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Week Eight SEC Recap

By Matt Smith
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Matt Smith looks back at all of the week eight SEC action with major storylines, takeaways, resume rankings and more.


(9) Florida 38, South Carolina 27
(11) Auburn 51, Arkansas 10
(2) LSU 36, Mississippi State 13
Vanderbilt 21, (22) Missouri 14
(10) Georgia 21, Kentucky 0
Texas A&M 24, Ole Miss 17
(1) Alabama 35, Tennessee 13

The Big Story

Quite a bit to get to this week, but let’s start with the only upset of the weekend. That took place in Nashville, as No. 22 Missouri, the only SEC East team without a conference blemish, was stunned by 1-5 Vanderbilt. This was a Commodores team that had been lifeless for the past two weeks. All five of the team’s losses were by three touchdowns or more, and the win was a six-point squeaker over Northern Illinois. This was a terrible team, easily the worst in the SEC, and Derek Mason was headed back to the west coast as a defensive coordinator.

As Lee Corso says, “not so fast, my friends.” Vanderbilt shut down a Missouri offense that hadn’t been prolific, but had been consistently good. The Tigers didn’t even crack 300 yards and managed just 14 points against a defense that no answers for a bad UNLV team a week ago. Forget SEC East title hopes now. Sure, the Tigers still control their fate, but that team was nowhere close to Florida or Georgia pm Saturday. 2019 was a golden opportunity for Missouri with the way its schedule aligned. They’ve now dumped both of their road games to average-at-best teams. This season could still end with 10 wins after a bowl, but no Tiger fan is going to remember this season fondly.

For Mason and Vanderbilt, the program has some life. The team isn’t about to rattle off five more wins to end the season, but they made a statement that they still belong in the mix with the South Carolinas, Missouris, and Tennessees of the world. The recent blowout losses are bad, and may ultimately spell the end of Mason, but the defense should take some confidence to South Carolina after the idle week. The offense still mostly stinks, but maybe another ugly game against the Gamecocks or Kentucky could end with a second SEC win for the Commodores. Do that, and Mason is definitely still coaching this team in 2020.

Top Takeaways

-The most important ankle in the South belongs to Tua Tagovailoa. The Alabama quarterback left Saturday night’s win over Tennessee with a high-ankle sprain that will sideline him for next week’s game with Arkansas. The concern is obviously not about next week, but about the showdown with No. 2 LSU in three weeks. High-ankle sprains are tricky, but there’s nothing to suggest Tagovailoa won’t be ready for the Tigers, albeit likely at somewhere less than 100 percent.

We did learn that Alabama absolutely needs Tagovailoa to beat LSU. Mac Jones was just 6-of-11 for 72 yards in relief of Tagovailoa, as the Crimson Tide needed a 100-yard fumble return by Trevon Diggs in the fourth quarter to avoid putting some legitimate game pressure on Jones. He’ll be more than enough to hammer Arkansas next week in Bryant-Denny Stadium, but the focus of the next 19 days will be squarely on the lower limb of Tagovailoa.

-Let’s go to Florida-South Carolina – another fun game that CBS had no interest in showing. I digress. The Gamecocks had a chance at a second straight top-10 win, but the resilient Gators got better in the fourth quarter, unlike a week ago when the wheels came off late at LSU. We’ll get to the officiating, but it shouldn’t take away from the Gators’ fourth-quarter sequence that went touchdown, fumble recovery, touchdown, stop on downs, touchdown, that helped Florida turn a 20-17 deficit into a 38-20 lead. If the Cocktail Party is within three points late in the third quarter, my money will be on the Gators.

Yes, fiery Will Muschamp has become a cartoon, but he had every right to be furious about the missed offensive pass interference that allowed Florida to score what ultimately would be the game-winning touchdown. The officials had missed a hold earlier in the game on a 75-yard Dameon Pierce touchdown run that tied the game, and Muschamp lost it after Josh Hammond set an obvious pick to free Kyle Pitts for an easy touchdown reception from Kyle Trask. Muschamp was assessed an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. Picks are hard to call, and most go unnoticed if run properly, but Hammond didn’t even try to sell that he was running a route. It was a big miss in a big situation.

Quick Hitters

-Sure, the weather was awful, but it shouldn’t have taken Georgia into the second half to score against Kentucky. The concerns are real for the Bulldogs offense heading into their week off before playing Florida after two back-to-back uninspiring offensive performances. It’s a big two weeks for Kirby Smart, Jake Fromm and offensive coordinator James Coley. Georgia needs answers quickly.

-Gus Malzahn loves beating Arkansas to a pulp. His Auburn team did just that on Saturday in Fayetteville with a 51-10 drubbing. The Hogs managed just 234 yards of offense, while Malzahn’s ground attack came just two yards shy of 300. Bo Nix was extremely efficient in bouncing back from a bad day at Florida two weeks ago, hitting on 12 of his 17 passes with three going for touchdowns. Arkansas isn’t a measuring stick, but it was a nice confidence-builder for the Tigers as they get set to head to their personal house of horrors in Baton Rouge next week.

-Speaking of Baton Rouge, LSU cruised past Mississippi State on Saturday, but Bulldogs defensive coordinator Bob Shoop did put some nice stuff on tape for Alabama and Auburn, as his unit held Joe Burrow and the Tigers offense to field goals on their first three possessions. That kept Mississippi State in the game for a half, and while it didn’t matter because the Bulldogs offense couldn’t sustain drives, settling for field goals could cost the Tigers in the next few weeks. Burrow was still brilliant, even though his season completion percentage actually fell despite completing 25 of 32 throws, with four going for touchdowns. 

-I’m not buying the Joe Moorhead-to-Rutgers rumors. It’s not going well in Starkville, as Moorhead is now 11-9 overall and 3-4 this season, but I don’t see him running away from Mississippi State, especially for Rutgers. If the Bulldogs brass doesn’t want Moorhead, that’s fine, but I would be stunned if Moorhead voluntarily leaves. He’s a first-class person, and he’ll see this through, even if it ultimately doesn’t turn out the way he or the school had hoped when he was hired 22 months ago.

-The always pro-player contingent is expectedly eviscerating Jeremy Pruitt for his slight tug of quarterback Jarrett Guarantano’s facemask on Saturday night. A “miscommunication”, as Pruitt described it, caused Guarantano to call his own number on 4th-and-Goal at the 1-yard line for Tennessee. He fumbled while trying to extend the ball over the goal line, and Alabama’s Trevon Diggs ran it back 100 yards for the game-clinching score. Pruitt went off on Guarantano on a night in which every break seemed to go Alabama’s way. There was probably a better way to make his point, but it was a harmless act. A private apology to Guarantano is probably warranted, but this shouldn’t be a story. Football is a tough, emotional game. If Guarantano isn’t bothered by it, then no one else needs to be.

-What a missed opportunity for Matt Luke and Ole Miss. The Rebels had lost 9 of 12 games coming into Saturday night’s game against Texas A&M, but they had a chance to upset the Aggies, holding a 14-10 lead in the third quarter and driving. It all fell apart after that, as John Rhys Plumlee fumbled, and Texas A&M returned it for a go-ahead touchdown. A game-tying FG attempt was blocked, and an Aggies touchdown late in the fourth quarter would put the game away. At 3-5 and with games against Auburn and LSU ahead, Ole Miss is not going to a bowl barring a miracle. Luke isn’t on the hot seat yet, but the mood in Oxford is stale, for reasons that go beyond just Luke and his team. A win would’ve brightened spirits significantly. It should have happened, but like so many potential opportunities for Ole Miss in the past, it didn’t happen.

-It still seems like Kellen Mond hasn’t recovered from the Clemson loss. Texas A&M has a sub-par offensive line. Mond knows it, and it appears to be affecting his comfort level in the pocket. He rallied the Aggies past Ole Miss, but that was in spite of two interceptions and just a 57 percent completion percentage. Texas A&M now heads home to face a desperate Mississippi State team. It’s probably the last chance against a Power Five opponent this season for Mond to deliver a big performance.

Around The Nation

-What a beautiful game in the Pac-12 between Oregon and Washington. Justin Herbert and Jacob Eason delivered a duel against two pretty good defenses, with Herbert’s Ducks all but wrapping up the Pac-12 North title with a 35-31 comeback win over Eason’s Huskies. The two quarterbacks combined for 569 yards, seven touchdowns and no interceptions. Both had the benefit of clean pockets, as Herbert was sacked just once, and Eason not at all. The afternoon kickoff allowed fans across the country to see the game in its entirety, and the game delivered. No, the conference doesn’t have a national title contender, but it has a number of pretty good teams who play entertaining games on a weekly basis.

-Georgia got to pass the baton of being the victim of the season’s biggest upset when 31-point underdog Illinois stunned Wisconsin, 24-23, on a walk-off field goal. The Illini did not lead until the clock struck zero. The Badgers may have gotten caught looking ahead to next week’s trip to Ohio State, but they did dominate the game with a 22-minute advantage in possession time and more than 100 more yards. Alas, three turnovers were the difference, including an awful interception by Jack Coan near midfield late in the game that gave Illinois a short field to work with when driving for the winning field goal. The Big Ten West is now wide open, with Minnesota atop, but two-loss Iowa right back in the mix thanks to the stunner of all stunners.

-Speaking of jumbled divisions, the Pac-12 South now has USC back in front at 3-1, holding a tiebreaker over Utah. The two teams dealt collective blows to the state of Arizona on Saturday night with convincing wins over Arizona and Arizona State respectively. USC hosts Oregon in two weeks before visiting Arizona State. Sweep those two games, and USC might just be able to win the division and save Clay Helton’s job.      

-Ohio State continues to roll towards its Nov. 23 showdown with Penn State in Columbus, disposing of Northwestern, 52-3, on Friday night in Evanston. The Nittany Lions jumped to a 21-0 lead over Michigan, but the Wolverines nearly forced overtime before Ronnie Bell dropped a fourth-down pass in the end zone that would have brought Michigan within a PAT of tying the game. The Buckeyes host Wisconsin next week, while Penn State visits Michigan State and Minnesota in its next two games. Those are the only remaining tests between now and Nov. 23.

-Jalen Hurts delivered his most efficient performance yet in Oklahoma’s 52-14 rout of West Virginia. Hurts threw 17 passes and completed 16. He finished with 316 yards, good for a ridiculous 18.6 yards per attempt. He added 75 yards on the ground and scored five total touchdowns. It’s too early to mention the “H” word, but Hurts is putting together an impressive resume. What he needs most is for Iowa State and Baylor to keep winning to ensure those two games in November have high stakes and draw plenty of eyeballs.

-Speaking of Iowa State and Baylor, the two threats to a Red River rematch delivered mature road performances in wins at Texas Tech and Oklahoma State respectively. The Cyclones are 5-2 overall, and 3-1 in the Big 12, while the 7-0 Bears continue to climb up the polls. Both host Texas in November, which needed a walk-off field goal from Cameron Dicker to escape Kansas, 50-48. The Longhorns will probably need to win in both Ames and Waco to get another shot at Oklahoma. The odds of that happening continue to diminish.

-We had another week of Coastal Chaos in the ACC, as Virginia Tech outlasted North Carolina, 43-41, in six overtimes – the first game ever to be decided by a two-point conversion shootout. After both teams missed their attempts in the fifth overtime, the Hokies were successful in the bottom of the sixth overtime after stopping the Tar Heels’ attempt. Earlier in the day, Miami (FL) self-destructed at home in overtime against a Georgia Tech team that had been winless in ACC play coming into the game. Virginia hammered Duke to put itself back in control of the division, but Pittsburgh is once again lurking at 2-1 and with a favorable schedule. Yes, the 7-way tie is still in play.

-Other teams to catch my eye in Week 8, in a good way: Indiana, Louisiana Tech, SMU

-Other teams to catch my eye in Week 8, in a bad way: N.C. State, Stanford, TCU

Resume Rankings

1. LSU
2. Ohio State
3. Alabama
4. Oklahoma
5. Auburn
6. Clemson
7. Penn State
8. Baylor
9. Florida
10. Oregon
11. Utah
12. SMU
13. Notre Dame
14. Georgia
15. Wisconsin
16. Minnesota
17. Appalachian State
18. Memphis
19. Iowa State
20. Cincinnati
21. Boise State
22. Washington
23. Iowa
24. Michigan
25. Wake Forest

The 5 Week 9 SEC Games I'm Most Interested In

1. No. 9 Auburn at No. 2 LSU (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS)
2. South Carolina at Tennessee (4 p.m. ET, SEC Network)
3. Mississippi State at Texas A&M (Noon ET, SEC Network)
4. Missouri at Kentucky (7:30 p.m. ET, SEC Network)
5. Arkansas at No. 1 Alabama (7 p.m. ET, ESPN)

The 5 Week 9 National Games I'm Most Interested In

1. No. 8 Notre Dame at No. 19 Michigan (7:30 p.m. ET, ABC)
2. No. 13 Wisconsin at No. 3 Ohio State (Noon ET, FOX)
3. No. 6 Penn State at Michigan State (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC)
4. Washington State at No. 11 Oregon (10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)
5. Virginia at Louisville (3:30 p.m. ET, ACC Network)

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.