Saturday we learned, among other things, that Will Muschamp is Tennessee’s kryptonite and Kentucky is, somehow, one of the better teams in the conference.
Here’s a recap of what we learned about every SEC team that took the field in Week 9.
(Teams are listed by ranking, then alphabetically.)
No. 9 Texas A&M
The Aggies still have a shot at a major bowl and even the College Football Playoff this season, but they also flashed some young talent in a 52-10 win over New Mexico State that shows they should be interesting again next season.
Jake Hubenak, a junior, spelled Trevor Knight for a handful of plays and completed 7 of 10 pass attempts for 78 yards and a score as 12 different players caught a pass. In the run game, freshman Kendall Bussey led the team with 10 carries for 87 yards. And of course, there’s Christian Kirk, the sophomore that returned two punts for touchdowns and added another as a receiver.
So while Knight and defensive leader Myles Garrett are both gone after this season, the future is in good hands in College Station.
No. 14 Florida
Luke Del Rio can manage games but not dictate them. The transfer completed 15 of 25 passes for 131 yards, 1 touchdown and 1 interception in a 24-10 win over Georgia. Those numbers aren’t terribly impressive, but as coach Jim McElwain pointed out after the game: “And did we win? OK, good. All right. Just want to make sure. I mean … unbelievable.” Luckily with a dominant defense, Del Rio won’t have to do too much to get Florida back to the SEC championship game.
No. 15 Auburn
If you don’t already, it’s time to believe in the Tigers. They’ve shown they can blow out conference competition, and in a 40-29 win over Ole Miss, they showed they can win tight, back-and-forth games on the road. There were 10 lead changes in the game and Auburn trailed after three quarters. But behind the thick legs of Kamryn Pettway and right arm of Sean White, the Tigers outscored the Rebels 13-0 in the final quarter. Auburn should win its next three (Vanderbilt, Georgia, Alabama A&M) before finishing the season at Alabama.
No. 18 Tennessee
Tennessee can’t solve Will Muschamp. The South Carolina coach is now 5-0 against the Volunteers as a head coach after a 24-21 win. Tennessee quarterback Josh Dobbs struggled, completing 12 of 26 passes with 2 interceptions, while Jalen Hurd, who Butch Jones touted as one of the best running backs in the country earlier in the week, had 8 carries for a measly 16 yards. Nothing worked for Tennessee against Muschamp’s defense.
Jacob Eason needs to stop playing like a freshman. Opposing defenses are selling out on the run against the Bulldogs, and Eason hasn’t taken advantage. Georgia managed just 21 rushing yards on 19 carries in a 24-10 loss to Florida, and that’s with Nick Chubb and Sony Michel in the backfield. Eason, in turn, completed just 15 of 33 passes for 143 yards and one touchdown.
The Gators’ secondary certainly isn’t kind to quarterbacks, but the freshman stud has completed fewer than 60 percent of his passes in five of eight games this season. Eason eventually will be something special, but it may need to happen sooner for Georgia to win games.
The Wildcats are more than just dangerous, they’re actually pretty good. After a rough start to the season, Mark Stoops is off the hot seat as Kentucky has impressed in three consecutive wins. In a 35-21 win over Missouri, the Wildcats were potent offensively with 582 total yards, while the defense held Missouri’s attack well under its season average with 386 total yards. With continued impressive play and some help, Kentucky could find itself in the SEC championship game as the East Division representative.
Dan Mullen and the Bulldogs got the win over Samford 56-41, but they allowed an FCS team 627 total yards of offense. Not to take anything away from a nice Samford program, but the talent at an SEC team should not have such a hard time with a program practically paid to lose. Nick Fitzgerald’s 7 total touchdowns were impressive, but fans have to be concerned with the team’s defense.
Whatever Barry Odom wants to do with the Tigers isn’t working. The Missouri defense allowed Kentucky to have two guys rush for more than 180 yards, and the uptempo offense sputtered to just 386 total yards. The Tigers have lost four straight after a 2-2 start and may not have another win on its schedule (games remain against South Carolina, Vanderbilt, Tennessee and Arkansas remain). It’s time to start preaching patience.
The Rebels may not get into a bowl. Saturday’s loss to Auburn dropped Ole Miss to 3-5. Ole Miss needs to win three of its final four games to qualify for a postseason game. Assuming the likelihood of a road loss at Texas A&M, the Rebels would have to win their other three remaining games against Georgia Southern, Vanderbilt and Mississippi State. The season is already a major disappointment, but no bowl wold be embarrassing for the Hotty Toddy faithful.
Muschamp’s first season in Columbia just might exceed expectations. With his first big win as Gamecocks coach under his belt, two more wins will make South Carolina bowl-eligible. After a 2-4 start, freshman quarterback Jake Bentley has led South Carolina to back-to-back wins and given fans plenty to be excited about for the remainder of this season and next. With Missouri and Western Carolina left on the schedule, a bowl game for Muschamp and Bentley is within reach.