Road to Atlanta Week Four: A Front-runner Emerges

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Road to Atlanta Week Four: A Front-runner Emerges

Vanderbilt Lost to University of Florida Gators 13-6 October 1, 2016

Vanderbilt Lost to University of Florida Gators 13-6 October 1, 2016

Vanderbilt Lost to University of Florida Gators 13-6 October 1, 2016

Vanderbilt Lost to University of Florida Gators 13-6 October 1, 2016

Betsy Goodfriend, Senior Writer

After four weeks, we finally have a clear leader in the SEC East: the Georgia Bulldogs. Georgia was widely considered the preseason favorite at SEC Media Day, and the Bulldogs have lived up to that label so far. Georgia pummeled Mississippi State, who came off a dominant performance against LSU the previous week.

Georgia’s 31-3 victory was a defensive masterpiece, as Mississippi State quarterback Nick Fitzgerald was held to 83 yards passing and only 47 yards on the ground. Georgia’s secondary completely shut down Fitzgerald, who had been a promising Heisman candidate, picking him off twice and deflecting six of his passes. On offense, Georgia’s trio of running backs, Nick Chubb, Sony Michel, and D’Andre Swift, combined for 182 yards and two touchdowns, both scored by Chubb.

In what is becoming a recurring theme this season, Florida overcame another poor offensive showing with late-game heroics in their 28-27 win over Kentucky. Kentucky’s defense collapsed in the closing minutes, and on Florida’s game-winning touchdown pass, the Wildcats only had ten men on the field.

Florida’s offense was rejuvenated when Luke Del Rio replaced Feleipe Franks in the third quarter. Del Rio led two touchdown drives, including the final one with 43 seconds remaining, enough to earn the starting job going forward. Kentucky quarterback Stephen Johnson threw for three touchdowns in the contest to lead the Wildcats.

Saturday’s win was Florida’s 31st in a row against the Wildcats, the longest active win streak against a single opponent in the FBS.

Tennessee and South Carolina both squeaked by non-Power 5 teams at home.

Tennessee survived an upset with a 17-13 victory over winless UMass. Volunteers’ running back John Kelly rushed 25 times for 101 yards and a touchdown. A quarterback controversy may be brewing in Knoxville, however, as Butch Jones pulled starter Quinten Dormady for Jarrett Guarantano in the game. Guarantano did nothing once he entered, passing for negative three yards on two completions.

South Carolina also struggled in their 17-16 triumph over Louisiana Tech. Gamecocks’ kicker Parker White was 1-for-3 on the day, but made his last attempt count. With seven seconds on the clock, White nailed the game-winning 31-yard field goal.

Entering the fourth quarter, South Carolina trailed 13-0, but came back as wide receiver Bryan Edwards did his best Deebo Samuel impression. Edwards had six catches for 122 yards, with much of his production coming in a pivotal fourth quarter.

Vanderbilt and Missouri were embarrassed by Alabama and Auburn, respectively.

Alabama’s 59-0 beatdown of Vanderbilt was exactly as lopsided as the score indicates. Vanderbilt’s usually stout defense allowed 677 yards to Alabama, which was the second-most in Alabama history. The Commodores’ offense responded with just 78 yards of offense.

Ralph Webb had perhaps the best day of any Commodore, rushing for 20 yards on six carries. Quarterback Kyle Shurmur had a tough time against Alabama’s talented secondary and threw for 18 yards on 4-of-15 passing.

Missouri seems to have a strong handle on the title of the East’s worst team after a 51-14 loss to Auburn. Missouri’s defense, which used to be the team’s strong suit in past years, allowed five rushing touchdowns to Auburn running back Kerryon Johnson.

Missouri was haunted by four turnovers. Quarterback Drew Lock fumbled twice and threw an interception; running back Damarea Crockett fumbled as well.

Week 5 features some exciting divisional games.

Vanderbilt visits Florida, as the Commodores aim to get back on track after a humiliating loss, and Florida tries to find consistency on offense with Luke Del Rio as the starter.

Tennessee hosts Georgia in a game that could make or break Butch Jones’ coaching career at Tennessee. Georgia looks to continue its meteoric rise from a darkhorse Playoff contender to a legitimate threat to Alabama.

Kentucky hosts Eastern Michigan and will attempt to recover from a gut-wrenching loss to Florida.

South Carolina visits Texas A&M in an intriguing cross-divisional matchup. Both teams have played tighter-than-expected games against lower-tier teams and need to prove they can compete in the SEC this season.

Missouri has the week off, which fortunately for the Tigers, means it is impossible for them to lose.

Georgia has emerged as the clear leader in the East. Florida, Tennessee, and Kentucky could be competitive for second place, but have major issues on offense, in coaching, and in close games, respectively.

South Carolina and Vanderbilt make up the next tier of East teams who could have an impact on the standings with an upset or two, but realistically may not have enough talent to compete with Georgia.

Missouri is by far the worst team in the SEC East, and possibly one of the worst in the Power 5.

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