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The Georgia football team came through like a wrecking ball. If your mind went to the multi-platinum record by Miley Cyrus, you and Kirby Smart cannot relate. If you thought of, “Like a wrecking ball” by Eric Church (also a multi-platinum performer), you’re one and the same with Georgia’s coach. And if you thought of a demolition crew … that accurately sums up what happened on Saturday night at Sanford Stadium.
The back-to-back national champion Bulldogs are 6-0, but the start hasn’t felt as dominant as the past two seasons. There have been slow first-half starts, a couple of comeback victories as heavy favorites and most of all: questions about if this is truly the No. 1 team in the country. But the dominant Georgia team showed up against then-No. 20 Kentucky in a resounding 51-13 win, and the nation is reminded of what Georgia’s capable of when it’s firing on all cylinders.
The offense led the way and the statistics were eye-popping: 608 total yards (508 in the first three quarters), a 16-minute time of possession advantage and scores on nine of 11 drives, including the first six of the game. The defense, while not overly spectacular, still allowed its fewest points in conference play and held Wildcats running back Ray Davis, who had nearly 300 yards the previous week against Florida to 59 yards on 15 carries.
“This is a tight end that is taking a direct snap and rushing with the football.”@colecubelic and @Harp41‘s minds are blown away by everything Brock Bowers can do 🤯 @GeorgiaFootball pic.twitter.com/0SKSquIusc
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) October 10, 2023
And it’s officially Brocktober as Georgia fans would say as tight end Brock Bowers recorded his third straight 100-yard game and is well on pace to be the first Georgia 1,000-yard pass-catcher in more than 20 years. If he keeps this up, he could be headed to New York City as a Heisman Trophy finalist. But for the here and now, Saturday’s win felt like a performance by a team that heard the noise.
Whether Georgia lays waste to the rest of its schedule remains to be seen, but it did emphatically send the message that the SEC East race is very much within its control. It was likely always that way, but Saturday served as a nice reminder.
The vibes are good in Athens and bad in Fayetteville — what about the rest of the SEC?
At the halfway mark, or near the halfway mark depending on games played, the SEC picture is coming into focus and with that, there’s no shortage of notable news and notes from around the conference. Presenting the best (and worst) of the SEC, Week 6 edition:
Most inspiring performance: LSU
LSU bounced back in a big way, securing a 49-39 road win against previously undefeated Missouri. The inspiring aspect was two-fold: The Tigers rebounded from a disappointing loss to Ole Miss and kept their SEC championship hopes alive, and more importantly, they got a win for team captain Greg Brooks Jr.
This is for our Brother.
This is for our Captain.
This is for Greg Brooks Jr.https://t.co/TUElsbDAIf pic.twitter.com/53hxCwWdJ1
— LSU Football (@LSUfootball) October 6, 2023
Brooks’ story has reverberated throughout college football. He underwent successful brain surgery in mid-September to remove a tumor, and last Wednesday, it was revealed that he had been diagnosed with a rare form of brain cancer called medulloblastoma. Coach Brian Kelly announced on Monday that an additional surgery is required.
With Brooks in mind, LSU overcame an early double-digit deficit to roar back in the second half for the win. Quarterback Jayden Daniels was sensational again with four touchdowns, and fittingly the defense, where Brooks plays, made two key plays late: a forced fumble and a pick-six to seal the win.
The college football world will continue praying for Brooks, and LSU will keep playing for him.
Biggest coaching blunder: Jimbo Fisher, Texas A&M
Texas A&M had Alabama on the ropes until it didn’t. The Aggies lost at home 26-20 to the Crimson Tide in a pivotal SEC game. And a few coaching decisions and explanations by coach Jimbo Fisher didn’t help the cause.
Leading 17-10 with 1:38 to play in the second quarter, Texas A&M’s defense forced a sack on third down and with two timeouts was in position to get the ball back and try to score again. Except Fisher elected to let the clock run down without calling a timeout and went into halftime status quo. Why? Fisher explained that he wanted to avoid a mistake while the Aggies were backed up in their own territory with a seven-point lead.
Another pivotal moment arrived late in the third quarter. Tied at 17, the Aggies faced a fourth-and-1 from the Alabama 45-yard-line and elected to punt. The Tide marched 80 yards in six plays to take a 24-17 lead it never relinquished.
“If it wasn’t a full yard, inside of a yard, I probably would have went (for it),” Fisher said. “So I said we can pin them back, our punter does a great job … unfortunately, that’s the one he kicked just a little bit long.”
Finally, trailing 26-17 with two minutes to play, Fisher took his first of three timeouts on fourth-and-goal to decide between kicking a field goal and cutting the lead or going for it. Ultimately, the Aggies kicked, then went for an onside that they didn’t recover, and Alabama drained the remaining clock. If the decision was the field goal, that timeout might’ve been useful on defense.
A risk-averse strategy can net positive results but scared money doesn’t make money, especially against Alabama … and at home.
A play originally called an incomplete pass, Thomas’ incredible toe tap for the touchdown goes above Catch of the Week honors; this was the best play all weekend. What a way for Thomas to score his first career Georgia touchdown.
THIS CATCH FROM RARA THOMAS 🔥 pic.twitter.com/vVbCxYsNzd
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) October 7, 2023
Milestone of the week: Matthew Hayball, Vanderbilt
The best punter in college football might just reside in the SEC. Hayball has been putting on a clinic this year: Second nationally in yards per punt (50.11), he has a punt of 70 yards, and on Saturday, he reached an exclusive club. With a 60-yard punt in the second quarter against Florida, Hayball became the only punter nationally with more than 11,000 punt yards. Take a bow.
🗣️ he’s like that 😤 pic.twitter.com/0XSqr7V62Y
— Vanderbilt Football (@VandyFootball) October 7, 2023
Trending up: Alabama
Just when you think Alabama might be done, it finds a way to rise to the top once again. The win over Texas A&M was the latest example. In what could’ve been a College Football Playoff eliminator for the Tide, the team overcame 14 penalties, just 23 rushing yards and a few costly penalties en route to the win. That’s four wins in a row (5-1 overall), and all of a sudden, the SEC West race looks firmly within Alabama’s grasp as the only West team without a conference loss.
What did we learn from Alabama’s win over Texas A&M?
Quarterback Jalen Milroe is trending upward in his own right after passing for a career-high 321 yards in College Station. Since he took back over as the team’s starting quarterback, the Tide are 3-0, and Milroe is completing 76 percent of his passes with six total touchdowns and just one turnover. The defense is elite, and so are the specialists. Alabama might not be patented Alabama, but it’s still a title contender.
Jalen Milroe’s family and friends come to greet him after Texas A&M win. Milroe is a Texas native who had more than 30 friends and family come to the game pic.twitter.com/3RaMjzIfY9
— Nick Kelly (@_NickKelly) October 7, 2023
On the other end of the spectrum, it feels like Arkansas (2-4) is bottoming out. The program’s on a four-game losing streak, offensive coordinator Dan Enos is participating in back-and-forth exchanges with fans via email, and the angst within the fan base is growing by the week. Enthusiasm is dropping: The Razorbacks are traveling to Alabama this weekend, and Alabama announced that Arkansas returned a number of its allotted visitor tickets; so there will be even more Tide fans in attendance on Saturday.
It’s certainly not the season many envisioned for Arkansas, which returned preseason All-SEC quarterback KJ Jefferson. The offensive line can’t protect, and the unit ranks last in the SEC in total yards and yards per play. A date with Alabama’s top-ranked defense is hardly a remedy.
Biggest crowdfunding effort: Mark Stoops, Kentucky
It was an extremely frustrating day for Kentucky in Athens. The Wildcats were big underdogs (14.5 points), but Georgia looked vulnerable and Kentucky was 5-0, so the thought was that Kentucky could give Georgia a run. Instead, the Wildcats were run out of the stadium in embarrassing fashion.
On Monday, fans expressed their frustrations to Stoops during his weekly radio show. Stoops offered a solution to closing the talent gap with the conference elite.
“Fans have that right (to complain),” Stoops said. “I give it to them. I just encourage them to donate more because that’s what those dudes are doing. I can promise you Georgia, they bought some pretty good players. You’re allowed to these days. We could use some help.”
“Fans have that right…I just encourage them to donate more, because that’s what those teams are doing. I can promise you Georgia, they bought some pretty good players. You’re allowed to these days. We could use some help.” – Kentucky HC Mark Stoops on his radio show. 👀 #cfb… pic.twitter.com/SbLVH2jO7u
— The Next Round (@NextRoundLive) October 10, 2023
Is NIL the reason why Georgia has won 14 straight over Kentucky? No. But within the context of the overall point, would a larger war chest help Kentucky’s talent acquisition? Of course. Will fans rush to give more? We’ll see. Stoops isn’t the first coach to push for more NIL support and will not be the last.
Bad beat of the week: Missouri +5.5
Missouri fans were bummed as the upset chances against LSU slipped away in the closing minutes, but if they placed bets on Missouri against the 5.5-point spread, the chance for winnings was still alive. That is until Major Burns’ pick-six with 40 seconds left crushed that hope. Double whammy.
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) October 7, 2023
(Photo of Brock Bowers (19): Jeffrey Vest / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)