What We Learned on weekend No. 4:
1. Mississippi State’s win over LSU was not an upset: Mississippi State beat LSU 34-29 in Baton Rouge and if you just looked at the score you’d think it must have been a nail-bitter. Yes, LSU did have a throw into the end zone at the end to win the game. But the fact is that the Bulldogs marched into Tiger Stadium, where they had not won since 1991, and basically kicked LSU’s butt for over 35 minutes. Give LSU credit for getting a couple of late scores (two TD in 28 seconds) after most of their fans had left. But that game can only be listed as an upset because we in the media looked past LSU’s youth and inexperience and had them rated too high. Mississippi State had the better quarterback (Dak Prescott) and started 19 juniors and seniors. They had the better team.
2. Speaking of Prescott. If you’re looking for role models, look at Dak Prescott and Blake Sims. While other quarterbacks who shall remain nameless are embarrassing their schools, Prescott and Sims have stood tall as players and as people. Prescott, from Haughton, La., committed to Mississippi State in the summer before his senior season in high school. LSU came in late and offered but Prescott would not go back on his word to Dan Mullen. He had the game of his life at LSU, with 268 yards passing and 105 rushing.
When Jake Coker transferred to Alabama from Florida State, the whole world thought he, not senior Blake Sims, would be the starting quarterback. But Sims kept working and he kept learning and kept ignoring his critics. Saturday he was magnificent, throwing for 445 yards, the second highest total in Alabama history, in a 42-21 win over Florida.
3. South Carolina is not a good team: I didn’t say it. Steve Spurrier, the Head Ball Coach, said it after watching the Gamecocks slop around before beating Vanderbilt 48-34 in Nashville. South Carolina, ranked in the Top 10 in a lot of preseason polls, played well last week in beating Georgia 38-35. But against Vanderbilt they fell behind 14-0. They gave up kickoff returns of 91 and 100 yards for touchdowns. “We’ve all seen good teams and we ain’t one,” an exasperated Spurrier said after the game. “Don’t say w’ere one right now. I’ts no fun for me watching us play tonight.” ESPN announced Sunday that “College Game Day” was coming to Columbia, S.C. for Saturday’s game with Missouri.
4. Auburn is a different team with the addition of Duke Williams: When you are the Thursday night road team, your goal has to be to find a way–any way–to win and then get on the bus and go home. That’s what Auburn did in beating Kansas State 20-14 last Thursday night in Little Manhattan. Yes, Kansas State and its Hall of Fame coach (Bill Snyder) could have beaten Auburn. But the Tigers got the plays they needed, including a clutch nine-yard catch for a first down by Williams when Auburn was trying to run out the clock. Williams, the junior college transfer, caught eight passes for 110 yards. He is a big-time talent and gives Auburn a dimension it did not have last season.
5.Speaking of receivers. Alabama’s Amari Cooper has to be in the Heisman Trophy discussion. In my meeting with Alabama coach Nick Saban last spring the subject of Lane Kiffin, the new offensive coordinator, came up. Saban made it clear that he hired Kiffin because he was looking for more creativity (and more points) and a big part of that would be finding a way to get the ball to Amari Cooper much more often. I was told by more than one person in the building that they were expecting a big year out of No. 9. Cooper added 10 more catches (for 201 yards) against Florida giving him 43 in just four games. The school record for catches in a season is held by Julio Jones (78 in 2011). He now has 20 career touchdown catches, which is the Alabama record.