Despite the lamentations of head coaches, any college football fan will tell you that winning is not all that matters. In the land where every game counts, HOW you win is almost as important as the the outcome itself. It's the reason our recent teams have crowed about "swagger". It's the reason Notre Dame and Michigan fans will never be completely happy with a coach who lacks the power running game to satisfy their urge for MANBALL. How you win leaves an impression. How you win is important to your fans, to the media, and most importantly to recruits. How you win defines who you are.
Yesterday, the Aggies failed miserably in this department. The victory over the Warhawks was more "anaconda plan" than the "shock and awe" A&M fans have become used to under Coach Sumlin. While the Aggies attained their sixth win and bowl eligibility, Sumlin & Co. did very little to sooth the BAS of Aggie fans still smarting from three consecutive SEC West beatdowns.
Lets see how the rest of the SEC did:
Florida 38 - Georgia 20
What happened: This might have saved Coach PUNCHO's job. With Florida AD Jeremy Foley on the sidelines, the Gators bludgeoned an uninspired Georgia team to death, effectively ending the Bulldogs playoff dreams. After falling behind 7-0, reserve WR and holder Michael McNeely scrambled 22 yards to paydirt on a beautifully executed fake FG. From that point on, it was all Gators. Florida had 60 carries for 418 yards. They had only 6 pass attempts for 27 yards.
What it means: Georgia's loss eliminates them from playoff contention, and puts a significant dent in their SEC East hopes. It also means that....would you believe it...the Gators still have a slim chance at a share of the division title. However, the team that benefits the most from the Gators victory is Missouri. Georgia now has 2 conference losses, with Kentucky and a difficult matchup with Auburn remaining. Prior to this loss, the Bulldogs could afford to drop a game. Now they have no margin for error and have to get help from A&M, Tennessee, or Arkansas.
Missouri 20 - Kentucky 10
What happened: Good Maty Mauk showed up. The Missouri QB opened the game on fire, at one point completing 10 consecutive passes while making plays with his legs to lead the Tigers to a 14-3 halftime lead. In the second half, both teams struggled to make anything happen, but the Tigers managed to hang on, helped greatly by untimely penalties and Kentucky's inability to convert on third down (2-16).
What it means: Coupled with Georgia's unthinkable cocktail party disaster, the win puts the Tigers squarely in the SEC East driver's seat. Yes, a team that lost at home to the might Indiana Hoosiers has a great chance to make a return trip to Atlanta. For Kentucky, only Georgia, Tennessee, and Louisville remain. While the Wildcats' chances of getting that sixth win are somewhere between slim and none, Slim hasn't left town yet.
Auburn 35 - Ole Miss 31
What happened: [DR BO JOKE REDACTED] One of the best college football games of the year ended in a perfectly macabre manner for the Rebels. Down by 4 with less than 5 minutes in the game, the Rebels twice drove deep into Auburn territory. The first attempt was thwarted when Bo Wallace fumbled as he fell on an Auburn player and tried to extend the football for a first down. Subsequently, after forcing an Auburn punt, LaQuan Treadwell took a perfectly timed screen pass to the Auburn goal line before fumbling while being drug down from behind by Auburn defenders, fracturing his lower leg and ankle in gruesome fashion. Get well soon Mr. Treadwell. Auburn may have the coin (and may have given it to Cam Newton) but they'll never have LeQuan.
What it means: Pure SEC West chaos scenario is still in play. If LSU can beat Bama next weekend, and Bama can beat Mississippi State and Auburn, the Rebels will have a chance at a 5-way SEC West tie between Auburn, Bama, LSU, and Mississippi State. The dream is still alive.
Vanderbilt 42 - Old Dominion 28
What happened: Do you really care?
What it means: Very little. I guess Derek Mason gets to keep his job. If he had dropped this game to the Big Blue (really that's their mascot, I had to look it up) he would probably had to start packing soon.
Mississippi State 17 - Arkansas 10
What happened: Arkansas fell short of its first SEC victory in 17 tries by employing their own typical brand of DERP. They jumped out to a lead, squandered opportunities to extend that lead, and allowed the superior team to hang around before collapsing late. In the first half, BERT twice elected to punt on 4th and short in Bulldog territory instead of seizing the opportunity to extend the Hogs lead. Like the A&M and Bama games, the Hogs let Mississippi State hang around until the Bulldogs got back on track in the second half, adjusting to the Razorback rushing game and breaking a few big plays. The #1 ranked Bulldogs were unimpressive, and quite frankly outplayed by the Razorbacks for most of this game.
What it means: Mississippi State may have a great resume so far, but they haven't been dominant. This team will go as far as Dak Prescott takes them (COMPLIMENTARY HOT TAKE!). Next week they get the traditional November cupcake in UT-Martin. While they are the #1 team in the nation, they will likely be road dogs against Bama on November 15. For the Fightin' BERT's they still need two SEC wins to reach bowl eligibility. They get a week off to prepare for LSU, who will be coming off a monumental game against Bama. That's a trap game for the Tigers if there ever was one.
Tennessee 45 - South Carolina 42
What happened: I have to admit, I initially cut this game off after I saw the Gamecocks go up by two touchdowns with under five minutes to go in regulation. I turned it back on in time to watch true freshman Joshua Dobbs lead the Vols down the field for a game tying touchdown with eleven seconds left in regulation. After managing only a field goal on the opening OT possession, the Vols sacked Dylan Thompson TWICE, forcing the Gamecocks to attempt a 58 yard field goal that never had a chance. Huge win for Butch Jones and his group of kids.
What it means: South Carolina continues to choke games away. First it was giving up two late TDs against Mizzou. The next week it was 21 consecutive 4th quarter points to Kentucky. Last week they folded in the second half against Auburn. The OBC is not taking it well at all, judging by his 56-second post game press conference. Now USC needs a win over Florida in the Swamp or against Clemson to salvage bowl eligibility. For Tennessee, this is a much needed validation. They can get to six wins by winning two out of their final three against UK, Mizzou, and Vanderbilt.
LUCAS JACKSON RANKS THE SEC
1. Mississippi State - While their resume (particularly the win over Auburn) dictates their right to this spot, I don't like their chances on the road against Bama.
2. Alabama - Like Mississippi State, this team struggled with Arkansas before escaping late. Still, if the team that showed up and demolished the Aggies is the real version of this team, watch out. That win over WVU is looking better all the time.
3. Auburn - Quite simply, the luckiest team in college football. They are also very good, and Nick Marshall and the offense continue to improve. They just opened as 19 point favorites over A&M.
4. Ole Miss - They probably should have beaten LSU and Auburn. Now, thanks to some putrid luck, the Rebels best chance at Atlanta has vanished. They deserve better. It will be interesting to see how they rebound. The injuries are taking their toll.
5. LSU - The roller coaster continues this week for the Tigers against Bama. If the ground game they displayed against Ole Miss is real, then they have a shot at knocking off the Crimson Tide at home. They know their tactics. They have the home field advantage. Personally, I give them one chance in three.
6. Georgia - What the hell happened? That team is not as bad as they showed. If they can get past Kentucky next week (what a strange thing to say) they get Todd Gurley back for Auburn at home.
7. Texas A&M - I just don't think Missouri is very good. We fall into this spot by default.
8. Arkansas - Again, by default. I'd take them at a neutral site of any SEC East team but Georgia.
9. Missouri - This is a pick em with the Hogs, and I take the Hogs. The Tigers have managed to patch together a nice season with WD-40, Duct Tape, baling wire, and Shane Ray, but the subterfuge can't last much longer. Can it? Amazingly, the Tigers get the two worst SEC West teams on their schedule. What luck.
10. Florida - Huge win for the Gators. If they back it up with a win against Spurrier and the Gamecocks, Muschamp might save his job.
11. Tennessee - These guys play hard and don't quit. I see them getting to 6 wins and a bowl game. Come to Shreveport fellas. I'll show you the sights.
12. Kentucky - Can they get that sixth win? Tennessee game is gonna be huge.
13. South Carolina - Hey Coach Spurrier, Mike Sherman is on the phone with some tips on how to finish games.
14. Vanderbilt - Well, Old Dominion did beat Rice. So that pulls the Commodores into a few transitive victories.