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SEC Football Week 7 Roundup: Mississippi Remains Strong; Several Teams' Running Games Struggle

A little bit more on each SEC team after the weekend that was in college football

Scott Halleran

Alabama Crimson Tide (5-1, 2-1 SEC): Defeated Arkansas, 14-13. The win against Arkansas -- and a narrow win it was -- still continued a couple of trends that should be disturbing to Tide fans. The first one is that the once vaunted Alabama running game has been slowing down to an enormous extent -- perhaps more than can be accounted for by the strength of schedule. Alabama averaged at least 5.9 yards a carry in the first three games of the season; then averaged 4.3 against Florida, then 3.8 against Ole Miss, then 2.1 against Arkansas. Florida and Ole Miss are very good rushing defenses, but Arkansas is 10th in the SEC on a per-carry basis. The second trend is an absolute implosion against Ole Miss and Arkansas on third-down offense. The Tide converted almost 63 percent of their third-down attempts in the first four games of the season, but have managed only 32.3 percent over the last two weeks. Ole Miss is fifth in the SEC in that category, but Arkansas is 11th.


Nelson Chenault -- USA TODAY Sports

Arkansas Razorbacks (3-3, 0-3 SEC): Lost to Alabama, 14-13. Count me among those truly befuddled as to why Bret Bielema didn't go for two points after his team took a 12-7 lead late in the third quarter. Full disclosure: It didn't really strike me as odd at the time (my attention was split between that game and LSU-Florida), but when I thought back on the game later, I thought: "Hmm, that's weird." It's not like either team was on pace to score a lot of points, and the only way that getting to 13 instead of 12 would have helped the Razorbacks was if Alabama successfully kicked two field goals -- which, yeah. If you go for two points with your team up by 25, you should probably do the same thing with your team up by five -- especially if you're going for your first SEC win against a team like Alabama and playing with house money.

Auburn Tigers (5-1, 2-1 SEC): Lost to Mississippi State, 38-23. To give you an idea on how uncharacteristically turnover-prone the Tigers were on Saturday, they almost doubled the number of times they've given the ball to the other team -- in a single game. Auburn had a total of five turnovers coming into the game, before throwing a pair of interceptions and fumbling the football away two more times. Even so -- and in part due to the generosity of Mississippi State -- the Tigers still have a plus-four turnover margin for the season. Reversion to the mean it might not have been, but Auburn doesn't want to get into the habit of handing the ball to the other team right now.

Florida Gators (3-2, 2-2 SEC): Lost to LSU, 30-27. The Gators just about personified a boom-or-bust offense against LSU this week, and there was far too much bust and far too little boom. Florida had four explosive plays in the game (a run of 15+ yards or a pass of 20+ yards; some go with runs of 12+ yards, but it doesn't make a difference in this instance) that totaled 149 yards. Their other 53 plays covered 157 yards, for an average of 2.96 yards a play. That's just not a sustainable way to win a game, even when you're going up an opponents as offensively-challenged as LSU.

Georgia Bulldogs (5-1, 3-1 SEC): Defeated Missouri, 34-0. How's that running game doing without Todd Gurley? Good but not great might be the best way to categorize it. The Dawgs still churned out 210 yards -- but on 58 carries, for an average of 3.6 yards a rush, the lowest average of the season by almost two full yards. The total yardage was also the lowest mark of the year (followed by the 217 yards in the South Carolina game and the 243 yards in the Vanderbilt game; in no other game did Georgia rush for less than 250 yards). And even the long rush of the game, 18 yards, was by far the smallest of the season in that category. Winning the next three games would almost lock up the SEC East for the Dawgs -- they would need Missouri to take on an extra conference loss, which seems likely -- but the sooner Gurley gets back, the better. (I know, #analysis.)


Denny Medley -- USA TODAY Sports

Kentucky Wildcats (5-1, 2-1 SEC): Defeated Lousiana-Monroe, 48-14. It looked for a quarter or so like Kentucky was going to experience the letdown games to end all letdown games -- but then the Wildcats turned it on and were no worse for the wear. Lousiana-Monroe jumped out to a 14-3 lead in the first quarter, gaining 119 yards and seven first downs in the first 15 minutes. But they would only gain 145 yards and eight first downs in the other three quarters of the game combined, and Kentucky ended up cruising to within one win of bowl eligibility.

LSU Tigers (5-2, 1-2 SEC): Defeated Florida, 30-27. If this was the game where Leonard Fournette had the light go on, then the rest of the SEC might want to watch out. Fournette's 140 rushing yards were the most logged by any Tiger on Saturday, and he averaged 5.2 yards a pop over hist 27 attempts. Fournette also had two of the Bayou Bengals' four touchdowns in Gainesville. Whether or not he can keep that up against a schedule that still includes Ole Miss and Alabama is a legitimate question, but he's finally beginning to look like someone who will have a reason to strike a Heisman pose in a few years.

Mississippi State Bulldogs (6-0, 3-0 SEC): Defeated Auburn, 38-23. Looking to hear a few more milestones for the Bulldogs? Here are some: This is the fifth time in history that Mississippi State has been 6-0, and only the third time since 1944. (Note: that doesn't include the 1940 team, which went 10-0-1 but picked up the tie in its third game.) The other two times in the postwar era were in 1999 -- when Mississippi State went 10-2, the second-best record in school history -- and 2012, when Dan Mullen's Bulldogs ended up 8-5. The latter seems exceedingly unlikely to repeat itself this year, but that's the shadow hanging over this program. If State can win games at Kentucky, against Arkansas and at Alabama, it can reach 6-0 in conference for the first time in school history.


Spruce Derden -- USA TODAY Sports

Missouri Tigers (4-2, 1-1 SEC): Lost to Georgia, 34-0. Mauktoberfest appears to have been canceled this year. Coming off of his worst game of the season at South Carolina, Maty Mauk had a game that was arguably worse. (And only "arguably" because he had a higher completion percentage against Georgia than against the Gamecocks.) More important than the dates on the calendar might be that Mauk has been thoroughly unimpressive or even dreadful in his first two outings of 2014 against SEC defenses: the Missouri quarterback has a 38.2 percent completion rate and a 58.61 passer rating over those two games. He threw for 14 touchdowns in the first four games of the season, and has thrown for zero since. The other other Tigers still have a good chance to make the postseason -- they just need to knock off Vanderbilt and get one more win somewhere -- but it could get dicier if they can't fix Mauk.

Ole Miss Rebels (6-0, 3-0 SEC): Defeated Texas A&M, 35-20. There's no question that the Rebels ran the Aggies out of the building Saturday night, but they did it with a rather pedestrian night offensively, at least by the statistics. Ole Miss gained a total of 338 yards and converted just 17 first downs. Of course, when the opponent turns the ball over three times, and you get 14 points off of those turnovers, you don't have to put up huge numbers on offense to win the game. The good doctor, Bo Wallace, accounted for 228 of those total yards, by the way, so surgery appears to be going swimmingly right now.

South Carolina Gamecocks (3-3, 2-3 SEC): Bye. The Gamecocks were the only team to take their bye this week, and no team in the conference needed a break more. With home games against Furman and South Alabama still on the docket, South Carolina can clinch bowl eligibility with one win among the following games: Tennessee, at Florida, at Clemson. (We're going to dispense with any notion that they might defeat Auburn, for obvious reasons.) That's doable, but it's far from certain, and it's long way down for a team that was talked about as playoff contender in the preseason.

Tennessee Volunteers (3-3, 0-2 SEC): Defeated Chattanooga, 45-10. There's nothing to cure the bad feelings from a three-game losing streak quite like opening the cupboard to find an FCS cupcake there, and Tennessee had a feast. Sort of. The Volunteers' rushing offense, already ranked dead last in the conference, once again struggled to get going against the Mocs. In fact, Tennessee didn't gain much of anything on the ground until the fourth quarter; the Vols had seven yards on 11 carries in the first quarter, 35 yards on eight carries in the second and 10 yards on 10 carries in the third. That's an average of 1.8 yards a carry. They did gain 71 yards on 13 rushes in the fourth quarter, for 5.5 yards a carry, but they still ended up with an average of just 2.9 yards per rush for the day.


Jim Brown -- USA TODAY Sports

Texas A&M Aggies (5-2, 2-2 SEC): Lost to Ole Miss, 35-20. The Aggies' best chance to make this a game came in the second quarter, which they entered trailing, 14-0. Texas A&M drove into Ole Miss territory twice in the quarter, but came away with no points. On their first possession, TAMU got down to the Ole Miss 45-yard line before Kenny Hill threw what ended up being a pick-six for Cody Prewitt. and on their third drive of the quarter, A&M decided to go with a fake field goal on 4th-and-8 from the Ole Miss 27. The Rebels blew it up, and could pretty much coast to the win. That and some garbage-time yardage is how you outgain an opponent by 117 yards and still lose.

Vanderbilt Commodores (2-5, 0-4 SEC): Defeated Charleston Southern, 21-20. The good news? Vanderbilt avoided the ignominious fate of losing to Charleston Southern out of the FCS. The bad news? The Commodores only beat the Buccaneers by one point, which might be worse. The Bucs gained 1.5 yards more per carry and 3.2 yards more per pass completion than Vanderbilt did, and had 19 first downs to the Commodores' 11. (Hey, at least Vanderbilt gained 0.6 more yards per pass attempt! Ha!)