South Carolina QB Connor Shaw
Week 9 didn't produce a laundry list of upsets like its predecessor, but one crazy night in Columbia, Mo., shook up the entire SEC East.
South Carolina dug itself out of a 17-point fourth-quarter hole on the road in what was essentially a must-win game to push its game with previously undefeated Missouri into overtime and eventually topple the Tigers 27-24 in double overtime.
What did we learn from that late-night thriller and the rest of the SEC games on Saturday?
Even out of the Bullpen, Connor Shaw Is a Boss
Shaw has posted a very impressive 22-5 record as a starting quarterback in the SEC, and he's now 1-0 out of the bullpen in 2013.
Shaw entered the game Saturday night late in the third quarter with his team down 17 points to a Missouri team that, at the time, boasted a two-game lead on the Gamecocks in the SEC East standings. All he did was complete 20 of 29 passes for 201 yards and three touchdowns to lead his team to the huge double-overtime win over the Tigers.
A lot of the focus will be on Missouri kicker Andrew Baggett's missed field goal that ended the game. Don't be fooled. Shaw is the reason South Carolina won this game.
"To come in here, on the road in a night game against a team that's undefeated and No. 5 in the country, coming off a loss and battle ourselves back in the second half, I'm just extremely proud," Shaw said in quotes released by the university. "We have the momentum going in and the next four weeks at home."
He's not going to put up Heisman numbers like Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, but Shaw made a case on Saturday night that he's the toughest, most valuable player in the conference. Shaw has been a major part of South Carolina's most prosperous era as a program, and his heroics on Saturday night thrust his team right back in the thick of the SEC East race.
Missouri Isn't Ready for the Big Stage
All seemed right in Missouri's world midway through the third quarter on Saturday night, when head coach Gary Pinkel's crew built a 17-0 lead and appeared to be well on its way to keeping its dream season alive.
Then the Tigers got tight—really tight.
Pinkel went into a play-calling shell in the second half that would make former Auburn head coach Tommy Tuberville proud and tried to protect a lead rather than extending it, which cost him in a big way.
"You are going to struggle a bit; you have to give them credit," Pinkel said in quotes released by Missouri. "We always want to move the ball a bit better, but we had our struggles today, but we would certainly like to move the ball better."
Part of the reason Missouri was able to topple Florida last week with redshirt freshman Maty Mauk making his first career start was because it didn't lose its identity despite the fresh face taking the snaps. It lost its identity on Saturday night and as a result lost a game and a perfect opportunity to extend its division lead.
All is not lost, because Missouri still controls its own division destiny. But it could have been so much better had the Tigers not lost sight of who they are.
Even Injured, Johnny Manziel Is on a Whole Different Level
Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel injured his shoulder in the fourth quarter of last week's loss to Auburn, and he was clearly favoring that shoulder from the moment he stepped foot on the field on Saturday against Vanderbilt—particularly when he rolled left and had to throw across his body.
It didn't matter.
Manziel completed 25 of 35 passes for 305 yards and four touchdown throws, including 10-of-10 on the opening drive of the game to answer any doubts on whether he was healthy enough to get the job done.
"In my mind I was always going to play," Manziel said in quotes released by Texas A&M. "It would take a lot to keep me off the field and away from these guys. They count on me and they expect me to be there."
Not only do they count on him to be in there, they need him to be in there. The Aggies had their best defensive performance of the season giving up just 329 total yards, but that is a departure from the norm for this defense.
Manziel simply on a different level than the rest of the stars of the SEC.
Alabama Is Boring...Just the Way Nick Saban Wants It
Alabama jumped out to a 21-0 first-quarter lead on Tennessee, and it might as well have been 51-0 because after the first quarter this game was over.
The Crimson Tide cruised to a 45-10 win over Tennessee in a game where it seemed more like Saban versus the fans rather than Alabama versus Tennessee.
Some of the talk leading up to the rivalry showdown with the Vols was Saban's displeasure with fans who leave blowouts early. The fans apparently listened, because a nearly full Bryant-Denny Stadium stuck around through the final gun to watch their team extend its winning streak over Tennessee to seven straight games.
"I'm really happy, our players are really happy, and I hope our fans are really happy," Saban said in quotes released by the university. "I certainly appreciated our fans today. They stayed for the game and did a great job of supporting our team. It was a great atmosphere for our players to play in."
This is Alabama football. It's predictable, it's boring, and it's remarkably effective—just the way Saban wants it.
Auburn Just Keeps Running and Running and Running
The Tigers amassed 422 yards in a 45-10 win over Florida Atlantic Saturday—Not total yards, but rushing yards.
Four Tigers rushed for 60 or more yards on Saturday night—Cameron Artis-Payne, Corey Grant, Nick Marshall and Tre Mason—to pace Auburn to an easy victory over the Owls. They're now fifth in the nation in rushing offense with 315.38 yards per game and have three players in the top 16 in the SEC in yards per game and yards per attempt.
"We knew coming into the season and this game that the running game was going to be a strength for the team," Artis-Payne said in quotes released by Auburn. "It has been. We have a great offensive line that open holes for us. We are getting better at it every week."
Quarterback Nick Marshall left the game with a shoulder injury, and true freshman Jeremy Johnson played great in his stead. But it's clear that, no matter who's taking the snaps, head coach Gus Malzahn knows he can be dynamic in the running game with the pieces he has in place, regardless of who the quarterback is.