After knocking off Tennessee 41-31 Saturday night and staking a claim to a top-12 BCS ranking, the highest ranking since the school was No. 10 in November 1999, Mississippi State has laid the foundation for one of the best seasons in school history. With several tough foes to play to close out the season, Bulldog fans should enjoy watching their squad embrace the challenge of facing quality foes, which as of now should be three ranked teams and two top-ten opponents in the last six games of the season.
Of course, most of this excitement comes from the victory over Tennessee, so here comes a look back at the weekend in the SEC.
The Good: The first half from Mississippi State may have been the best the team has played in a long time. The Bulldogs scored on every trip into the red zone, and they usually walked away with seven instead of three. Tyler Russell was on early. LaDarius Perkins looked sharp. Dak Prescott took care of business. Marcus Green kept catching the ball. The defense shut down the Tyler Bray led offense. If you want to see something close to the performance Mississippi State is capable of producing, watch that first half again.
The Bad: Mississippi State fans have wondered how their team would look if they played a complete game, and that question still remains. This is a good bad thing. The Bulldogs swooned a bit in the third quarter (and some credit is due to Tennessee for some adjustments), but I thought Mississippi State lacked some aggressiveness in the quarter. A few big tackles, especially on the opening play of the quarter, might have led to an even larger victory. That said, this team is improving, and maybe in two weeks, all cylinders will fire for all four quarters. Who knows what this team is truly capable of?
The Ugly: The Bulldogs have got to improve their play on kick returns. In three SEC games, Mississippi State has allowed two touchdowns on kick returns. On both, it looked like the coverage was there, but the tackling left a bit to be desired.
Ole Miss 41, Auburn 20: The Rebels finally picked up their first SEC win in what was not much of a surprise to end their 16-game SEC losing streak. The Rebels are a team on the rise, and two good SEC programs in Mississippi should benefit both State and the Rebels. Those Battles for the Golden Egg with two quality schools were fun to watch over a decade ago.
No. 1 Alabama 42 Missouri 10: Anyone else think that Missouri might want a refund on joining the SEC? T. J. Yeldon and Eddie Lacy are incredible. Nick Saban is turning Alabama into a monster.
No. 4 Florida 31, Vanderbilt 17: This is about what most would expect from this game. The Commodores have been better as of late, and they actually held a first quarter lead on Florida. In the end, the Gators proved to be too much, and Will Muschamp must love seeing his team get north of 30 on the scoreboard.
Arkansas 49, Kentucky 7: Even Mother Nature got tired of watching this game, and the referees mercifully ended this game in the third quarter over weather concerns. Tyler Wilson looked great, and this Arkansas team is starting to look like what most expected. That said, the wins did come against Auburn and Kentucky, but anyone writing that Arkansas will be an easy win better have done so in pencil.
No. 9 LSU 23, No. 3 South Carolina 21: Reports of the Tigers' demise seem to have been premature. LSU did not play the prettiest of games, but their defense shut down Marcus Lattimore. For the umpteenth year....who knows where LSU is with a capable quarterback. That said, this game is proof that teams can still dominate by being a run first team.
No 22 Texas A&M 59, No 23 Louisiana Tech 57: In what looked at first to be another dominate SEC win, the Aggies proved they still struggle playing second half defense as Tech almost pulled off the stunner. Lost in the conversation may be Tech's Quinton Patton. All he did was finish with 21 catches for 233 yards and four touchdowns.
SEC Offensive Player of the Week: Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M: The true freshman leads the SEC in rushing, and has taken over the total offense record. He finished with 576 yards and accounted for six touchdowns. 395 of those yards and three of those touchdowns came through the air. No confirmation on the rumor that he was popping popcorn at the half.
SEC Defensive Player of the Week: Damontre Moore, Texas A&M: Yes, this may be a bit out there. Yes, his team did not play well overall defensively, but the defensive lineman did make 17 tackles with 1.5 sacks and 2.5 tackles for losses. He also blocked a point after right before overtime that led to a two point defensive conversion. That was a three point swing, that in the end, proved very important.
SEC Power Rankings: Another interesting week, more interesting fluctuations....The bottom of the pile is falling solidly in place. Georgia suffers a bit from the bye week, and the Razorbacks may be the team poised to rocket upward. I still have no idea how to feel about LSU.
1. Alabama (1)
2. Florida (3)
3. LSU (6)
4. South Carolina (2)
5. Mississippi State (5)
6. Georgia (4)
7. Texas A&M (7)
8. Ole Miss (9)
9. Tennessee (8)
10. Arkansas (10)
11. Vanderbilt (11)
12. Missouri (12)
13. Auburn (13)
14. Kentucky (14)
Five Things I Thought About this Week (sports related)
1. Baseball is in dire need of instant replay. Right now, questionable and blown calls are the story of the playoffs, and this is not the first time either. It is already a slow-enough paced game that replay would not significantly make the game longer. Get this done.
2. The Mississippi High School Activities Association has the worst system for determining home teams in playoffs. It has to do with who has hosted the fewest playoff games. In volleyball and softball this fall, division champions are on the road in the state semifinal at the division runner-up. Make winning regions count for something.
3. Not cool Fletcher Cox...don't want to get ejected for punching people as a rookie, but I loved the way he stepped up about it after the game.
4. Johnny Manziel: He will win the Heisman one day. I really do not understand why he is not getting more hype for the award already.
5. Twitter is a blessing and a curse when it comes to sports. It is great to interact so quickly with so many people during a game, but that urge to tweet something after nearly every play takes away from the experience. I tried to go tweet/internet free during the UT game. It was really nice.
Sorry for the abbreviated edition. I'll be back to regular form next week. As always, I look forward to hearing how I messed up awards! Thanks for reading folks.