NOTE: Michael McCoy of the Auburn Football Insider Podcast and Blogcritics Magazine is pinch hitting for J. Newcastle this week for the SEC Weekly Wrap Up report.
LSU Muscles Past Alabama
LSU rode a strong second half effort and some more magic from Les Miles to beat Alabama 24-21, all but ending the Crimson Tide’s chances at repeating as both SEC and national champions.
After a predictably defensive first half spent battling for field position, LSU came out in the second half with Jordan Jefferson firmly establishing himself as the Tigers’ go to quarterback with a couple of big throws to lead LSU on a two-play, 90+ yard drive, culminating in a 75-TD pass to Rueben Randle, one of LSU’s outstanding players on the day. Alabama answered immediately with an impressive drive of its own, this time riding the legs of Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram to climb back on top 14-10.
LSU cut the deficit to one point early in the fourth quarter with a Josh Jasper field goal. LSU’s defense was on top now and quickly got the ball back to the offense, who immediately drove the ball into Alabama territory, but was faced with a fourth-and-1 around the Alabama 25-yard line.
Further enhancing his reputation as a successful gambler, Les Miles dialed up a reverse that set up a first-and-goal inside the five-yard line for the Tigers. RB Stevan Ridley dove in to the end zone a few plays later to put LSU ahead for good, with a successful two-point play converted immediately after.
On Alabama’s ensuing possession, LSU’s All-SEC DT Drake Nevis blew up the Tide’s offensive line to sack QB Greg McElroy and cause a fumble which the Tigers pounced on. Another Josh Jasper field goal soon followed and it seemed all but over at 24-14, but Alabama responded with a surgical drive to cut it to 24-21 with a little over three minutes to play.
After LSU got the ball back, Jordan Jefferson was knocked out of the game on a first down option play. Much maligned reserve QB Jarrett Lee stepped in and two plays later, on a critical third-and-long, delivered a long strike down the sideline to a streaking Reuben Randle, allowing LSU to just about run the clock out. Alabama got the ball back with 20+ seconds remaining, but it came to nothing.
LSU outgained Alabama 433-325 for the game, with much of that coming in the second half. Les Miles moved into a tie for first with predecessor Nick Saban for most all-time wins (four) against Alabama as LSU coach. The Tigers still need a lot of help to get to Atlanta, having to win out and hope that Auburn loses its remaining games, but a BCS Bowl Game is a very attainable target.
LSU gets a break with Louisiana-Monroe at home next week while Alabama hosts a rested, but grieving Mississippi State Bulldogs team.
Arkansas Soars Over South Carolina
In what was supposed to be a back-and-forth shootout in Columbia, the Arkansas Razorbacks took control late in the first half and never looked back to win 41-20 against a Gamecocks team that seemed flat and uninterested despite still having everything to play for.
Arkansas set the tone early by forcing a three-and-out on South Carolina’s first possession, and then taking the ball and driving right down the field to go up 7-0 on a Cobi Hamilton touchdown pass from standout QB Ryan Mallet. South Carolina responded with the passing game and five minutes later, tied the game up on a Tori Gurley touchdown pass from QB Stephen Garcia.
Then the game went into a holding pattern for a little while before Arkansas hit its stride once more. Riding Mallet’s arm and some newfound offensive balance that RB Kniles Davis has provided the last few games, Arkansas took over in the second quarter to build up a 24-10 halftime lead.
With standout freshman RB Marcus Lattimore dinged up, South Carolina never really found the offensive rhythm to get back in the game. Coupled with a defense that couldn’t get off the field, Arkansas was able to run out comfortable winners in the second half. Even a couple of late scores couldn’t take the gloss off of an impressive-looking road win that saw Arkansas dominate in all three phases.
Arkansas remains just in the hunt for a BCS Bowl berth while South Carolina, despite this putrid effort, still has it all to play for with a de facto SEC East Championship game against Florida in Gainesville next week. Arkansas returns home to flex its muscles against UTEP.
Florida Finds Form vs. Vandy
Coming off a big win over Georgia the previous week, there were no signs of a letdown as Florida scored early and often against Vanderbilt, building up a 41-0 halftime lead before closing out a 55-14 win in the end.
This one had all the hallmarks of the numerous dominating Florida wins during the Urban Meyer era. The offense was multi-dimensional, the defense dominant, and the special teams explosive with two blocked punts returned for touchdowns. Granted, it came against a woeful Vanderbilt team, but there was a swagger and dominance about Florida’s play that has been missing all year.
Now the Gators head into a winner-take-all home game against a reeling South Carolina team that has never won in Gainesville since joining the SEC back in 1992. Despite all its struggles this year, Florida is poised to continue its SEC East hegemony. Vanderbilt is at Kentucky next week.
In Other Action …
Showing no signs of a turbulent few days off the field, Auburn QB Cam Newton threw for a career-high 317 yards and four touchdowns, all in the first half, against outmatched FCS opponent UT-Chattanooga to set Auburn on its way to a routine 62-24 win. Auburn can clinch the SEC West at home next week against Georgia.
Georgia put aside its Florida hangover to easily dispose of FCS opponent Idaho St. The Bulldogs started slow but found its stride in the second quarter, eventually running out 55-7 winners. Still fighting for bowl eligibility, they head to Auburn next week.
Kentucky let Charleston Southern hang around longer than it should before finally putting their FCS opponents away in the fourth quarter, winning 49-21 in the end. QB Mike Hartline continued his strong play, while all-everything Randall Cobb contributed his customary big plays. The Wildcats are host to Vanderbilt next week, where a win would send them to a bowl game for a record fifth year in a row.
Ole Miss overcame a concussion to dynamic QB Jermiah Masoli and spirited play from Louisiana-Lafayette to eventually come out on top 43-21. Brandon Bolden and Enrique Davis both ran for over 100 yards. The Rebels travel to Tennessee next week where they need a win to realistically stay in the hunt for a bowl game.
Tennessee put the memories of a dismal October behind them to rout intra-state rival Memphis, 50-14. The Vols will be under no illusions that Memphis is one of the worst teams in FBS, but the win should give them confidence as they approach a very winnable slate of games that could still see them reach a bowl, which would be a fine achievement in Derek Dooley’s first year given the state of the program he has taken over. Tennessee heads home to face Ole Miss next week.
Check back for J. Newcastle’s SEC Weekly Preview later this week.