By KEITH PEEL, Contributing Writer
With the University of Kentucky idle last weekend seems like the rest of the SEC really picked up the action. Here are five things we learned from all the games played in the SEC last weekend:
1. Vanderbilt will be a tough out next weekend. Last Saturday they jumped on top of No. 16 Florida 21-3 in the first half and then had a total collapse near the end of the second quarter and into the third quarter before losing the game 37-27. But in that first half Vanderbilt showed they have some playmakers in running back Ke’Shawn Vaughn and wide receiver Kalija Lipscomb. Both are speedy players that can take the ball to the house on any given play. Kentucky will have to play disciplined defense with good gap integrity to minimize the big plays by Vanderbilt on Saturday.
2. Don’t crown Georgia “King of the SEC East” just yet. After the Bulldogs took a 36-16 beatdown from the LSU Tigers in Baton Rouge they now have put themselves in the position of having to beat 6-1 Florida in Jacksonville and a 5-1 UK in Lexington. If they stumble and lose either game — or both — it could be bye-bye Bulldogs in the East. The Georgia loss also puts UK in the driver’s seat in the East if they can beat Georgia on Nov. 3rd.
3. Will Muschamp’s South Carolina Gamecocks have looked like anything but the second best team in the SEC East. Remember back when Muschamp’s team was the darling of the SEC media. In fact, South Carolina was picked to finish second in the East behind Georgia at SEC Media Days. After losing to Texas A&M 26-23 on Saturday the Gamecocks are now 2-3 in the SEC with Tennessee, Ole Miss and Florida left on the schedule. The last two games are on the road. It could be a tough end of the season for South Carolina with Clemson also scheduled for the last game of the year.
4. The Florida Gators have positioned themselves very well after their streak-busting loss to UK several weeks ago. With the win over Vanderbilt, Florida is now 4-1 in the SEC with Georgia, Missouri and South Carolina left to play. In most years you could pencil in wins against Missouri and South Carolina but with the way the Gators have played this year nothing is a given. Keep an eye on how Florida performs against Georgia on Oct. 27th for a clue as to how important the UK win was against the Gators. If Dan Mullen’s bunch can knock off the Bulldogs the UK win over Florida becomes as good as gold for the Cats.
5. For those that have already penciled in a W for UK against the Tennessee Volunteers in Knoxville, in the now famous words of ESPN analyst Lee Corso, “Not so fast, my friend.” Tennessee pulled a major upset on Saturday by traveling to No. 21 Auburn and upsetting the Tigers 30-24. Auburn jumped out to an early 17-10 lead but self-destructed in the third quarter when their quarterback Jarrett Stidham was stripped of the ball and Tennessee recovered it for a touchdown to take a 27-17 lead. From there it was only a matter of the Volunteers holding an anemic Auburn offense at bay to seal the victory. The bad news for Wildcat fans is the Volunteers might be hitting their stride at mid-season. The good news is that Tennessee has Alabama up next. That generally puts a damper on any victory celebration quickly. At 1-2 with most of the SEC East left to play it will be interesting to see if Tennessee is getting its game together over the last half of the season. It looks like with a home game against Alabama and a road game against South Carolina before they play UK the Volunteers should be 1-4 when Kentucky heads down to Knoxville for the Nov. 10th showdown.
From all the crazy upsets that we have seen over the past several weeks it appears that no team is safe in the SEC. That should be a message the Wildcats need to take to heart as they face Vanderbilt as a 13-point favorite for the first time this SEC season.
In its previous four SEC games UK has been the underdog. This weekend should tell Wildcat fans if Kentucky is a team that is on a mission … or just happy to be here. If they beat Vanderbilt it will go a long way to believing these Cats are on a mission to collect the trophy for winning the East and not just looking for a participation award.