Week 10: Auburn knocks Ole Miss out of playoff race, UF upsets UGA, more
You may question whether the SEC West is as powerful as the rankings suggest, but there’s no beating the division when it comes to weekly primetime drama. Unfortunately on Saturday, the last-second thrills were muted by a gruesome injury.
It’s hard to imagine a more heartbreaking way to lose than the deciding play of Saturday’s clash between No. 3 Auburn and No. 4 Ole Miss. The Rebels appeared to have scored the latest go-ahead touchdown with 1:30 left in a back-and-forth shootout when star receiver Laquon Treadwell caught a screen pass from Bo Wallace and broke it 19 yards toward the end zone.
But just as Treadwell was about to cross the goal line, Auburn linebacker Kris Frost pulled him down from behind, forcing Treadwell to fumble. It was immediately apparent that Treadwell had likely broken his ankle, and that officials on the field had incorrectly called it a touchdown. Replay officials would soon overturn the refs, while fans at home saw Treadwell’s awful injury over and over.
Just a week earlier, Ole Miss was undefeated heading into its game at LSU. The Rebels lost that one on Wallace’s last-second interception but still debuted in the selection committee’s top four. On Saturday, Wallace played a fantastic game, going 28-of-40 for 340 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for 56 yards and another score. He did fumble at the Auburn 6-yard line early in the fourth quarter, but Ole Miss still had a chance to win prior to Treadwell’s fumble.
Instead, the Rebels are 4-2 in the SEC and unlikely to get to Atlanta and/or reach the playoff.
Auburn, on the other hand, is alive and well, thanks to a classic Gus Malzahn offensive clinic. The Tigers threw for 254 yards and ran for 253 against an Ole Miss defense that came in ranked third in the country. Receiver Sammie Coates, in particular, caused matchup problems for the Rebels, catching a 57-yard touchdown and a 41-yard pass.
Some will understandably question Auburn’s defense after its second straight poor outing. The Tigers displayed terrible tackling at times Saturday. But ultimately, Auburn went on the road and beat a committee top-10 team for the second time this season (It won at Kansas State on Sept. 18). And No. 3 played much better Saturday than No. 1 Mississippi State, which needed a last-second interception to fend off winless-in-the-SEC Arkansas, 17-10.
After releasing last Tuesday’s rankings, committee chairman Jeff Long said the two remaining undefeated power-conference teams, Mississippi State and Florida State, were the “clear-cut” top two. It will be interesting to see whether they reconsider the Bulldogs. But then again, Mississippi State won by 15 against the same Auburn team that now has arguably the most impressive resume in the country.
Next week brings another installment of SEC West Saturday Night Theater when LSU hosts Alabama. With Georgia’s inexplicable blowout loss to Florida and Ole Miss’ second defeat, the conference is likely down to three playoff contenders -- Mississippi State, Auburn and Alabama. They’ll conduct their own mini-playoff over the last month of the season.
MORE FROM WEEK 10
BREAKOUT PERFORMANCE: Dalvin Cook, RB, FSU. The Noles’ rushing game (No. 102 in the nation entering the week) has been a big disappointment, but the former blue-chip freshman recruit provided the FSU offense a much-needed jolt to rally the defending champs from a 21-0 deficit against Louisville on Thursday. Cook finished with 110 rushing yards on just nine carries along with 40 yards receiving.
BEST WIN: Florida hammered Georgia 38-20. Will Muschamp isn't off the Hot Seat yet, but the Gators’ win over the Bulldogs was a big step into possibly saving his job, as UF mauled the nation's No. 11 team. The Gators, despite being almost entirely one-dimensional, outrushed UGA, 418-148. The Gators' O-line was dominant, as UF had 14 rushes of 10 yards or more (that's more than half of what UF had in its first six games). With upcoming games against Vandy, South Carolina and Eastern Kentucky, getting to seven wins looks very realistic and 7-3 going into FSU doesn't look so bad now.
WORST LOSS: East Carolina. The Pirates outgained Temple by almost 300 yards but committed five fumbles and lost to Temple 20-10. The loss not only will drop ECU out of the top 25, but it likely pushes East Carolina behind Marshall in line for the New Year's Six bowl game.
COACH OF THE DAY: Bob Diaco, UConn. The first-year coach hadn't had a win over an FBS program or scored more than 21 points in a game, but the Huskies got a nice win to build on, beating UCF, 37-29, and giving the Knights their first loss after having won 11 in a row in the AAC since the league's inception.
STOCK UP: Josh Dobbs, QB, Tennessee. There's been a bunch of reasons for some optimism for Butch Jones' young program at UT, but the Vols’ future at QB had been a big question. In the past two weeks, Dobbs, a sophomore from Georgia, has taken some huge steps towards emerging as an answer for Tennessee. In a comeback win at South Carolina, Dobbs not only rushed for a team-leading 166 yards, he also passed for 301 yards and totaled five TDs while looking like an ideal fit for Tennessee's offensive scheme.
STOCK DOWN: Virginia. Mike London's team is sinking fast and is now 4-5 after getting drilled at Georgia Tech, 35-10. UVA has now lost three in a row, all to unranked teams, and London's prospects of getting another season look pretty shaky, especially with a road trip to FSU and a date with Miami up next.
ONE THING NOBODY'S TALKING ABOUT: Last year was the first time in Troy Calhoun's seven seasons at Air Force that his team missed a bowl. The Falcons were so banged up they were relegated to playing four different quarterbacks and ended up 2-10. On Saturday, AFA traveled to Army and won, 23-6, holding their rival to just 169 total yards. The win moved the Falcons to 6-2 as they locked up the Commander-in-Chief's trophy. Earlier in the year, Air Force also beat Navy.
MANDEL’S HEISMAN TOP FIVE
1) Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon Ducks
2) Dak Prescott, QB, Mississippi State
3) Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin Badgers
4) Shaq Thompson, RB/LB, Washington Huskies
5) Tevin Coleman, RB, Indiana Hoosiers
FELDMAN’S HEISMAN TOP FIVE
1) Marcus Mariota
2) Dak Prescott
3) Melvin Gordon
4) Duke Johnson, RB, Miami Hurricanes
5) Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama Crimson Tide