With three primetime games going bonkers, to the delight of three terrific crowds, you could have made a serious case for an SEC RedZone channel. Picture-in-picture just wasn't enough.
Hugh Freeze is kicking himself: No. 3 Ole Miss fell to No. 24 LSU 10-7 when the Tigers intercepted a Bo Wallace pass with two seconds left. Freeze has to live with a couple bad decisions that cost the Rebels a shot at overtime. First, a mind-numbing delay of game pushed their freshman kicker back from a 42- to a 47-yard field-goal attempt. Then Freeze chose to have Wallace sneak in a pass with nine seconds left in figuring they'd either get something underneath and out of bounds to set up an easier field goal or Wallace would take a shot at the end zone, where only his receiver could catch the ball. Technically, there was enough time to go for the win and, if it fell incomplete, kick the game-tying field goal. Neither scenario happened, and now Ole Miss has to live with a haunting first loss of the season. With more SEC West bloodletting to come, the possibility of getting two teams into the playoff took a serious hit.
Mississippi State looks vulnerable: It would be so easy to devote this space to some well-deserved gushing over MSU's unstoppable dynamic duo -- running back Josh Robinson (198 yards, two touchdowns) and quarterback Dak Prescott (216 yards passing with one touchdown and 88 yards rushing with two scores). It's only fair to give Mark Stoops and his Wildcats all the credit in the world for Kentucky's improvement. But the story of this game with lasting implications concerned the Bulldogs' leaky defense. Mississippi State came into Saturday's game ranked 121st in passing yards allowed and gave up 401 yards to UK. Having your defense exposed in your first game as the No. 1 team in the land is not the best look for the playoff committee.
A desperate Spurrier is a dangerous Spurrier is an entertaining Spurrier: Steve Spurrier definitely put the fun back in the Fun n' Gun offense Saturday night on the Plains in a 42-35 loss to Auburn. The Gamecocks came in with a 2-3 record in the SEC, and Spurrier called plays like he had nothing to lose. And you know what? It worked. South Carolina's defense is still a disaster in cleats, but Riverboat Steve dialed up an epic shootout. Reverses, double reverses, quarterback throwbacks, wildcat bombs, onside kicks, fourth-down insanity ... it was all on glorious display. This was vintage Spurrier. The Gamecocks went for it on fourth down six times and converted five. For their part, the Tigers looked comfortable all night. They know a thing or two about winning with offense, so this one felt a lot like 2013. Auburn isn't in control in the West Division but has to like its chances to still get to Atlanta or slip into the playoff as a worthy one-loss team.
Lane Kiffin makes for great theater: Neyland Stadium was packed with Big Orange fans thirsting for some revenge against their former coach in his return. But on Alabama's first play, Kiffin dialed up a bootleg perfectly executed by Blake Sims and Amari Cooper, who ran 80 yards for a touchdown. Kiffin ran with Cooper down the Bama sideline for a bit before flashing a sly grin under his visor. On the Tide's next drive, Cooper continued to dominate and caught three more passes for 75 yards. After Cooper's second score, he shoulder-bumped Kiffin, who was smiling broadly this time. Vols fans probably doubled over with nausea. The Crimson Tide never lost the lead in the 34-20 win over Tennessee. What we really learned in this one was just how good Cooper is. His 185 yards in the first quarter were the most for any SEC receiver in a quarter in the past 10 seasons. When it was over, Cooper had 224 yards to break Julio Jones' single-game school record of 221 yards receiving (also against the Vols, in 2010).
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Lane Kiffin's return to Neyland Stadium was a successful one, as Alabama rolled up 469 yards of offense in a 34-20 win over Tennessee. Things got a little interesting after the first quarter, but Alabama held strong in front of a crowd of 102,455. Here's how it happened:
How the game was won: Alabama put on a clinic in the first quarter, leading 20-0 and outgaining Tennessee 253 to 80 yards. Alabama added another touchdown in the second, but Tennessee made a nice comeback during the second and third quarters, after Joshua Dobbs replaced Nathan Peterman at quarterback. Alabama converted 11 of 15 third downs, and Derrick Henry's 28-yard touchdown run late in the third put the game away.
Gameball goes to: Alabama wide receiver Amari Cooper was outstanding, as 185 of his 224 yards and both of his touchdowns came in the first quarter, alone. Cooper made plays down the sideline and over the middle. He was easily the best player on the field all night, and continues to look like the country's best receiver.
What it means: Alabama didn't look as sharp after the first quarter, but the win means it's still very much in the SEC -- and playoff -- race. With Ole Miss losing to LSU, Alabama is right back in the thick of the SEC race, especially with Mississippi State playing in Tuscaloosa in November. Tennessee might have lost its eighth straight to Alabama, but Dobbs might have played himself into the starting role for as long as Justin Worley is out after looking more confident that we've seen in the past and throwing for 192 yards with two touchdowns. He also rushed for 75 yards.
Playoff implication: Alabama is in great position, really. After two straight dominating wins, Alabama still has an ever-improving LSU team to play (on the road) and No. 1 Mississippi State and No. 5 Auburn at home to close the season. Alabama is hitting its stride and strength of schedule won't be a problem for the Tide at all.
Best play: It has to be Cooper's touchdown on Alabama's first play from scrimmage. What started as a routine pass underneath to the right flat turned into a back-breaker for Tennessee's defense, as Cooper sprinted toward the sideline, made a move on a defender and was gone. Who was jacked about it? Oh, that would be Kiffin, who sprinted alongside him some.
What's next: It cools down this week for Alabama, as the Tide have a bye next weekend. However, the following week brings a trip to Baton Rouge to play LSU. Tennessee travels to South Carolina next week.
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Amari Cooper caught nine passes for a school-record 224 yards and scored two touchdowns to help No. 4 Alabama beat Tennessee 34-20 on Saturday night for its eighth consecutive victory in the series.
This game marked a return to Neyland Stadium for Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin, who coached Tennessee in 2009 and angered Volunteers fans by leaving for Southern California after only one season. Kiffin's offense produced touchdowns on four of its first five series -- including Cooper's 80-yard touchdown catch on Alabama's first play from scrimmage -- as the Crimson Tide (7-1, 4-1 SEC) raced to a 27-0 lead.
Tennessee (3-5, 0-4) got back into the game thanks to quarterback Joshua Dobbs, who provided a spark after entering the game on Tennessee's third possession. Dobbs helped the Vols cut the lead to 27-17 in the third quarter before Alabama's Derrick Henry stopped Tennessee's momentum with a 28-yard touchdown run.
4Q TENN J. Fowler run for 21 yds,J. Fowler fumbled, forced by C. Sutton, recovered by Tenn J. Reeves-Maybin,Fowler, Jalston rush for 21 yards to the TENNESSEE
4Q TENN B. Sims run for -3 yds,B. Sims fumbled, recovered by Tenn C. Vereen,Sims, Blake rush for loss of 3 yards to the ALABAMA22, fumble by Sims, Blake recov
Impact Performance Nominees
Final UAB 17 Arkansas 45 Final 1 Mississippi State 45 Kentucky 31 Final Vanderbilt 14 Missouri 24 Final 3 Ole Miss 7 24 LSU 10 Final South Carolina 35 5 Auburn 42 Final 4 Alabama 34 Tennessee 20