October in the SEC is a separation month where teams begin to pull away from the rest of the pack. It’s a month where teams hit the middle portion of the season and get into the heart of their SEC schedule. Injuries start to really take a toll, freshmen hit a wall and teams’ depth, or lack thereof, really starts to be exposed.
Here’s a quick recap for the month of October:
5 Best Games
Florida 14, LSU 6, October 6th: LSU jumped out to the early 6-0 lead, but the Gators shut out the Tigers in the second half, scoring 14 unanswered points and beating LSU at their own game: running the football and being physical on defense. It was the first marquee win for the Will Muschamp era. Mike Gillislee carried 34 times for 146 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Gators.
Texas A&M 30, Ole Miss 27, October 6th: Ole Miss boasted a 27-17 lead early in the fourth quarter, but Johnny Manziel architected a see-to-believe comeback, scoring 13 unanswered points behind his 29-yard TD run and his 20-yard TD pass with 1:46 remaining. Hidden in the loss is Ole Miss’ non-conversion on a fourth down attempt late in the fourth quarter that ultimately cost them.
LSU 23, South Carolina 21, October 13th: LSU freshman Jeremy Hill announced himself to the college football world against the Gamecocks with 124 yards rushing and two touchdowns, but the Gamecocks wouldn’t die and scored a touchdown late to cut the lead to two points. However, the Tigers held off the late surge and rebounded from the Florida loss with a win against #3 South Carolina.
Ole Miss 30, Arkansas 27, October 27th: Arkansas jumped out to a 10-0 lead, and the teams traded punches throughout the game, as there were four lead changes. Ultimately, the Rebels went on an eight-play 61-yard drive to set up the game winning 31-yard field goal with :02 left.
South Carolina 38, Tennessee 35, October 27th: This game turned into an old-fashioned shootout, as both quarterbacks had field days. Connor Shaw threw for 356 yards and three touchdowns, while Tyler Bray threw for 368 yards and four touchdowns. Lost in the offensive chaos was Marcus Lattimore’s horrible injury. Ultimately, it was a Jadeveon Clowney forced fumble late in the fourth quarter that sealed the win for the Gamecocks.
Memorable Offensive Individual Performance: Johnny Manziel’s performance against Louisiana Tech will go down in TAMU lore. He accounted for six touchdowns and 576 yards. Manziel threw for 395 yards and three touchdowns while rushing for 181 yards and three touchdowns. His 72-yard run with 2:04 left in the game ultimately sealed the victory for the Aggies in Shreveport.
Memorable Defensive Individual Performance: What Jarvis Jones did against Florida should be illegal. In the season’s biggest rivalry, Jones went out and had another brilliant defensive game. He totaled 13 tackles, two forced fumbles and three sacks, including the forced fumble near the goal line of Florida TE Jordan Reed that will go down in Florida-Georgia infamy. He and Clowney are the two best defensive players in the country.
O for October: The biggest losers of October were definitely the ‘O for October’ teams. Auburn, Tennessee and Kentucky all went O’fer in the month. You wonder why Gene Chizik, Derek Dooley and Joker Phillips are all on the hot seat? October features the meat of the SEC schedule, and these three teams melted down during the month and went winless. All three were already on hot seat, and it’s likely we see all three replaced after this season. Auburn and Kentucky combined to be outscored 283-116, and Tennessee was outscored 123-79 in three games.
The biggest takeaway from October was the evolution of the Alabama offense. October 6th marked the bye week for Alabama, and we knew the Tide had improvements to make on offense. It had everything to do with the running game. Before the break, the Tide were averaging 185 yards rushing, and they needed more production from the likes of Eddie Lacy and TJ Yeldon. The Tide tweaked the running game to attack the edge of the defense more. In the last three games, Alabama has rushed for 774 yards against Missouri, Tennessee and Mississippi State, averaging 258 yards per game. That’s production! Not only is the running game kicking on all cylinders, but the passing game with McCarron has really evolved because of receivers Amari Cooper and Kenny Bell’s emergence as downfield threats. Cooper is the best receiver the Tide has suited up since Julio Jones, and Bell is a legitimate deep threat who burned arguably the best corner in the league last week in Johnthan Banks. The story of the Tide for 2012 is all about the evolution of the offense and the transformation of AJ McCarron from a game manager into an impact playmaker.