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SEC Recap: Week 13

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By Christian Goeckel
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Matt Smith recaps the regular season finale for the SEC

Thoughts and Musings

-The stunner took place in College Station, as 4-7 Texas A&M rose from the near-dead to shock No. 5 LSU, 38-23. Devon Achane clearly makes a difference, and the Aggies running back who missed the last two games carved up the Tigers for 215 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 38 carries. LSU appeared to gain momentum in the third quarter, having tied the game at 17-17 and forced a punt, but a Jayden Daniels fumble was returned for a touchdown by Demani Richardson, and LSU never recovered. Third downs tilted heavily to the Aggies, which converted 67 percent of their attempts compared to just 27 percent for the Tigers.

-Even in a horrific season, Texas A&M met the moment in games with rivals Alabama and LSU. The Aggies fell short by a yard in Tuscaloosa, but they were not going to be denied on Saturday night. Major issues still persist in College Station to get the program back on track, and the win should be treated as little more than a dominant victory over a rival. If theres anything to spin forward, its that quarterback Connor Weigman can be counted on as a reliable starter next season after a decent four starts down the stretch.

-For LSU, it was a stunning performance given that head coach Brian Kelly had only lost one game as a favorite (the season opener vs. Florida State) since 2017. There is no playoff berth, but theres still a chance for redemption and a conference title next week against Georgia.

-The Egg Bowl is never lacking for drama. It started earlier in the week on Lane Kiffins Twitter feed, when he attacked a television reporter for reporting that Kiffin would be named the Auburn coach on Friday. That, of course, never happened, and Kiffin, for now, is still the Rebels head coach. The game itself was secondary, but Kiffins team continued its November swoon, falling for the fourth time in five games, 24-22, to Mississippi State. Red-zone issues doomed Ole Miss early, as the Rebels dominated the first half but led just 16-14. The Bulldogs defense owned the second half, shutting out Ole Miss until the Rebels turned a late fumble by quarterback Will Rogers into a 99-yard touchdown drive with a minute to play to pull within two. A shovel pass was batted down on the game-tying two-point play, and due to egregiously burning two timeouts before the conversion attempt, Ole Miss had to try an onsides kick, which Mississippi State recovered to end the game and give both teams an 8-4 mark. It was the Bulldogs’ first Egg Bowl win since 2019.

-What a week for Kiffin. He handled almost everything poorly, even if he was truly torn between going to Auburn and staying at Ole Miss. The Monday media report may have been wrong, but Kiffin was clearly interested in Auburn, refusing to commit to Ole Miss publicly on numerous occasions. Kiffin wasnt unfair to the TV reporter given he in fact did not take the Auburn job, but he was unfair to his team for another song and dance with another school. His team looked distracted the past two games, and the play-calling and game management were poor. Bridges were burned in Oxford with both the fade from 7-0 to 8-4 and the heavy flirtation with Auburn. The flirting days must be over. If Kiffin considers another job in the future, which he will, he has to take it. He used up all of his capital from two successful seasons in the last two weeks, and while the relationship with Ole Miss will continue and should benefit both parties, it has become more transactional rather than personal.

-Props to Mike Leach, who has now gone 8-8 in SEC play and 6-6 in the SEC West in the past two seasons at Mississippi State. He has by far the toughest job in the division, and his team has played .500 football. Messy situations at Auburn and Texas A&M have certainly helped, with the Bulldogs going 4-0 against the Tigers and Aggies, but those are their problems, not Mississippi States. Mississippi State has never played in the Citrus Bowl, but LSUs loss likely prevents the Bulldogs from making their first trip to Orlando.

-South Carolina played spoiler for the second week in a row, using explosive plays and exceptional special teams play to end the nations longest home winning streak with a 31-30 upset of No. 8 Clemson. Quarterback Spencer Rattler wasnt quite the marvel he was against Tennessee last week, but he played an excellent game in guiding a Gamecocks comeback from a 23-14 halftime deficit. At 8-4, Shane Beamers second season at South Carolina is a smashing success. They caught some breaks early in the season, but the past two games have been nothing to do with luck and everything to do with the Gamecocks playing like a top-10 team.

-A long, eventful, sloppy and emotional Friday night contest in Tallahassee went to No. 16 Florida State, which used a 17-0 second-half run and a late touchdown run from Tra Benson to hold off rival Florida, 45-38. It was a strange night for Gators quarterback Anthony Richardson, who did not complete a pass in the third quarter, finishing just 9-of-27, but the nine completions went for an average of 22 yards. The Gators run game impressed, churning out 262 yards on a solid Seminoles front. Tackling was a mess for Florida, which couldnt contain elusive Seminoles quarterback Jordan Travis in the pocket for most of the night. At 6-6, 2022 is definitely a disappointment in Billy Napiers first season in Gainesville, but the only real dud of a game came last week at Vanderbilt. The offense looks closer than the defense going forward. More talent at receiver is needed. The defense is severely undermanned though, and Florida will have to hit the transfer portal hard if it hopes to elevate its record in 2023.

-The Battle Line Rivalry was another fun game, as it usually is when Arkansas and Missouri meet in Columbia. The strength-on-strength battle between the Razorbacks running game and the Tigers defensive front went to Missouri, which limited Rocket Sanders to 47 yards and quarterback K.J. Jefferson to 38 yards in its 29-27 win to become bowl-eligible at 6-6. Needing a big game heading into the offseason, Missouri quarterback Brady Cook delivered, completing 16-of-26 passes for 242 yards and no turnovers, while running for 138 yards. The Tigers dominated the stat sheet, outgaining the Hogs by nearly 150 yards. Missouri was close all year, with four of their six defeats coming down to the final minute, so its well-deserving of a bowl bid that both Cook and head coach Eli Drinkwitz desperately needed. Arkansas finished a disappointing 6-6 and awaits its bowl destination, likely Houston, Las Vegas or Memphis.

-No. 1 Georgias offense struggled again, but the defense kept Georgia Tech off of the scoreboard after an opening-drive touchdown until the final minute in the Bulldogs 37-14 win in Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate. Georgia might be the best team in the country, and it might ultimately win the national title, but this is far from a dominant team in comparison to the past three national champions. Georgia is safe for the College Football Playoff regardless of how next weeks SEC Championship Game goes, but it will be interesting to see if the Bulldogs raise their level of play like they did against then-No. 1 Tennessee earlier this month.

-I should stop doubting Kentucky against Louisville, as the Wildcats have now won five of six against the Cardinals after their 26-13 home win on Saturday afternoon. Three Louisville turnovers were the difference in the game, with Kentucky managing just 345 yards of offense. The 7-5 Wildcats failed to meet expectations this season, but they always show up against their in-state rival.

-Alabama never was challenged in the Iron Bowl after falling behind 7-0 and quickly responding, but the No. 7 Crimson Tide again failed to put a complete game together in their 49-27 win over Auburn. Bryce Young was tremendous again in his final game in Bryant-Denny Stadium, and he deserves a return trip to New York next month as a Heisman Trophy finalist. The running game was just OK, and allowing 27 points to a vertically-challenged Tigers offense is a disappointment. Despite the rollercoaster of a season, the Crimson Tide remain in College Football Playoff contention at least until Tuesday nights rankings.

-As of this writing, Auburn does not have a head coach. Not shockingly, there appears to be too many cooks in the Auburn kitchen again. Was there pushback against Hugh Freezes past as things got close to the finish line? Is James Franklin a real candidate? Theyre not actually going to hire Cadillac Williams, are they? Never a dull moment on The Plains.

-Tennessee had zero letdown after last weeks debacle at South Carolina, piling up 513 yards behind backup quarterback Joe Milton in its 56-0 win at Vanderbilt. It was a bit of a sloppy game, with the teams combining to go just 3-of-24 on third downs on a rainy night in Nashville, but Tennessees defense atoned for allowing nine touchdowns a week ago with the teams first shutout against an FBS opponent since 2018.

-11 SEC teams are bowl-eligible 3 Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, LSU, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Missouri, South Carolina and Tennessee. With LSU losing to Texas A&M, only three SEC teams should get to New Years Six bowls, unless the Tigers upset Georgia. The most likely scenario has Georgia in the College Football Playoff, Alabama in the Sugar Bowl and Tennessee in the Orange Bowl, but the Tide and Vols could shift to the Orange and Cotton respectively if LSU shocks Georgia to claim the leagues Sugar Bowl bid. The league will fill its primary tie-ins with the Citrus Bowl, plus the evenly-weighted group of six of the Gator, Las Vegas, Liberty, Music City, ReliaQuest (formerly Outback) and Texas Bowls. The Birmingham Bowl is now likely to get a much-desired SEC team unless LSU upsets Georgia.

A stab at the slotting the bowls: Citrus 3 LSU; Gator 3 South Carolina; Las Vegas 3 Missouri; Liberty 3 Arkansas, Music City 3 Kentucky; ReliaQuest 3 Mississippi State; Texas 3 Ole Miss; Birmingham 3 Florida

-As for the College Football Playoff, the key rankings this week will be Nos. 5-7 between Alabama, Ohio State and Tennessee. I think Tennessee having two blowout losses as well as already being behind Alabama going into the week gives the Crimson Tide the edge over the Vols despite Tennessees 52-49 head-to-head win. At that point, the committee must decide whether one 22-point home loss for the Buckeyes is worse than two last-play road losses for Alabama. Each teams collections of wins is pretty similar, as I weight Ohio States top three victories (Penn State, Notre Dame, Iowa) about the same as Alabamas (Texas, Mississippi State, Ole Miss). Next weekend wont change anything, so what happens Tuesday is going to stand, and if USC loses to Utah on Friday night, this weeks No. 5 team may very well be going to the playoff.

Non-SEC Results that Surprised Me

1. New Mexico State 49, Liberty 14

2. Akron 44, Northern Illinois 12

3. Tulsa 37, Houston 30

4. (3) Michigan 45, (2) Ohio State 23

5. Nebraska 24, Iowa 17

Matts Top 25

1. Georgia

2. Michigan

3. TCU

4. USC

5. Ohio State

6. Alabama

7. Tennessee

8. Washington

9. Penn State

10. Kansas State

11. Clemson

12. Florida State

13. LSU

14. Oregon

15. Utah

16. Tulane

17. Oregon State

18. UCLA

19. Troy

20. Texas

21. South Carolina

22. Notre Dame

23. Mississippi State

24. South Alabama

25. N.C. State

Championship Weekend Order of Preference

1. Big 12 Championship Game: No. 13 Kansas State vs. No. 3 TCU, Noon ET (ABC)

2. Pac-12 Championship Game: No. 12 Utah vs. No. 4 USC, Friday, 8 p.m. ET (FOX)

3. SEC Championship Game: No. 11 LSU vs No. 1 Georgia, 4 p.m. ET (CBS)

4. American Championship Game: No. 22 UCF at No. 18 Tulane, 4 p.m. ET (ABC)

5. ACC Championship Game: No. 10 Clemson vs. No. 24 North Carolina, 8 p.m. ET (ABC)

6. Big Ten Championship Game: Purdue vs. No. 2 Michigan, 8 p.m. ET (FOX)

7. Mountain West Championship Game: Fresno State at Boise State, 4 p.m. ET (FOX)

8. Conference USA Championship Game: North Texas at No. 23 UTSA, Friday, 8 p.m. ET (CBSSN)

9. MAC Championship Game: Toledo vs Ohio, Noon ET (ESPN)

10. Sun Belt Championship Game: Coastal Carolina at Troy, 3:30 p.m. ET (ESPN)

Christian Goeckel – Christian is the Content Director for

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