One out of three ain't good, but it's as much as the SEC East was able to manage against the ACC on Saturday afternoon. South Carolina played its best game of the year but lost, Kentucky played a 60-minute metaphor for its football season, and Georgia got the only win of the bunch with a narrow victory over Georgia Tech in Atlanta.
For the Gamecocks, the loss was another tantalizing case of possibility over probability at the end of two years full of those. Clemson generated 515 yards of total offense and was 9-of-13 on third-down conversions; but when you consider how bad the South Carolina defense was this year and how good the Clemson offense has been, it's tempting to give Jon Hoke's players -- though not Hoke himself -- for giving the offense at least a chance to win. And with a better-than-it looks stat line of 13-for-28 for 219 yards, three touchdowns and an interception for Perry Orth, and Deebo Samuel's five receptions for 104 yards, there were times the offense looked like it might do just that.
But once South Carolina actually seemed to be making a game of it, and pulled within three points, Clemson promptly poured on nine more -- including a 75-yard touchdown drive -- to put the game out of reach. A later touchdown drive by South Carolina made the final score 37-32, as much a tribute to Shawn Elliott's motivational abilities and the plus-two turnover margin as anything else. Not that the South Carolina fan base is much interested in moral victories at this point.
Meanwhile, Kentucky was wrapped up in a microcosm of its entire season against Louisville. The Wildcats jumped out to a 21-0 lead in the first quarter, and held onto a 24-7 lead at halftime. But the Cardinals stormed back with 31 second-half points while blanking Kentucky in a brutal loss for the Wildcats. The aerial attack was sloppy for both teams -- the quarterbacks went a combined 19-of-52 for 374 yards, one touchdown and four interceptions. But Louisville's Lamar Jackson ran the ball 186 yards on 17 carries while Kentucky averaged just 2.5 yards on the ground.
The loss likely brings an end to the Wildcats' bowl hopes, although no one quite knows who might get an invitation if too few teams end up at or above .500 to fill the 80 postseason spots. Backing into a bowl berth still wouldn't be a glowing endorsement of Mark Stoops' program as it enters its fourth season.
Things turned out slightly better for the Bulldogs. With a 13-7 win against Georgia Tech, Georgia has now nine wins on the season and a chance at yet another double-digit victory that will irritate some Bulldog fans but allow Mark Richt to hold on. Greyson Lambert has a solid day, going 18-of-25 passing for 224 yards, and Sony Michel rushed for 149 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries. Tech's triple-option rushing attack did churn out 194 yards on 41 carries, but Georgia held the Jackets to 3-of-15 on third and fourth down and forced three turnovers to keep Georgia Tech off the board through the first three quarters.
The final SEC East record against the ACC rivals will wait until Florida plays Florida State this evening. But for the first part of the day, at least, it's another rough outing for the SEC's weaker division.