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SEC Recap: Week Four

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‘Bama does ‘Bama stuff, the Vols affirm suspicions, and the Hogs, suddenly, don’t seem so historically bad

Georgia vs Alabama
Georgia WR Jermain Burton and the Georgia offense were held scoreless in the second half against Alabama.

Alabama 41 vs. Georgia 24

The line drawn between really good teams and those that can be considered championship caliber is often extremely skinny, but you know it when you see it.

I know what I saw during the second half in Tuscaloosa Saturday, and it was distinctive: the better team exerted its will against the weaker, thus validating its status as the best team in the SEC and perhaps the nation.

Promise for Georgia abounded when the defense clobbered and picked Alabama QB Mac Jones on the first play of the game, and for a while at least, a tone was thus set. For the first 30 minutes, Kirby Smart had an upper hand on his old boss.

The final 30 is where that aforementioned line was drawn.

The ‘Dogs didn’t have a prayer after halftime, and now Nick Saban — who has a female Texas A&M soccer player to thank for being on the sideline — is 22-0 versus his former minions, including 3-0 against Smart, and now is tied with Joe Paterno for most all-time wins against opponents ranked in the AP Top 25.

Parity in the College Football Playoff is a good thing, but you and I both know that not even COVID and this Year of Inescapable Hell can prevent the usual suspects from keeping things vanilla.

Clemson, who apparently said, “Eh, we’re up by 67, let’s, uh, put the punter in at quarterback, maybe?” against Georgia Tech, is not going to go down. Ohio State will win all of its games, whenever those take place. And whomever between the elite of the Big 12 and Pac-12 decides to not crap the bed at the end of the season might have a shot.

That leaves ‘Bama, which needs to play just enough defense to make it to Atlanta, where they’ll play, uh, probably Georgia, who could shoot this entire summary completely to hell.

Kentucky 34 vs. Tennessee 7

OK, Tennessee, I’m done with you.

Is it officially time to say that?

We’re back. We may be back. We’re not back. Butch Jones (hooray!) is not coming back, Jeremy Pruitt is coming, so that means that we are (definitely) coming back. Those Phillip Fulmer days are close, ya’ll! They’re coming!

Splat!

I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve partaken from the bowl of orange Kool-Aid. After the Vols throttled our Tigers, I was thoroughly convinced that Pruitt was on his way to accomplishing what Jones could not. For the first time in — I don’t even know ... maybe 2007 — Tennessee appeared to be a legitimate threat to win the East.

The Vols looked very good — on both sides of the ball. Against Missouri and for the entire first half the following week versus Georgia.

Perhaps, Pruitt still can work magic, but for now, let’s end this dance, put the Vols to bed, and whisper to them in their ears what they really are: a very mediocre football littered with top-notch recruits but no reliable quarterback.

I realize, to Tennessee fans, this sounds like a combination of piling on and sour grapes. I’m sure they’re all hoping that the whimsical transitive property thing kicks in, and Kentucky beats Missouri by 60 next weekend. That won’t happen.

Kentucky vs Tennessee
The Kentucky Wildcats ran away from the No. 18 Tennessee Volunteers in historic fashion on Saturday. No, really ... look at this picture.

But here’s what did happen: Tennessee lost to the Wildcats at home for the first time since 1984. It was the program’s worst loss to Kentucky since 1935.

The resurgence of a college football program is defined by wins, some of which are of historical significance.

Tennessee football may very well be on its way back, but no one will be able to take that resurgence seriously until the Vols stop losing games they are supposed to win, especially those they lose in historical fashion.

Texas A&M 28 vs. Mississippi State 14

Prior to Saturday, Mississippi State QB K.J. Costello had thrown at least 55 passes in each of his three starts this season.

He attempted only 22 on Saturday.

The senior, who has thrown eight picks since the season-opening win at LSU, was intercepted once and fumbled late in the third quarter against Texas A&M, leading to an Aggie score the put the game out of reach.

Costello was replaced by true freshman Will Rogers, who was the lone bright spot for the Bulldogs, completing 83 percent of his passes and throwing for one score.

Texas A&M, very quietly, may crack the Top 10 in the polls this coming week. Very loudly, Mississippi State — following Mike Leach’s comment last week about “purging” the roster, which was noticeably without senior running back Kylin Hill on Saturday — has returned to reality as an SEC West also-ran, getting pummeled 73-30 in three consecutive losses.

NCAA Football: Texas A&M at Mississippi State
With a hapless offense under Mike Leach, the Mississippi State defense has had to do a majority of the heavy lifting this season, but the Mississippi Highway Patrol stole the show in Starkville Saturday.

On a related note, the biggest cheer of the day at Davis Wade Stadium may have come when two PETA protestors were leveled to the ground by security.

South Carolina 30 vs. Auburn 22

Auburn QB Bo Nix, reigning SEC Freshman of the Year, had thrown for more than 250 yards in a game only twice entering Saturday.

He threw for 272 against South Carolina, but he also threw three picks, the last of which resulted in a Gamecock lead that would not be relinquished.

Nix, who is a much bigger threat with his legs than arm, got Auburn in a position to tie the game with seconds left thanks to a good chunk of his 69 rushing yards coming on the final drive, but it was for naught.

The Gamecocks, under the leadership of the much-maligned Will Muschamp, are still in the thick of things in a muddled SEC East. They don’t have the firepower to beat out Georgia, but they do have the glory of this win against Auburn, which hasn’t happened since South Carolina joined the conference in 1992.

Actually, it hasn’t happened since 1933.

Arkansas 33 vs. Ole Miss 21

The SEC’s most potent offense went right down the field on the Arkansas defense on its first possession Saturday.

Then, the momentum — for all intents and purposes — swung and could not be recaptured by the visiting Rebels. Ole Miss QB Matt Corral, nearly perfect against Alabama last weekend, committed the only one of Ole Miss’ seven turnovers that wasn’t an interception, fumbling on 4th-and-goal from the Arkansas one to spell the beginning of the end.

At the half, Arkansas was up 20-0.

A late charge, fueled by an interesting duel between Lane Kiffin’s evil offensive genius and Barry Odom’s reawakening as a defensive mastermind, brought the Rebels within striking distance late, right up to the final minutes. But Corral’s fifth pick (yes, not his last) of the day, this time to linebacker Grant Morgan, was returned 23 yards for the clinching score.

Let’s all admit, Sam Pittman was an odd choice to replace Chad Morris, but you can’t argue that the old guy has done something to change the culture in Fayetteville.

The Hogs have now more many conference games in the past three weeks than they had in the previous three seasons combined.