SEC Report Cards, Week 9: Gold stars for LSU, Kentucky?, TENNESSEE??
LSU looked legitimate, Tennessee and Kentucky were both surprising and several of the mid-tier teams of the SEC looked like they mailed it in. But at our weekly SEC report cards, we never mail it in. We do what we do — grade each team in the SEC, then single out the league’s best and worst units in offense, defense, and special teams. October may be ending, the league schedule has hit the middle, but school is in, and report cards are out.
The good news: The Tigers won, they had 508 yards, and they outgained a top-10 team by 221 yards. The bad news was they won by a mere field goal and committed a dozen penalties. If the Tigers can fine-tune the fine details, they’ll be in great shape. If not, Alabama will take hold.
The only knock on the Crimson Tide was the subpar quality of competition they faced, but this was a conference game, so we can’t use it as a referendum on weak non-conference foes. Mac Jones was more than adequate and so was this win.
Texas A&M: B+
Solid work by the Aggies, although the late-game stuff was more than a touch sloppy. A&M ran and passed for more than 200 yards and we love balance. We don’t necessarily love giving up a bunch of late points.
The defense would probably get an A-, because the Tigers held LSU to 23 points. But the offense, well, they’ll be in detention. The ground game wasn’t awful, going for 3.9 yards per carry, but the passing game was horrific.
Mississippi State: C-
Joe Moorhead’s thing was offense, but at this point, that’s showing up only late in blowouts like this loss. State’s defense was overwhelmed by A&M, and the Aggie ground attack had previously been pretty pedestrian. Not this week, as they racked up 207 rushing yards on State.
Not even a faintly competitive effort by the Razorbacks. Alabama, without Tua Tagovailoa, could pick its poison on offense, and had no problems on defense. Honestly, this game wasn’t as close as the score would indicate — and the score indicates a blowout.
Lynn Bowden runs for over 200 yards, Kentucky picks up a three-score win and shuts down the Missouri offense. Granted, it’s a little less surprising after the Tigers’ collapse in Nashville the previous week, but this might be more impressive coaching than what Mark Stoops did in 2018.
Who would have expected the Vols to be the bounce-back team of the year? Apparently, not South Carolina. The Gamecocks had a three-point halftime lead in Knoxville but then got absolutely blasted by Tennessee, which had more than 300 passing yards.
South Carolina: D-
Unlike Missouri or Arkansas, South Carolina at least played a decent half in Knoxville. But that 24-0 second half shellacking will probably end up defining the Gamecocks season as much or more than their upset win in Athens. Carolina was 4 for 18 on third down in this game?!?
It’s one thing for Vanderbilt to sneak past you in Nashville. It’s another to get torn up in Lexington by a team without a quarterback. For the second straight game, the Tigers played without any sense of purpose or identity. Do they even care if they ever get bowl eligibility?
Florida, Georgia, Vanderbilt: Incomplete
All off this week, and back at it next week.
After their wealth of quarterback troubles for the season, the Vols turned over a new leaf against South Carolina. Tennessee’s passing game went for well over 300 yards, and the Vols owned the second half 24-0.
Kellen Mond was very sharp against Mississippi State, and the Aggie ground attack was rolling in the second half. A&M will need this kind of production down the SEC stretch.
It wasn’t always as pretty with Mac Jones under center as it is with Tua Tagovailoa, but the Tide put up 41 first-half points and imposed their will on the Arkansas defense. One wonders how much more they can do with Tua.
With the exception of one busted screen pass, the Kentucky defense shut down Missouri completely. Despite playing in support of a very limited offense, Kentucky just held Georgia and Missouri to under 300 yards in back-to-back games.
Granted, the Tigers allowed over 500 yards and didn’t win the game, but they held the dominant LSU offense to 23 points and gave their own offense a puncher’s chance at the upset.
Sure, it was Arkansas. But any time the defense scores as many points as the opposing offense, that qualifies for the honor roll.
Marquez Callaway’s punt return score opened the door for a Volunteer explosion in the remainder of this game, and a blocked punt score sealed the deal. Good work by Brent Cimaglia in the kicking game as well.
Nice kicking and punting, a couple of good returns and good punt coverage all nearly helped the Tigers steal a win.
Hey, the Tide made their kicks.
Admittedly, this game was played in a monsoon. However, Kelly Bryant never got on track and Kentucky stifled the ground attack. This was a second consecutive embarrassing effort.
While the Razorbacks were certainly outmatched against Alabama, their failure to execute in either the passing or running game guaranteed a long night. For that matter, it has guaranteed a long season.
The Tigers got a very solid effort from their defense (see above), but Bo Nix simply could not move the ball with any consistency. As Nix goes, so go the Tigers.
While the Bulldogs’ offensive struggles are disappointing, their inability to stop even a mediocre offense is bewildering. Guess they don’t play defense in the Big Ten, Joe Moorhead.
How the Gamecocks could completely clamp down on Georgia’s passing game but then get crushed by Tennessee’s is a mystery. Jarrett Guarantano should buy the Gamecocks’ back seven a nice meal after Saturday’s pitiful second half.
Giving up 29 points in an SEC game doesn’t sound very bad. That said, allowing a single-player-season-high SEC rushing total to a converted wide receiver playing quarterback in his fourth game ever at the position is really something.
We’re thinking of a critical fumbled punt and a missed extra point, which typified a sloppy effort by the Tigers.
Former UK kicker Austin McGinnis missed two extra points in three years. Walk-on Matt Ruffolo missed two in the first half against Missouri. At least the punting was excellent.
A punt returned for a touchdown and a blocked punt returned for a touchdown? Yikes.