The Mississippi State Bulldogs knocked off the Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders, going to 7-0 for only the second time in school history to set up a battle of the unbeatens next week against Alabama in Tuscaloosa.
While the Bulldogs got off to a sluggish start, the defense jumpstarted the team in the second half helping the Bulldogs surge to victory.
The Good: Mississippi State absolutely dominated play in the second half of the contest. They held the Blue Raiders to 125 yards of offense, but that does not tell the whole story. More importantly, the Bulldog defense kept MTSU off the scoreboard.
The longest drive MTSU had in the second half covered 47 yards in 5:27, but it ended in a punt. Three of the last six drives ended in turnovers, and the others indeed in punts.
Offensively, the Bulldogs scored on five straight possessions to open up play in the second half. Ladarius Perkins, perhaps the most underrated back in the SEC, broke off a long touchdown run, and Dak Prescott looked to have good command of the offense when in charge. Tyler Russell also turned in a great performance, going 17-21 (80.9% completion) for 191 yards and three touchdowns.
The Bad: The first half of play presents quite a puzzle to decipher. On one hand, because the Bulldogs only held a 10-3 lead at the half, many want to criticize the Bulldogs' play. On the other hand, Mississippi State only had four possessions in the first half, and they scored on two and missed a field goal on their third red zone trip. The only major offensive blemish was the fumble on their last drive.
On the other side, Mississippi State limited what the Blue Raiders did on their four offensive possessions in the first half. They only allowed MTSU one trip inside the red zone, and that ended with a field goal. MTSU's first half stat line benefited a bit when what looked to be an interception bounced out of Johnthan Banks' hands and into the hands of Anthony Amos for a 47-yard completion at the MSU 9. Fortunately, it was not a tip that led to a score.
The Ugly: Bulldog fans across the globe probably either puked or nearly puked after Banks went down with what looked to be a serious knee injury after his 46-yard interception return to the MTSU 25. Fortunately, all reports appear that the All-American did not suffer a serious injury, and it sounds as if he will be ready to go against Alabama.
No. 6 LSU 24, No. 18 Texas A&M 19: The Aggies looked like they were going to romp to victory early in this contest, but LSU rallied back to take a 14-12 lead at the half. After pushing their to 24-12, the Tigers nearly let the Aggies get back in this game. LSU is a good team, but this game leaves doubts about their true level of dominance. Hopefully, the game will end the Johnny "Football" nickname. The Tigers made Manziel look like a freshman with his three interceptions.
Vanderbilt 17, Auburn 13: Load up on your stock in Eli Lily because Prozac sells will shoot up this week for half of the state of Alabama. While I would have thought activity on www.firegenechizik.com would be huge, it actually just goes straight to the University of Central Florida's athletic page. No other way to say, Auburn football has found itself in the situation they should have expected when they hired someone with Chizik's record. Congrats to Zac Stacey for finishing with 169 yards and becoming the all-time leading rusher at Vady.
No. 2 Florida, No. 7 South Carolina: Who needs offense? Apparently the Gators do not. No one saw the Gators picking up a 33-point victory over the Gamecocks in the swamp. In a very bizarre stat line, Jeff Driskel tossed four touchdowns on 93-yards passing. That is what solid defense and special teams will do for you.
No. 11 Georgia 29, Kentucky 24: In what turned out to be a much more competitive game than expected, the Georgia Bulldogs held off the Kentucky Wildcats in Lexington. In the "For What It's Worth" department, the Wildcats are playing a huge number of freshmen this year, and it might make this season one that will be forgotten in a few years. Much credit should be given to the Wildcats for taking three separate leads on Georgia, whose quarterback, Aaron Murray, became the all-time leader in touchdown passes.
No. 1 Alabama 44, Tennessee 13: In what Crimson Tide quarterback AJ McCarron called his team's most complete game of the season, the Tide thrashed the Volunteers in Knoxville. The Alabama running attack and four touchdowns from McCarron proved to be to be too much for the Volunteer defense to handle. Of interest, Tennessee used the game to honor their former coach, Phillip Fulmer, and the 1997 SEC championship team. You think they ever regret letting Fulmer go?
SEC AWARDS TIME
SEC OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Aaron Murray, Georgia-Yes, the numbers came against Kentucky, but he completed 30 passes for 427 yards (a career high) and four touchdowns on his way to becoming the all-time leader in touchdown passes at Georgia.
SEC DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Chase Garnham, Vanderbilt-The middle linebacker finished his night with nine tackles, four tackles for loss and three sacks. He played a huge part in Auburn's offensive struggles.
SEC Power Rankings: These things do not get easier, they just get tougher. The top two teams are firmly entrenched at the top, and after that several teams make a strong case for 3-5. The sixth to ninth spots have a bit of debate as well. There was not as much movement as some might think because many teams lost/won games they should have won. The most movement comes in the top five. Georgia came close to jumping South Carolina, but everyone saw the Gamecocks thrash the Bulldogs, who get Florida this week. While Auburn did beat Kentucky earlier, the Tigers seem to regress each week.
1. Alabama (1)
2. Florida (2)
3. Mississippi State (5)
4. LSU (3)
5. South Carolina (4)
6. Georgia (6)
7. Texas A&M (7)
8. Ole Miss (8)
9. Tennessee (9)
10. Arkansas (10)
11. Vanderbilt (11)
12. Missouri (12)
13. Kentucky (14)
14. Auburn (13)
Five Things I Thought About this Week (sports related)
1. As sad as it is, I almost forgot baseball was still going on. The regular season is way too long, and when one team sweeps an LCS while the others battle it out, it creates a boring lull.
2. Is there a more undervalued running back than Ladarius Perkins? All the guy has done is find pay dirt in every game this season (no one else has), lead the SEC in rushing, and put himself on pace to break the Mississippi State single-season rushing record. If the Bulldogs beat Alabama this week, he won't stay under the radar any longer.
3. The Johnthan Banks injury scare highlighted the biggest difference between Mississippi State and Alabama. While both teams would curse a serious injury to an All-American, Alabama fans would feel much more comfortable with the quality in their depth charts. That depth, which is being built in Starkville, is what separates the Bulldogs from the very top in college football right now.
4. Thursday night games on the NFL Network are lame. Yes, the games have been good, but who all really gets the channel? It is also during the middle of the week, and it is easy to forget. I wish the NFL would scrap it, but they won't.
5. By coming in at No. 11 in the BCS, it felt the Bulldogs got jobbed a bit. This is a top-ten team, and unfortunately, without a 4-1 finish down the stretch, they may never get to that ranking.
6. BONUS-Congrats to Jordan Angus and Malte Stropp for winning the USTA/ITA Southern Regional Doubles crown. The win puts them in the national tournament in November. Mississippi State's Romain Bogaerts will play for the single crown later Monday.
Five WTF's from the Sports' World this Week
1. Anyone want to start a "Which SEC coach gets fired first and on what date" game? The way I see it, five contenders are in action: Gene Chizik, John L. Smith, Joker Phillips, Mark Richt and Derek Dooley.
2. Lance Armstong. How disappointing to see that Armstrong cheated to those championships, but in the end, should we be surprised? Cycling has a history of cheating, and why were we so slow to have suspicions about Armstong? Looking back, the whole story should have seemed off from the get go. Hopefully some good does come out of this through cancer research.
3. Giving out awards to the runners-up on the court right after they lose is just awkward. Tennis does this, and so does high school volleyball in Mississippi. No one wants to be out there for that, especially if they are supposed to act happy at just having lost.
4. Alex Rodriguez and the Yankees will have a long last few years together. Yet another story about PED's to ruin baseball.
5. Andy Reid gets to can his defensive coordinator for being a middle of the road defense, but the Philadelphia Eagles coach gets to keep his spot with a horrid offense. Huh?