SEC Football: What We Learned During Week 6
Can you believe it? Week 6 is already in the books, and with it came a little more clarity on just how the division title races are going to shake out.
Georgia went on the road and escaped Knoxville with a win, despite the loss of several contributors due to injury. Auburn outlasted Ole Miss in a nail-biter on the Plains to keep up in the SEC West, while Missouri kept its place in the ranks of the undefeated teams with a solid win at Vanderbilt.
What did we learn this week in the SEC?
Georgia Is Must-See TV
Georgia has an offense that rivals any in the country. With quarterback Aaron Murray at the helm and a talented yet suddenly injury-depleted wide receiving and running back corps, the Bulldogs have the ability to win any type of game they get into.
The problem is that, with the defense Georgia has, it has to win a lot of shootouts.
Georgia outlasted Tennessee 34-31 in overtime on Saturday on Rocky Top, in a game that featured a second-half charge from the Vols, a two-minute game-tying drive from the Bulldogs and one critical Tennessee fumble in overtime that could have major national title ramifications around the country.
The rash of Georgia injuries certainly played a major part in the wacky second half on Rocky Top, but this is the current state of Georgia football. It has an inconsistent defense, up-and-down special teams play and a dynamic offense that allows the team to be successful even when one or more of the other phases of the game let it down.
Luckily for the Bulldogs, quarterback Aaron Murray added to his sterling resume on Saturday. The senior led a clutch two-minute, game-tying drive at the end of regulation, and set the SEC's career passing yardage record in the second quarter.
Georgia is this year's version of the 2010 Auburn Tigers. Seven of Auburn's 14 wins that year were by seven points or less, with three coming on the final play of the game. Three of Georgia's five games have been decided by three points—Saturday's was decided on the final play of the game, and even the North Texas cake walk turned out to be more of a battle than originally expected.
Mike Davis Is Quietly Making the Case That He's the Best RB in the SEC
No, Jadeveon Clowney didn't play in South Carolina's 35-28 win over Kentucky, but let's ignore that for the purposes of this column. Instead, let's focus on who did play.
Mike Davis was the star of the night, rushing 21 times for 106 yards and two touchdowns for the Gamecocks. It was his fourth 100-yard rushing effort of the season and kept up his streak of scoring at least one touchdown in every game this season.
The 5'9", 219-pounder from Lithonia, Ga., is like a bowling ball in the hole but has deceptive moves in open space, which makes him extremely dangerous in a South Carolina offense that is predicated on the run.
Davis doesn't have the hype attached to him that fellow SEC running backs Todd Gurley, Jeremy Hill and T.J. Yeldon have, but if he keeps this up, that won't last long. Davis is the focal point of this Gamecock offense, and if Georgia stumbles and South Carolina gets back in the thick of the division title race, don't be surprised to see Davis get some SEC Offensive Player of the Year love.
LSU Can Flip a Switch Offensively
Don't be fooled by the 59-26 final score in LSU's win over Mississippi State. This was a dog fight in Starkville that, had it not been for LSU's dynamic offense, could have gone the other way.
Mississippi State held a 23-21 lead late in the second quarter before the Tigers flipped a switch.
Quarterback Zach Mettenberger led his team on a nine-play, 70-yard touchdown drive to close out the half. In the second half, LSU posted touchdown drives of 67, 75, 66 and 26 yards to run and hide from the home-standing Bulldogs. With 340 passing yards, it's the second straight week Mettenberger has topped the 300-yard plateau.
But it wasn't just Mettenberger. Running back Jeremy Hill continued his fine work this season rushing for 157 yards and two touchdowns, and wide receiver Odell Beckham caught nine passes for 179 yards and two touchdowns.
LSU's offense is scary good. Even if the defense lets the Tigers down—which has happened twice in as many weeks—they can overcome the adversity and get the job done. On Saturday, they got the job done in a big way.
Is Missouri for Real?
Don't look now, but the Missouri Tigers have surged to 5-0 and look like they're going to be competitive in the SEC East.
The Tigers went on the road and rolled Vanderbilt 51-28 in a game that wasn't as close as the score indicated. Gary Pinkel's crew jumped out to a 30-7 lead on the heels of a fantastic performance from quarterback James Franklin, who passed for 278 yards and four touchdowns on the night.
But check out the diversity on offense. Franklin, Henry Josey, Russell Hansbrough and Marcus Murphy all rushed for more than 40 yards, and five Tigers had 30 or more yards receiving. Pinkel has weapons, and so far this season, he's getting the ball into the hands of all of them.
Missouri has a tough test next week on the road at Georgia; but if we know anything about Georgia's defense, it's that it's susceptible to the big play. Missouri has proven throughout the season that it's a big-play offense.
Look out, Bulldogs.
Florida's Defense Is Legit
No Dominique Easley? No problem for Florida.
It was strength versus strength on Saturday night in "The Swamp," as Florida's stout rush defense squared off against the dynamic Arkansas rushing attack featuring Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams.
Florida held the Hogs to just 111 rushing yards—just the second time all season they've been held 200 yards on the ground.
Just how tough was it for Arkansas to run against these Gators? Quarterback Brandon Allen threw 41 passes against the best defense in the SEC on the road. I know the game situation dictated Arkansas to air it out more than it planned, but when you're a running team and your run-pass ratio is 29-43, something went terribly wrong.
The Gator defensive line controlled the line of scrimmage, Cody Riggs had a big game with 2.5 tackles for loss and head coach Will Muschamp's crew made it a slugfest in which the Hogs couldn't slug back.
In other words, typical Florida football.
Auburn's Defense Isn't Too Shabby Either
While a lot of the focus in Auburn's 30-22 win over then-No. 24 Ole Miss will be on quarterback Nick Marshall's fine performance on the ground, the Tiger defense deserves a ton of credit.
Carl Lawson, Dee Ford and Gabe Wright each had two sacks for the Tigers, Robenson Therezie had a pick-six and Ryan Smith had a critical interception with the Tigers up five midway through the fourth to preserve the lead.
The front seven made life miserable for the Rebels all night, notching 14 tackles for loss and disrupting plays early and often, which really limited what Hugh Freeze's hurry-up, no-huddle offense could do.
Auburn's defense isn't the best in the SEC. It's middle-of-the-road at best. But it's getting the job done when it counts, and a talented, deep defensive line rotation is a big reason why. It's a prototypical bend-but-don't-break unit, and it hasn't broken much this season.
Two Hands Optional
Alabama's 45-3 win over Georgia State was a snooze-fest. Actually, no. That's an insult to sleep. It was way more boring than sleep.
But there was one bright spot. Alabama wide receiver DeAndrew White had perhaps the catch of the season, going up over Georgia State cornerback Demarius Matthews for the sick one-handed grab.
Yes, it was Georgia State, but give credit where credit's due. Making a catch like that takes a ton of talent, and White showed on Saturday afternoon at Bryant-Denny Stadium, that he has all kinds of talent with 45 receiving yards and this circus catch.
But he wasn't alone in the SEC.
Georgia wide receiver Chris Conley did his best DeAndrew White impression in the first quarter of Georgia's 34-31 overtime win over Tennessee, hauling in a beautiful pass from Aaron Murray with only one hand.
Two hands were apparently optional this week in the SEC.
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