Johnny uncaged: Texas A&M’s freshman quarterback is a cheat code. And not the type where an amateur is just pressing random buttons. No, this he’s the unfair advantage gained by a video game player who spends significant cash on gaming magazines.
Manziel padded his Heisman-worthy numbers against the Bulldogs in what is now the best game of his career against a ranked SEC opponent. He accounted for just one touchdown against Florida and LSU combined. Not today. Manziel torched Mississippi State to the tune of 465 yards and two touchdowns.
It was the fourth time in nine career games he’s accounted for 400 or more yards of offense. He’s one of four quarterbacks from BCS automatic qualifying conferences that leads his team in both passing and rushing.
A freshman Heisman candidate? It’s becoming more and more likely.
The collapse: What happened to Dan Mullen’s defense? Just two weeks ago, the Mississippi State Bulldogs were one of the top-ranked defenses in the country, forcing turnovers and wreaking havoc, especially with its secondary. Of course, that was against below-average competition.
The Bulldogs jumped out to a 7-0 record earlier this season by beating the likes of Jackson State, Troy and Auburn – an SEC punch line if there ever was one in 2012 – and it looks like they’ve been exposed in recent weeks. After being handed a 38-7 beating in Tuscaloosa to the nation’s No. 1 team, Texas A&M put up 38 points, too. Yeah, exposed isn’t too strong of a word here.
More Moore: If you haven’t heard of Damontre Moore yet, here’s the official memo. The young man is pretty good at this football thing. Moore, who entered the game as one of the nation’s leaders in sacks (10.5, second-most) and tackles for loss (18, led all FBS players), is poised to make plenty of money at the next level if he continues improving at this rate.
Moore, a 6-foot-4, 250-pound defensive end from Rowlett, Texas, made his presence felt immediately in this one, sacking Mississippi State quarterback Tyler Russell on the opening drive, setting the tone for the rest of the game. He forces quarterbacks to constantly be aware of the pass rush, and has been one of the primary reasons the Aggies’ defense has surprised folks this season.
Vanderbilt 40, Kentucky 0
Remember the days: This used to be Vanderbilt: The pushover, the afterthought. Not anymore. With coach James Franklin at the helm, the Commodores have recovered from early losses to SEC heavyweights South Carolina, Georgia and Florida – three of the top eight teams in the BCS standings – to the brink of their second-consecutive bowl appearance.
And yes, that would be the first time in school history that’s been done. With five wins, Ole Miss, Wake Forest and Tennessee are the final three remaining games on the schedule. Franklin is doing one hell of a job.
Balancing act: Kentucky was wary of Vanderbilt running back Zac Stacy after last season’s performance (135 yards, 3 touchdowns), but the Commodores brought more than a running game to Lexington. Showing tremendous balance, Vanderbilt rushed for 224 yards and passed for 220. Quarterback Jordan Rodgers, who has had an up-and-down season, was rather efficient – 18-of-29 passing, two touchdowns – and turned the ball over just once.
Of course, with Kentucky’s offense, how many points do you really need?
This was Kentucky’s worst loss to Vanderbilt since 1918. So, there’s also that.
Over for Joker? Entering the season on the hot seat is never easy, especially when you know your offense will struggle to score against every single opponent on the schedule. That’s the situation Joker Phillips entered into in 2012. And it hasn’t gotten easier. With his team falling to 1-9, including an 0-7 mark in conference play, it would appear it’s only a matter of time before the trigger is pulled to start up a coaching search in Lexington.
In Phillips’ meager defense, the schedule has been brutal – one of the toughest in the SEC – but leading the 113th scoring offense is not going to garner any votes of confidence, whether it be from the athletic director or one of the 2,000 fans in the bleachers. On the bright side: It’s almost basketball season, Big Blue Nation. Ashley Judd’s on her way.