The SEC has had its share of dominance. Every couple years, different teams consistently rise and others consistently fall. But Week 8 proved to be upset central for the SEC. Has the conference turned over a new leaf?
The Commodores have consistently improved and shown real strides with James Franklin as coach. He has managed to inspire not only the team, but the entire fan base. The Vandy of the past is in the rear-view mirror. His philosophy of “1-0” each week really shows the discipline of the team and ability to move on from the prior week. Vanderbilt still has plenty of opportunity to make more statements as they face No. 7 Texas A&M and No. 22 Florida Gators who both fell Week 8.
The Bulldogs were poised to win the SEC East this season, hands down. But injuries have taken a toll on the Dawgs, especially at receiver. Receivers Malcom Mitchell, Justin Scott-Wesley and Michael Bennett have all suffered season-ending knee injuries, in addition to running back Keith Marshall. The RB had already replaced starting running back Todd Gurley, who has been nursing an ankle injury. With so many targets missing, quarterback Aaron Murray has had trouble compensating. Even though Gurley is expected to return this season, it won’t turn the season around.
The Volunteers have shown that head coach Butch Jones knows what he is doing. The ever inconsistent Vols have learned how to manage game situations and consistently show that they are giving their all. This increase in effort has really been paying off. After initial concerns with junior quarterback Justin Worley, he has shown progression game to game. Although much improvement is needed on all aspects of the ball, the win proves that you can never discount the Vols.
The Gamecocks have had an overwhelmingly disappointing season, considering they were coming in with arguably the best SEC defense, and an offense that was would be able to outscore its’ opponents. Injury-plagued quarterback Connor Shaw has looked shaky. Jadeveon Clowney, who had uninspiring play at the beginning of the season and then took himself out of the lineup against the Kentucky Wildcats, returned against Tennessee. He was able to make some signature Clowney plays, but it wouldn’t be enough. Even the coaching, headed by one of the best, Steve Spurrier seems to have become inconsistent, with questionable calls. The Gamecocks are headed the wrong direction.
No 24. Auburn Tigers over No. 7 Texas A&M Aggies
The Tigers worked their way up into the top 25 week after wins against No. 24 Ole Miss and Western Carolina Week 6 and 7. They will be edging their way up even further after stopping a Johnny Manziel comeback to defeat the No. 7 Aggies. The real test for the Tigers will come at the end of the season, when they face ranked Georgia and No. 1 Alabama.
The Aggies have been able to put up big points under the direction of Manziel all season, scoring over 40 in each game. But, they haven’t been able to pull out a win in either of their big games against No.1 Alabama week three and No. 24 Auburn week eight. Their last two games are against No. 6 LSU and the ever improving No.14 Missouri Tigers. Points are nice, but wins are better.
Ole Miss Rebels over No. 6 LSU Tigers
The Rebels were on a downward slide after losses to No. 1 Alabama, Auburn and No. 9 Texas A&M. But the week 8 win over LSU shows that they still have some fight left in them. The Rebels only play one more ranked team, the No. 14 Missouri Tigers in the second to last game of the season. If the Rebels can pull out wins, a loss to the Mizzou shouldn’t hurt their bowl chances too much, as the Tigers are expected to be ranked even higher come game time.
The LSU Tigers, with two losses already to No. 9 Georgia and now Ole Miss, really hurt their bowl chances. The normally consistent Zach Mettenberger looked terrible in the first half against the Rebels, throwing three interceptions after having only two total all season. After the Tiger loss, his NFL draft stock is sure to have taken a dip and his Heisman aspirations are all but gone. The Tigers still have No.1 Alabama and No. 7 Texas A&M on their schedule.