Quick thoughts and takes on every Week 7 SEC game.
UNLV 34, Vanderbilt 10
You can argue all you want about how tough it is to win in the SEC if you’re Vanderbilt. You can give them all the credit in the world for merely being competitive. But this is beyond inexcusable. UNLV was deep in the mix for the honor of being America’s worst team, and it showed up. Vanderbilt didn’t.
UNLV’s offense hasn’t worked on anyone with even the lightest of pulses, and yet it held the ball for over 37 minutes, was shockingly balanced, and it dominated throughout on both sides of the ball. Riley Neal only hit 11-of-25 passes for 104 yards, the 140-yard rushing day – with a 53-yard pass play – from Ke’Shawn Vaughn fell flat, and drive after drive stalled.
Now at 1-5 with the lone win coming against Northern Illinois, Vanderbilt will need a miracle to be anything better than 2-10. It’ll beat East Tennessee State, but if you can’t blowout UNLV, you can’t beat anyone in the SEC. Unfortunately, this might not be a bad brain cramp.
Tennessee 20, Mississippi State 10
The Vols got a real, live win. Jarrett Guarantano completed 6-of-7 passes for 106 yards and a score as he stepped in for starter Brian Maurer – who got banged up with an apparent neck injury after running for 41 yards and throwing for 61 with two scores – but it was the defense that got the job done. This was the type of game and performance the D hasn’t had against an FBS team, stuffing everything and keeping Mississippi State out of the end zone into the fourth quarter.
Mississippi State just doesn’t have an offense. Kylin Hill was stuffed for 13 yards on 11 carries, the passing game was ineffective with both Garrett Shrader and Tommy Stevens, and drive after drive stalled. The offense managed just 267 yards with three turnovers with no answers for the amped up Tennessee defensive line.
Now, as crazy as it might seem, Tennessee actually has legitimate bowl hopes. It’s not going to beat Alabama, but it can beat UAB, Kentucky and Vanderbilt. That’s asking a lot, and it’s going to take a win over South Carolina or Missouri, too, but with this stunner, there’s something to play for. This is the Tennessee team that can beat the mediocre teams.
Mississippi State now has to deal with LSU. If that wasn’t enough, it follows that up with games at Texas A&M and Arkansas before dealing with Alabama. There are enough winnable games left to go bowling – the Bulldogs will beat Abilene Christian and should be able to handle Ole Miss – but this is a big, big step back in what needed to be a must win.