Road to Atlanta Week Five: Georgia Continues to Separate from the Pack

October 15th, 2016 – Khari Blasingame (23) runs with the ball during Vanderbilt's 17-16 win against the University of Georgia in Sanford Stadium Saturday afternoon. Photo by Blake Dover.

Five weeks into the season, the SEC East consists of a red-hot Georgia, five average teams, and a dreadful Missouri squad. Georgia is led by a stifling defense that is allowing an average of 9.2 points per game, good for second in the FBS. Running backs Sony Michel and Nick Chubb are helping Georgia average over 237 rushing yards per game. This balanced Georgia team has emerged as a potential College Football Playoff contender in a weak SEC West.

Kirby Smart’s bunch dominated Tennessee in a 41-0 victory in Knoxville. True freshman quarterback Jake Fromm ran for two touchdowns and threw for another, continuing to manage games well for the Bulldogs. He will likely never be asked to attempt more than 30 passes in a game, but he can move the offense efficiently.

Georgia’s defense forced Tennessee’s first shutout since 1994 by shutting down the Volunteers’ passing attack. Tennessee quarterback Quinten Dormady passed for 64 yards on only five completions before he was benched in favor of Jarrett Guarantano. The switch, however, did nothing to revive a lifeless offense.

In the other divisional matchup, Florida pulled away late over Vanderbilt to win 38-24. Florida’s starter for the day, Luke Del Rio, suffered a season-ending collarbone injury, so the Gators turned to former starter Feleipe Franks, who shined. Franks completed 71% of his passes in what was his most accurate outing yet.

Entering halftime in a 17-17 tie with the Gators, Vanderbilt’s defense was worn down in the second half. Florida ran 51 times in the game, and the Commodores could do little to stop the Gators as the game wore on.

Vanderbilt’s offensive struggles were exemplified by a 3-for-13 conversion rate on third downs.

South Carolina lost to Texas A&M 24-17 after the Aggies rallied in the fourth quarter to earn the win against their cross-divisional rival. South Carolina signal-caller Jake Bentley threw for two touchdowns on a night when he was under pressure often.

Gamecocks running back Ty’son Williams ran for 73 yards on 14 carries, and the secondary limited Texas A&M to just 159 yards through the air, but that was not enough for South Carolina to stave off a young Aggie team.

Kentucky squeaked by Eastern Michigan 24-20 after Tristan Yeomans recovered a muffed punt for the Wildcats that led to a tiebreaking field goal in the third quarter.

Kentucky has played three non-conference games against directional schools and has won all three by an average of approximately a touchdown. These close games against smaller schools should be worrying for Wildcat fans as the team gears up for more conference matchups.

Missouri had the week off to fix their struggles on both sides of the ball. The Tigers defense is allowing 40 points per game over a span of four games, only one of which was against a ranked opponent. On offense, the team is losing the time of possession battle by around 17 minutes per game and needs to involve the running game more to fix that gap.

Vanderbilt hosts Georgia, as the Commodores played their fourth straight contest against a ranked opponent. Georgia will look to avenge last season’s home loss to Vanderbilt.

Florida hosts LSU, and the Gators have finally settled on a starting quarterback after Del Rio’s injury.

South Carolina hosts another SEC West foe in Arkansas and must improve its rushing defense against the Razorbacks’ old-school, downhill run game.

Missouri travels to Kentucky in a battle of two underwhelming teams who need to wake up their fan bases with a victory.

Tennessee has a bye this week to recover from a humiliating performance against Georgia.

The division is shaping up to be a battle for second through sixth places, as Georgia and Missouri seem to have the top and bottom spots locked in, respectively.

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