Was it a light week in the SEC? Sure. Only 9 teams were in action, and we had only 4 conference games.

With 5 teams on bye, sure, there were only so many takeaways from Saturday. But there were still plenty of questions heading into the day. Like, was Ole Miss going to look the part of contender or pretender in Death Valley? Was Alabama going to bounce back? Could Vandy somehow win its 1st SEC game of the 2020s?!?

We got answers to all of those questions.

Here’s 1 thing I learned from every SEC team in Week 8:

Alabama — The defense isn’t broken

Hey, when you allow more points in a game than any Alabama team has in the past 115 years, we’re allowed to ask questions. Tennessee torched the Tide secondary, and Will Anderson Jr. was contained up front. Against MSU, though? It was a major bounce-back week. Alabama missed out on a shutout only because of a touchdown in the final 20 seconds in a 30-point game. The secondary was significantly better, with 15 pass breakups on Will Rogers’ 60 attempts, and he was sacked 4 times.

Alabama also avoided those costly penalties on both sides of the ball. A week after getting flagged a record 17 times, the Tide had 3 penalties. That was pivotal because it allowed Alabama to avoid gifting MSU those 3rd-down conversions (the Bulldogs were 7-for-22 in that department). MSU is always the get-right game for Alabama. That’s why the Tide have outscored the Bulldogs 182-22 in the past 5 matchups. Saturday might’ve been an extremely favorable matchup against that scheme, but it was still an important step in Nick Saban’s team moving past Tennessee.

LSU — Jayden Daniels looks like a guy who has turned the corner

Absolutely phenomenal. These past 2 games were everything LSU fans have been waiting for. His decision-making was once again the difference. Not only is Daniels choosing the right times to use his legs, but he’s also throwing catchable balls to his receivers both when they find the soft spot in zone coverage and when they have a step downfield. A week after a 6-touchdown showing against Florida, he went off for 5 scores and 369 total yards against Ole Miss.

Oh, and Daniels targeted Kayshon Boutte a team-high 7 times. That was a week after Boutte had his 1st 100-yard game of the season. Seven LSU receivers had multiple receptions, and nobody had more than 4. We even saw Daniels take a rare risk on a fluttering deep ball in double coverage to Jaray Jenkins, who made the adjustment, hauled it in and waltzed into the end zone. Brian Kelly wanted to see Daniels trust his receivers. Daniels is finally doing that, and LSU is a darn scary team in the final month of the regular season.

Mizzou — There is no ‘get right’ game for this offense (even when Luther Burden III gets touches)

I know. A win is a win. And if we want to focus on the positive, we could say the Mizzou defense is quietly one of the most improved units in the SEC. But Mizzou, at home with 2 weeks to prepare, had to hold on for dear life to win a 17-14 game against a Vandy team that hasn’t won an SEC contest in the 2020s. Yikes. Brady Cook had a horrendous interception, and he didn’t sense front-side pressure on a Vandy strip sack and score.

Mizzou got Burden involved in the 1st half with 5 touches, 2 of which resulted in Mizzou’s lone touchdowns of the day. But in the 2nd half, he didn’t have a touch. The Tigers lacked urgency on the offensive side of the ball. Against the 2nd-worst passing defense in America, Mizzou couldn’t string drives together with the passing game. Yes, it was windy. Still, though. Averaging 16.4 points per game against Power 5 competition won’t cut it. There’s really not much hope that the 2022 version of Mizzou’s offense is even going to flirt with mediocrity.

MSU — This version of the Air Raid isn’t going to work against Saban’s defense

Consider this. This is Year 3 of the Air Raid with Mike Leach. His quarterback, Rogers, is the SEC’s all-time leader in completions. He’s got loads of experience at the skill positions, and the majority of his offensive line returned in 2022. And in the 180th minute of football against Alabama under Leach, MSU finally scored a touchdown. That’s telling. A week after Tennessee went over the top of the Alabama secondary, there was none of that for Rogers. Alabama broke up 15 passes and turned the once-thriving MSU offense into the same group it was in the previous 2 matchups.

That’s a problem, because it limits this program’s ceiling, and it absolutely limits MSU’s upset potential. You won’t catch an Alabama or a Georgia if you can’t show some schematic adjustments. Whether that means giving the quarterback more help in protection with an actual tight end or making a legitimate effort to establish balance in these matchups, Leach has to make adjustments (just for that specific game) if he wants that lopsided result to change anytime soon.

Ole Miss — The injuries were brutal, but we were right to have some concerns amidst the historic start

Let’s acknowledge the injuries, because while I don’t think they would’ve saved Ole Miss in a 25-point game, I do think that did feel significant. Zach Evans being a surprise scratch was news (he wore a knee brace and was apparently available but didn’t play). The Ole Miss defense got a couple of tough breaks by losing both AJ Finley and Troy Brown to injury. It felt like Ole Miss just couldn’t stop the bleeding after a 17-3 start. I don’t think we can pin that all on the injuries.

Jaxson Dart missed throws, and he struggled with LSU’s pressure. He was 8-for-18 for 80 yards in the 2nd half. An Ole Miss ground game that entered as the No. 1 non-service academy was held to a season-worst 116 rushing yards on 3.1 yards per carry. This team isn’t built to overcome that on the road against a quality opponent, which LSU is. That doesn’t mean Ole Miss is a fraud. It just means that we were right to criticize some of the defensive inconsistencies and the passing game decisions. A daunting final month of the season awaits, and it’ll be no small feat to get to 9-10 wins.

South Carolina — Shane Beamer continues to find ways to win games (ugly) and end droughts

Have you noticed that it never seems like South Carolina blows a tight game with self-induced mistakes? Saturday night would’ve been a prime example for that. Despite what the scoreboard said about that early 17-0 lead, South Carolina’s offense was stuck in the mud, and it appeared that A&M was gaining momentum. But what did the Gamecocks do when the game was on the line? They ran the football, and they made necessary defensive stands. They didn’t shoot themselves in the foot with careless penalties. They didn’t let a true freshman quarterback come into the game late and get comfortable. They didn’t have some massive bust in the secondary.

Those are the reasons why Beamer’s teams, even when the non-MarShawn Lloyd elements of the offense are limited and frustrating, can so often find a way to win. Oh, and Beamer Ball, of course. Returning the opening kickoff for the touchdown was arguably the difference in a 6-point game. That’s how you take down A&M for the 1st time ever. It’s also how the Gamecocks earned their longest winning streak in 9 years. Beamer has 5 outright wins as an an underdog in 20 games as a head coach. It’s becoming more obvious than ever that he’s exactly what South Carolina fans hoped he’d be.

Tennessee — No Cedric Tillman, no hangover, no drama

If you were like me, you came into Saturday wondering a few things. We didn’t know officially about the status of Tillman, who was still working his way back from his ankle injury. We weren’t sure if Josh Heupel was going to give him a limited package just to test out his ankle ahead of Kentucky. As it turned out, there was wisely no plan for that.

We also didn’t know if Tennessee would perhaps come out a touch sluggish after the party seen ’round the world. Nope. Hendon Hooker, Jalin Hyatt, Ramel Keyton and new emergency quarterback Princeton Fant had other plans. It was 52-7 in the middle of the 2nd quarter. Hooker didn’t even need to play a full half. The Vols’ offense was unstoppable, and on a day when they were without a half-dozen defenders on the 2-deep, that didn’t matter, either. That was exactly what Heupel could’ve hoped for ahead of a daunting stretch.

Texas A&M — A bye week didn’t fix A&M’s offense, nor did it make Haynes King healthy

I didn’t think that we’d suddenly see A&M put up 50 points at South Carolina. After all, this was the team that entered Saturday having scored 24 points or fewer in each of its past 7 matchups vs. Power 5 competition. It wasn’t a surprise to see King out there, though he walked with a limp in pregame and he was ultimately sidelined late with an apparent shoulder injury. The Aggies actually didn’t play a disastrous game. But when you fall behind 17-0 on the road because of special teams issues and turnovers, that’s not great for anyone, much less a team that has been in desperate search of explosive plays.

Conner Weigman was put in a tough spot to enter the game late, down a touchdown. The 5-star true freshman took his 1st career snaps in place of the injured King. But this goes beyond Jimbo Fisher’s starter at quarterback. Devon Achane still has to work too hard for his yards because of how few guys A&M has who can stretch the field. That’s going to continue to plague the Aggies down the stretch, regardless of who QB1 is.

Vanderbilt — Apparently it’s Mike Wright time again

Wright had been worked back into the lineup after losing his starting job to AJ Swann, but he entered for Swann in the 2nd half after Swann got off to a rough start. Clark Lea said afterward that Swann was injured, but he didn’t go into specifics about what it was. Whatever the case, Wright came in and gave Vandy a chance, though coming back from down 17-0 probably wasn’t in the cards, despite Anfernee Orji’s best efforts to will Vandy back.

It’s unclear what the quarterback room will look like down the stretch, because clearly, Lea wants Wright involved whether Swann is healthy or not. Swann has struggled of late, basically dating back to the 2nd half against Ole Miss. That’s to be expected of a true freshman quarterback. With all due respect to Wright, who handled this situation extremely well, it’d be nice to see Lea let Swann work through some of those struggles … as long as he makes a healthy return.