Holy Richter Scale, Big Blue Nation, the SEC experienced a minor earthquake this weekend, and even though I’m just catching up, the seismic shocks are being felt still. We all suspected, I think, that we’d start seeing some surprises sooner rather than later, and this weekend, we did. Consider:
#3 Alabama looked like #1 against the Florida Gators, who used their speed and athleticism, as well as capitalizing on Crimson Tide turnovers, to stay competitive with Alabama until about halfway through the third quarter. After that, Alabama’s superior depth, experience, and size took over the game and they won comfortably, 42-21. Will Muschamp’s seat at Florida just got a few degrees hotter.
The Indiana Hoosiers came into Columbia, Missouri and racked up a major upset against the #18 Missouri Tigers. Missouri QB Maty Mauk did all he could do, throwing for 326 yards and two touchdowns, but Indiana put together a late drive to steal the game for the Big Ten out of SEC territory, 31-27.
The Mississippi St. Bulldogs stunned the #8 LSU Tigers in Death Valley, breaking a 14-game losing skid. MSU QB Dak Prescott was the big hero, passing for 268 yards and running for 105. LSU mounted a comeback late, but fell short.
The South Carolina Gamecocks escaped the Vanderbilt Commodores 48-34 in Nashville. The Gamecocks surrendered two touchdowns off kickoff returns, but just couldn’t do enough to stop Dylan Thompson and Mike Davis.
All this makes me wonder about several things, the first of which being is Alabama that good, or is Florida not so good. I think at this point, the easy answer is the latter, but honestly, Alabama looked really good late in the second half. They just keep running and running at you, and they have a game-breaking receiver in Amari Cooper and an impossibly huge running back corps. I didn’t expect Florida to win that game in Tuscaloosa, but I hoped they’d take the Tide deep into the 4th quarter. That didn’t happen, and in fact, Andy Hutchinson of Alligator Army called it thus:
This was as comprehensive a defeat as Florida has ever taken, certainly the worst one in most fans’ memories. And yet, thanks in large part to four forced turnovers, Florida lost by “just” 21 points.
That sort of sums it up, although I thought Florida put up a pretty good fight in the first half. It was that second-half domination, and the continuing struggles of Jeff Driskel (not to mention Will Muschamp) that has Gator fans hot and bothered.
With respect to LSU, I didn’t see that contest, but a review of the game thread over at And The Valley Shook suggests that it was a situation where one team, Mississippi State, just flat wanted that one more and got it done. LSU doubtless has some unanswered questions, but the Tigers will have plenty of opportunity remaining to right the ship.
Regarding the Indiana-Missouri kerfuffle, Bill Connelly at Rock M Nation chalks it up to “Stuff happens:”
Stuff Happens™, and you don’t really have a say in when. The good coaches are the ones who control for as many outcomes as possible, and Gary Pinkel has certainly proven himself a good coach through the years; still, sometimes your best players gets hurt out of the blue, and your center forgets how to snap a football. Maybe this game was a clear, bright sign that Missouri isn’t as good as we thought after the last couple of games. Maybe this game was a reminder that 18-22 year olds are fickle as hell.
Perhaps this is right. Perhaps it means Indiana is stronger than anyone thought. But maybe it means Missouri is more vulnerable than they looked in the first three games. In any case, this could give Kentucky fans a bit of hope that the Hoosiers can go into Columbia an knock off the Tigers, maybe the Wildcats can, too.
Finally, the unexpectedly close game South Carolina played at Vanderbilt. I see this three possible ways — Vanderbilt radically underachieved in their first two games and returned to form here, South Carolina is just not that good, or a combination of both. All this has ramifications for Kentucky, as the Commodores come to town next weekend, and Kentucky needs to break a two-season-long losing streak to SEC teams. A significantly improved Vanderbilt team could throw cold water on those hopes.
On the other hand, if South Carolina really is down this season (and there is some reason to believe they might be), then the Wildcats might have an outside shot not only to knock off Vandy, but also the Gamecocks in Commonwealth Stadium. That would be one heck of a way for Kentucky to announce that they are back, and if we postulate that this actually happens, UK could be 5-1 heading into the game at LSU.
Wouldn’t that be a nice surprise?