So much for a letdown in Week 7.
The SEC slate wasn't as sexy as week's past but there are rarely dull moments in America's top football conference. It's the only league where a big home win over a favored rival precedes the parting of ways with the winning coach. It's also the only league where that isn't the story of the weekend...
Let's take a tour around the SEC.
No. 1 Georgia 30, No. 11 Kentucky 13
What more can be said of Kirby Smart's team? The defense is as good as it gets, maybe as good as we've seen in the modern era, with stars at every level. But UGA also did the little things in this game, like Nakobe Dean beating multiple blocks to thwart a screen or Kendall Milton jumping on a loose ball while two Kentucky defenders stand by assuming there was an incompletion. The team, the mission, the balance -- everything is clicking for the top program in the land.
Kentucky had some things working with Will Levis and company, but it was rarely sustainable. Defensively it shot itself in the foot on multiple fronts but that Georgia offensive line and rushing attack wore on the Cats as time rolled along, a formula that would break down most every team in the country deeper into the season. It's hard to imagine the Dawgs missing out on any of their goals at this point.
No. 5 Alabama 49, Mississippi State 9
Conventional thought is sometimes spot on and the notion of not wanting to play Alabama after a loss rings true yet again. Alabama fired on all cylinders against Mike Leach in Starkville, beginning with a welcome site to UA fans -- the defense. It set the tone and Bryce Young and company took it from there. Nick Saban's squad won the turnover battle 3-0 and the defense sacked Will Rogers seven times, including four from fabulous sophomore pass rusher Will Anderson.
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No. 13 Ole Miss 31, Tennessee 26
Lane Kiffin's return to Neyland Stadium featured just about everything within it, but from a football perspective, the game showed the value of Matt Corral to the program this year. He was by far the best football player on the field and did it by any mean's necessary, until he was slowed at the end of the game by injury and a trash-inspired delay. That's when we learned something new of the Rebels, that its defense can make just enough plays when the offense isn't quite right. The schedule is rough and Ole Miss is quite banged up, but a top 10 finish and a New Year's Six bowl remain in play for the Rebels.
Auburn 38, No. 17 Arkansas 23
Bo Nix, Auburn, and that Tiger defense have roared back from the Georgia defeat and look like a legit threat to the non-Alabama's of the SEC West with what has been working. Nix pushed the ball down the field, ran it well and controlled the pace against a strong defense. The AU defense, meanwhile, played aggressively all day long and made 10 stops behind the line of scrimmage on the run-heavy Hogs. It made plays when it counted most, including stopping KJ Jefferson and company on all three of their fourth-down tries. They get a bye before hosting Ole Miss in what should be another fun one on the Plains.
LSU 49, No. 20 Florida 42
Who knew this one would turn into the hot seat bowl? Florida all but gave this game away multiple times, regardless of who was in at quarterback, but the story became how the Gator defense all of a sudden made Tyrion Davis-Price look like Leonard Fournette. The LSU rushing attack was one of the worst in the league coming into the game but ran passed the 300 yard-mark Saturday, including 287 from the big downhill back to match his total for the season in just four quarters or work. It will likely be one of the highlights of Ed Orgeron's last ride in Baton Rouge in what has quickly become the story of Sunday in the sport.
No. 21 Texas A&M 35, Missouri 14
No upset hangover for the Aggies, though playing Missouri's defense has proven to be a lift for just about every program in 2021. Nonetheless, that A&M rushing attack of Isiah Spiller and Devon Achane was as good as we've seen this fall, with the duo combining for 36 carries, 292 yards and three touchdowns on the ground. The Mike Elko defense was firing on all cylinders as well, holding Mizzou under 100 yards rushing and turnover over Connor Bazelak twice. Zach Calzada wasn't quite Alabama good, but he didn't need to be for the road win. South Carolina next on the schedule probably will help the quarterback to bounce back.
South Carolina 21, Vanderbilt 20
The battle of first year coaches wasn't supposed to be this close, and South Carolina's play-calling may have something to do with why it was, but credit to Clark Lea and Vandy anyway. There are no moral victories in the conference but this felt pretty darn close and will probably resonate the rest of the way given how it won't be favored the rest of the way. There could be a round robin of entertaining games between the trio of SEC East bottom-dwellers and we won't have to wait long for the next with Mizzou traveling to Vandy at the end of the month.
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