Welcome back to Take a Look Tuesday, a weekly look at the rest of the teams in the SEC. It’s the halfway point of the 2023 season and the diagnosis is clear: the SEC is having a down year.
#11 Alabama 24 vs Arkansas 21
Do not be fooled by the final score, Alabama took care of business. Alabama’s been plagued by a scoring bug all season. They can’t seem to find that many points, and it echoes back to the days of A.J. McCarron and the like. The defense has stepped up to match them, though, and they held the Hogs to just 250 yards of offense. Both defenses combined for 9 sacks in this matchup between offenses that have trouble throwing the ball effectively. Alabama’s strategy is to go deep. Jalen Milroe went 10/21 for 238 yards and 2 TDs. Only three of those completions gained fewer than 10 yards. The strategy worked, and Alabama’s first TD was a wide-open 79-yard bomb to Kobe Prentice. The Crimson Tide scored just 3 points in the 2nd half, and Arkansas god a couple TDs to make the game close. The Alabama defense never let them score again, though, and hunkered down like the Saban defenses of old. Alabama hosts #17 Tennessee Saturday at 2:30 p.m. on CBS. Arkansas hosts Mississippi State at 11:00 a.m. Saturday on ESPN.
#1 Georgia 37 at Vanderbilt 20
The two words that best describe this game are Pyrrhic victory. Vanderbilt scored more points in this game than they had in their last four games against Georgia combined, but 7 came on a short field thanks to an interception return to the 1. The Bulldogs dominated on the day with 552 yards to the Commodores’ 219 and overran their foes 291-18. Carson Beck was 29/29 for 261 yards, 1 TD and an aforementioned pick. Beck also lost a fumble, which meant that Vandy won the turnover battle. None of this mattered as much as what happened in the first half, though. Georgia’s star TE and offensive keystone Brock Bowers suffered a high ankle sprain that is expected to keep him off the field for 4-6 weeks. The most productive TE the SEC has seen in ages if not ever will leave Georgia in an interesting predicament. Both the Bulldogs and Commodores are on bye this week.
Florida 41 at South Carolina 39
South Carolina led 37-27 with 5 minutes to go in the game. They then gave up two touchdowns and lost. If this game goes down in Florida lore for anything, it’ll be for Graham Mertz’s remarkable performance. He went 30/48 for 423 yards and 3 TDs to break the career high in passing yards he set against Utah. When it came down to it, he made big plays to pull off the comeback. Ricky Pearsall played the game of his life with 10 catches for 166 yards and the game-winning TD. South Carolina’s Mario Anderson led all rushers with 98 yards on 20 carries. Florida won this game despite going 4/15 on 3rd down. This game was a shot to South Carolina’s confidence and was a shot in the arm to Florida, a team that’s 5-2 going into their bye despite the multitude of doubts that surrounded them early in the season. South Carolina travels to #20 Missouri Saturday at 2:30 p.m. on SEC Network.
#19 Tennessee 20 vs Texas A&M 13
Holly Anderson summed it up best by saying the winner of this game was the team that screwed up second-to-last. Max Johnson threw two picks in this game and they were on A&M’s final two drives. They lost. The score that ended up making the difference in this game was a 39-yard punt return touchdown by Tennessee’s Dee Williams to put the Vols up 14-10. Joe Milton went 11/22 for 100 yards, 1 TD and 1 interception, but he didn’t need to throw the ball when his run game was gashing the Aggies’ defense for 232 yards including sacks and a knee. A&M did the opposite and threw the ball effectively to compensate for an ineffective run game. Johnson was 16/34 for 223 yards and 2 picks while running for the Aggies’ only touchdown on their first drive of the game. The Aggies are not great once they have to leave their script and it all comes back to something that’s become impossible to overlook: Jimbo Fisher cannot make the Aggies a winner on the level fans expected. The offense is a disaster and the coaching decisions are costing them games. The Vols head to #11 Alabama Saturday at 2:30 p.m. on CBS while the Aggies take their bye.
Missouri 38 at #24 Kentucky 21
This game was looking like a shootout, but then Kentucky ran out of bullets. The Wildcats got off to a quick 14-0 start, and a Missouri drive stalled in plus territory early in the 2nd quarter. Luke Bauer came in for a punt formation, but he stepped back and dropped a dime to Marquis Johnson for a 39-yard TD to wake the Tigers from their slumber. When the 4th quarter hit, it was 21-20 Kentucky, but Mizzou rattled off 18 straight points without completing a single pass to secure the victory. Brady Cook was 19/29 for 167 yards, 1 TD and a pick while Devin Leary was 14/27 for 120 yards, 2 TDs and 2 picks including one that gave Missouri a short enough field to ice the game with a field goal. Ray Davis finished with 128 rushing yards, which was more than Missouri had as a team excluding sacks and one fewer than Missouri had excluding sacks and knees. It’s a big win for Missouri after their first loss of the season, and they’re back in the rankings at #20 for their game Saturday when they host South Carolina at 2:30 p.m. on SEC Network. Kentucky will enter their bye week on a two-game skid.