Justin Worley led Tennessee to its first win over a ranked opponent since the '09 season. (Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Snap Judgments from the Week 8 early slate. For more coverage, check out Stewart Mandel’s file from Stanford-UCLA and our midday and late Snaps.
It only took a few hours on Saturday for the nation's most unpredictable division race to take another turn. Through Week 8, this much is clear: This isn't your father's SEC East.
Tennessee upset No. 11 South Carolina 23-21, Vanderbilt downed No. 15 Georgia 31-27 and No. 14 Missouri routed No. 22 Florida 36-17. Improbably, the Tigers -- in only their second season in the conference -- are in first with a two-game lead, and hold tiebreakers over both the Gators and Bulldogs.
Let's break down the results, one at a time:
• Tennessee 23, No. 11 South Carolina 21: With the Gamecocks (5-2, 3-2 SEC) nursing a one-point lead with 2:39 remaining in the fourth quarter, Volunteers quarterback Justin Worley heaved a 39-yard pass to freshman receiver Marquez North on third-and-10 from the Tennessee 35-yard line. North made an incredible one-handed catch to keep the Vols' drive alive, and kicker Michael Palardy chipped in a 19-yard field goal as time expired to give Tennessee its first victory over a ranked opponent since 2009.
The Volunteers (4-3, 1-2 SEC) benefited from standout performances by Worley (19-of-34, 179 yards, one touchdown) and running back Rajion Neal (24 carries, 77 yards, one touchdown). Tennessee pulled out the win despite an All-America effort from South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, who tied a career-high with seven tackles (including target="_blank">this hit).
The Vols aren't in the running for a conference title -- this was first-year coach Butch Jones' first SEC victory -- but the win is a major step forward after their near-miss against Georgia on Oct. 5. With the exception of Missouri, the league's only other unbeaten besides No. 1 Alabama, each SEC East team has suffered at least two conference losses. [RECAP l BOX]
• No. 14 Missouri 36, No. 22 Florida 17: The Tigers (7-0, 3-0 SEC) took advantage of a stumbling Gators offense, outgaining Florida (4-3, 3-2 SEC) by 349 yards (500-151) in a romp. Coach Will Muschamp's Gators scored only one offensive touchdown, while Mizzou continued its hot start with redshirt freshman quarterback Maty Mauk filling in for injured starter James Franklin.
Mauk completed 18-of-35 passes for 295 yards and a touchdown, with one interception (he also ran for a 17-yard score), and running back Henry Josey carried 18 times for 136 yards and a touchdown. With the exception of Florida running back Kelvin Taylor's 20-yard rushing touchdown late in the third quarter, the Tigers' defense, including defensive end Michael Sam, was impressive.
Many analysts doubted Missouri, even after the Tigers' 6-0 start. Now there's reason to believe -- they have the poll position in the SEC East heading into next Saturday's home showdown against South Carolina. [RECAP l BOX]
• Vanderbilt 31, No. 15 Georgia 27: Seeking their third straight SEC title game appearance, the Bulldogs (4-3, 3-2 SEC) couldn't bring their recent slide to a halt. Coming off a loss to Missouri last week, coach Mark Richt's injury-riddled team fell again on the road at the Commodores (4-3, 1-3 SEC).
Georgia punter Collin Barber couldn't handle a high snap late in the fourth quarter, and Vandy tailback Jerron Seymour scampered 13 yards for a touchdown on the next play. The Commodores, who trailed 27-14 early in the fourth quarter, beat the Bulldogs for the first time in Nashville since 1991.
In the race to reach Atlanta for the SEC title game on Dec. 7, South Carolina, Florida and Georgia -- the teams that have dominated the SEC East in recent years -- are suddenly on the outside looking in. There are still plenty of games left to play, of course. But the SEC East is now Missouri's division to lose. Few would have predicted that when the season kicked off at the end of August. [RECAP l BOX]
And now to the noteworthy results outside the SEC East ...
• No. 16 Texas Tech 37, West Virginia 27: The Red Raiders (7-0, 4-0 Big 12) jumped out to an early 13-0 advantage, but the Mountaineers (3-4, 1-3 Big 12) charged back to take a 27-16 lead late in the third quarter. Tthanks to quarterback Davis Webb and running back Kenny Williams, however, Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury remained unbeaten in his first season in Lubbock. Williams punched in two second-half touchdowns as the Red Raiders scored 21 unanswered points to close out the game. Webb completed 36-of-50 passes for 462 yards and two touchdowns. [RECAP l BOX]
• No. 21 Oklahoma State 24, TCU 10: Cowboys coach Mike Gundy inserted quarterback Clint Chelf into the game in the after starter J.W. Walsh threw two first-half interceptions, and Chelf got the job done. Though he tossed a pick of his own -- one of four Oklahoma State turnovers on the day -- he passed for 178 passing yards as the Cowboys improved to 5-1 (2-1 Big 12). The reeling Horned Frogs (3-4, 1-3 Big 12) also committed four turnovers, and converted just 6-of-17 third down opportunities. [RECAP l BOX]
• Minnesota 20, Northwestern 17: The Wildcats (4-3, 0-3 Big Ten), after falling just short in their upset bid against Ohio State on Oct. 5, have taken a dive. Northwestern lost for the third straight time since it climbed to No. 16 on Sept. 29. Two second-half turnovers by Wildcats quarterback Trevor Siemian turned out to be game-changing moments, as Golden Gophers linebacker James Manuel returned an interception 24 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter, and kicker Chris Hawthrone hit a 34-yard field goal following a fumble in the fourth. Minnesota coach Jerry Kill, who is on leave as he deals with health issues, watched his team improve to 5-2 (1-2 Big Ten) from a private box. [RECAP l BOX]
• Michigan State 14, Purdue 0: The Spartans' offense managed only a single touchdown and 294 total yards on Saturday against Purdue, but coordinator Pat Narduzzi's vaunted defense held the Boilermakers scoreless. Michigan State's Denicos Allen returned a fumble 45 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter. [RECAP l BOX]
• Georgia Tech 56, Syracuse 0: The Orange's first season in the ACC hasn't been an easy one -- Syracuse is now 3-4 (1-2 ACC). The Yellow Jackets (4-3, 3-2 ACC) rushed for 394 yards in a rout. Georgia Tech quarterback Vad Lee passed for 88 yards and a touchdown to go with his 72 yards and two scores on the ground. [RECAP l BOX]
• Cincinnati 41, Connecticut 16: Quarterback Brendon Kay threw for 300 yards and four touchdowns as the Bearcats (5-2, 2-1 AAC) thumped the winless Huskies (0-6, 0-2 AAC). Cincinnati led just 7-3 in the first quarter, but then reeled off four straight touchdowns to put the game out of reach. [RECAP l BOX]
• Toledo 45, Navy 44 (2OT):
A back-and-forth affair turned when Midshipmen
kicker Nick Sloan missed an extra point in double overtime. On the next possession, Rockets
quarterback Terrance Owens
connected with wideout Bernard Reedy
for a 20-yard touchdown pass. Kicker Jeremiah Detmer
then hit the point after to clinch the dramatic win. [RECAP l BOX]