After yet another weekend of cannibalism in the SEC, Alabama remains the league's last, best chance of extending its streak of BCS National Championships after the league's other undefeated team, Mizzou, fell at the hands of the Ole Ball Coach's ‘Cocks, losing by a score of 27-24 in double overtime.
From the first snap, the ‘Cocks were snakebit, as a rash of turnovers in the first half, two by running back Mike Davis, kept Mizzou in the driver's seat for much of the game. With QB Connor Shaw injured with a bad left knee, SC Coach Steve Spurrier elected to start Dylan Thompson. Thompson played well enough for nearly three quarters, putting up 222 yards passing. However, the ‘Cocks couldn't penetrate the end zone under Thompson, and down 17-0 in the fourth quarter, Shaw asked Spurrier if he could give it a shot, despite the knee injury and an apparent bout with a flu-like illness.
When Shaw entered the game, South Carolina was able to move the ball and cut the Mizzou lead. Shaw led the Gamecocks on three drives that netted points in the final quarter of play, tying the game on a short two yard pass to Nick Jones with 42 seconds left to send the game into overtime.
Mizzou got the ball first, and starting QB Maty Mauk quickly led the team on a short scoring drive for the touchdown. Shaw and the Gamecocks were able to match that in the first OT period, giving the ‘Cocks the ball first in the second OT. Unable to punch it into the end zone, SC settled for a FG. The SC defense rose up and stifled the Tigers inside the 10, which led to the final FG attempt of the game. It bounced off of the upright, giving the ‘Cocks the win and extending them a glimmer of hope in regards to the SEC East title.
Mauk had a strong effort in the game, in a 10/25 performance with 249 yards, one touchdown and one interception. The usually rigid ‘Cock defense gave up 404 total yards to Mizzou, including 155 yards rushing. The win put South Carolina one game behind Mizzou in the East title race, and they will need only a Tiger loss to another East opponent (or two generic SEC losses) to seize the title if the ‘Cocks can win out.
Alabama maintained its stranglehold on the top spot in the BCS and the SEC with a 45-10 drubbing of upstart Tennessee. The Tide, 8-0 with LSU, Mississippi State, Chattanooga and Auburn left on the schedule, were unstoppable early, running out to a 21-0 first quarter lead over the Vols. They never looked back, as QB AJ McCarron posted 275 yards passing in a 19-of-27 performance with two TDs Vol QB Justin Worley struggled before being injured and knocked from the game, as he managed only 120 yards on eight completions with no touchdowns and two INTs. One of those INTs came at the hands of Tide safety Landon Collins, who returned the interception 88 yards for a touchdown. Defensively, the Tide was once again dominant, holding the Vols' leading rusher, Rajion Neal, under 100 yards rushing. The win sets up the Nov. 9 showdown in Tuscaloosa between an undefeated Bama and a two-loss LSU team. The last time the Tigers visited T'town, they emerged with an ugly 9-6 victory in 2011 that was later avenged by the Tide in the BCS National Championship Game.
In other SEC action...
- Kentucky and Mississippi State locked horns on a Thursday night in what became a slugfest, with the Bulldogs emerging on top by a score of 28-22. State jumped out to an early lead and was in control of the game by a score of 21-7 at the half. However, they allowed the Wildcats to creep back in and had to depend on the Bulldog defense to salt away the win, as the Wildcats' final drive stalled out at the MSU 29 yard line with 21 seconds left to play. Dak Prescott was impressive for the Bulldogs, as he has been for much of the year, putting up 268 yards passing with two TDs. Prescott also caught a touchdown pass from Jameon Lewis, who hit for the cycle with a receiving touchdown, a rushing touchdown and a passing touchdown in the same game. Kentucky QB Maxwell Smith returned to action and only managed 160 yards passing and one touchdown in a 18-of-34 performance.
- Despite Johnny Manziel's heroics, the Texas A&M Aggies still needed a strong showing from their defense to hold the Vanderbilt Commodores in check. Usually the Achille's heel of the Aggie squad, the defense forced turnovers and held Vanderbilt to 329 yards in the 56-24 win. Senor Football hung 305 yards and four touchdowns on the ‘Dore's vaunted secondary, including two touchdown passes to his go-to receiver Mike Evans, who finished the game with 77 yards receiving. For Vandy, back-up QB Patton Robinette took the reins from an injured Austyn Carta-Samuels, and had a respectable, if not spectacular, showing with 216 yards on 15 completions with one TD and two INTs. The offensive juggernaut that is the Aggi once again went over the 500 yard mark with 558 total yards in the game. Texas A&M jumped out to the early 21-0 lead in the first quarter, only to see Vandy storm back in the second for a 28-17 score at the half. A&M slammed the door shut in the third with three more touchdowns, and Vandy scored once more in the fourth to make the scoreboard more aesthetically pleasing.
- LSU looked rusty in the first half of their game with the Furman Purple Paladins, a game which the Tigers ultimately won by a score of 48-16. The Paladins actually drew first blood after a Zach Mettenberger pass was picked off and returned 76 yards for a touchdown to give Furman the early lead. Due to a slew of turnovers, the game remained close at the halftime buzzer, with LSU leading only 20-16. LSU was hampered by a string of bad penalties and miscues, including a personal foul call that led to a Paladin FG, a missed FG and PAT attempt by LSU and a fumble by Beckham on a punt return that resulted in another Furman FG. However, as the Paladins wore down, LSU began to execute, and from there the Tigers played down hill, leaning on back Jeremy Hill and Mett's strong arm. Mettenberger finished the night with 328 yards passing in a 16-for-24 performance with three TDs and two INTs. Odell Beckham, Jr. was Mett's main target on the night, as he amassed 204 yards on only six receptions. Hill had 143 yards rushing, and the LSU defense held the Paladins to a mere 198 yards of total offense in the game.
- Auburn routed an outmanned Florida Atlantic team (F AU, y'all) by a score of 45-10 with starting quarterback Nick Marshall spending much of the night on the bench following an injury early in the second quarter. Marshall's back-up, freshman Jeremy Johnson, stepped in and was workmanlike with a 10-of-16 performance for 192 yards, two TDs and one INT. The Tigers piled up yardage on the ground, with 628 total yards posted to FAU's 247 yards. The Tigers used a passel of tailbacks in the game, with Cameron Artis-Payne recording the best day with 93 yards and a touchdown.
- Ole Miss followed up their upset of LSU by playing Idaho, and they took advantage of the step-down in competition en route to a 59-14 victory. Bo Wallace had a big day for Ole Miss, going 15-for-22 for 189 yards and two touchdowns. With leading back Jeff Scott sidelines, the Rebel Black Bears turned to I'Tavius Mathers, who picked up 138 yards on 14 carries for Ole Miss, including a 64 yard touchdown run. The Rebels amassed 572 yards of total offense while allowing only 253 yards to the Vandals.
While the SEC prepares for the defining showdown between the Tide and Tigers on November 9 in Tuscaloosa, there will be interest surrounding Mizzou's final run to a potential birth in the SEC Championship game. That run starts against a plucky Tennessee team that, despite its loss to Bama, nearly knocked off Georgia in addition to its recent win over South Carolina. And then there's a little affair that occurs in Jacksonville, FL around this time of year...you may have heard of it, something about "The World's Biggest Cocktail Party?" Though this game won't carry the clout many thought it would at the beginning of the season with both Georgia and Florida falling on hard times, the winner could still have an outside chance at the East title. It's not likely in either case, but it could happen. That possibility will be available for the winner of this game, which is a barn-burner in most years anyway.
SEC Week 9 Schedule
Time (CST) Matchup
11:21 a.m. Mississippi State @ #14 South Carolina
2:30 p.m. Georgia vs. Florida (neutral site)
5 p.m. #11 Auburn @ Arkansas
6 p.m. Tennessee @ #9 Missouri
6:30 p.m. Alabama State @ Kentucky
8 p.m. UTEP @ #12 Texas A&M
SEC Teams in the BCS Top 25
3. Florida State
4. Ohio State
12. Texas A&M
14. South Carolina
15. Texas Tech
17. Northern Illinois
18. Oklahoma State
22. Michigan State
25. Notre Dame