What we learned about each SEC West team in Week 10
Upset Saturday claimed two victims.
But not Alabama.
The top-ranked Tide won another defensive slugfest with LSU, 10-0, avoiding the fate that met Texas A&M in a shocking 35-28 loss to Mississippi State and what happened to Florida in a head-scratching 31-10 loss at Arkansas.
Not only is Alabama the last unbeaten team, now there are no other one-loss teams in the SEC.
And the last big hurdle ahead for Alabama? Auburn in the Iron Bowl.
Alabama: The Crimson Tide didn’t need huge offense to beat down LSU again, 10-0. Alabama’s defense usually saves its best performances for LSU, and this year was no exception. It comes down to the same thing as what’s been the case in recent years: LSU’s offense is premised on domination at the line of scrimmage by the offensive line, and just the opposite happens when LSU tries to push Alabama around.
For the second year in a row, the Crimson Tide front seven pushed the LSU line back into its own backfield more often than not, and as a result, Leonard Fournette and the Tigers running game was again stuck in neutral with Fournette managing just 35 yards on 17 carries. That kind of defense is the stuff championships are made of.
Arkansas: What’s the old saying? You’re neither as bad as your worst moments or as good as your best moments? That’s certainly the case for Arkansas, which followed its low moment, an embarrassing 56-3 loss to Auburn, with Saturday’s resounding 31-10 upset of No. 11 Florida at home. And while maybe the biggest takeaway is that Florida is not as good as we thought, one had to notice Arkansas’ physicality improving by leaps and bounds.
The Razorbacks rushed for 223 yards led by 148 by Rawleigh Williams, and Florida managed just 12 yards rushing on 14 carries (and the Gators weren’t effective throwing either). Is 6-3 Arkansas that much better than the nation’s No. 11 team? Probably not, and maybe Florida shouldn’t be anywhere within sniffing distance of the top 10. But Arkansas is clearly much better than 53 points worse than Auburn.
Auburn: The biggest takeway here is Sean White is the guy for the Tigers. After putting up big numbers in recent games with White at quarterback, injuries forced the Tigers to go to backup John Franklin to start in their 23-16 win at Vanderbilt. And the Tigers struggled to a 13-10 halftime deficit before White came off the bench to complete 10-of-13 passes for 106 yards in the second half, good enough to lead the Tigers to the win.
White, the SEC’s leader in pass efficiency, was his efficient self in the second half. Remember the three-quarterback rotation in the season opener? Boy does that seem like forever ago now that the Tigers have a guy that Vanderbilt showed them they absolutely need.
LSU: The Tigers still have an elite defense, and Alabama will attest to it after the 10-0 defensive slugfest won by Alabama. But for the Tigers, the question regarding the next coach is can they find an offense to match the defense? LSU has its moments on offense and can even look spectacular, but against Alabama every year, the Tigers get their strength taken away — the physical running game — and simply have no answer.
If Ed Orgeron gets the job eventually, he may have to make a splash with an offensive coordinator hire. If the administration goes another direction, it might be time to hire a coach that’s a noted offensive mind to try to upgrade the offensive talent they recruit.
Ole Miss: Could there be a worse way to break a three-game losing streak than the way the Rebels stumbled to a 37-27 win over Georgia Southern? The 4-5 Rebels fell behind 21-10 and after their superstar, Chad Kelly, rallied them back, he suffered a right knee injury and did not return to the game. And to make it even more difficult to watch, the offense did not score another touchdown after Kelly was replaced by backup Jason Pellerin.
With Mississippi State winning Saturday and the remaining schedule including two road games and the Egg Bowl, Rebels fans have to start wondering if there’s another win left on the schedule, especially if Kelly is out.
Mississippi State: As we all express shock at the Bulldogs’ 35-28 upset of Texas A&M, we should also acknowledge that we should have seen a big game coming somewhere down the stretch for Dan Mullen’s 4-5 Bulldogs. They are young, and young teams often have a game or two late in seasons where they start to mature and show what they will eventually be. This was the case here.
Sophomore quarterback Nick Fitzgerald (209 passing yards and 2 touchdowns, 182 yards rushing, 2 more TDs) put up numbers Dak Prescott would be proud of, and he got backfield help from Aeris Williams, who rushed for 140 yards. MSU took it to the Aggies and earned the upset. This was anything but a fluke, it was a physical whipping.
Texas A&M: Remember how we were all complimenting Texas A&M for building a more physical identity than it came to the SEC with from the “flag-football” Big 12 (SEC perception here)? So much for that. In the 35-28 upset loss to Mississippi State, A&M’s defense was mauled by the Bulldogs’ offensive line for 365 rushing yards.
To make matters worse, the Aggies may have lost starting quarterback Trevor Knight, who left the game with a right shoulder injury in the second quarter. Coming into the day, we were contemplating the Aggies’ path to the College Football Playoff. Now? How will they NOT limp to the finish line?