It was a big weekend in the SEC, with 4 of 5 games producing results that arguably are upsets. The season never exactly seems to crystalize, but instead seems to get more muddled with each passing week. So, we take you to the action:
South Carolina 24
I was not a believer in Kentucky, and I guess this is evidence that I am right. Kentucky's offense is one of the weakest in the conference, and the South Carolina defense is one of the better ones. Kentucky was held to 218 total yards, including only 62 on the ground. The passing game got Kentucky 156 yards, but also produced two turnovers.
Kentucky is solid defensively, and it showed here, giving up only 74 yards on the ground, fully half of it coming not from running backs.
South Carolina appears to have figured out that it can pass a little, which bodes well for them against LSU next week, but it cannot run at all, which bodes poorly for them. South Carolina passed 37 times in this game, averaging 7.4 yards per attempt, but also throwing 2 interceptions. They can't seem to settle on a quarterback, as Chris Smelley seems to have as many bad games as good ones.
South Carolina is not a great team, but they are improved over the course of the season. This is not the same team that couldn't seem to figure out how to snap the ball properly against NC State. It's not the same team that lost to Vandy. The defense is still there, but the offense has grown from "awful" to "OK". Also, they're riding a 4 game winning streak, and they are sitting at 2-2 in the conference, and 4-2 overall.
A more in-depth preview will follow, but suffice it to say that South Carolina appears to have rescued its season. I think a conference championship is out of reach, but they can still go bowling.
Mississippi State 17
Oooh. Mighty Vandy is finding out that it's awfully hard to overachieve every week, and Mississippi State is finding out that blind loyalty to an underperforming quarterback is not a good thing at all. It may be too late for Mississippi State to anything to rescue this season, as they already sit with 4 losses.
Don't be fooled by the score. Mississippi State dominated this game. They more than doubled Vandy's yardage output. They held the ball for 12 1/2 minutes more than Vandy did. They didn't commit a turnover while forcing two. They rushed the ball effectively. They stopped the rush. This game was not nearly as close as the score
I didn't get to see this game, as it was not televised locally, but everyone who predicted an upset was right. One wonders, not having watched the game and only looking at the box score, how Vandy stayed in it? MSU couldn't pass, but at least they didn't throw interceptions. And Vandy couldn't pass either. There is no aspect of the game that appears on a box score that wasn't utterly dominated by the Bulldogs, except for punting, which MSU did poorly.
It is really hard to sustain intensity for an entire season, and it is especially hard to do so while playing over your heads. Vandy, like LSU, learned that as soon as you may think you're better than everyone else, you get a quick reality check.
Utter domination by the Bulldogs, who nevertheless made some mistakes that kept Tennessee in the game. A dropped pass that surely would have resulted in a touchdown? Check. An interception in the red zone? Check and double-check.
Still, this was one of those games where, even though the score was reasonably close throughout, I never once thought Tennessee would actually come back and win it. Georgia just couldn't make a blowout of it despite outplaying Tennessee the whole game.
Tennessee hung in, and kept playing. Maybe the change of quarterback has helped their intensity level and competitiveness. This is a game that Tennessee would have quit on earlier in the season. It may be too little too late to save Fulmer, but at least they aren't embarrassing themselves anymore.