(1) Georgia
Sat, 11/27 on ABC @5:00 ET
Georgia Tech
During the Bulldogs’ game against Kentucky on Dooley Field at Sanford Stadium in Athens, Ga., on Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021. (Photo by Tony Walsh)
Tony Walsh

Around the SEC: Georgia football a level above, but Alabama rising once more

ATHENS — It’s Georgia football and the rest of college football after the Bulldogs dispatched Kentucky, pulling away after an ugly first half for a 30-13 win.

Georgia has been ranked in the preseason Top 5 each of the past four years, an annual national championship contender under Smart that doesn’t look to drop off any time soon based on the quality depth that has been built through the recruiting.

The No. 1-ranked Bulldogs actually took a hit in the transfer portal this past offseason, most notably losing safeties Major Burns (LSU) and Tyrique Stevenson (Miami), either of whom would be starting in this beat-up secondary.

And yet, it’s a Georgia team that still leads the nation in scoring defense (6.57 points per game) and total defense (208.4 yards), while ranking second in pass efficiency defense (94.59) and rush defense (63.6 yards).

The Bulldogs have a well-timed bye week which should allow starter Christopher Smith to return for the Florida game after he missed playing against Kentucky on account of a shoulder injury.

The defense had already adjusted to playing without projected starting cornerback Jalen Kimber (shoulder) and All-American transfer Tykee Smith, who missed the first five games and played sparingly in Game 6 before suffering a season-ending knee injury in practice last week.

Georgia truly looks to make a jump in the offense once JT Daniels overcomes the strained lat that has sidelined him the past three games.

Daniels’ third-down efficiency (9-of-9 first down conversions on his third-down passes in SEC games) and NFL arm talent make the Bulldogs a different team capable of going pass-first. Stetson Bennett, meanwhile, has been more than adequate in his starts this season, making good use of the weapons around him while looking good in the play-action game.

RELATED: Kirby Smart breaks down 30-13 win over Kentucky

If there’s a team that will keep Georgia up at night, it’s still Alabama after the Crimson Tide responded to its first loss since 2019 with a 49-9 win at Mississippi State on Saturday night.

The Crimson Tide has the sort of pass game that can exploit a thin Georgia secondary, Bryce Young 20-of-28 passing for 348 yards and 4 TDs Saturday night.

Alabama’s defense has proven opportunistic (3 interceptions on Will Rogers Saturday), and good enough to neutralize even the best offenses at times, shutting out Ole Miss Heisman Trophy candidate Matt Corral for a half this season.

Alabama dominated a Mississippi State team that did something the Tide could not — go into Kyle Field and beat Texas A&M this season.

Nick Saban was back to saying there was a “lot of pride” and a “lot of culture” in his team after the win, noting that his team didn’t “relax” during its beat down of Mississippi State, per Al.com.

LSU 49, Florida 42: The Bayou Bengals, paying as double-digit underdogs, shocked the Gators on Saturday in Baton Rouge by rushing for 321 yards.

Junior tailback Tyrion Davis-Price put himself on the national map with 287-yard, 3-TD rushing performance on 36 carries while Max Johnson was an efficient 14-of-24 passing for 133 yards and 3 TDs.

It was the Florida quarterbacks that were the big story, however, with starter Emory Jones (12-19, 161) and reliever Anthony Richardson (10-19, 167) each throwing 2 interceptions.

Richardson has been the talked about program savior all season, per Gators’ media, and he did indeed produce some electricity with his legs in the loss, carrying 7 times for 37 yards and a touchdown.

The Gators have a bye week to recoup and prepare to play rival Georgia in nearby Jacksonville on Oct. 30.

LSU, meanwhile, has apparently been in search of a new coach since last week, though Ed Orgeron will reportedly finish out the season at the helm.

Ole Miss 31, Tennessee 26: Lane Kiffin spent the week leading up to the Saturday night game in Knoxville trolling a program he left in the lurch some 11 years ago, having stirred up an NCAA investigation that would poison Derek Dooley’s tenure while chasing off previous Tennessee commits Bryce Petty and Taj Boyd, who went on to become program legends at Baylor and Clemson.

Some questionable officiating and Ole Miss player injuries stirred the Vols’ crowd in a packed-out Neyland Stadium where beer sales were flowing, and the final moments of the game were marred by fans throwing items on the field.

Kiffin, somehow, emerged with the win while playing the role of victim.

Auburn 38, Arkansas 23: Tigers quarterback Bo Nix barbecued the Hogs in Fayetteville, connecting on 21 of 26 passes for 292 yards and 2 touchdowns, including a 71-yard scoring strike to former Georgia wideout Demetris Robertson. Nix also capped the scoring with a 23-yard TD run.

Arkansas’ QB KJ Jefferson, meanwhile, had some rough moments. Jefferson gave up a strip-sack fumble in the end zone that Auburn recovered for a 21-17 lead. Moments later, the Tigers stopped Jefferson on a fourth-and-3 at the Auburn 30.

Arkansas, which has played a murderous schedule, was without four starters in the game on account of injuries. Sam Pittman’s 4-0 start to the season and Top 10 ranking has faded quickly.

Texas A&M 35, Missouri 14: No one knows what happened to the Aggies’ team that struggled to score 7 and lost to Mississippi State earlier this season, but this version ain’t it.

Texas A&M avoided a letdown after its big win over Alabama the Saturday before, rushing for 283 yards against a dreadful Missouri front that ranked last in the nation. The Aggies were up 21-0 by the end of the first quarter and cruised to the win.

South Carolina 21, Vanderbilt 20: Somebody had to win, right? Gamecocks graduate assistant Zeb Noland came off the bench to lead a 75-yard TD drive that lifted South Carolina to the last-minute win over the Commodores.

“We’ve got something special going here, we’re just getting started,” Shane Beamer said after the win.

SEC Power Poll

(per Mike Griffith)

1. Georgia (7-0. 5-0 SEC) Next: Off week

2. Alabama (6-1, 3-1) Next: Vs. Tennessee

3. Kentucky (6-1, 4-1) Next: Off week

4. Ole Miss (5-1, 2-1) Next: Vs. LSU

5. Auburn (5-2, 2-1) Next: Off week

6. Texas A&M (5-2, 2-2) Next: Vs. South Carolina

7. LSU (4-3, 3-2) Next: At Ole Miss

8. Florida (4-3, 2-3) Next: Off week

9. Tennessee (4-3, 2-2) Next: At Alabama

10. Arkansas (4-3, 1-3) Next: Vs. Pine Bluff

11. Mississippi State (3-3, 1-2) Next: At Vanderbilt

12. South Carolina (4-3, 1-3) Next: At Texas A&M

13. Missouri (3-4, 0-3) Next: Off week

14. Vanderbilt (2-5, 0-3) Next: Vs. Mississippi State