Week 8 SEC report cards: Why hello, Auburn
What a wild Week 8 it was! It left the report card staff working overtime, but who could complain?
Once we picked through a week with some big surprises — and some serious thumpings — the only thing left to do is pass out some grades.
As per our tradition, we’ll give each team a grade and then pick a couple of teams for hall passes (good work) or detention (bad work) on offense, defense, special teams, and coaching.
Give the Gus Bus a new coat of paint and put some custom rims on that sucker. The Tigers sliced through the No. 17 Razorbacks like a knife through some warm butter. The Iron Bowl just got a lot more interesting.
The Tide were rock solid, responding to an early third quarter deficit with a long drive, a defensive score, and a Jalen Hurts highlight reel candidate. It’s a short list of teams that can even challenge Alabama.
This was the Leonard Fournette we’ve all waited to see. Unbelievable that it took until Week 8 to find him, get him healthy, and give him the ball. But Les Miles has made Ed Orgeron look like a football genius.
Texas A&M: C+
It wasn’t a bad effort for the Aggies, as they even led Alabama briefly in the third quarter. That said, they couldn’t really hope to beat the Tide with 278 total yards of offense. Still, second place is nothing to sneeze at in the West.
Mississippi State: C
Massively inconsistent team. When they look good, they look like they belong in the West. When not? Well, they lose to Kentucky.
Ole Miss: C
The Egg Bowl might be 60-59. The Rebels are the most surprising 3-4 team in football, and a season that started in BCS hopes will end in Liberty Bowl hopes.
Arkansas has been one of the season’s most pleasant surprises. Had been. Losing at Auburn is no shame, but getting beat in the ground game 543-25 speaks for itself.
The Wildcats nearly found a way to lose this game from holding a 10-point lead with the ball inside the opponents 10 midway through the fourth quarter. But they didn’t, and by outplaying a team that had beat them seven years in a row, UK went a long way toward punching a bowl ticket.
Struggling against an FCS opponent after upsetting Georgia was a bit odd, but the Commodores pulled it together thanks to 358 yards on the ground. Vandy has made it back to .500, which looked unlikely early in this season.
South Carolina: C
Well, it was a win, which makes the Gamecocks 3-4. But burning Jake Bentley’s redshirt to shift offensive systems and then beating UMass by six was a bit underwhelming, much like the Gamecocks’ season to date.
So you lose a home non-conference matchup that drops you to 2-5 and all but ends your bowl chances? Hard to make lemons out of that lemonade — just like it’s hard to do so with giving up 51 points to MTSU.
Florida, Georgia, Tennessee: Incomplete.
The East went 3-1 with the big dogs all skipping school this week. Scheduling had something to do with that. But at least the division got that long-awaited victory over the West.
Auburn: When you run for 9.5 yards per carry against a ranked opponent, they might put your picture on the Hall Pass.
Kentucky: 554 yards of total offense and a flawless one-minute drive to win the game. This might have been more surprising than Auburn’s huge day.
Arkansas: The Razorbacks had been one of the most consistent offenses in the league, but their ground game was stifled and they were dominated. Three points won’t do it, this week or pretty much ever.
Texas A&M: Sure, the Tide had a lot to do with this. But the defense basically did its job in confounding Bama enough to give the Aggies a shot at an upset. The offense, with a sub-300 yard day, didn’t hold up its end of the bargain.
Alabama: Holding the explosive A&M ground game to 3.0 yards per carry? The passing game to just 5.3 yards per attempt? Adding a game-breaking scoop-and-score TD? That’s Bama.
Auburn: Holding Arkansas to a field goal? Less than one yard per carry? Plus-2 on turnovers? That was Auburn this week — and Iron Bowl tickets just got a lot more expensive.
Missouri: Sure, MTSU is a solid offensive team. But allowing them to run for 300 yards and pass for 284 more? This was a team that Vandy handled easily on their field.
Mississippi State: Allowing 554 yards to a Kentucky team run by their backup QB is the sort of thing that should get you some sessions of writing sentences on the blackboard.
Kentucky: Austin MacGinnis dialed long distance on a 51-yard field goal at the horn and got the ‘Cats a hall pass.
Vanderbilt: It didn’t hurt the Commodores, but they went through a missed field goal, some short punts, and nothing special in the return game. Vandy can’t afford to be at a net disadvantage in special teams.
Auburn: From looking offensively hopeless to dominating the No. 17 team in the country, it’s been quite a season of improvement for Gus Malzahn.
Kentucky: From looking headed to the bread lines to possibly a bowl game, it’s similarly been a big time for Mark Stoops.
Ole Miss: A lot of it is injuries, a lot of it is playing in the best division in football. But 3-4 is unacceptable for a team that a longtime SEC assistant told me Saturday night “might have the best players in the league.”
Missouri: Barry Odom has plenty of slack as a new coach. But a second straight bowl-less season in Columbia won’t help his long-term future.