Tennessee stole the headlines Saturday by displaying rare perseverance to overcome a 21-0 deficit against Florida and snap an 11-game losing streak to the Volunteers’ hated rival.
But across the conference teams gave us a deeper glimpse into their makeup.
Here’s what we learned about every SEC team in Week 4:
(Teams are listed by ranking, then alphabetically.)
No. 1 Alabama
It’s truly a next-man-up mentality with the Crimson Tide. Running back Damien Harris went out early with a sprained ankle, but freshman Joshua Jacobs filled in beautifully with 11 carries for 97 yards and 2 touchdowns in a 48-0 win over Kent State. Wide receivers ArDarius Stewart and Robert Foster also sat out the game, which only opened the door for 12 different Alabama players to record a catch.
No. 10 Texas A&M
Trevor Knight is on his way to legendary status in College Station. The graduate transfer from Oklahoma had an incredible night in a 45-24 win over No. 17 Arkansas with 225 passing yards and 2 touchdowns to go along with 157 rushing yards and 2 touchdowns. He did everything well and even corrected his third-down woes by completing 4 of 6 passes on third down. Next week at South Carolina should be another Knight showcase before things get tough with No. 14 Tennessee and then No. 1 Alabama after a bye week.
No. 12 Georgia
Jacob Eason needs some help. In a 45-14 road loss to No. 23 Ole miss, the freshman quarterback had to throw 36 passes. Only 16 were caught while Georgia receivers routinely dropped well-thrown balls. The Georgia backfield tandem of Nick Chubb and Sony Michel didn’t impress, either, with 123 yards between them. Chubb left the game with a sprained ankle but didn’t look terribly explosive on 12 carries. Freshman Brian Herrien led the team in rushing with 78 yards and two touchdowns on 11 carries. Eason has the skill set to win games, but he’s not at a point where he can do it alone quite yet.
No. 14 Tennessee
When the Vols put it all together they are really, really good. All offseason the talk was about the talent on this roster, but somehow it hadn’t come together … until the second half against Florida. In the 38-28 win, Tennessee scored 35 points in the second have to erase a 21-3 halftime deficit. Josh Dobbs made some nice throws, found running lanes and ultimately the end zone five times against the nation’s best defense. And while the offense rolled, the defense fed off that energy and stifled the Gators. With the Florida monkey off the program’s back, head coach Butch Jones should bottle this momentum and chase that SEC East title.
No. 17 Arkansas
The Razorbacks still need to play some defense. Quarterback Austin Allen took a beating in a loss to Texas A&M, but Arkansas still posted nearly 500 total yards. It was the defense, which allowed 591 yards to the Aggies, that let down Arkansas. Some early-season luck against Louisiana Tech and TCU kept the Razorbacks undefeated, but they can’t count on flukes against good teams. Next week against Alcorn State will be a virtual bye week before Alabama comes to town.
No. 18 LSU
This team just isn’t meant to be ranked, and likely won’t be after an 18-13 loss at Auburn. The LSU defense held Auburn to 6 field goals, but that was somehow enough as the visiting Tigers couldn’t get anything going offensively. Quarterback Danny Etling was merely serviceable with 118 passing yards, and Leonard Fournette had a mediocre day by his standards with 101 yards on 16 carries. If LSU continues to manage just 14 first downs and 59 plays, wins will be tough to achieve.
No. 19 Florida
All good things must come to an end. The Gators couldn’t make it 12 straight wins over Tennessee, but they displayed their top-notch defense (for the first half at least) and should get back on track when quarterback Luke Del Rio returns from injury. Tennessee seemed so demoralized after Florida went into the half up 21-3. Though it’s not acceptable, it’s understandable that Gators came out flat in the second half. They’ll learn from this loss.
No. 23 Ole Miss
Chad Kelly is working his way back into the Heisman conversation. The senior had a classic performance in completing 18 of 24 passes for 282 yards and 2 touchdowns against Georgia. He added 53 rushing yards and a score. He made every throw he needed and made one of the most impressive plays of the young season when he avoided pressure for this 55-yard bomb to DaMarkus Lodge.
— CFBonESPNRadio (@CFBonESPNRadio) September 24, 2016
Gus Malzahn needs to stick with the hat. After ditching the visor, Malzahn and Auburn downed LSU with 6 field goals. The offense still wasn’t much to speak of, but the defense was aces as it held LSU to just 14 first downs. If the magic is in the full head coverage displayed by Malzahn, that hat should never be washed.
The Wildcats have one of the top running back duos in the SEC. Stanley Williams and Benjamin Snell combined for 196 rushing yards and 2 touchdowns on 31 carries in a 17-10 win over South Carolina. That after totaling 317 rushing yards last week against New Mexico. Next week, however, won’t be so easy against Alabama.
Bulldogs coach Dan Mullen talked about how young his team is after edging UMass 47-35, but that’s a good thing. After losing Dak Prescott to the NFL in the offseason, the quarterback position in Starkville was a huge question. That was before sophomore Nick Fitzgerald burst onto the scene. Fitzgerald, at 6-5, 200 pounds, had 299 passing yards and 3 touchdowns against UMass. He also ran for 110 yards. Fitzgerald won’t lead Mississippi State to an SEC title this season, but fans have to be excited about the future with him running the offense.
The Tigers needed this one. After losing a tough one to Georgia a week ago, a 79-0 beating of FCS Delaware State was just what the doctor ordered. Drew Locke completed 26 of 36 pass attempts for 402 yards and tied a school record with 5 touchdown passes — in the first half. Now the uptempo Missouri offense has its work cut out for it with LSU and Florida the next two weeks.
After impressing the previous two games, freshman Brandon McIlwain fell flat against a weak Kentucky defense with just 177 passing yards in a 17-10 loss. Kentucky entered the game ranked No. 121 in the nation in total defense and allowing 528 yards per game, but the McIllwain-led Gamecocks managed just 268. Texas A&M and its ferocious defensive line is up next.
In a 31-30 overtime road win over Western Kentucky, the Vanderbilt defense allowed 501 yards of offense. But Vandy stuck around in large part to 3 turnovers and 88 penalty yards by the home team. So when quarterback Kyle Shurmur had the chance to lead the team to a win, he capitalized by completing 8 of 12 pass attempts for 155 yards and the decisive scores in the fourth quarter and overtime.