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The Official Website of the Southeastern Conference

SEC Weekend Rewind: Week 10

9 days ago
Brandon Zimmerman | SEC Network

Florida's opening drive on Saturday told you all you needed to know.

Facing a fourth and inches at Georgia's 40-yard line, the Gators lined up in the shotgun with an empty backfield...and threw the ball. Incomplete.

Florida not attempting to run the ball may have said a lot about how coach Dan Mullen feels about his offensive line. It also spoke to Mullen's perception of Georgia's defense. It's pretty darn good.

Georgia's SEC-leading defense proved in Jacksonville on Saturday why the Bulldogs are a legitimate SEC Championship contender. Georgia took control of the SEC East with a 24-17 win over Florida on Saturday.

While the narrative surrounding Georgia this year has been about playcalling and the lack of explosive plays on offense, the Bulldogs have quietly amassed the best defense in the SEC.

Just take a look at some of the numbers:

-Georgia's defense is only giving up 11.4 points per game this season, best in the SEC.

-The Bulldogs are also tops in the SEC in total defense (268.1 yards per game), yards per play (4.3) and rush defense (77.6 yards per game, 2.8 yards per rush).

-Georgia is the only FBS team in at least the last 20 seasons to have not allowed a rushing touchdown through the first eight games.

-The Bulldogs also lead the SEC in red zone defense, giving up scores on just 61.5% of opponents' trips.

That defense was on display on Saturday. Facing easily the most prolific offense it has faced all season, Georgia held the Gators to just three points in the first three quarters. Florida only converted 2-of-9 third downs, and were limited to just 21 rushing yards on 19 attempts.

Perhaps Georgia's biggest defensive play came on Florida's first drive on the second half. After the Gators had moved to the Bulldogs' 38-yard line on three plays, Georgia defensive linemen Jordan Davis and Malik Herring burst through the Gators' line to sack Kyle Trask for a loss of 19 yards. Drive over.

In spite of that, Georgia's defensive efficiency isn't overly flashy. After all, Georgia is ninth in the SEC in sacks with 18. The Bulldogs are 13th in the SEC in turnovers forced with nine.

What the Bulldogs do well is stop the run, blanket receivers, tackle and get off the field on third down. They're also coached pretty well - a hallmark of coach Kirby Smart dating back to his days as Alabama's defensive coordinator.

But is this defense good enough to slow down the passing attacks of Alabama or LSU in the SEC title game should Georgia get there? That remains the biggest question. And Smart knows the Bulldogs have a long way to go to get there.

"We have not arrived," Smart said. "We have to get better. There are a lot of things that we've got to work on. And we've got some really tough teams coming up to play. And that's what I reiterated to our guys."

MISSISSIPPI STATE'S OFFENSIVE EXPLOSION: Joe Moorhead's team kept its bowl hopes alive by re-writing the school's record books on Saturday. The Bulldogs established school single-game SEC records with 460 rushing yards and 640 total yards in its 54-24 victory over Arkansas.

Running back Kylin Hill rushed for a career high 234 yards, with 198 of those coming in the first half. It was a big turnaround for Hill, the SEC's leading rusher, who had run for just 92 yards on 43 carries during a three-game stretch in October.

Hill joined Jerious Norwood (3) and James Johnson (2) as the only players in school history with multiple career 200-yard rushing games.

The win moved Mississippi State (4-5) within two wins of bowl eligibility with three games left against Alabama, Abilene-Christian and Ole Miss.

RACE FOR BOWL ELIGIBILITY ON: Mississippi State isn't the only SEC team needing a big finish to the season to become bowl eligible. South Carolina (4-5), Tennessee (4-5), Kentucky (4-4) and Ole Miss (3-6) all still have work to do to get to six wins.

The Gamecocks need two wins with games against Appalachian State, at Texas A&M and Clemson left. Tennessee, which has now won three of its last four, needs two wins with games at Kentucky, at Missouri and against Vanderbilt left.

Kentucky needs two wins with four games remaining. The Wildcats travel to Tennessee and Vanderbilt before closing the season with homes games against UT-Martin and Louisville.

Ole Miss, meanwhile, needs to win out with games against New Mexico State, LSU and at Mississippi State left.

GAME OF THE CENTURY II: It's finally LSU-Alabama week. The teams enter this year's game No. 1 and No. 2 in the AP Top 25 for the first time since their infamous 2011 matchup, dubbed the Game of the Century.

This year's game promises to have a different tone than the 9-6 LSU win eight years ago. The two teams enter this year's game with the top two scoring offenses in the SEC. Alabama is averaging 48.6 points per game while LSU scores 46.8 points per game.

Back to 2011. How rare was that 9-6 game? Well there have been 456 games between ranked teams since then. None of those games featured both teams failing to reach 10 points.

It feels like a safe assumption both these teams will hit double digits on Saturday.

EXTRA POINTS: South Carolina's Bryan Edwards tied the school record for receptions in a game with 14 on Saturday. ...John Rhys Plumlee is the first SEC quarterback with a rush TD against both Auburn and Alabama in the same season since Tim Tebow in 2006. ...Texas A&M's Isaiah Spiller now leads the SEC with four TD runs of at least 20 yards. He also is the only SEC player with multiple 50-yard TD runs in the same game this season. ...Georgia won for the first time in a game which Jake Fromm attempted 30 passes. ...Tennessee's Bryce Thompson tied a single-game school record with three interceptions. ...The Volunteers have outscored its opponents 54-7 over the last six quarters.