Top-ranked Alabama shipped off to Baton Rouge for arguably the biggest challenge on its schedule. And in a classic, low-scoring game between SEC powers, we learned a freshman was the backbone to the Crimson Tide.
Here’s a rundown of what we learned about every conference team in Week 10.
(Teams are listed by College Football Playoff ranking, then alphabetically.)
No. 1 Alabama
The stage isn’t too big for Jalen Hurts. Against his biggest test under the brightest lights of the week, Hurts showed poise and delivered in a 10-0 win over LSU. He passed for 107 yards, rushed for 114 and scored the game’s only touchdown in the fourth quarter. Though we’ve seen championship-level QB play from a freshman in the recent past with Jameis Winston, it’s a new and welcome sight for the Tide.
No. 4 Texas A&M
The Aggies didn’t belong in the playoff after all. The selection committee has serious egg on its face after Texas A&M bombed in a 35-28 loss to unranked Mississippi State. Trevor Knight left the game in the second quarter with a shoulder injury, and the offense couldn’t adjust without the fifth-year senior. The Aggies converted just 4 of 15 third downs and controlled possession for less than 23 minutes.
No. 9 Auburn
Time to prep for Alabama. Vanderbilt gave the Tigers a scare Saturday, but Gus Malzahn’s boys pulled off a 23-16 win with an impressive second half. Next week against Georgia shouldn’t be too tough, and Alabama A&M is the true definition of a cupcake. Auburn needs to focus on getting healthy (Kamryn Pettway, Sean White) in hopes of making a major statement in the Iron Bowl on Nov. 26.
No. 11 Florida
The offense has to be fixed. The Gators defense finally looked vulnerable, but QB Luke Del Rio was ineffective and the team rushed for just 12 yards the entire day against Arkansas. Jim McElwain must find a way for the offense to do its part. To this point, the Gators are 6-2 in spite of it..
No. 13 LSU
Ed Orgeron won’t get this job. A win over Alabama would have given him a serious leg up on the competition, but the LSU defense sputtered and Orgeron exhibited poor clock management in the second half. It was a steep test for the veteran coach, but without this win, it’s hard to imagine LSU not trying to make a splash with a high-profile hire in a couple of months.
The Razorbacks are in the wrong division at the wrong time. Arkansas manhandled Florida, the team expected to represent the East Division in the SEC championship game. Unfortunately for Bret Bielema, Austin Allen and the rest of the Razorbacks, they have to battle Alabama, Auburn and Texas A&M each season. Those three teams, the only ones to beat Arkansas this season, were ranked in the top 10 in the first set of College Football Playoff rankings.
Nick Chubb and Sony Michel haven’t forgotten how to run. The duo had just 21 combined yards in a loss to Florida two weeks ago, but erupted for 212 combined yards on 40 carries in a 27-24 win over Kentucky. The Bulldogs need more of that from their two biggest playmakers.
Getting the Wildcats to a bowl won’t be as easy as we thought. Georgia came into Lexington on a downswing but managed to edge Kentucky. Still at five wins, a game against Austin Peay in two weeks seems to be Kentucky’s best shot for a sixth win, as road games at Tennessee and Louisville still await.
Nick Fitzgerald is a star in the making. With or without Trevor Knight in the game for Texas A&M, the sophomore was the best player on the field. He threw for 209 yards, rushed for 182 and accounted 4 touchdowns in the Bulldogs’ upset win over the Aggies. At 6-5, 230 pounds, Fitzgerald is big, fast and has given MSU fans hope for the future.
The Tigers can’t afford turnovers. Drew Lock threw for 302 yards and the running game accounted for 163, but 3 turnovers killed the Tigers in a 31-21 loss to South Carolina. They also had possession for just under 24 minutes. The Missouri defense is incapable of stopping anyone, so the offense has to keep the ball in order to win.
It’s time to play for pride. The Rebels’ defense looked miserable early in a 37-27 win over Georgia Southern. Something finally clicked, and the entire team realized that not playing for a major bowl doesn’t mean the season is over. Ole Miss still needs two wins to become bowl eligible, and that may be tough with Texas A&M, Vanderbilt and Mississippi State left on the schedule. So it’s time to dig deep and finish strong.
If Brandon McIlwain wants to be a college quarterback, he probably should transfer, as it looks like he won’t overtake Jake Bentley any time soon. Bentley completed 22 of 28 pass attempts for 254 yards and 2 scores against Missouri as he led South Carolina to a third straight win. McIlwain also plays baseball for the Gamecocks, so he may stick around Columbia for that, but his football future is bleak if he stays.
Quarterback Josh Dobbs is still capable of being an efficient passer. His performance in a 55-0 beating of Tennessee Tech displayed what Volunteers fans have been waiting on all season. Dobbs completed 12-of-13 passes for 183 yards and 3 touchdowns. Prior to Saturday’s win over the Golden Eagles, Dobbs completed more than 60 percent of his passes in just two games this season.
Zach Cunningham is the reason to watch the Commodores. The junior had a 19-tackle game earlier this season in a win over Georgia, and on Saturday he earned a signature highlight with a field-goal block against Auburn, where he hurdled the offensive line. Don’t be surprised to see Cunningham make an impact in the NFL in the near future.