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Week Ten SEC Recap

By Matt Smith
SouthernPigskin.com
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Check out Matt Smith's week ten recap, including his first 2018 SEC bowl projections.

Scores

Auburn 28, (20) Texas A&M 24

South Carolina 48, Ole Miss 44

(6) Georgia 34, (9) Kentucky 17

Missouri 38, (11) Florida 17

Tennessee 14, Charlotte 3

(18) Mississippi State 45, Louisiana Tech 3

(1) Alabama 29, (3) LSU 0

10 Things I Learned

-Well, so much for the Game of the Year. It wasn’t much of a surprise, but the Alabama defense pitching a second straight shutout in Tiger Stadium is remarkable, even by Crimson Tide standards. LSU now has gone eight quarters without a point and 11 quarters without a touchdown against Alabama in Baton Rouge. This unit is still a step back from some of its predecessors in terms of consistency, but we always knew the single-game ceiling was high. Defensive tackle Quinnen Williams remains the most surprising player in college football after coming out of the spring as only a rotational player.

-How does LSU recover from that? Fortunately, the Tigers have lay-ups against Arkansas and Rice the next two weeks before a key game against Texas A&M that should decide whether or not they get to ring in the New Year in New Orleans or not. Defensively, LSU was fine. You just tip your hat and move on when you play Alabama. The offensive line was finally exposed, rendering LSU nothing more than a passing team. That won’t work against most teams, let alone Alabama. 9-3 won’t be a failure by any stretch, but LSU has two weeks to figure some things out before a trip to College Station that will determine whether this is a good season or a great one.

-Speed kills, and only one SEC East team has it. Georgia has overwhelmed its division opponents with a different level of athleticism that it couldn’t exploit against LSU. The Bulldogs gashed a very good Kentucky defense, breaking tackles and turning them into huge plays en route to a 331-yard day on the ground. Jake Fromm didn’t have to do much, throwing just 20 passes, but he completed 14 of them and was again very good on third down. The trenches are probably where Georgia will ultimately fall short against Alabama, but the ‘Dawgs can match Goliath in terms of athleticism and confidence. That’s at least something to give us hope for a competitive game on Dec. 1 in Atlanta.

-Kentucky should not be down. They were beaten by a far better team. Yes, this was probably the year to get Georgia before they become an annual top-five team, but the Wildcats just couldn’t match up with the Bulldogs’ speed. With Tennessee, Middle Tennessee, and Louisville to close the season, there is no excuse for Kentucky to not finish 10-2 and be in the mix for a Peach or Fiesta Bowl berth. Yes, the ‘Cats haven’t won in Knoxville since 1984, but a focused effort should be enough to beat the Vols this year.

-For the first time, Texas A&M fans can rightly question their $75 million coach. The Aggies absolutely gave away Saturday’s game to Auburn, as Jimbo Fisher kept putting the ball in Kellen Mond’s hands when it was clear the sophomore quarterback was struggling. The ground game was destroying Auburn, finishing with 201 yards on the day, but Fisher kept throwing, and Mond’s fourth-quarter interception with the Aggies up by 10 and in Auburn territory turned the game around. Perhaps the loss only makes the difference between 8-4 and 7-5, but for $7.5 million per year, you expect your coach to be able to close a game a whole lot better than that.

-It’s been a rough year for Jarrett Stidham, but the Auburn quarterback looked more like 2017 Stidham in Saturday’s win over Texas A&M. He completed more than 60 percent of his passes for just the second time in five games on a day when the Tigers could do nothing on the ground. His touchdown pass to Seth Williams with less than two minutes remaining won the game in dramatic fashion. With Georgia and Alabama ahead, Stidham rounding into form was a must if the Tigers hope to even compete with the two giants that they beat by a combined 35 points last November. Saturday was a sign that that might be happening.

-Has Mississippi State found a passing game? For the second straight week, albeit against Louisiana Tech, Nick Fitzgerald looked like a competent pocket passer, carving up the visiting Bulldogs for 243 yards and four touchdowns, all in the first half, to complement another big day on the ground. Fitzgerald threaded the needle in some tight windows and showed great touch on a lovely touchdown toss to Kylin Hill on a wheel route down the sideline. Is it enough progress to threaten Alabama? Absolutely not, but the Bulldogs may no longer be the tough watch that they were in late September and early October.

-I had a hunch Missouri was going to beat Florida, but I didn’t see 38-17 coming. My thinking? Another loss to a ranked team would render Drew Lock’s Tigers career a disappointment, and I believed he would thrive in his last game on a semi-big stage. Lock was spectacular, hitting 24 of his 32 pass attempts for 250 yards and three touchdowns in a rout. Missouri is now a virtual lock for a bowl bid at 5-4, and the Tigers beat a ranked team for the first time since Lock was in high school in Kansas City. Missouri has left some wins on the table this season, but Lock finally put on tape that he can elevate his team against a more talented opponent.

-Well, so much for Florida running through a soft November schedule and getting to a New Year’s Six Bowl. Feleipe Franks had regressed since the LSU win, and Saturday was the low point, as he completed just nine of 22 pass attempts before being benched for Kyle Trask. No one thought the redshirt sophomore was the future, but the hope was he could manage the offense for a year until true freshman Emory Jones is ready. With only bowl positioning to play for, it’s time for Dan Mullen to start thinking about 2019 with his quarterback room, and that probably means a lot less of Franks going forward.

-With no major upsets nationally on Saturday, the likelihood of the SEC getting two teams in the College Football Playoff is slipping. Sure, Georgia and Alabama are almost certainly both in if the ‘Dawgs win the SEC Championship Game (insert conspiracy theories here), but with Michigan, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Washington State, and West Virginia all surviving tough tests, an 11-2 Georgia would still need a lot of help to finish in the top four, even with a one-score defeat to Alabama. All of its wins have been dominant, but a two-loss team with one of its losses by 20 points is a tough sell.

Around The Nation

-The game of the day took place in Austin, as West Virginia eschewed a game-tying PAT with 16 seconds to go and went for the win. After an initial conversion on a pass from Will Grier to favorite target David Sills V was negated by a timeout just before the snap, Grier won the game himself with a quarterback draw to give the Mountaineers (7-1, 5-1 Big 12) at 42-41 win over Texas (6-3, 4-2). Grier and Sam Ehlinger were brilliant, both completing two-thirds of their pass attempts for 346 and 354 yards respectively with three touchdowns apiece. West Virginia remains very much in the playoff picture, while Texas now needs to win out and hope for an Oklahoma loss (most likely in the finale to the Mountaineers) to reach the Big 12 Championship Game.

-Congrats to Baylor, which had its best post-scandal moment on Saturday with a 35-31 comeback win over Oklahoma State, capped by a Charlie Brewer to Denzel Mims touchdown pass with seven seconds to play. The Bears are now 5-4 and .500 in Big 12 play, and a bowl bid is well within reach. Matt Rhule has made nice strides in Year 2 in Waco after a 1-11 disaster in 2017.

-The longest bowl streak in the nation is on thin ice. Florida State hasn’t missed the postseason since 1981, but the 4-5 Seminoles need to win two of their final three games to extend that streak to 37 years after Saturday’s 47-28 blowout loss to N.C. State. Going 2-1 is a very tall task, as the ‘Noles close with three ranked opponents – No. 3 Notre Dame on the road and No. 17 Boston College and No. 19 Florida at home. Willie Taggart has a history of slow starts before uprisings in his previous stops, but there’s much less patience in Tallahassee then there was at Western Kentucky and USF.

-Oklahoma was out of sorts for 15 minutes in Lubbock, but Kyler Murray settled down quickly, and the Sooners were able to run away from Texas Tech in an encyclopedic Big 12 shootout, 51-46. The defense is still a problem, even without the jettisoned Mike Stoops, but this offense remains terrifying. Oklahoma may be the only team besides Clemson who could provide entertainment value in a game against Alabama, but the Sooners will need a little help to reach the playoff.

-Louisville has now allowed 237 points in its last four games after a 77-16 drubbing by Clemson on Saturday in Death Valley. A change is certainly coming after the season, with the Cardinals closing with three ranked teams and likely to finish 2-10. Is Jeff Brohm ready to leave Purdue for his alma mater? Probably, but the stability that the Louisville athletic department had just a couple years ago is now gone with both athletic director Tom Jurich and Hall of Fame basketball coach Rick Pitino losing their jobs amid scandal. Depending on whether or not USC makes a chance, Louisville may be the best job on the market.

-For the first time since Nov. 26, 2006, UTEP won a football game on Saturday, as the Miners appeared to be drilling Rice before having to hang on late for a 34-26 victory. The 20-game losing streak is finally over, and no winless FBS teams remain.

-The ACC Coastal cannot end in a 7-way tie, but the Pac-12 South could end in a 6-way tie. The odds are of course slim, but it’s still possible with three weeks to go, and that’s a win in and of itself. Utah, USC, and Arizona are tied for the lead at 4-3, with Arizona State just behind at 3-3 and UCLA and Colorado bringing up the rear at 2-4. The odor of mediocrity is quite pungent in the Pac-12 South.

The five non-SEC results that shocked me the most:

1. Tulane 41 USF 15

2. Illinois 55, Minnesota 31

3. SMU 45, Houston 31

4. Baylor 35, Oklahoma State 31

5. Louisiana-Monroe 44, Georgia Southern 25

The week’s wildest stat lines:

1. Pitt RB Darrin Hall – 19 carries, 229 yards, 3 TD (W, 23-13 at Virginia)

2. Buffalo WR Anthony Johnson – 8 receptions, 238 yards, 3 TD (W, 51-42 vs. Miami (OH))

3. Massachusetts QB Ross Comis – 29-of-44, 540 yards, 4 TD, 1 INT; 22 carries, 26 yards, 2 TD (W, 62-59 (3OT) vs. Liberty)

Top 25 Resume Rankings

1. Michigan

2. Georgia

3. Alabama

4. LSU

5. Clemson

6. Notre Dame

7. Kentucky

8. Oklahoma

9. Mississippi State

10. Washington State

11. UCF

12. West Virginia

13. Michigan State

14. N.C. State

15. Penn State

16. Missouri

17. Texas A&M

18. Syracuse

19. Florida

20. Utah State

21. Auburn

22. Pitt

23. Stanford

24. South Carolina

25. Ohio State

SEC Bowl Projections

Alabama – Cotton Bowl vs. Michigan

LSU – Sugar Bowl vs. Oklahoma

Georgia – Peach Bowl vs. West Virginia

Kentucky – Fiesta Bowl vs. Fresno State

Florida – Citrus Bowl vs. Penn State

Texas A&M – Outback Bowl vs. Northwestern

South Carolina – Belk Bowl vs. Duke

Mississippi State – Texas Bowl vs. Texas Tech

Auburn – Music City Bowl vs. Virginia Tech

Missouri – Gator Bowl vs. Wisconsin

The 5 Week 11 SEC Games I'm Most Interested In

1.   No. 18 Mississippi State at No. 1 Alabama (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS)

2.   Auburn at No. 5 Georgia, (7 p.m. ET, ESPN)

3.   No. 12 Kentucky at Tennessee (3:30 p.m. ET, SEC Network)

4.   South Carolina at No. 19 Florida (Noon ET, ESPN)

5.   Ole Miss at Texas A&M (Noon ET, CBS)

The 5 Week 11 National Games I'm Most Interested In

1.   No. 2 Clemson at No. 17 Boston College (8 p.m. ET, ABC)

2.   No. 8 Ohio State at No. 24 Michigan State (Noon ET, FOX)

3.   Wisconsin at No. 21 Penn State (Noon ET, ABC)

4.   No. 10 Washington State at Colorado (3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)

5.   Oklahoma State at No. 6 Oklahoma (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC)

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.