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SEC Recap: Week 5

By Matt Smith
SouthernPigskin.com
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Matt Smith recaps Week 5 in the SEC

Thoughts and Musings

 

-The story of the day was the shoulder injury to Alabama quarterback Bryce Young in the second quarter of the second-ranked Crimson Tide’s 49-26 win at No. 20 Arkansas to improve to 5-0. Young appeared to hurt it on a sack by former teammate Drew Sanders as he was trying to throw the ball away. He played the next series but then left the game and did not return, with Alabama holding a 14-0 lead at the time. Young remained on the sideline in uniform for the rest of the game, which was a positive sign, and Nick Saban called the injury an AC joint sprain after the game. A return for next week’s revenge game against Texas A&M seems possible, if not probable.

-As for Young’s replacement, Jalen Milroe had little trouble in doubling Alabama’s lead to 28-0, but the Crimson Tide couldn’t move the ball for much of the third quarter, as Arkansas narrowed the deficit to 28-23. Facing a third and long deep in his own territory, Milroe made the play of the game, scrambling for 77 yards to set up a short touchdown run by Jase McClellan. Arkansas never seriously threatened the rest of the way, as two long runs by Jahmyr Gibbs broke the game open and even allowed Alabama to cover the 17-point line, as the Tide topped 300 yards on the ground. Milroe may be needed going forward if Young has a setback, and while the offense would need to shift a bit towards more running, he’s an electrifying athlete that showed he can keep this Alabama offense humming.

-Credit to Arkansas for making things interesting, but the defense simply wasn’t going to hold up for 60 minutes. That’s why Sam Pittman eschewing going for it on two fourth-down callas, one early while trailing 7-0 and one in the third quarter down 28-14, was ill-advised. His surprise onsides kick call was successful, but after some coaching mistakes last week in the heartbreaking loss to Texas A&M, I don’t think Saturday was a great day for Pittman either. The concern now for Arkansas is the health of quarterback K.J. Jefferson, who left the game in the fourth quarter. Jefferson is tough as nails, but exposes himself to big hits repeatedly. At 3-2 and with their season teetering, the Hogs really need a healthy Jefferson heading into back-to-back road games at Mississippi State and BYU.

-Another wild start to an SEC Saturday saw No. 14 Ole Miss never trail No. 7 Kentucky, but have to hold for dear life with two turnovers in its own red zone in the final three minutes to protect a 22-19 lead and move to 5-0. The Rebels ripped through the unbeaten Wildcats early, but managed just three points in the final two-and-a-half quarters. Jaxson Dart was hampered by poor snaps from backup center Eli Acker, but was accountable for his share of mistakes in completing just 15 of 29 passes with an interception. Ole Miss won a game in a style that Kentucky normally wins. There were mistakes, but none were tragic. It wasn’t pretty, but emulating Kentucky is not a bad thing at all. With Vanderbilt and Auburn next, Ole Miss taking a 7-0 record to Baton Rouge on Oct. 22 is very much on the table.

-Kentucky won’t let the memory fade from that game for a long time. The Wildcats missed a field goal, missed two extra points, had two red zone turnovers, had a go-ahead touchdown negated by penalty, and missed a kickoff return touchdown when Barion Brown tripped over his teammate. The two late turnovers were both Will Levis fumbles, one after a big hit (that could have been called targeting) which spun him around and led to a punchout, and the other on a sack after the backup right tackle was beaten. Protecting the football has been the biggest issue for Levis, and despite a clean passing sheet, his two giveaways are the most succinct summation of why the Wildcats headed home from Oxford with their first loss.

-So, was there a missed targeting on Ole Miss on the first Levis fumble? Perhaps by the letter of the law, but both Levis and A.J. Finley ducked their heads to create the helmet-to-helmet contact. Flag both, or flag none . . . I didn’t mind Lane Kiffin going on 4th and Goal at the five-yard line midway through the fourth quarter with a three-point lead. If you can all but end the game with one play, try to end it . . . I disagreed with Kiffin just running the ball three times and punting after the first Levis fumble. Again, one play ends the game. Kentucky got the ball back with almost two minutes and decent field position, which is plenty of time down just three points. The Wildcats marched inside the 10-yard line with almost a minute on the clock, so time was never a factor for them. It worked out, but I thought that was a notable mistake by Kiffin.

-No. 1 Georgia didn’t lead until 56 minutes into its 26-22 win over Missouri, but credit Kirby Smart the Bulldogs for adjusting after trailing 16-3 and dominating the second half. The Tigers controlled the line of scrimmage in the first half, but settled for five Harrison Mevis field goals and made a major mistake with a false start on 1st and Goal at the one-yard line, preventing the Tigers from taking a 20-3 lead. Georgia was never truly panicked in the second half, and there was never a moment, for me at least, when I thought it was losing. The running game needs some work, and Stetson Bennett IV needs to find better ways to move the ball through the air when defenses take away Brock Bowers (two injured receivers didn’t help), but the ‘Dawgs found a way against an angry team with nothing to lose. Missouri fell to 2-3 and 1-10 against Georgia since joining the SEC.

-Props to Mevis, who bounced back from missing a game-winning chip shot kick last week at Auburn. The “Thicker Kicker” nailed all five of his attempts against Georgia, including two from more than 50 yards out. Unfortunately for Missouri, relying on Mevis so much is what cost it the upset. Georgia’s Jack Podlesny was also perfect, converting all four of his attempts, and the Bulldogs needed all of them to stay within striking distance in the fourth quarter when the offense finally stopped bogging down in the red zone.

-LSU and Auburn did their usual in their annual on Saturday night, as Auburn wasted a 17-0 lead in a game head coach Bryan Harsin had to have. Both teams were sloppy, but it was four Auburn turnovers, three in the fourth quarter, that doomed the hosts in LSU’s 21-17 win to improve to 4-1. Auburn outgained LSU by 168 yards but didn’t run the ball consistently and couldn’t hold onto the football, falling to 3-2. LSU lost quarterback Jayden Daniels to a knee injury in the second half, but he had completed just eight of 20 passes up to that point against a stingy Auburn defense. Garrett Nussmeier struggled in relief, but LSU’s defense held firm, with the aid of the three Auburn gaffes in the final 15 minutes. LSU heads home for a showdown next week with undefeated Tennessee, while Auburn hits the road for the first time this season for the renewal of the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry against Georgia in Athens.

-Auburn won’t really benefit from firing Harsin in the middle of the season. The players have not quit on him, and the power brokers have already gauged interest of potential candidates, so there’s little to gain. It’s past the point of no return for Harsin, however, who needed to start 4-1 or better in the five-game homestand. With two road games against top-10 teams in the next two weeks, maybe Auburn will make it official during the off week. There’s no right way to end Harsin’s tenure, but if there’s a wrong way to do it, I have no doubt that Auburn will do exactly that.

-No. 17 Texas A&M had some chances early against Mississippi State, but fumbles by Devon Achane and Max Johnson inside the red zone allowed the Bulldogs to take a 14-0 lead into the locker room despite the first half being fairly even. The teams combined for 52 second-half points, as the Bulldogs pulled away for a 42-24 win, but Mississippi State was aided by a blocked field goal return for a touchdown and a pick-six. When the Aggies aren’t getting the breaks that they got a week ago against Arkansas, they’re simply not a good football team. Johnson left the game in the fourth quarter, with Haynes King returning to finish off the loss that dropped Texas A&M to 3-2 with a trip to Alabama up next.

-Mississippi State quarterback Will Rogers went over 900 completions for his career, closing in on former Georgia star Aaron Murray’s SEC record of 921. It was a good day for Rogers with 329 yards and three touchdowns, but the running game producing 140 yards against a tough Texas A&M defense was a major boost. With a schedule from hell ahead, the Bulldogs absolutely had to win this game. The Bulldogs played a clean game, with a 4-1 edge in turnovers, and now have a 4-1 record. Four top-15 opponents remain, but Mississippi State now has a chance to head into that stretch at 5-1 if it can hand Arkansas a third straight defeat next Saturday afternoon in Starkville.

-FCS wins in weather-affected games for Florida and South Carolina weren’t notable, as the Gators won a Sunday matinee over Eastern Washington, 52-17, and the Gamecocks were Thursday night victors over South Carolina State, 50-10.

 

Non-SEC Results that Surprised Me

1. TCU 55, (18) Oklahoma 24

2. Georgia Tech 26, (24) Pittsburgh 14

3. Boston College 34, Louisville 33

4. Purdue 20, (21) Minnesota 10

5. Illinois 34, Wisconsin 10

 

Matt's Top 25

1. Alabama

2. Georgia

3. Ohio State

4. Clemson

5. Penn State

6. Kansas

7. USC

8. TCU

9. Tennessee

10. Ole Miss

11. Oklahoma State

12. Michigan

13. Oregon

14. UCLA

15. Wake Forest

16. Syracuse

17. Mississippi State

18. Kansas State

19. Maryland

20. Kentucky

21. Florida State

22. LSU

23. Utah

24. BYU

25. Washington State

 

Week 6 Order of Preference

1. No. 8 Tennessee at No. 25 LSU, Noon ET (ESPN)

2. Arkansas at No. 23 Mississippi State, Noon ET (SEC Network)

3. Texas A&M at No. 1 Alabama, 8 p.m. ET (CBS)

4. Auburn at No. 2 Georgia, 3:30 p.m. ET (CBS)

5. Missouri at Florida, Noon ET (ESPNU)

6. No. 9 Ole Miss at Vanderbilt, 4 p.m. ET (SEC Network)

7. South Carolina at No. 13 Kentucky, 7:30 p.m. ET (SEC Network)

 

Week 6 Non-SEC Games to Watch

1. No. 17 TCU at No. 19 Kansas, Noon ET (FS1)

2. No. 11 Utah at No. 18 UCLA, 3:30 p.m. ET (FOX)

3. No. 16 BYU vs. Notre Dame (Las Vegas), 7:30 p.m. ET (NBC)

Matt Smith - Matt is a 2007 graduate of Notre Dame and has spent most of his life pondering why most people in the Mid-Atlantic actually think there are more important things than college football. He has blogged for College Football News, covering both national news as well as Notre Dame and the service academies. He credits Steve Spurrier and Danny Wuerffel for his love of college football and tailgating at Florida, Tennessee, and Auburn for his love of sundresses. Matt covers the ACC as well as the national scene.