Posted: 4:38 pm Sunday, September 28th, 2014
By Tony Barnhart
There was so much we learned on a breathless Saturday in the SEC. So where do you start? How about here:
Better buckle up because it looks like, moving forward, every Saturday is going be like last Saturday. Two weeks ago I told you that the SEC was more balanced with good teams than I had ever seen it and that every conference game would be appointment television. Saturday’s scores bore that out:
- Georgia 35, Tennessee 32: Vols gave notice that their return to prominence will be sooner rather than later.
- Texas A&M 35, Arkansas 28 (OT): The Hogs held a 28-14 lead over the nation’s No. 6 team but Kenny Hill brought the Aggies back.
- Missouri 21, South Carolina 20: No. 13 Gamecocks led 20-7 with less than eight minutes left. Maty Mauk brought his team back on the road.
- Kentucky 17, Vanderbilt 7: Vanderbilt was 1-3 but ‘Cats couldn’t put the Commodores away until getting three interceptions in the fourth quarter.
This Saturday shapes up as one of the best days of football this conference has ever seen with three teams in the Top 15 facing three teams in the top six:
No. 3 Alabama at No. 11 Ole Miss (3:30 p.m., CBS): Biggest game in Oxford since Eli Manning’s last home game in 2003.
No. 6 Texas A&M at No. 12 Mississippi State (Noon, ESPN): Bulldogs off last week. Should be biggest crowd in school history.
No. 15 LSU at No. 5 Auburn, (7 p.m. ESPN): Must win for LSU.
Florida at Tennessee (Noon, SEC Network): Huge quality of life game for Florida’s Will Muschamp.
Vanderbilt at Georgia (4 p.m., SEC Network): Georgia now controls destiny in the SEC East.
South Carolina at Kentucky (7:30 p.m., SEC Network): Wildcats will be excited. Gamecocks will be flat.
Three other things we learned:
- Mark Richt is right. Todd Gurley is not one of the best players in college football. He is the “best” player in college football. Georgia was in prime position to be upset by a Tennessee team that showed a lot of guts on the road. But Gurley just put Georgia on his back and said “It’s OK, fellas. I got this.” Giving Gurley the ball on a fourth down inside the final minute spoke volumes. Georgia knew it had to keep the ball because its defense was giving up too many big plays. It also said that from this point forward, No. 3 will get the ball with the game on the line. Gurley got four yards and Georgia ran out the clock. I’ve only seen a handful of players in my time who could carry an entire team. Herschel Walker was one. Bo Jackson was another. Tim Tebow was another. Gurley is now on that list.
- Brandon Harris is LSU’s best quarterback. How Les Miles handles his quarterbacks is his decision. But I know what I see. And in the last two weeks I’ve concluded that the LSU team plays better, significantly better, with freshman Brandon Harris in the game. Last week Harris led the comeback against Mississippi State that was a little short. In a scrimmage against New Mexico State (63-7), Harris completed 11 of 14 passes for 178 yards. Booger McFarland of the SEC Network, an LSU grad, said it best. It’s time to stop wasting time and get the best quarterback ready for the meat of the SEC schedule, which starts Saturday at Auburn.
- Florida State does not look like a top-4 team: Credit Florida State for coming back from a 24-7 deficit at N.C. State to win 56-41. But if you’re the nation’s No. 1 team or a team that has designs on the four-team playoff, you don’t go to N.C. State and fall behind by 17 and give up 41 points. I still think Florida State is going to win all of its games and make the four-team College Football Playoff. But something is missing. I don’t know if it’s the weekly Jameis Winston soap opera or what. But at this moment Florida State does not look like one of the nation’s top four teams.