WHAT DOES A WIN MEAN?
LSU 20, Georgia 13
Auburn 26, Tennessee 22
You can make a case that Auburn and LSU both won their games pretty convincingly. After all, despite the final scores, both held advantages in yards gained, both keyed by a big day for the running game. LSU outgained Georgia by almost 95 yards and Auburn gained almost 50 more yards than Tennessee did.
But the end of the game changed things for both teams. For LSU, a game that had remained 6-0 from early in the second quarter until the fourth finally turned into a bizarre, back-and-forth affair with penalty flags flying and no one quite sure where or how the game would end.
We know now that it ended on the controversial LSU touchdown that followed to some extent a phantom unsportsmanlike conduct flag against Georgia's A.J. Green after his go-ahead TD. Rather than relive that, however, let's just ask this: How much did that flag really affect the game. You can Year2's route and argue that Charles Scott's run was 33 yards, to paraphrase Lou Holtz, because he was on the 33-yard line. Had he been on the LSU 20, he would have run 80 yards. Or you can go Richard's way and point out that LSU couldn't have run had they been 15 yards deeper after Trindon Holliday's kick return.
I think both are right, which is maybe more troubling for LSU. Had it not been for a mind-boggling penalty and a great individual effort on the part of Scott, the Tigers might be headed home this week with their first loss and the matchup with Florida on Saturday would not be a Top-5 showdown.
That does not spare Georgia from failing to execute. QB Joe Cox wasn't bad, but the longest run of the day was just eight yards and the ground game averaged an abysmal 1.9 ypc. Only four of the Dawgs' 11 drives covered 30 or more yards -- only once in the first half did a drive produce more than seven yards -- and the dreaded turnovers were not a factor. (The only interception was on Georgia's longshot final drive with 25 seconds left.) On defense, UGA allowed LSU three drives of 10 or more plays in the first half and didn't force the Bengals into a three-and-out until after halftime.
As for Auburn, the score was deceptively close. Tennessee scored a TD on literally the last play of the game, though the officials would not allow Lane Kiffin to go for a two-point conversion as (at least according to the broadcasters) he apparently wanted to do. That said, the Vols did gain 410 yards on the Tigers defense and Jonathan Crompton, while completing less than 50 percent of his passes, did not throw a single pick all night long.
Auburn's offense, though, continued to show the diversity of its attack. The 20 completed passes were spread among eight different receivers, and while Ben Tate's 128 yards rushing were by far the most of any Tiger, other players also had big plays on the ground.
The question for both teams is whether the newfound offense for the Vols was improvement for them or a sign of trouble for Auburn.
NO, PLEASE, TAKE THE FOOTBALL. WE INSIST
Alabama 38, Kentucky 20
When your last two drives of the first half and first two of the second half end with "fumble, end of half, interception, interception," it's pretty easy to figure out how the game is going to go. And for Kentucky, it turned out just as bad as you might think; outgained by just 51 yards, they lost by 18 points.
Greg McElroy looked mortal for a day, but the ground game picked up the slack, with Alabama running for 204 yards on 42 carries. Kentucky actually converted two more first downs that Alabama, but that's a meaningless statistic when you put the opponent in a position where he doesn't need as many first downs to get to the end zone.
I don't see this as anything less than a good win for Alabama, despite some of the nitpicking that has emerged from inside and outside Tuscaloosa in the aftermath. Remember that the Tide only won this game by a FG last year and went on to have an undefeated season; this is a sizable improvement and leaves us without a reason to think Alabama will do any worse this year.
DID ANYONE ACTUALLY WIN THIS GAME?
Mississippi 23, Vanderbilt 7
What happened to Jevan Snead? He's completed just 51.4 percent of his passes, has already thrown five interceptions in his first four games (before facing LSU or Alabama) and had yet another mediocre performance against Vanderbilt on Saturday, matching his three scoring passes with three picks. Sure, Ole Miss statistically dominated this game -- but it was Vandy; they were supposed to do that.
The more the Rebels play, the less they look like a contender in the SEC West and the more they look like a team fighting to hold onto a Jan. 1 bowl berth. That might be an unfair, sweeping generalization for a team that also started out slowly last year and still has its most important games in front of it, but Ole Miss has never missed an opportunity to underwhelm this year.
As for Vanderbilt, which saw its longest pass play go for 13 yards to help offset a solid rushing attack, it was just another SEC loss in what is beginning to look like an increasingly long season.
THE SILVER LININGS KEEP COMING
Georgia Tech 42, Mississippi State 31
Really, do you think that the Western Division Bulldogs during the Croom Era would have come back from a 35-17 deficit after three quarters to make it a game that was actually somewhat interesting in the final minutes?
That is the "moral victory" that Mississippi State fans can take away from this game if they want to -- yet another piece of evidence that Dan Mullen is slowly beginning to piece together what he needs in Starkville to make the State at least relevant in the SEC. Had the defense merely stopped Georgia Tech's five-play, 76-yard drive in the fourth quarter, it could have been an ever more interesting conclusion, though likely still a loss for Mississippi State.
Turnovers might very well have cost the Bulldogs this game. There were five of them, though only one was a Tyson Lee interception. The four fumbles tempers any optimism that might otherwise come from a game where State gained 209 yards on the ground on 38 carries. But that's better than having no reason for optimism at all.
LOOK AT ALL THOSE POINTS
Arkansas 47, Texas A&M 19
When this game started out with a 10-0 lead for the Aggies, it was easy to think that either A&M had finally turned the corner and was going to show the nation how much it had improved by annihilating the Hogs or that Arkansas' season really was falling apart at the seams. By the time Arkansas had finished up its subsequent 30-point, 296-yard barrage to close out the first half, both those thoughts were long gone.
Ryan Mallett was back to being great (17-of-27, 271 yards, 4 TDs, 1 INT), the Hogs added another 163 yards rushing and a missed extra point was close to the worst thing you could saw about Arkansas.
Except that defense. Don't let the final score trick you; A&M had 458 yards of offense in this one (24 more than the Razorbacks), but 174 of those yards came on drives that didn't yield a single point. ("Wasted yards," as Dr. Saturday calls them.) Couting turnovers on downs, the Aggies turned over the ball five times in this one. Unless they're counting on that kind of luck in SEC games, Arkansas still has a lot of work to do.
ALSO PLAYING | Because if you play an FCS team, you only deserve a quarterback
South Carolina 38, S.C. State 14 When South Carolina was up just 10-7 going into halftime, I was not the least bit alarmed. After all, this is just what the Gamecocks do against FCS and Sun Belt teams -- let them hang around for a couple of quarters and then waltz to victory in the second half. Same thing here; nothing special, except maybe the emergence of Moe Brown as a credible receiving threat. On to the next game.