Dallas Colleges: Maty Mauk
1. High stakes for Mizzou: It's pretty simple. If the Tigers win, they're in the SEC championship game. If they don't, South Carolina goes and the Tigers have to watch. So the task at hand is clear. There's a ton of buildup, buzz and pageantry to go with this one: a capacity crowd is expected, it's senior night for 18 Tigers and it's "blackout" night for Missouri with all-black unis. Fitting for what could be a historic night. And the 10-1 Tigers get to do it at home against the Aggies for the first time in a while. The last time A&M traveled to Columbia was 2007 and the team's last three meetings were in Aggieland.
2. Missouri DEs vs. Texas A&M OTs: This should be one of the fun matchups to watch tonight. Missouri defensive ends Michael Sam (10 sacks) and Kony Ealy (6.5 sacks) lead a defense that is tops in the SEC in sacks this season (35). They'll go up against a pair of talented offensive tackles in Texas A&M's Jake Matthews and Cedric Ogbuehi. Matthews is a projected first-round pick in the 2014 NFL draft and Ogbuehi figures to have an NFL future as well when his time at Texas A&M is up.
3. Bounce back for Manziel?: Last week was a rough one for Johnny Manziel and the Aggies as they took a 34-10 beating at LSU. It was the team's worst loss in the Kevin Sumlin era and probably Manziel's worst performance. The Heisman Trophy winner usually thrives on big stages and the stage will be huge on Saturday. His chances for a second Heisman seemed almost wiped out by LSU, but if he has a big performance and leads A&M to a win, who knows?
4. When the Tigers have the ball: Missouri has numerous offensive weapons, from quarterbacks James Franklin and Maty Mauk to a trio of running backs led by Henry Josey to several tall, athletic receivers led by the trio of Marcus Lucas, Dorial Green-Beckham and L'Damian Washington. Texas A&M's defense, well, it hasn't been good this season. The Aggies rank 107th in yards allowed per game (460.1) and they're in the bottom 40 in both rushing and passing yards allowed per game. Missouri ranks 16th in offensive yards per game (491.9) and tied for 13th in scoring (39.7). On paper, it's a mismatch. Will it play out that way on the field?
5. A&M running game: Aside from a few called runs and several scrambles by Manziel, there wasn't much of a running game for Texas A&M last week. Only six times did a running back carry the football. Sumlin said they could have "done some things differently," and it'll be interesting to see if the Aggies use the ground attack more this week, especially considering the pass rush that Missouri possesses.
1. Alabama (9-0, 6-0 SEC; last week: 1): The Crimson Tide faced its biggest test since Texas A&M and passed with flying colors Saturday night with a resounding 38-17 win over LSU. Alabama didn't need a lot of yards, but the defense stood tall, holding LSU to a season-low 284 yards and 17 points. People continue to wonder if this truly is the No. 1 team in the country, but Alabama has tackled every obstacle that has come its way. Also, Phil Knight was decked out in Alabama gear in Tuscaloosa, so clearly the bandwagon still has room.
2. Auburn (9-1, 5-1 SEC; LW: 2): It seems like Auburn is getting better and better each week. The Tigers weren't intimidated at all by the atmosphere inside Neyland Stadium and walked out with a commanding 55-23 win over Tennessee. The offense rolled up 444 rushing yards, and the defense is getting better and better -- just in time for this week's showdown with Georgia on the Plains.
3. Missouri (9-1, 5-1 SEC; LW: 5): These Tigers continue to impress and had no problem handling a weary Kentucky team on the road. Maty Mauk is growing for the future, and Dorial Green-Beckham showed us all why he was the No. 1 recruit in the country last year with his school-record four touchdown catches in Mizzou's 48-17 thumping of the Wildcats. This upcoming bye week should give quarterback James Franklin even more time to rest his shoulder before a trip to Ole Miss.
4. Texas A&M (8-2, 4-2 SEC; LW: 3): We all know the Aggies can score at will when Johnny Manziel is under center, but the defense took a few steps back (again) in A&M's 51-41 win over Mississippi State on Saturday. Right when you think that unit is getting better, it starts to lag behind, like surrendering 556 total yards to the Bulldogs. Still, the Aggies won in spite of the defense and get a bye week before taking on LSU and Mizzou on the road.
5. South Carolina (7-2, 5-2 SEC; LW: 4): The Gamecocks were off this weekend, which should help them rest any nicks or bruises. South Carolina is approaching its final SEC game, which is big, because a win over Florida on Saturday would get the Gamecocks one step closer to Atlanta. South Carolina still needs help, but the Gamecocks will have every opportunity to take care of business against a struggling Florida team.
6. Georgia (6-3, 4-2 SEC; LW: 7): The Bulldogs had a nice tuneup game before facing Auburn on the road. Even after a sluggish start, the Bulldogs routed Appalachian State 45-6. If Georgia wants a shot at the SEC Eastern Division title, the Bulldogs have to beat Auburn and hope for Mizzou to fall off late. Aaron Murray continues to rack up records, and this offense regained its form Saturday. The defense will have to be at its best against a very good Auburn running game.
7. Ole Miss (6-3, 3-3 SEC; LW: 8): After winning just six combined games from 2010-11, the Rebels are going bowling for the second straight year. Coach Hugh Freeze has led a very impressive turnaround in Oxford. Ole Miss let things get a bit interesting in its 34-24 win over Arkansas, but the outcome never really seemed in doubt. The Rebels go for win No. 7 against Troy before hosting Missouri.
8. LSU (7-3, 3-3 SEC; LW: 6): It really has been a season of what-ifs for the Bayou Bengals. Turnovers and mental errors have plagued this team in its three losses, and Saturday's 21-point loss to Alabama was no different. Fumbles by J.C. Copeland and Zach Mettenberger proved costly, as they created a 10-point swing that didn't go in LSU's favor. The Tigers were left scratching their heads in Tuscaloosa and get another bye week to stew over it.
9. Vanderbilt (5-4, 2-4 SEC; LW: 11): Remember when head coach James Franklin said you'd never see the old Vanderbilt again under his watch? Well, after taking the Commodores to back-to-back bowl games for the first time in school history, Saturday's 34-17 win over Florida marked the first time the Commodores have beaten Florida in Gainesville since 1945, and the first time ever the Dores beat Florida and Georgia in the same season. Vandy's blowout win in the Swamp came thanks to four takeaways by the Commodores and only 183 yards of offense, and Vandy is a win away from making its third-straight bowl.
10. Florida (4-5, 3-4 SEC; LW: 9): It has been a challenging season in Gainesville, and Saturday's ugly loss to Vandy (snapping a 22-game winning streak over the Dores) didn't help. The injuries have piled up, Florida has lost four straight and the Gators are in danger of missing out on a bowl game for the first time since 1990. Coach Will Muschamp said his team has a "woe is me" attitude right now, and the fans are restless. Seeing all those empty seats and hearing all those boos told you everything you need to know about the state of Florida football.
11. Tennessee (4-6, 1-5 SEC; LW: 10): It was another long day for head coach Butch Jones and his Vols. Auburn ran up 444 rushing yards, averaging 8.4 yards per carry, and had the game well in hand before the second quarter even ended. Tennessee has to be encouraged by the growth of quarterback Joshua Dobbs and receiver Marquez North, but it's just not enough right now. Five times this year Tennessee has given up 400 yards and gained less than 350.
12. Mississippi State (4-5, 1-4 SEC; LW: 12): Hats off to quarterback Dak Prescott for going out and playing Saturday just days after his mother passed away after her battle with cancer. He and his Bulldogs didn't beat Texas A&M, but they never quit. Still, this has been a trying year for Mississippi State, which has to win two of its last three games in order to keep its three-year bowl streak going.
13. Arkansas (3-7, 0-6 SEC; LW: 13): Another weekend, another loss for the hapless Hogs. Arkansas' 34-24 loss to Ole Miss marked the seventh straight for Bret Bielema and his squad. It's the longest of Bielema's coaching career, and the Razorbacks are officially out of the bowl hunt for the second straight year. Arkansas has the SEC's No. 12 offense and a defense that ranks 11th in the league, after surrendering 531 yards to Ole Miss.
14. Kentucky (2-7, 0-5 SEC; LW: 14): For the third straight year, the Wildcats aren't going bowling. They certainly have shown heart, but the talent on both sides of the ball just isn't there right now for Kentucky to actually compete week in and week out against its SEC foes. Kentucky has now lost 13 straight SEC games.
Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia: With two touchdown passes in an easy 45-6 rout of Appalachian State on Saturday, Murray broke the 17-year-old SEC record of Florida's Danny Wuerffel (1993-96) for the most career TD passes. Murray entered the game already holding the SEC career marks for total offense and passing yards. The senior completed 19 of 26 passes for 281 yards in three quarters of work.
Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M: Ho-hum. Another week, another compelling argument in the sophomore's case for a second straight Heisman Trophy. Against Mississippi State on Saturday, Johnny Football threw for 446 yards with five touchdown passes (never mind those three interceptions). Honorable mention goes to senior Travis Labhart, once a walk-on, now a scholarship guy who has emerged as a key contributor at receiver. Manziel completed six passes to Labhart for a career-high 102 yards and two touchdowns.
Nick Marshall, QB, Auburn: The former Georgia Bulldog and former juco quarterback accounted for 214 of Auburn's 444 rushing yards, running for two touchdowns and passing for another in the No. 9 Tigers' 55-23 dismantling of the home-standing Volunteers. Marshall posted a 99.6 Total QBR despite completing only 3 of 7 passes, but Gus Malzahn didn't need to throw with the success the Tigers were having on the ground. Marshall's 214 yards were the third-most by an SEC quarterback in a game over the last 10 seasons, behind only Heisman winners Manziel (229 yards vs. Oklahoma in 2012) and Cam Newton (217 vs. LSU in 2010).
Missouri's offense: The No. 8 Tigers encountered little resistance in their first league game in the Bluegrass State. Freshman quarterback Maty Mauk threw five touchdown passes to tie Chase Daniel's school record in Mizzou's 48-17 romp past Kentucky. Dorial Green-Beckham broke through in a big way. The 6-foot-6 sophomore, who was the nation's No. 1 wide receiver prospect in the Class of 2012, had seven catches for 100 yards and four touchdowns. Not to be outdone, running back Henry Josey ran 11 times for 113 yards and two TDs, including an 86-yarder. The Tigers remain a half-game ahead of idle South Carolina in the East division.
Dak Prescott, QB, Mississippi State: Even in a 51-41 road loss to Texas A&M, a special heartfelt helmet sticker goes out to Prescott, who lost his mother last Sunday to her battle with cancer. Tyler Russell got the start after Prescott missed the week of practice before Saturday's game, but the two rotated, with Prescott getting the majority of the snaps. The Aggies had difficulty slowing him in the running game, as Prescott ran 16 times for 154 yards (9.6 yards per carry). He was 14-of-26 passing for 149 yards and two touchdowns. It was certainly a determined and inspiring performance under the most difficult of circumstances.
1. Tide-Tigers showdown: It doesn't quite have the heft that it had in 2011 ("Game of the Century") or maybe even last season (both teams were ranked in the top five), but Alabama-LSU is still a big deal and it will still be the center of attention Saturday night. It's the only game Saturday between two teams in the Top 25 and No. 1 Alabama (8-0, 5-0 SEC) will try to remain undefeated in pursuit of a third consecutive BCS title. The last time these teams played in Tuscaloosa was in 2011, and LSU won 9-6 in overtime. So Les Miles' crew won't be fearful of going into Bryant-Denny Stadium. Even if the No. 13 Tigers (7-2, 3-2) were to repeat that feat, they'd need the Crimson Tide to lose once more to have a chance to get into the SEC title game, but regardless, Saturday night should serve us some compelling theater.
3. Is Texas A&M's defense really improved? The past two weeks have been good ones for the much-maligned Texas A&M defense, as the Aggies have held their past two opponents to a combined 31 points. They've held both opponents under 350 yards, under 130 rushing yards and have forced at least three turnovers in each of the past two weeks. The caveat? Both teams (Vanderbilt and UTEP) had freshman quarterbacks who were making their first start. Vanderbilt's Patton Robinette and UTEP's Blaire Sullivan don't exactly strike fear in the mind of a defensive coordinator, but Saturday when the No. 15 Aggies (7-2, 3-2) host Mississippi State, they could face a talented signal-caller in Dak Prescott, a dual threat who leads the Bulldogs in passing and rushing.
4. Will Prescott play? It has been an emotional week for Prescott, who lost his mother, Peggy, to cancer. Coach Dan Mullen and several Bulldogs joined Prescott for the funeral Wednesday, and Mullen has said that he won't rule out Prescott for Saturday's game but wishes to give his quarterback privacy to make the decision on his own. If he doesn't play, the Bulldogs will turn to Tyler Russell, who started the matchup between these teams last season but has suffered through myriad injuries this season. If Prescott does play, it could be quite the emotional boost for the Bulldogs (4-4, 1-3).
5. What's next for Tre Mason? The Auburn running back is coming into his own as of late. He's third in the SEC in rushing yards with 921 and had a huge day last week at Arkansas, compiling 168 yards and four touchdowns on 32 carries. On Saturday, he faces a Tennessee rushing defense that is actually last in the SEC (201.67 yards allowed per game), behind even Texas A&M (200.89), the team that has spent most of the year in the bottom of the league in that category. Could be another big day for the junior running back.
6. Florida attrition: Injuries have been a curse for Florida all season long and this week the Gators lost another starter, offensive tackle Tyler Moore, for the rest of the season with a broken arm as the result of a scooter accident. He's the 10th player and sixth starter to suffer a season-ending injury and those players have made a combined 84 starts in their career. The Gators (4-4, 3-3), who host Vanderbilt (4-4, 1-4), are now without their three most experienced offensive tackles: Moore, Chaz Green and D.J. Humphries.
8. Another strong finish for Vanderbilt? The Commodores (4-4, 1-4) haven't quite had the step up that some might have thought they would after going 9-4 last season, but coach James Franklin noted this week that right now, Vandy has the same record at this point in the season that it did last year. The Commodores proceeded to win five straight games, including their bowl game, to close out the year. Can they finish strong again? They'll have to start with a road win at Florida Saturday if they're going to repeat that feat.
9. How will Tennessee respond? The Volunteers have made significant strides this season, beating a ranked team (South Carolina) and coming close against another (Georgia), but the past two weeks have been rough with blowout losses at Alabama and Missouri. With the Volunteers returning home, can they find some more magic when they host No. 9 Auburn?
10. Tuneup for Georgia: The Bulldogs get an FCS foe this week in Appalachian State. It should be a short day for the starters and comes at a good time, because the Bulldogs will turn around and travel to Auburn the following week. Expect the Bulldogs to take care of business here against the Mountaineers, who are 2-7.
I hit a bit of a lull there, but I'm back on top after going 6-0 and correctly picking Georgia to beat Florida down in Jacksonville, Fla., last week. My record stands at an impressive 73-11 (.869), while Chris is now 72-12 (.857) after going 5-1 last week.
This last month will go a long way to determining who brings home the picking gold. I took a lot of momentum away from Chris with my one-game lead, and I know he'll be pouting even more this weekend without his buddy Oscar Pope in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Chris talked about hitting up Galettes Friday night with Oscar before the big game to discuss the finer things in life.
But Oscar is headed to Oxford, Miss., to cheer on his Rebels, leaving Chris to FaceTime with Meeko Friday night.
On to the picks:
APPALACHIAN STATE at GEORGIA
Chris Low: With a third straight victory over Florida in its pocket, Georgia gets a tune-up against FCS foe Appalachian State this week. It should be a short work day for the Bulldogs' starters heading into next week’s critical game at Auburn. Georgia 49, Appalachian State 14
Edward Aschoff: For delivering an ugly win over Florida, the Bulldogs get a nice home game against Appalachian State. This isn't the same giant killer that took down Michigan a few seasons ago, so don't expect anything tricky in Athens, Ga. Georgia 48, Appalachian State 13
MISSOURI at KENTUCKY
Low: Gary Pinkel isn’t saying which quarterback he’ll play this weekend. James Franklin has been practicing and could take the reins back from Maty Mauk. Ultimately, it won’t matter because Missouri’s defense will see to it that Kentucky loses its 13th straight SEC game. Missouri 31, Kentucky 17
Aschoff: This is the first road game for the Tigers in almost a month. There's a chance that Franklin could go, but with Mauk playing well and Kentucky struggling on both offense and defense, Mizzou might as well let its starter rest another week. Missouri 38, Kentucky 13
MISSISSIPPI STATE at TEXAS A&M
Low: Texas A&M has scored more than 40 points in every game this season. In this league, that’s not supposed to happen. The problem has been the Aggies’ defense, but it seems to be playing better on that side of the ball the past two weeks and will sock it to a Mississippi State team that’s in the middle of a brutal three-game stretch. Texas A&M 45, Mississippi State 20
Aschoff: The Bulldogs are fighting for a bowl berth, while the Aggies are looking to put a complete game together against an SEC opponent. After the way South Carolina treated the Bulldogs in Columbia, Mo., last week, Johnny Football shouldn't have much of an issue putting points up on the scoreboard. Texas A&M 45, Mississippi State 17
ARKANSAS at OLE MISS
Low: Ole Miss gets a chance to close the season with a flourish. Arkansas’ visit is the start of three straight home games for the Rebels. The Hogs are going in the other direction. They’ve lost six in a row and won’t be able to slow down the Rebels enough to avoid a seventh straight defeat. Ole Miss 38, Arkansas 21
Aschoff: After losing three straight in league play, the Rebels have reeled off two straight wins and are looking at possibly winning eight or nine regular-season games. With Ole Miss' offense rolling up more than 460 yards a game, the Hogs just won't be able to keep pace in Oxford. Ole Miss 38, Arkansas 17
VANDERBILT at FLORIDA
Low: Given the injury spell that has descended upon Florida’s football team this season, the Gators might want to wrap themselves in bubble wrap. Vanderbilt matches up pretty well with Florida and is coming off a bye week. Coach James Franklin will have the Commodores ready to play, but the Gators will make enough plays on defense to squeeze out a win. Florida 24, Vanderbilt 20
Aschoff: Who would have thought that the Gators would be struggling to become bowl eligible at this point in the season? And who saw all these injuries coming? The Commodores are facing Florida at the right time, but if there was ever a must-win situation for Florida, this is it. It won't be pretty, but Florida will slip by to get to win No. 5. Florida 23, Vanderbilt 17
AUBURN at TENNESSEE
Low: Tennessee has proven to be a much better team at home this season, and it will also help freshman quarterback Joshua Dobbs to get back in front of the home fans as he makes his second start. The Vols will keep it close but won’t be able to stop the Tigers’ running game. Auburn 34, Tennessee 24
Aschoff: Auburn is one of the country's hottest teams, while Tennessee is trying to find its footing during the first season of the Butch Jones era. The Tigers won't be intimidated by their surroundings inside Neyland Stadium, and running back Tre Mason should have another big day on the ground. Auburn 34, Tennessee 20
LSU at ALABAMA
Low: It’s been college football’s preeminent rivalry for the past several seasons. It will also be Alabama’s toughest test since the third week of the season, when the Tide outlasted Texas A&M 49-42 on the road. LSU has the passing game and running game to give Alabama trouble, but the Tide will also be able to roll up points against a young LSU defense that won’t be able to keep up. Alabama 31, LSU 20
Aschoff: Here we are, folks. Yet again, this game has major SEC Western division and national championship implications on the line. LSU could crash Alabama's three-peat party. It has the offensive weapons to do it, but that defense will have its hands more than full against Alabama's offense. The Tigers have gone 12-9 in Tuscaloosa since 1970 and won the last time these two met here. But Alabama knows that one slip up will likely cost it a trip to Pasadena, Calif. Alabama 31, LSU 24
Tre Mason, RB, Auburn: Arkansas is supposed to have the smash-mouth offense, but Auburn's Mason gave Bret Bielema a dose of his own medicine in Saturday's 35-17 win. Mason rushed for 168 yards and a career-high four touchdowns on 32 carries. He had the hot hand early against the Razorbacks, and head coach Gus Malzahn rode him to the end. The junior running back scored twice in the first half, once on the opening drive of the second half, and he put the game away with a sensational 12-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter. He now has 13 touchdowns this season and has at least one rushing touchdown in six straight games. He's been a major reason why the Tigers have the SEC's top rushing offense.
Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia: Boy was Georgia glad to have Gurley back. The sophomore running back had missed the last three games with a sprained ankle, but it didn't take long for him to return to form. He rushed for 30 yards and a touchdown on the opening drive, and he caught a 73-yard touchdown pass on the Bulldogs' second series. He finished with 17 carries for 100 yards, three catches for 87 yards and the two scores. When things got a little chippy against the Gators, Gurley was in there mixing it up, defending his teammates. With a win, Georgia stayed alive in the SEC East, and the Bulldogs will need Gurley to be healthy from this point forward, especially when they travel to No. 11 Auburn in two weeks.
Gary Pinkel, HC, Missouri: Any number of Missouri players could be on this list. Maty Mauk accounted for 277 total yards and three touchdowns. The defense held Tennessee to three points and forced a turnover for the 39th straight game, the longest current streak in the FBS. But credit Pinkel for getting his team ready to play after a heartbreaking loss to South Carolina the week before. The Tigers could've come out and flat or laid an egg, but they didn't. Instead, they dominated the Volunteers, 31-3. It was Missouri's largest margin of victory in SEC play since joining the conference, and don't forget, they still control their own destiny in the East.
Mike Davis, RB, South Carolina: How would Connor Shaw replicate last week's heroic performance? By throwing four touchdown passes in a 34-16 win over Mississippi State. But despite another impressive performance from the South Carolina quarterback, it was Davis who played the best game. The SEC's leading rusher went for 128 yards on 15 carries, averaging 8.5 yards per carry. He now has 1,058 yards and 10 touchdowns on the season and becomes the first Gamecock to rush for more than 1,000 yards since Marcus Lattimore did it as a freshman in 2010. Shaw was inconsistent at times Saturday, but Davis was as steady as they come.
Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M: It was only UTEP, but Manziel accounted for 340 yards and six touchdowns as Texas A&M cruised to a 57-7 victory. The Aggies' quarterback finished 16 of 24 for 273 yards and four touchdowns through the air, and he also added 67 yards and two scores on the ground. He's on pace to have a better season than he did a year ago, but the reigning Heisman Trophy winner will have trouble passing Oregon's Marcus Mariota and Florida State's Jameis Winston for the award. Manziel still has road games at LSU and Missouri to help make his case, but first, the Aggies will host Mississippi State next week.
Florida-Georgia is still compelling: Even with a pair of unranked teams beaten up by injuries, Florida and Georgia provided great theater. Georgia took a commanding 20-0 lead and made it 23-3 at the half, but Florida charged back into the game and even possessed the ball in the fourth quarter down only three points. In the end, Georgia hung on for the 23-20 victory. Florida, for all of its struggles, showed tremendous fight in its second-half rally, but now the Gators are pretty much out of the mix for anything meaningful in the SEC East. The Bulldogs, meanwhile, kept alive their faint division title hopes, which are heavily dependent on Missouri taking a late dive. What added to all the fun on Saturday was the chippy attitudes on both sides, including pushing and shoving after the whistle on several occasions and multiple personal fouls.
Johnny Manziel looks like his old self: For the late-nighters, Texas A&M rolled UTEP 57-7, and while the game itself wasn't necessarily compelling, those who tuned in saw a familiar performance by Manziel. Last week, he stayed in the pocket to protect an injured throwing shoulder, but on Saturday night, he cut it loose, zigging and zagging through the UTEP defense like the player who won the Heisman Trophy last season and led the SEC in rushing. He finished with 67 rushing yards and two touchdowns on the ground, one of which was a 49-yard sprint that looked like 2012 Manziel. For the game, he accounted for six total touchdowns. He's still in the thick of the Heisman Trophy race, though he might need some others to falter in order to become the consensus front-runner again.
South Carolina can put a team away: There was a time when the Gamecocks seemed to let teams back into games after getting big leads. However, after their 34-16 win over Mississippi State on Saturday, which came three weeks after a 52-7 blowout of Arkansas, South Carolina is showing it can handle business and close teams out in the end. SEC leading rusher Mike Davis moved past the 1,000-yard mark with a 128-yard effort, and quarterback Connor Shaw threw for four touchdowns despite not having to throw for much yardage (147). The Gamecocks' defense also came to play and held Mississippi State to 10 points when it mattered.
Tre Mason got it done, again: A couple of weeks ago, in Auburn's upset win at Texas A&M, Mason had his best game of the season, rushing for 178 yards. On Saturday, the junior was again big-time to help the Tigers hold off Arkansas 35-17. Mason finished with 168 yards and four touchdowns on 32 carries. In the four games he has reached at least 100 rushing yards this season, three have been in SEC play and two have come against ranked opponents (he rushed for 132 against LSU). He's a workhorse who's coming through in the clutch for the Tigers.
Here are 10 things to watch in the SEC this week:
1. All eyes on Jacksonville: Don't look now, but the battle formerly known as the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party has some intrigue. Georgia has been decimated by injuries, but Mark Richt continues to send Aaron Murray out to play each Saturday, giving UGA a chance to win. Murray has hung in despite the fact players are dropping like flies around him. If he gets a third consecutive win over rival Florida, it might make it all worthwhile. Florida has dealt with its own set of injuries, but more problematic is the Gators' offensive ineptitude. Quarterback Tyler Murphy will have to find a way to score some points on Saturday. But for two teams with so many problems, whichever gets out of Jacksonville with a win is still in the SEC East race. Missouri's loss last weekend breathed new life into both squads.
2. Can South Carolina keep it up? It would be classic South Carolina to come out on Saturday against unranked Mississippi State and play down to the competition. It's happened so much lately that we've come to expect it. After winning a thriller on the road last weekend against Missouri, the Gamecocks are on upset alert. Without Connor Shaw's fourth-quarter return, South Carolina loses to Missouri by two touchdowns. If he can't start against Mississippi State, will Steve Spurrier's offense sputter again? You have to like Shaw's leadership, and after all he's done you have to believe he'll play on Saturday and play well.
4. Josh Dobbs: Speaking of Tennessee, keep an eye on the true freshman quarterback. Butch Jones burned his redshirt this past weekend, bringing him off the bench in the second half against Alabama. The athletic Dobbs provided a spark to a Vols offense that couldn't move the football to save its life. His ability to get outside the pocket and buy time helped the receivers, and his speed and elusiveness allowed him to pick up yards with his feet. It's too early to say he's won the starting job, but watch closely because a good game against Missouri could propel him to such status. We could very well be looking at Tennessee's future under center.
5. The SEC East race: The field in the SEC East will narrow this weekend. The loser of the Georgia-Florida game is likely out of it, and neither Missouri nor South Carolina have sure-thing wins on their plates. It may appear that no one wants to win the division and be forced to play Alabama in the conference championship, but someone's got to do it.
6. Manziel health watch: The Johnny Manziel watch never ends. But no, I'm not talking about monitoring his off-the-field behavior this time. No, there's still some concern over whether the defending Heisman Trophy winner is healthy. He injured his throwing arm late against Auburn and played well this past weekend against Vanderbilt. But with Texas A&M facing an overmatched UTEP team Saturday, should he play?
7. Bielema versus Malzahn: Boy, did we see a rivalry form at SEC media days when a pair of first-year coaches in the SEC, Arkansas' Bret Bielema and Auburn's Gus Malzahn, traded barbs about the safety of the no-huddle offense. Malzahn said he thought it was a joke. Bielema said he wasn't a comedian. It was awesome. Their rivalry was born that day, and this week it sprouted leaves as Bielema accused Auburn of altering the game film it sent to Arkansas in preparation for this week's game between the two programs. The issue even prompted a response from Auburn to the SEC. Man, the Malzahn-Bielema postgame handshake is going to be fun.
8. Jeremy Johnson: Every time Nick Marshall goes down at quarterback for Auburn, Johnson steps right in and doesn't miss a beat. Both times the freshman has played significant reps, he's won SEC Freshman of the Week honors, first against Western Carolina and then last weekend against Florida Atlantic. With Marshall officially "day to day," according to Malzahn, expect the focus to shift to Johnson again.
9. The trainer's table: Playing an SEC schedule will catch up with you. We're starting to see injuries pile up around the league recently as the fatigue of playing physical games week in and week out builds. Tennessee is turning to a true freshman quarterback in place of Justin Worley (injured thumb). Missouri senior quarterback James Franklin is questionable, leaving backup Maty Mauk in a weird state of limbo. South Carolina, meanwhile, is hoping Shaw can continue to play the part of Superman and keep coming back from injury. Oh, and let's not forget Jeff Driskel's prolonged absence at Florida. If another SEC quarterback goes down, we'll have to start calling it an epidemic.
10. Who isn't playing: Give Alabama and LSU credit because they know how to make a schedule. The rivalry game between the two schools isn't until Nov. 9, so they're taking the week off. But unfortunately for the rest of the SEC, those teams' bye weeks leave the league to play without two of its best. Where's the fun in that? We're even deprived of seeing Hugh Freeze and his up-tempo offense at Ole Miss. The SEC East is busy this weekend, but the West is noticeably boring.
1. Thursday night football: It gets started tonight with Mississippi State hosting Kentucky. Both teams are searching for their first SEC win of the season. Kentucky coach Mark Stoops has seen his team take some lumps and has shuffled its quarterbacks. Maxwell Smith will get the start because Jalen Whitlow was injured against Alabama. Mississippi State had to turn to Dak Prescott after Tyler Russell was knocked out of the season opener against Oklahoma State with a concussion, and though Russell has since returned, Prescott is still getting playing time.
3. Can Mauk and Mizzou keep it going? Missouri freshman quarterback Maty Mauk made his first start last week in place of the injured James Franklin and was solid, completing 18-of-36 passes for 295 yards plus a touchdown and interception in a win over Florida. The Tigers (7-0, 3-0) hold at least a two-game lead in the loss column over the rest of the SEC East and host No. 21 South Carolina on Saturday. It's another test for the Tigers, who passed their last two -- at Georgia and versus Florida -- with flying colors.
4. Dylan Thompson gets the call for the Gamecocks: South Carolina starting quarterback Connor Shaw sprained his left knee, and coach Steve Spurrier said Thompson will get the start Saturday against Missouri. Spurrier said Shaw could potentially be the backup and could take some snaps if the Gamecocks needed it, but Thompson will be the guy at game time. He has appeared in all but one game this season, completing 29-of-51 passes for 421 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions.
5. Shifting safeties for Bama: Alabama safety Vinnie Sunseri is out for the rest of the season with a knee injury and will be replaced by sophomore Landon Collins. He already has two starts under his belt this season (when Ha Ha Clinton-Dix was out), but now Collins will be lining up next to Clinton-Dix, who's returning from a suspension. Collins is eager for his chance, though losing the leadership that Sunseri provided isn't ideal.
6. Another Vols upset?: It'll be tough since Tennessee heads to Bryant-Denny Stadium to take on No. 1 Alabama, but the Vols have raised eyebrows in recent weeks. They were within a blink of upsetting Georgia on Oct. 5, taking the Bulldogs to overtime before losing 34-31, and last week they came away with a 23-21 upset of South Carolina. The past two games have been in the friendly confines of Neyland Stadium, and the Vols must now go on the road against a juggernaut. Tennessee already has taken some lumps from Oregon and Florida on the road this season, but there's definitely a renewed optimism and energy permeating the program under Butch Jones right now.
7. Who's at QB for Vanderbilt? Starting quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels left last week's game in the second quarter with a left-leg injury and coach James Franklin's depth chart reads: Carta-Samuels or Patton Robinette. Robinette was 9-of-15 passing for 107 yards, a rushing touchdown and an interception in place of Carta-Samuels. Franklin hasn't publicly named a starter, as is the case with the Commodores' opponent -- Texas A&M -- so there's some uncertainty about who will take the first snap for each team when they meet at Kyle Field.
8. Nonconference tilts for three: LSU, Auburn and Ole Miss are all heavy favorites as each dips back into nonconference play this weekend. LSU is hosting Furman, Auburn takes on Florida Atlantic, and Ole Miss meets Idaho. LSU is looking to bounce back from last week's narrow loss at Ole Miss, Auburn hopes to continue the positive momentum from this season that hit a peak with a win at Texas A&M last week, and the Rebels (who upset LSU) are looking for their second straight win in the middle of a six-game homestand.
9. Recovery time for Arkansas, Florida, Georgia: Each of these teams has had its fair share of struggles and injuries, and they're getting a chance to shore those up as all three have a bye. Arkansas is searching for answers after getting beaten the past two weeks by a combined score of 104-7. Florida needs to kick-start a sputtering offense that has left the previously ranked team with two straight losses. Georgia, coming off two losses itself, is hoping to get Todd Gurley and Michael Bennett back next week.
10. Keeping the top spot: Alabama started No. 1, and the Crimson Tide occupy the top spot in the debut of this season's BCS standings. Nick Saban & Co. have been downright dominant, with their only close call coming in College Station in a 49-42 win over Texas A&M. Since then, the Tide have allowed just 16 points in five games. They host Tennessee -- a team that's building some momentum itself -- on Saturday and then have a week off before their showdown with LSU on Nov. 9. For now, the Tide continue to carry the torch for the SEC.
And just like that, Chris Low has caught up with me. It took him long enough, but he's finally back up here with the big boys.
Congrats. Maybe, he realized that he should put more time and effort into his picks rather than his dwindling golf game.
I have to respect his decisions lately. He has shown that he truly is a veteran when it comes to this stuff. He has bested me the past couple of weeks, and I've made some careless decisions.
Last week, we both went under the .500 mark, but Chris tied things up by correctly picking Missouri over Florida -- a pick I missed on. Really, SEC? You really had four major upsets in the same weekend? I mean, who saw that coming?
Chris went 2-4 pull even with me at 60-11 (.845), while I went 1-5. Not our best work, but things sure are interesting now. I can tell you that I won't be sleeping on Chris any longer. I admittedly laughed at a few of his picks this year, and it has come back to bite me.
But today is a new day. We're basically at 0-0 and I'm hungry for back-to-back championships.
Let's get to the picks:
KENTUCKY at MISSISSIPPI STATE
Chris Low: Both of these teams are looking for their first SEC win of the season. Kentucky has lost 13 in a row on the road in the SEC. It’s a game Mississippi State has to have if the Bulldogs are going to have any chance of making a fourth straight bowl appearance. The home crowd will be the difference. Mississippi State 27, Kentucky 21
Edward Aschoff: Both of these teams need this victory. The Bulldogs are looking to stay on the bowl path, while the Wildcats need some sort of momentum to this season. Kentucky won't be a pushover, but the Bulldogs should take care of business at home. Mississippi State 34, Kentucky 21
FURMAN at LSU
Low: It’s one of those weeks in the SEC where there are more than a few mismatches. Here’s another one in Tiger Stadium. LSU won’t be in the best of moods after losing last week on the road and will take out some frustration on their FCS foes. LSU 45, Furman 13
Aschoff: The Tigers have to be frustrated after that loss at Ole Miss. Well, what a way to take out that frustration than to devour a cupcake at home surrounded by the lights of Tiger Stadium. LSU 51, Furman 10
IDAHO at OLE MISS
Low: Despite being ravaged with injuries, Ole Miss was able to gut out a key victory at home last week over LSU. The Rebels are still banged up and even added a few more players to the injury list, but it won’t matter this week. Ole Miss 48, Idaho 7
Aschoff: You know the Rebels are flying sky high after their upset win over LSU. Now, Ole Miss gets to add to the win total with a visit from the 1-6 Vandals. Ole Miss 48, Idaho 10
FLORIDA ATLANTIC at AUBURN
Low: Don’t look now, but Auburn is rolling right along with visions of contending in the Western Division this season. The Tigers get a breather out of conference this week and will rack up more than 40 points for the third straight game. Auburn 41, Florida Atlantic 14
Aschoff: A week removed from their major upset of Texas A&M, the Tigers get a chance to get some more of those youngsters out on the field with Florida Atlantic welcoming this team back to the Plains. Auburn 45, Florida Atlantic 17
VANDERBILT at TEXAS A&M
Low: Neither team is 100 percent at the quarterback position. The Aggies expect Johnny Manziel to play despite a painful shoulder injury, and it looks like backup Patton Robinette is the man for the Commodores after Austyn Carta-Samuels went down last week with a leg injury. If you like offense (and not a lot of defense), this is your game. The Aggies are just too explosive on offense to lose two in a row at home. Texas A&M 42, Vanderbilt 30
Aschoff: Both of these teams are literally hurting at quarterback, but you know Johnny Football will try his hardest to make it back to the playing field. The Aggies certainly can't sleep on this Vanderbilt team, especially with that struggling defense, but with or without Manziel under center, A&M just has too much offensively to lose two straight. Texas A&M 41, Vanderbilt 28
TENNESSEE at ALABAMA
Low: The last time Alabama was remotely pushed in a football game was six weeks ago when the Crimson Tide survived the 49-42 shootout against Texas A&M. Their October schedule has been about as cushy as it gets. They get an improving Tennessee team, but the Vols aren’t ready to go into Tuscaloosa and win. Alabama 35, Tennessee 9
Aschoff: Alabama hasn't had to deal with much competition at all this month and has allowed just 10 points in the past four games. Tennessee is riding high off that upset of South Carolina, and will push the Tide in the first half. The Crimson Tide will cruise through the second half of this game like it's cruised through the rest of the month. Alabama 38, Tennessee 13
SOUTH CAROLINA at MISSOURI
Low: With Connor Shaw ailing, Steve Spurrier says backup quarterback Dylan Thompson will start this week for South Carolina. Missouri didn’t miss a beat last week with backup Maty Mauk filling in for James Franklin. The Tigers can take a commanding lead in the Eastern Division race with a win, but the Gamecocks will make enough plays on defense to keep things interesting in the East with their biggest win of the season. South Carolina 31, Missouri 27
Aschoff: These Tigers have everything going for them and with a win on Saturday, they will essentially win the East. But now the pressure is on. South Carolina is hurting after a loss to Tennessee and is now dealing with Shaw's injury. The offense and defense are clicking for the Tigers, but they haven't met a team as balanced as South Carolina, and Mike Davis will be the difference. South Carolina 31, Missouri 24
1. Alabama (7-0, 4-0 SEC; last week: 1): Say what you will about the lack of competition Alabama has faced since the Ole Miss game, but the Crimson Tide are doing exactly what they need to develop and build momentum. For the second straight year, the Tide blanked an overmatched Arkansas team 52-0 and appear to be the SEC's biggest hope for bringing the conference its eighth straight national championship.
2. Missouri (7-0, 3-0 SEC; LW: 4): So this is what Missouri's offense is supposed to look like when guys are healthy. Well, even with James Franklin out and Maty Mauk running things, the offense is pretty deadly. The Tigers are the surprise of the conference and crushed Florida 36-17 over the weekend with 500 yards of offense and a smothering defense that allowed just 151 yards. A win over South Carolina this weekend would essentially clinch the SEC Eastern Division for the Tigers.
3. Auburn (6-1, 3-1 SEC; LW: 8): It's clear that Gus Malzahn was the right choice for this team. The Tigers marched into Kyle Field on Saturday and shocked the nation with a thrilling 45-41 win over Texas A&M. The offense churned out more than 600 yards, including 379 rushing yards. The Tigers might be a bad first half against LSU away from being undefeated. Auburn is now averaging a league-high 300.1 rushing yards per game, which is 65.7 more than Missouri's No. 2 rushing offense.
4. Texas A&M (5-2, 2-2 SEC; LW: 2): Not even the great Johnny Manziel could rescue the Aggies against Auburn. Despite playing with a bad shoulder and throwing for 454 yards and four touchdowns, Manziel wasn't enough. Why wasn't he enough? Well, look at the Aggies' pitiful defensive performance. They surrendered 615 yards of offense, allowed Auburn to convert 7 of 14 third downs and gave up 7.2 yards per play. I've never seen a team so great offensively yet so bad defensively.
5. LSU (6-2, 3-2 SEC; LW: 3): Just when we thought LSU was really figuring things out, the defense gets gashed in Oxford, Zach Mettenberger reverts back to his bad habits throwing the ball and the Tigers get outplayed in a rivalry game. LSU fell to Ole Miss 27-24 on Saturday and looked as though it didn't want it as much as the Rebels. Mettenberger was flustered all night, throwing three interceptions and registering a QBR of 33.2
6. South Carolina (5-2, 3-2 SEC; LW: 6): The Gamecocks looked like a team ready to make a charge through the SEC, but that sight was short-lived after Saturday's 23-21 loss to Tennessee on a last-second field goal. It was a bad loss that might knock the Gamecocks out of contention for the East title, and quarterback Connor Shaw left the game with a knee sprain. South Carolina's only hope for the East crown is to win at Missouri this weekend.
7. Georgia (4-3, 3-2 SEC; LW: 5): As the injuries continue to pile up in Athens, so do the losses. Georgia surrendered a 13-point lead in the fourth quarter, allowing Vanderbilt to score 17 straight in the Commodores' 31-27 upset. Now, top receiver Chris Conley and safety Josh Harvey-Clemons could be out against Florida in two weeks with injuries. This was Georgia's worst offensive showing of the year, registering just 221 yards of total offense and turning it over three times.
8. Ole Miss (4-3, 2-3 SEC; LW: 9): Right when it looked like the honeymoon with Hugh Freeze was starting to lose its luster, the Rebels shocked LSU with a 27-24 win after losing three straight in conference play. The mistakes that had plagued this team during its three-game losing streak vanished as Ole Miss outplayed the Tigers at home.
9. Florida (4-3, 3-2 SEC; LW: 7): A week ago, coach Will Muschamp said his defense shouldn't worry about the offense. On Saturday, the defense gave up 500 yards and 36 points but got absolutely no help from an inept offense that has generated just 391 yards, 16 points and one touchdown in the past two games combined. The defense was gashed, but fatigue had to set in with a sputtering offense barely staying on the field. It'll be a long two weeks in Gainesville before next week's game against Georgia.
10. Tennessee (4-3, 1-2 SEC; LW: 11): Something tells me those guys in the Knoxville are really digging what new coach Butch Jones has to say. After some shaky play and some over-coaching early, the Vols put together back-to-back solid games against SEC East heavyweights and really shook things up with their 23-21 shocker over South Carolina. Keep an eye on freshman wide receiver Marquez North. The kid has some talent.
11. Vanderbilt (4-3, 1-3 SEC; LW: 10): If Vanderbilt was truly going to take the next step under coach James Franklin, the Commodores had to beat one of the big guys in the SEC East. Well, that finally happened after the Dores upset Georgia 31-27 in Nashville on Saturday. With backup quarterback Patton Robinette in, Vanderbilt erased a 27-14 deficit in the fourth quarter to end the game on a 17-0 run.
12. Mississippi State (3-3, 0-2 SEC; LW: 12): After a close call against a scrappy Bowling Green team, the Bulldogs were off over the weekend. They'll face a hurting Kentucky team Thursday, which is an important game in the realm of bowl talk for Mississippi State. The Bulldogs haven't been very flashy this season, but the defense hasn't been half bad, ranking fourth in the SEC in total defense (364.5 yards allowed per game) and allowing just 23 points per game.
13. Arkansas (3-5, 0-4 SEC; LW: 13): It has been a nightmare of a start to the Bret Bielema era in Fayetteville. It seems like ages ago that the Hogs were sitting at 3-0. Now, after Alabama destroyed this team in every area of the game over the weekend, Arkansas has lost five straight. The past three losses (all in conference play) have been by a combined 117 points.
14. Kentucky (1-5, 0-3 SEC; LW: 14): The Wildcats were off this past weekend after getting thumped 48-7 by Alabama the previous week. Coach Mark Stoops said after the game that neither he nor his players would give up after a rough first half. Kentucky enters Thursday's matchup with Mississippi State ranked 13th in the SEC in total offense and defense.
Nick Marshall, QB, Auburn: Nick Marshall did Johnny Manziel one better. On the road at a raucous Kyle Field, Auburn's first-year starting quarterback led a dramatic comeback, one-upping the defending Heisman Trophy winner in his own house. Marshall ran for two touchdowns and threw for two more for the Tigers' biggest win of the season. Manziel produced, throwing for 454 yards and four touchdowns, but his two interceptions doomed the Aggies.
Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M: It's not often a losing team finds its way into the helmet stickers post, but it's impossible to ignore the effort of Texas A&M wide receiver Mike Evans. Like his embattled quarterback, he gave Saturday's game everything he had. His team might have lost in dramatic fashion to Auburn, but it was no fault of his. Again, we saw Evans make his case to be considered the top wideout in the SEC, if not the country. There wasn't a coverage Auburn defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson could turn to. Evans totally dominated Auburn's secondary regardless of double- or triple-coverage, hauling in 11 receptions for 287 yards and four touchdowns.
Marquez North, WR, Tennessee: If you're going to get the football, make it count. Marquez North did. Tennessee's 6-foot-4 wideout had just three catches against South Carolina, but he made the most of every opportunity, accounting for 102 yards receiving. His 39-yard reception from Justin Worley late in the fourth quarter set up the game-winning field goal as the Volunteers finally got the signature win they'd been looking for under first-year coach Butch Jones.
Maty Mauk, QB, Missouri: Rust? What rust? With James Franklin sidelined, Maty Mauk stepped in under center for Missouri and didn't miss a beat. Coach Gary Pinkel said it was the toughest spot he'd ever put a quarterback in, but his 6-foot-1 freshman showed poise and precision leading the offense against a Florida defense that ranked among the best in the nation. Mauk completed exactly 50 percent of his passes (18-for-36) for 295 yards and a touchdown as Missouri beat the Gators to remain in the driver's seat to win the SEC East.
Bo Wallace, QB, Ole Miss: He'd taken his fair share of tongue lashings from the Ole Miss fan base in the last few weeks. And after the way he played against Alabama, Auburn and Texas A&M in consecutive weeks, throwing three interceptions, he'd be the first to say it was deserved. But Wallace came back against LSU's defense with a vengeance. The veteran quarterback completed 30 of 39 passes for 346 yards and no turnovers as Ole Miss upset No. 6-ranked LSU at home.
Nobody's safe: Five SEC teams in the Top 25 lost Saturday, and only one (Florida) was an underdog coming in. Georgia and South Carolina still were considered among the favorites to win the East, but both teams tripped up on the road to unranked opponents. Vanderbilt scored a touchdown in the final minutes to knock off the Bulldogs, and Tennessee kicked a field goal as time expired to spoil Steve Spurrier's latest trip to Knoxville. No. 7 Texas A&M was a heavy favorite at home against Auburn, but the Aggies' defense let them down again. Auburn rushed for 379 yards and scored late to pull off a 45-41 upset. In the nightcap, a short-handed Ole Miss team jumped out to a 17-0 lead and held off No. 6 LSU at home.
Auburn is for real: You can make excuses, particularly this one: If Johnny Manziel hadn't hurt his shoulder late in the game, Texas A&M would've won. But the fact of the matter is Auburn went to Kyle Field, put up 45 points, gained 615 yards and beat a top-10 team. Quarterback Nick Marshall looked very impressive after missing last week's game. He threw for 236 yards, rushed for 100 yards and scored four touchdowns. Even the defense, much maligned throughout the game, made the stop when it mattered -- with Manziel in the game. It comes back to first-year head coach Gus Malzahn. He has changed the culture around the Auburn program, and the Tigers are now 6-1 and the biggest threat to Alabama in the West.
Signature win for Butch: Tennessee came oh so close to pulling the upset against Georgia two weeks ago. It would've been the win to take the Volunteers to the next level, and show recruits that what coach Butch Jones is doing is real. But they came up short. Instead of dwelling on the loss, Tennessee bounced back after a week off and beat a Top 25 team at home. It wasn't pretty, but a win is a win. And how about that catch from Marquez North late in the game to put the Vols in range for the game-winning field goal? That was a grown-man catch. Tennessee isn't likely to go into Tuscaloosa and upset the No. 1 team in the nation, but it's obvious that Jones is turning around the program. The Vols took another step with Saturday's win over South Carolina.
Freshman impact: North's catch was spectacular, but he wasn't the only true freshman who had a big game on Saturday. Georgia's Shaq Wiggins returned an interception 39 yards for a touchdown. Florida running back Kelvin Taylor scored the Gators' only offensive touchdown on a 20-yard run in the third quarter. And for Alabama, tight end O.J. Howard caught his first touchdown pass from 17 yards out, and running back Derrick Henry showed why he was such a heralded recruit with an 80-yard touchdown run late in the game. It just goes to show how important recruiting has become in the SEC, and it doesn't matter if it's the worst team in the conference or the best team -- freshmen will still play a role.
1. Alabama (6-0, 3-0 SEC; last week: 1): Twitter was ablaze with tweets concerning Alabama's slow start at Kentucky. That worry quickly left after the Crimson Tide scored 31 consecutive points in the first half and cruised to a 48-7 win. Alabama isn't perfect, but it still has a hold on the SEC and is still the country's top team.
2. Texas A&M (5-1, 2-1 SEC; LW: 3): The Aggies certainly don't have much of a defense, but it doesn't really matter with Johnny Manziel running the show. For the second consecutive year, Manziel led a come-from-behind, game-winning drive against Ole Miss in Oxford. Not even a freak knee injury could slow him down. As long as he's making defenses look silly, the Aggies are a title contender.
3. LSU (6-1, 3-1 SEC; LW: 4): So there's that LSU defense we know and love. After some questionable early play, the Tigers defense held Florida to six points and just 240 yards of offense. With relentless pressure from the LSU defense, Florida's offense wilted inside of Tiger Stadium. LSU's offense wasn't great, but running back Jeremy Hill rushed for 121 yards against the nation's No. 1 rush defense.
4. Missouri (6-0, 2-0 SEC; LW: 7): Yeah, we all saw this one coming. These Tigers are undefeated and have the SEC's second-hottest offense behind Texas A&M. Mizzou strutted into Athens over the weekend and walked out with a win and their chests puffed out after a 41-26 win. The question now is if the Tigers can keep their momentum with quarterback James Franklin sidelined with a shoulder injury. It's Maty Mauk time in Columbia.
5. Georgia (4-2, 3-1 SEC; LW: 2): The Bulldogs defense struggled in the first half against Mizzou, but offensive mistakes really cost Georgia against the Tigers. Georgia was banged up on both sides of the ball and just didn't have the offensive star power around Aaron Murray to make a run late. It has been a rough week for the state of Georgia in the world of sports, and an unhealthy Bulldogs team is really hurting heading into its trip to Vanderbilt.
6. South Carolina (5-1, 3-1 SEC; LW: 6): Like LSU, we finally saw a balanced, solid defensive performance in a big game from the Gamecocks. Arkansas' running game churned out more than 200 yards, but the Gamecocks shut down the Hogs passing game, allowing just 30 yards on 4-of-13 passing. Connor Shaw continues to prove that he's made out of titanium and Mike Davis has rushed for 100-plus yards in five of six games.
7. Florida (4-2, 3-1 SEC; LW: 5): The Gators just couldn't get anything going on offense in Baton Rouge. Quarterback Tyler Murphy looked bewildered against LSU's blitz, and the offensive line crumbled under pressure. The offense averaged just 3.5 yards per play. The defense gave up some big plays, but held Zach Mettenberger to just 152 yards and a QBR of 46.7. No one would have blamed Florida's defense if it didn't allow the offense on the plane home Saturday.
8. Auburn (5-1, 2-1 SEC; LW: 8): No, the Tigers weren't playing hefty competition over the weekend, but this team is getting pretty fun to watch. Even without starting quarterback Nick Marshall, the Tigers registered 712 yards behind Jeremy Johnson in their 62-3 win over Western Carolina. Also, 511 of those yards came on the ground. Watch out for these Tigers.
9. Ole Miss (3-3, 1-3 SEC; LW: 9): How do you not run the ball on your final possession with Johnny Football standing on the other sideline? You can't give Manziel time to work with, and after the Rebels threw three straight incomplete passes on their last drive, Manziel was given 2:33 seconds to drive and win the game. He did, and the Rebels, who had their defense gashed, lost their third straight game.
10. Vanderbilt (3-3, 0-3 SEC; LW: 10): The Commodores were off this weekend, so this team got an extra week to work out some of those defensive kinks. They'll need everything to be ironed out with a frustrated Georgia team heading to town. Keep an eye on receiver Jordan Matthews. He has had a stellar start to the year and leads the SEC with 47 receptions and is third with 709 yards.
11. Tennessee (3-3, 0-2 SEC; LW: 12): The Vols were off, but they moved up because of what happened while they were hanging out on the couch this weekend. Plus, almost beating Georgia two weeks ago was pretty impressive. This team still has a long way to go before it's truly competitive in the SEC, but the performance against Georgia might give the Vols some nice momentum for the rest of the season.
12. Mississippi State (3-3, 0-2 SEC; LW: 13): The Bulldogs got quite the scare at home against Bowling Green. With a two-headed quarterback attack of Tyler Russell and Dak Prescott, Mississippi State slipped by the Falcons 21-20. It certainly wasn't pretty, but it was a must-win for the Bulldogs as they look to make it to the postseason. The Bulldogs are off this week, which is probably a good thing, as this team looks to regroup after an up-and-down first half of the season.
13. Arkansas (3-4, 0-3 SEC; LW: 11): Picking the Razorbacks to pull the upset over South Carolina was a major mental lapse on my part. The passing game was nonexistent against the Gamecocks and the defense was trampled on. This team can run the ball, but it just doesn't have an adequate passing game right now to make a real push in Bret Bielema's first season.
14. Kentucky (1-5, 0-3 SEC; LW: 14): The Wildcats had some fight early against Alabama, but then the talent difference put the Wildcats back in their place. Coach Mark Stoops said his team doesn't plan to cave and will be competitive from here on out. It has been a rough first year for Stoops, but attitude is everything when it comes to building.
L'Damian Washington, WR, Missouri: If it hadn't been for the injury, Missouri's James Franklin might have been the one on this list, but it was Washington who stepped up when his quarterback went out. With the lead cut to two and the Tigers in need of a big play, coach Gary Pinkel called on a trick play. Backup quarterback Maty Mauk threw a lateral to wide receiver Bud Sasser who then heaved it toward the end zone. Who was waiting on the other end? Washington. The 6-foot-4 receiver outfought the defender and hauled in the 40-yard touchdown pass. He finished with seven catches for 115 yards and two touchdowns on the day.
Connor Shaw, QB, South Carolina: The Gamecocks had struggled in recent weeks, not putting teams away, but that wasn't the case Saturday against Arkansas. They thrashed the Razorbacks to the tune of 52-7, and Shaw played his best game of the season. The South Carolina quarterback finished 19-of-28 for 219 yards and three touchdowns through the air and tallied his fourth score on a 10-yard run in the third quarter. Shaw has been lights out since returning from a recent shoulder injury. He now has 10 touchdown passes on the season, but more importantly, he has yet to throw an interception after throwing seven a year ago.
The LSU defense: It has been only two weeks since LSU gave up 44 points in a loss to Georgia, but coach Les Miles never gave up on his defense. That confidence paid off Saturday. The Tigers defeated Florida, 17-6, in a good, old-fashioned slugfest, rare for the SEC this season. LSU didn't force a single turnover, but the Tigers held the Gators to just 240 yards of total offense. Tyler Murphy had looked impressive since taking over as Florida's quarterback, but he could get nothing going in Death Valley. The Tigers finished with four sacks and eight tackles for loss. Linebacker Lamin Barrow led the team with 13 tackles.
T.J. Yeldon and Kenyan Drake, RB, Alabama: It wasn't much of a start for Yeldon or Drake. Both running backs fumbled early, and the Crimson Tide failed to score in the first quarter against Kentucky as a result of the miscues. However, instead of dwelling on the fumbles, they both redeemed themselves in a big way Saturday night. Yeldon led the way with 124 yards on 16 carries, while Drake gained 106 on 14 carries. They each scored two touchdowns. As a team, Alabama rushed for 299 yards against the Wildcats. Freshman running back Altee Tenpenny got into the mix late with a 7-yard touchdown run, the first of his career.
Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M: It wasn't pretty at times. It was downright ugly with the two second-half turnovers, but in the end, Johnny did what he always does. He made just enough plays to win the football game. The Aggies gave up a go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter, but Manziel led them back and answered with a 6-yard touchdown run. After Ole Miss went three-and-out, Manziel orchestrated a flawless two-minute drill that resulted in the game-winning field goal. The Texas A&M quarterback finished 31-of-39 for 346 yards through the air and rushed for 124 yards and two touchdowns.
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