What we learned about every SEC East team in Week 9
An intra-division Saturday helped clarify the SEC East division race. Florida still controls its fate after taking care of Georgia in Jacksonville, and Kentucky is surprisingly right behind the Gators.
Tennessee’s loss at South Carolina has the Vols’ season on the ropes and actually gave the Gamecocks a very slim chance to win the SEC East title.
After another crazy week in the SEC, let’s check out what we learned about the East.
Florida Gators (6-1, 4-1 SEC)
Week 9 result: Defeated Georgia 24-10
What we learned: Florida remained on top of the SEC East with a win against Georgia. As has been the case all year, the Gators’ defense led the way. Florida stifled the Bulldogs’ offense, allowing just 164 total yards, including 21 yards on the ground. Jabari Zuniga and Alex Anzalone generated consistent pressure on quarterback Jacob Eason and never allowed him to get comfortable. Offensively, Florida couldn’t find much room to operate against the Bulldogs’ defense, but it did enough. Luke Del Rio wasn’t spectacular, throwing for 131 yards with a touchdown and an interception, but he received some help from Jordan Scarlett. Shouldering most of the running back load, Scarlett gained 93 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries.
Georgia Bulldogs (4-4, 2-4)
Week 9 result: Lost to Florida 24-10
What we learned: Things aren’t getting any easier for Kirby Smart in his first season as the Bulldogs’ head coach. With an extra week to prepare, Georgia’s offense looked unimaginative and lost for much of the afternoon. Freshman quarterback Jacob Eason performed about as well as anyone could have expected against Florida’s pass rush and secondary, throwing for 143 yards and a touchdown.
Surprisingly, Georgia gave the ball to Nick Chubb only nine times. Chubb gained 20 yards against the Gators, and the Bulldogs netted 21 yards on the ground. Although the offense appears to be a major work in progress, the defense is coming together. Georgia’s run defense continues to be among the best in the country, and they stood firm for most of the game. It’s not an easy loss for the Bulldogs to swallow, and next week’s game against Kentucky suddenly looks a lot harder.
Kentucky Wildcats (5-3, 4-2)
Week 9 result: Defeated Missouri 35-21
What we learned: After a 2-3 start, the Wildcats are in a nice rhythm. Winners of three straight, Kentucky looked impressive while taking a 35-7 lead against Missouri in the fourth quarter. Much of the Wildcats’ success game on the ground, as Benny Snell Jr. and Stanley “Boom” Williams combined for 374 rushing yards and 3 touchdowns. The running game was complimented nicely by quarterback Stephen Johnson, who threw for 208 yards with 2 touchdowns and an interception. It wasn’t a tremendous day for Kentucky’s special teams units, but that seems like a small issue after the impressive road win. The Wildcats are still very much in the SEC East mix and have a chance to achieve a winning record in the SEC for the first time since 1977 next weekend against Georgia.
Missouri Tigers (2-6, 0-4)
Week 9 result: Lost to Kentucky 35-21
What we learned: Despite their best efforts, the Tigers’ have been unable to tighten things up on the defensive side of the ball. Missouri could do very little on the line of scrimmage against Kentucky’s offensive linemen and surrendered 377 rushing yards in Saturday’s loss. Injuries have not made things any easier on the Tigers’ defense, and the absence of linebacker Michael Scherer and defensive tackle Terry Beckner Jr. were noticeable. Missouri’s passing game has also cooled off in recent weeks. Drew Lock threw for 220 yards with 2 touchdowns, but those are pedestrian numbers compared to what he did earlier in the season. At this point, the Tigers would have to win out just to become bowl eligible. With Tennessee and Arkansas remaining on the schedule, that is a tall order.
South Carolina Gamecocks
Week 9 result: Defeated Tennessee 24-21
What we learned: South Carolina earned its first big win of the Will Muschamp era with an impressive home victory against a ranked Tennessee squad. Freshman quarterback Jake Bentley continues to captivate the Gamecocks’ fans and had another strong outing Saturday. Bentley completed 15-of-20 passes for 167 yards and a pair of touchdowns with no interceptions. He was complimented by running back Rico Dowdle, who gained 127 yards and a touchdown on 27 carries. Jamarcus King came up big on defense, intercepting Joshua Dobbs twice, and the defense as a whole did a good job keeping the Vols in check. South Carolina appears to be steadily moving in the right direction.
Week 9 result: Lost to South Carolina 24-21
What we learned: The bye week was supposed to help Tennessee regroup and recover after a grueling four-game stretch. Instead, the Vols came out flat and couldn’t secure a road victory against an improving South Carolina squad. Injuries have certainly affected this team, especially on defense, but that’s part of life in the SEC.
The players who took the field Saturday, though, didn’t play up to their capabilities. Joshua Dobbs threw two interceptions and lost a fumble. John Kelly was the team’s leading rushing, gaining 94 yards on 14 carries, but Jalen Hurd mustered just 16 yards and a 1-yard score on 8 carries. One real moment of excitement came via Evan Berry’s 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the third quarter. That was Berry’s first this season. This loss puts Tennessee’s division hopes on life support.
Week 9 result: DNP
What we learned: Vanderbilt enjoyed a week off after winning two straight, including a 17-16 victory over Georgia in Athens. The Commodores will get back into the action with a trip to Auburn on Saturday.