By Andrew Kahn
This is the CBS Local SEC Football Report. Every Tuesday, this space will recap the results and top performances from the Southeastern Conference and look ahead to key match-ups the following week.
LSU roars back
Any progress, real or imagined, that LSU made last week in a win against Florida was evaporating in the 90-degree heat in Death Valley. The visiting Auburn Tigers scored on their first four possessions to take a 20-0 lead early in the second quarter. Then, LSU proved it really has turned a corner, roaring back to win 27-23.
LSU’s defense was dominant in the second half: Auburn didn’t score a point and managed just 64 yards. On the other side of the ball, wide receiver Russell Gage made some huge plays for LSU. He took a jet sweep—a play LSU began incorporating much more last week—70 yards to set up LSU’s first touchdown and made an incredible diving catch to make it 23-14 just before half.
D.J. Chark returned a punt for a score for the second time this season and Connor Culp made both of his field goal attempts, which was enough to back LSU’s smothering defense. Auburn had looked dominant in its first three SEC games, but this kind of loss casts plenty of doubt on whether they can compete with Alabama or Georgia.
A&M tops Gators
For the first time since 2012, Texas A&M and Florida played each other in football. The long hiatus is an unfortunate result of conference expansion. Defense was the story for much of the game—in each team’s first 11 drives, they combined for 15 punts, 14 three-and-outs, and two interceptions—but the Aggies did just enough late to leave The Swamp with a 19-17 win. The victory improved the SEC West to 6-2 against the East so far this season.
Florida ran the ball well (242 yards, 5.8 per carry), including a 79-yard scamper by quarterback Feleipe Franks, during which his alligator-skin uniform proved to be quite slippery. But Franks was sacked five times and threw two interceptions. A&M’s star receiver Christian Kirk was held in check most of the night but had a long reception and a big punt return in the fourth quarter to set up field goals, including the game-winner with 58 seconds left.
Other notable performances:
Last week, running back Damien Harris ran 75 yards for a touchdown on Alabama’s second drive of the game. On Saturday night, he didn’t wait that long, going 75 yards on the first play from scrimmage against Arkansas. Both runs featured impressive cut-backs when the initial line was taken away. The Tide took a 17-0 lead halfway through the first quarter and didn’t look back, winning 41-9. The only negative for Bama was that Jalen Hurts threw his first interception since the Iron Bowl last season.
Georgia allowed some big plays early against Missouri—it was 21-21 a few minutes into the second quarter—but piled up 696 yards in a 53-28 home win.
South Carolina found the end zone just once, but that was one more than Tennessee, which has now played 10 straight quarters without a touchdown. The result was a 15-9 Gamecock victory in Knoxville. Redshirt freshman quarterback Jarrett Guarantano made his first career start for the Vols.
Vanderbilt was feeling good about itself after a win against Kansas State moved them to 3-0, but the defense has been exposed in league play. Saturday’s 57-35 loss at Mississippi dropped the Commodores to 0-4 in the SEC. Ole Miss receiver D.K Metcalf caught a pass behind a defender’s back, a play we’ve seen before but should never not appreciate it.
After two blowout losses, Mississippi State had the perfect remedy: a bye, then a visit from a 1-5 team with a terrible offense. The Bulldogs took care of BYU 35-10, out-gaining the Cougars on the ground 306-29.
Kentucky was off.
Biggest game: LSU at Mississippi
Admittedly there is not much to choose from this week, as five schools are on a bye. This match-up figures to be the most competitive of the bunch. Can LSU maintain its recent momentum? Mississippi is just 3-3, but their losses aren’t bad, especially given Cal’s win over Washington State this past weekend. The Tigers will have their paws full with Ole Miss quarterback Shea Patterson.
Keep an eye on: Kentucky at Mississippi State; Tennessee at Alabama; Auburn at Arkansas
Kentucky is the only one-loss team in the East, so they’ll try to keep within shouting distance of Georgia. They’re double-digit underdogs in Starkville. It is fair to wonder whether Tennessee will score a touchdown against Alabama. Can Arkansas snap out of its slump? They’ll likely have to do so without quarterback Austin Allen, whose shoulder injury may keep him out for a second straight game.
For the diehards: Idaho at Missouri; Texas A&M, Georgia, Florida, Vanderbilt, and South Carolina are off
Andrew Kahn is a regular contributor to CBS Local. He writes about college football and other sports at andrewjkahn.com and you can find his Scoop and Score podcast on iTunes. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at @AndrewKahn