the Carolina secondary, finishing 32-42 passing with four touchdowns on the heels of 349 yards. For the second straight week, Kentucky has proven they have the offensive firepower to be a dangerous opponent for anyone. They have the ability to score and score quickly with playmakers like Randall Cobb. In a jumbled SEC East where every team has either two or three conference losses, no team is out of the running to play in Atlanta for the SEC Championship. Kentucky has to like their chances as they draw Georga, Mississippi State, Vandy and Tennessee as their remaining conference games.
South Carolina- Grade: C
South Carolina 28, Kentucky 31
Is this the beginning of the yearly collapse for the South Carolina Gamecocks? South Carolina certainly did not look flat against Kentucky early. They jumped all over the Wildcats. They took a 28-10 lead into halftime and all was well. And then….and then….chaos. South Carolina’s star running back goes down, Mike Hartline starts throwing the pigskin all over the yard, the Gamecocks look up and they trail by three with less than a minute and a half left on the game clock. Looking at the numbers, it’s easy to see where the Gamecocks lost this one- turnovers. The South Carolina defense, in addition to giving up tons of passing yards, never forced a turnover. Their offense, however, coughed the ball up on four different occasions. Of course, the aspect that is the most confounding is how South Carolina could lose this football game at all. This was their chance to take a stranglehold on the SEC East. Instead, they have opened it up for the masses. Steve Spurrier commented that he didn’t know why his team couldn’t put the nail in the coffin. The nail against Kentucky would have likely meant the biggest nail for the SEC East crown. But with games against Arkansas and at Florida, South Carolina still has a lot of work to do.
Vanderbilt- Grade: F
Vanderbilt 0, Georgia 43
Not many expected Vanderbilt to beat Georgia, but this type of performance is particularly disappointing. It’s disappointing because Vanderbilt, for the most part, hasn’t played that bad. The Commodores have played a string of tough opponents, all but one having dreams of being bowl eligible. Four are likely to be bowl eligible. Their performance against Georgia, however, was just awful. They allowed well over 500 yards of total offense. They didn’t defend the run or the pass. They couldn’t run it throw it. They forced zero turnovers. Vanderbilt was only 1-11 on third down conversions. They lost the time of possession game by nearly 15 minutes. And even worse, Richt called off the dogs in the fourth quarter. Georgia didn’t score a single point in the final quarter of the game. Despite all this, there is reason for hope. If Vanderbilt somehow does the unimaginable and knocks off South Carolina, Vanderbilt will lead the SEC East. Don’t laugh. It could happen. The college football nation is waiting for the annual Gamecock breakdown. They just lost to Kentucky. Can a loss to Vanderbilt next week start the snowball effect?
SEC Stud of the Week
Cam Newton, QB Auburn Tigers
Passing: 10-14, 140 yards 1 TD
Rushing: 25 carries, 188 yards, 3TD
SEC Dud of the Week
Two blown calls in the Auburn vs. Arkansas dredge up conspiracy theories about the SEC protecting their top ranked teams. *
*Note: This is a continuation after LSU has seems to have been protected the previous two weeks against Tennessee and Florida.
Whats Your Verdict?