Realistically, I thought two of the eight games involving SEC teams this past Saturday had the potential to be close. This wasn't going to be a weekend for the record books. It never had a chance to be that. But at least, I thought, Mississippi State-Kentucky and Florida-Tennessee would be intriguing into the fourth quarter. WRONG! While there was not a single SEC-related game that provided the late-game drama like Stanford-Oregon or Army-Oklahoma, I think we all learned plenty about the teams we follow most closely. With that, here's to hoping you enjoy the latest installment of "Nowkhah Knows."
I know there is a new kid on the block in the East. Hello, Kentucky. And this has nothing to do with John Calipari or a top-ranked recruiting class of likely one-and-dones. Mark Stoops has built something special in the Commonwealth. An amped up Benny Snell rolled over a previously-impenetrable Mississippi State defensive line for 165 of the Wildcats' 229 rushing yards. MSU had allowed 85 rushing yards per game before Saturday. While the Kentucky offense owned THAT line of scrimmage, the Cats defense slammed the door on Mississippi State's run game. The Bulldogs ran for 56 yards on 28 carries. Do you know what Mississippi State averaged running the ball before Saturday? 312 yards per game. Get this, in Kentucky's two conference wins so far, they've held Florida 33 points below its season scoring average and held Mississippi State 43 points below its average. I didn't see this coming. I thought Mississippi State would win by two touchdowns. That would have been impossible, since the Bulldogs only scored one. Kentucky, welcome to the party. Welcome to contention. Welcome to the Top 25! You've earned it.
I know you're in trouble if you're Missouri and your defense has allowed nothing more than two field goals to Georgia yet you find yourself down two touchdowns at halftime. Imagine if, before the game, somebody had told Mizzou head coach Barry Odom that his defense, the one that gave up 614 yards to Purdue last week, would hold number two Georgia's offense to six points in the first half. Odom would have had to think they'd be up big at home. Yet they were down 20-7 thanks to a Georgia scoop-and-score and a blocked punt-turned-touchdown. Sure, Georgia's offense lacked any sort of spark or consistency for two quarters and sure, Kirby Smart wasn't close to happy with his team's offensive performance but Georgia went on the road to face an improved Mizzou team and got out with a 14-point win. Get through 60 minutes, shake hands and go home a winner. Every championship team has games like that. But will Alabama?
I know Alabama is as close to perfect as any college football team I can remember. I'll write more about them when there is more to write. I'll save the "rat poison." You're welcome, Coach.
I know Jeremy Pruitt has the job of a lifetime on his hands. And by "job of a lifetime," I don't mean it's the job anybody would dream of having. I mean, holy cow, fixing Tennessee will take more work than he may have anticipated. Saturday night, Gene Chizik pointed this out on SEC Now. Watch Tennessee play one quarter of football against decent competition and the fact becomes obvious. In Saturday's 47-21 home loss to Florida, they committed six turnovers, completed 10 passes between two quarterbacks, ran for 2.9 yards per carry and couldn't block a BABY gator, let alone a Florida Gator. Other than that, the Vols were great. Last season's 0-8 conference season was a nightmare for UT fans. If I were one of those fans, I wouldn't go to sleep. I think that same nightmare just might happen again. Did I mention their next three games are at No. 2 Georgia, at No. 10 Auburn and home against No. 1 Alabama? Sounds about as fun as a root canal.
I know Arkansas showed some fight in their loss at Auburn. I realize fight doesn't win football games, at least not on-field mismatches. But at this point, Hog fans are looking for any positives. They fought for four quarters. And maybe Chad Morris has settled on a starting quarterback. Ty Storey started and essentially went the distance. His numbers don't exactly measure up to Tua's, but keep in mind, he was facing a nasty Auburn defense and spent much of the evening on the run. However, Arkansas kept Auburn QB Jarrett Stidham running too, racking up four sacks and more impressively, holding Auburn's rushing attack UNDER 100 yards. The Tigers averaged just 2.5 yards per carry. And if I'm Auburn, I'm concerned. We have yet to see a Gus Malzahn-coached Auburn team win consistently when it doesn't run consistently. In Auburn's three games against FBS competition, they have run for 3.1 yards per carry. I wasn't a math major, but I know that's not the number Auburn wants to see.
I know South Carolina missed playing football last weekend. Props, Gamecocks, for a nice, relatively easy road win. Offensive coordinator Bryan McClendon's group gained 534 yards against Vanderbilt in their 37-14 win. While I'm bummed that Vandy didn't play as tough and physical at home as they did at Notre Dame the previous week, I'm fired up for South Carolina's visit to Kentucky this Saturday. Who is the second-best team in the East? That game should tell us.
I know Ole Miss should not have been tied with Kent State 7-7 at halftime. But there is another number "7" I would be thrilled with if I were a Rebel. That's the number of times they sacked Golden Flashes QB Woody Barrett. Ole Miss had a whopping TWO sacks all season before Saturday.
I know LSU had its home fans having Troy flashbacks in the fourth quarter against Louisiana Tech. The Tigers were only up three points with just under 13 minutes to go. In the end, it was a ho-hum LSU win. Hey, they can't all be walk-offs that result in thousands of dollars being donated to a random college in New England!
My week four 1-14:
1 - Alabama
2 - Georgia
3 - Kentucky (I know, I can't believe it either)
4 - LSU
5 - Texas A&M
6 - Mississippi State
7 - Auburn
8 - South Carolina
9 - Missouri
10 - Florida
11 - Ole Miss
12 - Vanderbilt
13 - Tennessee
14 - Arkansas
For the record, I struggled more with spots 13 and 14 than with any other spot in the list.