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Take a Look Tuesday: Too Close for Comfort Edition

Is the SEC weak this year?

Welcome back to Take a Look Tuesday, a weekly look at the rest of the teams in the SEC. This was an interesting week with some notable losses and close wins.

Wake Forest 36 vs Vanderbilt 20

This game took 5 hours and 22 minutes to complete thanks to a two-hour rain delay early in the contest, one of the roughly 456 delays along the east coast Saturday. Vanderbilt got outplayed by a better team in this game, but their pass defense wasn’t the big issue. They held Mitch Griffis to 17/26 for 196 yards and 2 TDs. The ground game was another story. Vanderbilt ran for a sack-adjusted total of 117 yards. Tate Carney equaled that thanks in large part to a 74-yard run and Demond Claiborne surpassed it with 165 yards. AJ Swann went 26/29 for 314 yards, 3 TDs and 2 INTs. The Commodores must fix the run game on both sides of the ball if they want to get to a bowl game. They face UNLV in Paradise Saturday at 6:00 p.m. on CBSSN.

#1 Georgia 45 vs Ball State 3

Georgia walloped Ball State in a result that shocked nobody. Georgia averaged an unreal 6.3 yards per play including the two knees to seal the game. 12 receivers caught at least one pass for the Bulldogs on the day. Carson Beck had a good day going 23/30 for 283 yards, 2 TDs and 1 interception. Georgia finished the 1st quarter scoreless, but that didn’t matter after they dropped 31 in the 2nd quarter beginning with a 69-yard Mekhi Mews punt return TD. This game was a replacement for Georgia’s previously scheduled game with Oklahoma that got shelved when the Sooners decided to join the SEC alongside Texas. At least Georgia faced someone they hadn’t faced before in program history. Georgia opens their SEC slate at home against South Carolina Saturday at 2:30 p.m. on CBS.

Kentucky 28 vs Eastern Kentucky 17

This game was as close as the final margin indicates, and that’s not good. Kentucky didn’t take the lead until 39:13 into the game. Had EKU used better clock management, they could’ve preserved a 7-0 halftime lead. If they made a 48-yard field goal, that could’ve been 10-0. Kentucky’s special teams woes struck again, as the Wildcats allowed a blocked punt that gave the Colonels a short field to start. Kentucky went 2/8 on third down in the first half, too. The defense made enough big plays in the first half to make sure Kentucky could win by holding onto the ball in the second half. Devin Leary went 24/38 for 299 yards, 4 TDs and 1 INT, but he’s not used to the kind of ball-control offense the Cats played at the end of the game. If he’s going to succeed, Kentucky’s going to need to step up their pace a bit. Kentucky hosts Akron Saturday at 6:30 p.m. on ESPNU.

Miami (FL) 48 vs #23 Texas A&M 33

The Aggies played a good game, but they couldn’t stop the Hurricanes. 33 points against a solid Miami defense is nothing to scoff at, and it’s a clear sign that things are far better than they were last year. That doesn’t mean it’s going to be fine to give up 5 TDs to Tyler Van Dyke while he carves up the secondary. A&M had a 17-7 lead early in the 2nd quarter, but they gave it away by the end of the half. They got the opening drive of the second half deep into Miami territory and had a 4th and 1 at the Miami 6, but a false start forced them to kick a field goal to get within 1. Miami returned the ensuing kickoff for a TD. That can’t happen. Conner Weigman went 31/53 for 336 yards, 2 TDs and 2 INTs. That’s good, but it’s not what A&M will want if they are going to win the West. The Aggies host ULM Saturday at 3:00 p.m. on SEC Network.

#20 Ole Miss 37 at #24 Tulane 20

This game was not as bad as the final score indicates. Ole Miss led 27-20 with under 2 minutes to play before scoring 10 quick points thanks to Caden Davis drilling a career-long 56-yard field goal and Jared Ivey scooping up a fumble and returning it to the house. Tulane was without star QB Michael Pratt because of a knee injury he suffered very late in their opener against South Alabama, but Kai Horton did an admirable job in relief considering the circumstances. Tulane played well in the first half and got up to a 17-7 lead late in the 2nd quarter, but Ole Miss dominated the second half on offense and defense to pick up this win. Tulane held onto the ball 9:30 longer than Ole Miss, but that difference in pace hurt the Green Wave defense. They couldn’t keep up on the day, and that’s what made the biggest difference. Ole Miss hosts Georgia Tech Saturday at 6:30 p.m. on SEC Network.

Arkansas 28 vs Kent State 6

This was a sloppy performance by Arkansas, but there’s more to the story. For starters, Arkansas had the ball a mere 9:56 in the first half, with 8 of those seconds coming on a pick-six. The Razorbacks rotated players along the young offensive line to try and figure out what could work going forward. Those guys weren’t blocking for top runner Rocket Sanders who was sidelined with a knee injury that may linger into next week’s game. In the second half, Arkansas held the ball for 22:20 on four total drives. The last three drives each took at least 6 minutes and the final one finished the game. Arkansas wasn’t trying for a blowout, they were trying to win the game however they could. Arkansas’ defense recorded seven sacks and hounded QB Michael Alaimo while also allowing a mere 76 sack-adjusted rushing yards. Arkansas faces a tougher test Saturday when they host BYU at 6:30 p.m. on ESPN2.

#9 Tennessee 30 vs Austin Peay 13

This was the third of a trio of weirdly close games in the SEC this weekend. Austin Peay is not a good FCS team, but they managed to play a closer game than Virginia did in Week 1. Joe Milton had a worse game than he did against the Cavaliers going 21/33 for 228 yards and 2 TDs plus another on the ground. There were two things that hampered the Volunteers’ ability to score: third downs and time of possession. Tennessee was an ugly 3/12 on third downs and 0/1 on fourth down. They kicked three field goals and punted four times. Also, the Governors played keep-away most of the game. Austin Peay led time of possession 39:16-20:44 at the end of the game and 19:05-10:55 in the first half. Tennessee failed to score in bulk like Ole Miss did and it kept the game closer than it needed to be. The Vols open their SEC schedule on the road at Florida Saturday at 6:00 p.m. on ESPN.

#11 Texas 34 at #3 Alabama 24

Texas may not be back in the sense of being a national powerhouse, but they’re certainly here. Nick Saban hadn’t lost a non-conference home game since the 2007 loss to ULM, a streak spanning 43 games. Last year, the Longhorns came within a point of beating the Tide, a game they should’ve had because of a blown call that should’ve given them a safety. They lost QB Quinn Ewers early in that one, but they had him for the entirety of this game, and that made a massive difference. Texas had the better QB in this game. Jalen Milroe went 14/27 for 255 yards, 2 TDs and 2 INTs; Quinn Ewers went 24/38 for 349 yards, 3 TDs and 0 INTs. When converted to NFL passer rating, that’s 78.5 compared to 119.3. Texas had better wide receivers, they played better defense, they were just better. The strangest thing about this game is that the result feels normal. Alabama got outplayed and that’s not weird anymore. The great Alabama juggernaut is gone, and now it feels like Georgia has taken their place. Nick Saban hasn’t lost consecutive nonconference games at Alabama, and it’s unlikely that happens Saturday when the Tide travel to face South Florida in their first non-Power conference road game since the 2003 season finale at Hawaii at 2:30 p.m. on ABC.

Missouri 23 vs MTSU 19

This was by far the ugliest game in the SEC this weekend. Missouri was about 21-point favorites in this game and they only scored 23. They never turned the ball over and converted more than half of their third downs. They just got off to a very slow start and never found a great rhythm. Brady Cook got sacked four times, one of which became a strip-sack safety, but he still had an efficient day going 14/19 for 204 yards and 2 TDs. Cody Schrader led the rushing with 84 yards on 23 carries. Perhaps speed kept the Tigers from scoring. The 2nd quarter had two drives, one TD drive by each team. Missouri has the unfortunate reputation for being unremarkable and unpredictable. They will play football and win a few games, but games like these showcase why they’re difficult to predict. Saturday’s game will be a tough test and a chance to prove they’re worth something when they host #15 Kansas State at 11:00 a.m. on SEC Network.

Florida 49 vs McNeese 7

This was a total thrashing. Florida did what they were expected to do: beat their FCS opponent into a pulp. The Gators outgained the Cowboys 560-112 and 327-68 (sack adjusted) on the ground. Three Gators each outrushed the entire McNeese team combined. The Gators missed their first PAT thanks to a poor snap and failed to convert a two-point conversion later, a decision that seems odd considering the quality of opponent. The Gators got a safety in the 3rd quarter when Jamari Lyons tacked D’Angelo Durham in the end zone to make up for those, though. This game said nothing about the rest of Florida’s season, and the jump in opponent quality in Week 3 is massive. The Gators open their SEC season at home against #11 Tennessee Saturday at 6:00 p.m. on ESPN.

Mississippi State 31 vs Arizona 24 OT

Arizona was lucky to bring this game to overtime. The Wildcats had almost as rough a start as possible on offense. Jayden de Laura threw three of his four picks on his first three drives of the game. However, Mississippi State fumbled out of the end zone on their opening drive and missed a 41-yard field goal right before halftime while also going 3/11 on third down for the night. The Bulldogs brought another balanced attack, and Will Rogers went just 13/17 for 162 yards and 3 TDs, but he threw what ended up being the game-winning TD in overtime. It was a tough test for MSU, but they passed it. The open up conference play Saturday at home against #14 LSU at 11:00 a.m. on ESPN.

South Carolina 47 vs Furman 21

This was a much better game than last week’s game. It may have been against an FCS team, one ranked in the top 10, but it was proof that the offensive line isn’t a complete dumpster fire. The Gamecocks allowed just one sack after allowing an eye-popping 9 against North Carolina, and that one came in garbage time when all the back-ups were playing. Spencer Rattler carved the Paladins apart with an incredible performance in which he went 25/27 for 345 yards and 3 TDs, 4 if you include his 2nd-quarter TD rush, and played well enough to allow his three back-ups a chance to play. This game was only 27-14 at the half, but South Carolina was in control the whole game. They’ll open their conference season at #1 Georgia Saturday at 2:30 p.m. on CBS.

Auburn 14 at Cal 10

This was a very dumb and bad football game. Neither one of these teams looked that good, and Auburn had to resort to some old magic to pull out this win. Auburn turned the ball over four times, but Cal turned it over three times to make up for it. Auburn went 4/12 on third down, but Cal was worse at 4/18. Auburn gained just 230 yards, but Cal wasn’t much better with 273. Auburn’s final passing line was 10/17 for 94 yards, 2 TDs and 1 INT. This was a slog of a game to watch, Cal had the game for the majority of it, and then Rivaldo Fairweather made an unbelievable catch in the 4th quarter to score the game-winning TD. This game had so much 2022 Auburn-Missouri game energy, and that’s bad. Auburn hosts FCS Samford Saturday at 6:00 p.m. on SECN+ and ESPN+.