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SEC Recap: Week 8

By Matt Smith
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Recapping Week 8 in the SEC

Thoughts and Musings


#7 Ole Miss 20 - LSU 45

-It might have seemed that way, but LSU’s 45-20 win over No. 7 Ole Miss was not just a replay of its 31-16 victory over Mississippi State five weeks ago. Like that Sept. 17 evening in Baton Rouge, LSU got down by two scores early at home. Similarly, LSU also played a dominant second half to erase a deficit it faced the entire game and pull away late to end an unbeaten season of a division rival. This Tigers team has its issues, but they’ve gotten better as the season has progressed, and they get better within each individual game. They’re finally well-coached again, and they are a legitimate SEC West contender at 4-1 in conference play and with Alabama coming to Tiger Stadium in two weeks.

-I figured LSU’s best path to victory was on the ground, and while it largely was that with 252 rushing yards, Jayden Daniels was excellent with his arm. He missed on just seven passes, throwing two touchdowns in addition to his three on the ground. Daniels now has 11 total touchdowns in the last two weeks. Daniels’ steady improvement along with a continued undervalued receiving corps has LSU ahead of schedule in Brian Kelly’s first season heading into a November with higher stakes than expected in the summer.

-This loss will sting for Ole Miss – just the school’s second in 18 games in a major sport since the start of the NCAA baseball tournament in June. The dominant running game was grounded after a hot start, and the passing game was inconsistent despite some big plays from Jaxson Dart. The defense eventually succumbed to LSU’s speed. The Rebels took on all of the aura of Baton Rouge and didn’t respond like champions, as many teams have failed to do over the years in Tiger Stadium. The season is far from lost, however. If Ole Miss can win next week at Texas A&M, all will be well again heading into the showdown with Alabama back home in Oxford on Nov. 12.


#24 Mississippi State 6 - #6 Alabama 30

-No. 3 Alabama did what Alabama does after a loss, dominating No. 24 Mississippi State, 30-6, to get to 7-1. The Crimson Tide did not allow a point until a short Bulldogs touchdown run on the game’s final play – Mississippi State’s first trip to the end zone in Tuscaloosa since 2014. The Alabama defense has mastered the Mike Leach offense, allowing only 15 points in three meetings. To me, that bodes well for Georgia when it visits Starkville on Nov. 12 in what many see as a trap game. Yes, Alabama has seen Mississippi State every year with it being a division game, but Georgia has as good or better talent, and slowing the Air Raid is all about pressure and discipline.

-Alabama’s offense didn’t do much, gaining just 290 yards, but it never needed to do much after jumping to a quick 21-0 lead. Bryce Young hit 21 of 35 passes for 249 yards and two touchdowns, but Jahmyr Gibbs was limited to just 37 yards on 10 carries. The Crimson Tide never felt tested, and this game was about cleaning up the penalty problem (Alabama had just three) and getting to the off week healthy. Mission accomplished. A showdown with LSU looms on Nov. 5.


Texas A&M 24 - South Carolina 30

-South Carolina jumped all over Texas A&M, grabbing a 17-0 lead in the first five minutes on the strength of a touchdown on the opening kickoff and an Aggies fumble. After that, the Gamecocks held on for dear life, ultimately winning 30-24 to move within one win of bowl eligibility and drop Texas A&M below .500 for the first time in the Jimbo Fisher era. The running game was so-so, averaging just four yards per carry, and Spencer Rattler missed on more throws than he completed. That’s not abnormal for South Carolina. What the Gamecocks have done consistently in 20 games under Shane Beamer is find an advantage and capitalize on it. They can’t hang with the league’s big boys, but among their peers, South Carolina has had much more success than failure. That’s why they’re 5-2. With wins over Missouri and Vanderbilt in the next two weeks, it will stamp another positive season and allow for some free shots in the difficult final three games.

-It’s hard to even talk about Texas A&M moving on from Jimbo Fisher given a buyout north of $80 million, but can we close the book on the Aggies ever playing for an SEC championship under Fisher? Unless true freshman Conner Weigman, who replaced Haynes King against South Carolina, can give the Aggies the only quality quarterback play they’ve had aside from Kellen Mond in 2020, it feels like this program will be stuck in the seven-to-nine-win range for the foreseeable future. Speaking just of 2022, at 3-4, seven wins in the regular season is now the ceiling with games remaining against Ole Miss, Florida and LSU.


Vanderbilt 14 - Missouri 17

-Missouri’s defense continues to be one of the season’s most pleasant surprises, allowing just seven points to the Vanderbilt offense. The problem was the Tigers refused to seal the game, committing three turnovers, including a fumble that Vanderbilt returned for a touchdown. Despite trailing 17-0, the Commodores came within an inch or two on a late fourth-down attempt of potentially sending the game to overtime. Instead, their four downs netted just 9.9 yards, and Missouri hung on for a 17-14 win, handing Vanderbilt its record 25th consecutive SEC defeat. Vanderbilt is off next week before hosting South Carolina, while Missouri visits the Gamecocks next Saturday afternoon.


UT Martin 25 - #3 Tennessee 65

-For No. 3 Tennessee, Saturday’s home tilt with Tennessee-Martin was about Hendon Hooker padding stats for the “H” word conversation. He played only two quarters, as the Vols put up 52 first-half points in their 65-24 victory. Hooker connected on 18 of 24 pass attempts for 276 yards with three going for touchdowns. The backup defense was leaky, but it’s immaterial. On to Kentucky.


-Alabama, LSU, Georgia and Tennessee all control their own destinies for the SEC Championship Game. Ole Miss needs just one LSU loss to regain ownership of its fate. Kentucky would need to sweep games with Tennessee and Georgia, and have the winner of the Vols-Bulldogs clash to drop a second conference game. Nov. 5 looks like the big day with the Tide and Tigers colliding under the lights in Baton Rouge and Tennessee and Georgia battling between the hedges in Athens.


Non-SEC Results that Surprised Me

1. FIU 34, Charlotte 15

2. Duke 45, Miami (FL) 21

3. Marshall 26, James Madison 12

4. Liberty 41, BYU 14

5. Louisville 24, Pittsburgh 10


Matt’s Top 25

1. Georgia

2. Tennessee

3. Ohio State

4. Clemson

5. Michigan

6. TCU

7. Alabama

8. Oregon

9. USC

10. Oklahoma State

11. Syracuse

12. Wake Forest

13. Penn State

14. UCLA

15. LSU

16. Ole Miss

17. Kansas State

18. Illinois

19. Utah

20. Kentucky

21. N.C. State

22. Texas

23. Tulane

24. Liberty

25. Oregon State


Week 9 Order of Preference

1. No. 19 Kentucky at No. 3 Tennessee, 7 p.m. ET (ESPN)

2. No. 15 Ole Miss at Texas A&M, 7:30 p.m. ET (SEC Network)

3. Florida vs No. 1 Georgia (Jacksonville), 3:30 p.m. ET (CBS)

4. Arkansas at Auburn, Noon ET (SEC Network)

5. Missouri at South Carolina, 4 p.m. ET (SEC Network)


Week 9 Non-SEC Games to Watch

1. No. 2 Ohio State at No. 13 Penn State, Noon ET (FOX)

2. No. 9 Oklahoma State at No. 22 Kansas State, 3:30 p.m. ET (FOX)

3. No. 7 TCU at West Virginia, Noon ET (ESPN)

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.