All hail the SEC West. Eight weeks into the season, the seven-team grouping is 28-1 against the rest of the world (a loss by Arkansas to Georgia the only blemish). Four of the top five teams (including #1 Mississippi State) hail from the SEC West while LSU is in the outer reaches of the top 25…and Texas A&M is also receiving votes because the Aggies have had three straight games (all losses) to teams in the division all currently ranked in the top 10. November appears to be a round-robin shootout for the valued berth in the SEC Championship game– with Ole Miss and Bama coming out ahead on the scheduling front: the Rebels host Auburn and Mississippi State while the Crimson Tide entertain the Bulldogs and Tigers next month. Another benefit of being in the SEC West? Crossover games with East Division teams like Vanderbilt (winless in the league with a 1-point victory over Charleston Southern). How soft is the East? Longtime doormat Kentucky is in third place with a chance to finish over .500 in league play for the first time since 1977. National titles and unbeaten seasons are one thing…but the Wildcats having a shot at the SEC Title game? Now that’s an achievement.
Alma Mater Update– a collective sigh of relief in Orange Nation as it’s learned that Wake Forest is the worst team in the ACC this year…as SU dominated the Demon Deacons 30-7 by tallying two defensive touchdowns. Freshman quarterback AJ Long in his second start for the injured Terrel Hunt didn’t throw any interceptions and the defense tightened up: after allowing a 91 yard drive for a Wake TD, they held the Deacons to 79 total yards the rest of the game. Bring on Clemson! In Death Valley! The pursuit of 6 wins never looked so much fun…
Maryland made a major move by rallying past Iowa 38-31. A fifth win puts the team one victory shy of bowl eligibility–and a second conference triumph keeps them in the East Division conversation while standing on the cusp of the top 25. Terrapin Triumphs– the ground game pounded out 212 yards rushing while the defense held the Hawkeyes in check after the first quarter–notching 4 three and outs plus an interception over their first 6 second half drives… Stefon Diggs caught 9 passes for 130 yards-including a screen pass from Perry Hills he took 53 yards for a TD… Will Likely added to his highlight reel with a 45 yard interception return for a score…and coach Randy Edsall showed some athleticism catching a stray sideline pass. Terrapin Troubles– once again the defense allowed a pair of first quarter scores-just like in the West Virginia and Ohio State games…the team was held to 4-16 on third down… and whiffing on a late onside kick could’ve come back to haunt the Terps but didn’t. Next: Saturday at Wisconsin.
Virginia came up short on the road…losing at Duke 20-13. UVa’s first ACC loss drops them into a three-way tie for first in the Coastal Division with the Blue Devils and Pitt. Here’s Blue Devil respect for you: despite a 6-1 start, the defending division champs remain out of the top 25. Cavalier Congrats– Miles Gooch caught 6 passes for 129 yards and didn’t bully the diminutive Arnold Jackson or his friend Dudley…the defense held Duke to under 8 yards per completion…three players threw passes Saturday, but two were wide receivers-meaning Mike London didn’t shuttle quarterbacks. Sanity! Cavalier Concerns– 2 penalties handcuffed a 4th quarter drive, including a delay of game on 4th and 7 that preceded an incompletion…Matt Johns completed less than 50% of his passes…and with Duke kicker Ross Martin kicking a pair of field goals and two extra points, nobody made a Wild, Wild West connection. Next: Saturday vs. North Carolina.
Virginia Tech over the years has prided itself on smoked turkey legs, a stout running game and dominating Thursday nights (20-7 entering this year). After a 21-16 loss to Pitt, the Hokies finds themselves on the outside looking in regarding the Coastal Division race–with a ground game that is rather light and a Must See TV night record that’s 1-3 since 2012. I don’t want to ask about the current quality of smoked turkey legs. Hokie Highlights– Cam Phillips caught 7 passes for 59 yards and the team’s only TD… the defense tallied three takeaways… Joey Slye connected on all three FG attempts. Hokie Humblings– instead of a stout running game the ground attack was rather starving: 26 yards on 22 rushes…the offense converted just 2 of 14 third downs…and gained 19 yards on its first 24 plays from scrimmage…the defense was burned twice by Panthers QB Chad Voytik: a 53 yard TD pass that began the scoring and a 49 yard run that set up the Panthers’ final score. Next: Thursday night vs. Miami (you know, the Hokies are 20-8 on Thursday night ESPN games…)