SEC Report Card, Week 5: Auburn is the new teacher's pet
SEC Week 5 was fall break for four teams, and might have been an unofficial break for a couple more who didn’t bother showing up (Kentucky, Mississippi State, we’re looking at you). Meanwhile, it was a good week for several others, including Auburn and (yes, we’re saying this) Arkansas.
School’s in session and so is SEC report cards, where we grade every team and point out the best (Honor Roll) and worst (Detention) SEC units on offense, defense, and special teams. Report cards are out.
When you take a 42-9 halftime lead on a division foe, we take notice. Auburn passed for 361 yards, rushed for 217, played excellent defensive (a few garbage-time drives aside), and generally looked the part of a CFP contender.
If we’re picky — OK, we’re picky — the 476 total yards and 31 points allowed weren’t exceptionally impressive. Yes, this game was never in doubt after a second-quarter touchdown barrage. But a Nick Saban team allowing 279 yards rushing still feels a little odd to us.
When you’ve been the worst team in the SEC but take Texas A&M down to the final half-minute as a 23-point underdog, we notice. Even a QB injury couldn’t derail Arkansas, as both Nick Starkel and Ben Hicks made some nice plays. Rakeem Boyd played well and the Razorbacks defense sacked Kellen Mond four times. No, they didn’t win, but this is like the worst student in school turning in a competent assignment.
Yes, the Rebels defense had no shot against at Alabama. But in a game where their starting QB was unavailable, the Rebels cobbled together a refusal to quit early and a potent ground game to score 31 points and look much less awful than we expected. Not a win, but it does help.
Texas A&M: C
Yes, we’re taking the unorthodox step of grading the winning team below the losing team. A&M was about as unimpressive as a team could be its victory over Arkansas. The Aggies were outgained by 55 yards, lost the turnover battle, were outrushed and were hanging on for dear life in the final seconds… against Arkansas.
Mississippi State: F
Yes, Auburn is very, very good. We’re not sure the New England Patriots are as good as State made Auburn look. Auburn’s first-half possessions went like this: Touchdown, touchdown, touchdown, touchdown, touchdown, fumble, touchdown. During the same interval, State responded with nine points.
The Tigers had the week off.
It was kind of a snoozer for the Gators, but beating Towson was a “taking care of business” kind of game complete with shutout and three turnovers forced.
South Carolina: B+
The scoreboard didn’t accurately depict the margin between Kentucky and South Carolina. The Gamecocks focused on the run game and played pretty conservatively once they grabbed a 17-0 lead. Still, Carolina scored on the game’s opening possession and kept going, showing signs of being a quality team throughout this game.
The Commodores scored on the first two possessions of their game, and then held on despite an 18-10 deficit thereafter against Northern Illinois. It was essential that Vandy get the win, and did. But instead of cruising in with an easy victory, the Commodores had to sweat it out in a game in which they were outgained by NIU, which fell to 1-3.
Facing a critical game, Kentucky looked completely lost. A garbage-time scoring drive avoided both a shutout and an offensive effort below 150 total yards. QB Sawyer Smith was either hurt, lost, or hurt and lost. Kentucky’s offense was downright offensive. The bye week comes at a good time for a Kentucky team that looks like a bigger threat to go 3-9 than reach a decent bowl.
At last update, Tennessee was trailing the bye 3-0 in the third quarter.
Putting up 578 total yards and 42 first-half points will get you to the head of the class in a hurry. The Tigers could absolutely do whatever they wanted against State, passing (361 yards) and rushing (217) very well.
Of course. 573 yards and 38 first-half points aren’t exactly chopped liver either. The Tide rushed for just 155, in large part because Tua Tagovailoa and Devonta Smith were filming a season highlight video in the passing game.
With two backup QBs, the Rebels rushed for 279 yards and passed for 197. Yes, many were earned in garbage time, but they were still earned.
Kentucky’s offense was putrid, but the Gamecocks certainly helped the Wildcats look that way. Two turnovers forced, four sacks, eight tackles for loss, and only a garbage-time score preventing a shutout made for a nice game for the Gamecocks defense.
A shutout is a shutout, even against Towson. Four sacks and seven QB hurries are evidence of how much heat Florida generated up front.
Well, the Hogs did hold A&M to 89 rushing yards and 2.7 yards per carry. Isaiah Spiller had seven carries for zero yards.
Yes, a punt block touchdown overshadows another short field goal miss.
On a night with virtually no highlights, punter Max Duffy continued to impress. Nine punts, 51.1 yards per kick, minus1-2 total return yards. Duffy will probably get plenty more chances to impress.
A 51-yard field goal miss aside, the Hogs created a score with kick coverage, made their other kicks and were very solid.
The Wildcats’ best series of the night (and their only score) came with receiver Lynn Bowden playing QB in late fourth-quarter garbage time. South Carolina more than doubled UK in running yards and held the Wildcats to 13 for 34 for 97 yards passing. Just brutal.
Yes, the Commodores won and yes, Ke’shawn Vaughn was great. But after scoring two touchdowns in the game’s first 6:03, they scored just 10 more points in the remaining 53:57. What about Vandy’s first-half possessions after two quick scoring drives? Four punts, with no possession lasting longer than four plays. That won’t work in the SEC.
Averaging 3.1 yards per carry in a game that was over by halftime? How about 50% passing? The Bulldogs offense was clueless in every way on Saturday.
Six first-half touchdown drives by Auburn pretty much tells the story.
We all understand. We didn’t expect anything different. But Devonta Smith had a half year’s stats in the first half of this game.
The Tide played LSU’s role this week as the team that gives up too many yards and too many points, but it didn’t really matter. Some time it might.
A fumbled kick return led to an easy Arkansas score. A&M isn’t good enough to give away touchdowns.
No protection of the punter on Alabama’s blocked punt scoop and score. Ole Miss can’t afford fundamental lapses.
A missed PAT? This isn’t Alabama we’re talking about.