Road to Atlanta Week Eight: Bottom of the pack continues to struggle

The Commodores play football at Ole Miss on Saturday, October 14, 2017.

It was somewhat of a lackluster showing in the SEC East this past weekend, as four of the seven teams in the division had the week off, and none of the other three teams performed particularly well.

Missouri’s offense returned to form in a 68-21 win over Idaho, a team playing its final season in the FBS this year. The Tigers scored 34 points in the first quarter. Quarterback Drew Lock got into a nice rhythm after throwing an interception on his first pass of the day, finishing with six touchdown passes and 467 yards against an Idaho defense that had been stingy against Group of Five teams in earlier weeks.

Missouri’s defense tallied 12 tackles for loss and limited Vandals’ quarterback Matt Linehan to an average of only 4.3 yards per attempt. With such little time to throw, Linehan had to throw short routes, which made it impossible to make up the deficit.

For the last 11 “Third Saturdays in October,” Tennessee has lost to Alabama, but this week’s 45-7 loss was one of the worst during this losing streak. Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama’s backup quarterback, threw for more yards (134) than the entire Volunteer offense gained (108).

Tennessee’s offense was completely ineffective. Jarrett Guarantano completed nine passes for 44 yards in a horrendous outing. The lone touchdown was not even scored by the offense; it came on a 97-yard interception return by Daniel Bituli.

Kentucky could not figure out how to get anything going against Mississippi State’s tough defense and lost 45-7 to the Bulldogs. Kentucky only had three drives even make it into Mississippi State territory. Quarterback Stephen Johnson threw two picks, which only slowed the offense further.

The Wildcats’ defense failed to get pressure on dual-threat quarterback Nick Fitzgerald, who ran for 115 yards and was not sacked.

Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and Vanderbilt all had Week 8 off.

In Week 9, Georgia and Florida face off in the “World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party” in Jacksonville. Florida usually plays up to its rival in this game, so the final score could be closer than expected. Vanderbilt visits South Carolina, desperate to end a four-game losing streak. The Gamecocks’ offense hopes to get back on track after scoring 15 points against Tennessee in Week 7. Tennessee heads to Lexington to play Kentucky. Both coaches need this victory to prove to their fanbases that the other is in fact the worst coach in the division. Missouri plays Connecticut, and the Tigers will try to extend their win streak to two, which would be the program’s longest win streak since it won three non-conference, “cupcake” games in a row in 2015. Interestingly enough, the last game of that win streak was a victory over Connecticut.

The division rankings are the same as last week’s. Missouri, Tennessee, and Vanderbilt are focused on just making a bowl game, even if it is the Independence Bowl. Florida, South Carolina, and Kentucky make up the second tier of the division in that order. Georgia continues its reign alone at the top of the East, but with a rivalry game against Florida looming, nothing is set in stone.

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