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SEC Recap: Week Seven

A king in the East has been crowned, patience in Knoxville is wearing thin, and A&M may be Playoff-bound

Florida vs Georgia
Fresh off a 44-28 drubbing of Georgia on Saturday, Kadarius Toney and the Florida Gators have emphatically assumed the status of favorites in the SEC East.

Florida 44 vs. Georgia 28

Saturday was a statement.

And an emphatic one at that by the Gators.

I don’t know if Gators QB Kyle Trask is a legitimate Heisman candidate. If he wasn’t receiving votes before yesterday, he is now. And Florida is on a collision course for the conference title with Alabama, whose Mac Jones is the arguably the only quarterback in the nation playing better ball than Trask.

The dude threw for nearly 500 yards against the Bulldogs, whose defense was supposed to be the X factor in separating these two teams atop the SEC East.

Now the only SEC quarterback in history to have thrown four or more touchdowns in each of a season’s first five games, Trask is tied with Brady White of Memphis for the national lead in passing scores (22), and the Gators need only navigate a relatively harmless back-half of the schedule to make it to Atlanta.

Meanwhile, the person under center (or in the shotgun) is an issue at Georgia.

NCAA Football: Georgia at Alabama
Without the services of a reliable passing game, Kirby Smart and Georgia have leaned on a stout running game and solid defense thus far this season, but that philosophy fell flat in Saturday’s loss against Florida, knocking the Bulldogs out of the race for the division.

Last week, we noted after the Bulldogs’ uninspired win at Kentucky that Kirby Smart and his staff don’t ask much of starting QB Stetson Bennett, and at least for the time being, they probably shouldn’t ask much of D’Wan Mathis, the talented sophomore backup who was thrust into duty after Bennett went down with a separated shoulder and took over for good in the third quarter.

Combined, Bennett and Mathis completed nine passes for 112 yards and averaged fewer than four yards per attempt, nearly a third of the average of Trask.

Texas A&M 48 vs. South Carolina 3

Flip a coin to decide who among A&M and Florida is the second-best team in the SEC. Both teams made extremely strong cases Saturday.

Let’s give the slim edge to the Gators, but also respect the work of the Aggies, who extended their winning streak over the Gamecocks to seven and have never lost in the series.

Texas A&M won in every phase of the game, and as the scoreboard shows, it did so in overwhelming fashion.

The Aggies gained 530 yards to the Gamecocks’ 150. They converted 12 of 16 third downs. They did not commit a turnover, allowed only 50 yards on the ground, and held the ball for nearly 40 minutes.

With Georgia’s loss, A&M is now the best one-loss team in the country and, thanks to the Clemson defeat, should be ranked in the top five of the latest polls.

The rest of the schedule is manageable, and even though the tiebreaker with Alabama will likely keep A&M out of the SEC title game, the talk of nabbing the fourth and final playoff spot could heat up very soon.

Arkansas 24 vs. Tennessee 13

The sentiment toward Vols head coach Jeremy Pruitt was not kind following the disaster in Fayetteville.

Slinging mud from behind the comfort of a screen on social media is not hard work, but perhaps some of it is justified.

Pruitt is starting to look like Butch Jones version 2.0, rather than the guy who was supposed to restore the luster of the Phillip Fulmer days.

NCAA Football: Alabama at Tennessee
Fans in Knoxville are getting restless, and Saturday’s ugly loss at Arkansas will only embolden the critics of Jeremy Pruitt, whose efforts to return the Vols to national prominence are not going as planned.

This time last month, I was convinced Pruitt had Tennessee in the exact position for which he was hired. The Vols, fresh off a whipping of Mizzou, were set to face Georgia to presumably legitimize the program’s chances at a divisional title for the first time since 2007, Fulmer’s penultimate season.

Instead, Tennessee has literally crumbled. Since the Mizzou win, the Vols have lost four straight. In those losses, they’ve scored only 58 points and given up an average of 37. The math is not good.

Nor is the forecast.

Tennessee faces ranked opponents — Texas A&M, Auburn, and Florida — in three of its final four games. Mixed in there is a sure win against Vanderbilt, but a 3-7 record in year three of Pruitt’s rebuilding project will only incite further online rage — and perhaps result in a head coach vacancy in Knoxville.

Mississippi State 24 vs. Vanderbilt 17

Mike Leach’s offense scored six fewer points Saturday than it had the previous four games, which turned out to be just enough for a win at Vanderbilt, which may very well end the season winless as coach Derek Mason winds down what could be his last in Nashville.

Freshman Will Rogers, making his first career start, got the call in the absence of senior K.J. Costello, who Leach has not been shy about benching during the Bulldogs’ four-game losing streak prior to Saturday.

For as poorly as Leach’s offense has played since the season-opening win at LSU, the defense has been respectable, and they essentially won the game against Vandy.

Mississippi State was out-gained more than two to one, but the defense forced five Commodore turnovers, including a pick in the end zone by linebacker Erroll Thompson to stymie Vanderbilt just before he half.

For their efforts, the Bulldogs now get ranked Auburn and a pissed-off Georgia team, which could mean the Vanderbilt win is just a temporary reprieve from what has been a trying first season for Leach in Starkville.