Because there's only so much we can cover on a hectic Saturday, here's a few quick thoughts on each SEC team.
Alabama, def. Texas A&M, 49-42. If you want any evidence that the team that draws the most penalty flags doesn't always lose, all you need to do is look at this game. The Tide was flagged 12 times for 104 yards, about twice as much on both measures as the Aggies, and still won a close and fiercely contested game. In the process, Alabama also showed how absurd the new targeting rule is by having a player ejected from the game for targeting, then have him become eligible for the game because replay showed there was no targeting, only to have a 15-yard penalty marched off for targeting. I'm one of those who thinks we have to do everything in our power to keep players safe, but reversing a penalty because it never happened while allowing the penalty yardage to stand is not concern about player safety; it's madness. It's borderline Orwellian. Crack down on targeting, but don't enforce a penalty while admitting that the flag never should have been thrown in the first place. [SB Nation blog: Roll Bama Roll]
Arkansas, def. Southern Miss, 24-3. We might have been a bit early to call off the warning of a runfest in Fayetteville this year. The Hogs ran the ball 56 times this week and threw it 11 in a game that wasn't really locked up until into the second half. We could continue to see Arkansas lean on the ground game if Brandon Allen doesn't come back from his injury in time for the Rutgers game. [Arkansas Fight]
Auburn, def. Mississippi State, 24-20. The next three weeks should tell us just how much improvement this game signals for the Tigers. Auburn travels to LSU next week for the annual Tiger-vs.-Tiger battle, then takes a bye before a home game against Ole Miss. If it can win at least one of those games, Auburn could be in for a great season. If not, a fifth- or sixth-place finish in the SEC West with a lower-tier bowl berth might have to be enough, but that would still be a lot better than where they were headed under Gene Chizik. [College and Magnolia]
Florida, bye. The Gators get a wounded Tennessee team at home and should be able to handle them without much trouble this week. The next big test for this team is LSU on Oct. 12, the game that could tell us as much as we're likely to know before the Georgia game about whether Will Muschamp's third season will see his team contending for the SEC East again or simply gunning for a New Year's Day game. [Alligator Army]
Georgia, bye. The Dawgs actually get the Tigers first, one week after taking on North Texas this Saturday. The LSU game could end up being a critical game less for Georgia's SEC East chances than for South Carolina's. If Georgia wins that one, it's hard to see them losing two down the stretch, which would virtually eliminate the Gamecocks barring an upset. There is a chance for a three-way tie for first in the SEC East, but it's not at all clear that South Carolina would come out on top in that case. [Dawg Sports]
Kentucky, lost to Louisville, 27-13. No one wants to hear about moral victories, but the Wildcats actually put up a better fight in this game than I expected, and might have had a little bit better chance at pulling the upset were it not for the three turnovers. The passing game is still a wreck, but the running game averaged 5.2 yards a carry. It's going to take awhile for this team to get where it wants to be, though. [A Sea of Blue]
LSU, def. Kent State, 45-13. Even if the TCU win is losing a bit of its luster, the Bayou Bengals are continuing to look impressive against the weaker portion of their schedule. Zach Mettenberger was again extremely efficient against the Golden Flashes, going 13-of-18 for 264 yards and three touchdowns against Kent State. If he can keep up something approaching that level of efficiency throughout the year, LSU will be a forced to be reckoned with in the West. [And the Valley Shook]
Mississippi State, lost to Auburn, 24-20. It was a gut-punch of a loss for the Bulldogs, who are quickly playing themselves out of contention for a bowl game. But Dak Prescott is really starting to impress for Mississippi State, ringing up 346 yards of total offense and running for two touchdowns in this one. He's not going to be Johnny Manziel anytime soon, but he could be a little bit of hope for the future. [For Whom the Cowbell Tolls]
Missouri, bye. I still have no idea what to make of this team. They've pounded a couple of cupcakes and then took a week off. The game this weekend at Indiana might tell us something, though we don't know much about the Hoosiers. In fact, it's not inconceivable that Missouri could be 5-0 and still a mystery by the time they go to Athens to face Georgia on Oct. 12. [Rock M Nation]
Ole Miss, def. Texas, 44-23. The challenge for Hugh Freeze at this point might be to just keep his team from believing the hype. It's nice to feel good about going to Austin and beating the Longhorns, but it's important to remember that these aren't your father's Longhorns. Texas is in the late stages of regional dynasty collapse. All that said, the Rebels are undefeated through three games for the first time since the first George Bush was president. And still popular. [Red Cup Rebellion]
South Carolina, def. Vanderbilt, 35-25. I'm still waiting for this team to play a game for all four quarters. They took the last three quarters of the UNC game off and basically mailed in the second half against Vanderbilt until the Commodores made it clear that they weren't going to just lose. South Carolina really can't sleepwalk through the remainder of its schedule -- this weekend's game at Central Florida looks harder than you would think, and following that and a home game against Kentucky is a three-game road trip. An easy schedule doesn't help if you play down to it. [Garnet and Black Attack]
Tennessee, lost to Oregon, 59-14. I kind of like the way Chris Pendley put this game at Rocky Top Talk, so I might as well quote him instead of trying and failing to come up with a better way of saying it.
We may not have expected it to happen in quite this manner -- what with Oregon's streaks of five and four straight scoring drives and Marcus Mariota being deadly through the air -- but aside from a wildly optimistic few, most everyone figured this was going to be a loss.
I did not expect the onslaught to be quite as spectacular as it was -- one moment there was room to think Tennessee might luck into the upset, and the next there wasn't -- but I'm also not surprised that the Vols lost by a large margin. If Tennessee can make things interesting for Florida, it could tell us a little bit about both teams. [Rocky Top Talk]
Texas A&M, lost to Alabama, 49-42. It's worth pointing out that a big part of the reason the Aggies lost this game were the two interceptions thrown by Johnny Manziel. If you count the fact that one of them was thrown on the goal line and started an Alabama touchdown drive and the other was a pick-six, that's at least a 14-point swing and potentially a 21-point swing. But it's also worth noting that given his five touchdowns and 562 yards of total offense, it's doubtful that the Aggies would have even been in this game were it not for Manziel. He's sometimes a double-edged sword, but his track record suggests he's more likely to cut for Texas A&M than against it. [Good Bull Hunting]
Vanderbilt, lost to South Carolina, 35-25. There are some things to be encouraged by despite the loss to the Gamecocks. First of all, the team didn't quit when it found itself down 28 points in the second quarter and 25 points in the third quarter; instead, it began what was almost a successful comeback. Wesley Tate lining up in a Wildcat-type formation worked pretty well, even if South Carolina caught on late and worked with limited success to contain it. If the Commodores can win the next two games at UMass and against UAB -- and they should -- a bowl game is still very much on the table. [Anchor of Gold]