There are always a few weeks every year in college football where carrying a high ranking seems more like a curse than a compliment.
Saturday, Oct. 19, was one of those days.
No. 6 LSU, No. 7 Texas A&M, No. 11 South Carolina, No. 15 Georgia and No. 22 Florida all went down on Saturday as favorites in games that will shake up the BCS rankings, BCS bowls and Heisman Trophy race.
The only three SEC teams with fewer than two losses at the end of the day are Alabama, Missouri and Auburn. In August, not many people pegged the two Tigers to be part of that group.
So how do Saturday's upsets shake up the national picture?
Down Goes LSU
Entering Saturday, LSU was one of two SEC West teams that controlled its own destiny.
Exiting Saturday, its destiny was very much out of its control.
On the heels of three first-half interceptions from Zach Mettenberger, LSU dug itself a hole and had to scratch and claw to get out of it. To Mettenberger and LSU's credit, it did.
Mettenberger hit Jarvis Landry for a four-yard touchdown to tie the game with 3:19 to play, but that left Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace too much time. Wallace led his team on a 13-play, 61-yard drive that culminated in a 41-yard field goal from Andrew Ritter with three seconds left to give the Rebels the 27-24 win.
The loss drops LSU to 6-2 (3-2 SEC) on the season and virtually eliminates the Tigers from BCS title consideration. Sure, a two-loss LSU team won the title in 2007, but this team isn't in the same discussion as that crew.
The Tigers gave up 525 yards to Ole Miss on Saturday afternoon. It doesn't matter how inexperienced a team is, LSU has athletes that should prevent that from happening regardless of experience. It's the fourth time this season the Tigers have given up 437 or more yards. That happened twice in 2007.
BayouBengalsInsider.com's Derek Ponamsky summed up the night for the Tigers:
LSU got beat in every single facet of the game. Just an awful loss. There is no explaining how embarrassed this team should be. None.— Derek Ponamsky (@DerekPonamsky) October 20, 2013
An at-large bid to a BCS bowl also seems unlikely for this Tigers team. With two conference losses on the resume, the margin for error is gone with Alabama and Texas A&M still looming on the schedule. Alabama has allowed two touchdowns all season outside of the A&M game, and do you think this LSU defense is capable of slowing down Aggies quarterback Johnny Manziel?
LSU's loss to Ole Miss served as a BCS elimination game for head coach Les Miles' crew.
Step Aside, A&M, It's Auburn's Time to Shine
Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel did all he could to lead his team to victory, but despite a gutty performance that saw the reigning Heisman Trophy winner leave temporarily with a shoulder injury, it was Auburn that prevailed 45-41 in College Station on Saturday afternoon.
Like LSU, Texas A&M now has two conference losses—both of which are to teams the Aggies are trailing in the SEC West standings. SEC West hopes are gone, as are hopes of Manziel winning another Heisman, despite throwing for 454 yards, four touchdowns and rushing for another.
Manziel is fighting an uphill battle against the new kid at school, Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston as well as Oregon's Marcus Mariota. As the most polarizing figure in college football and with a Heisman on the shelf, he's held to a different standard.
For Auburn, it's actually a huge win for the SEC West race and, yes, the BCS.
The Tigers are 6-1 (3-1 SEC) and will likely be favored in their games (Florida Atlantic, at Arkansas, at Tennessee, Georgia) leading up to the Iron Bowl showdown in Auburn with Alabama. They control their own destiny in the SEC West, and if head coach Gus Malzahn can get his Tigers to 10-2, an at-large bid isn't out of the question.
Tennessee Shocks South Carolina
South Carolina entered Saturday as the healthiest team in the injury-riddled SEC East and the team with the most forgiving schedule to close out the season.
Head coach Steve Spurrier got 137 yards from running back Mike Davis and a fantastic performance from Jadeveon Clowney in which the junior had 2.5 tackles for loss and made a living in the Tennessee backfield.
That didn't matter, though.
Tennessee jumped up 10 on the Gamecocks, survived a charge, and Michael Palardy kicked the game-winner as time expired to send Spurrier and Co. home with a 23-21 defeat.
"First of all, give Tennessee credit," Spurrier said in quotes released by the university. "I think they out played us, although we were within a play or two of winning but we didn't do it. They hit a couple of deep balls which happens to us occasionally, and we didn't play well offensively at all."
He's right. The Gamecocks managed just 384 yards against a Tennessee defense that was ranked 11th in the SEC in total defense coming in.
The loss doesn't eliminate the Gamecocks from SEC East contention, especially if they beat Missouri next week and cut the Tigers' lead in the division to one game. But with two losses on the season, they can't afford another slip-up. With quarterback Connor Shaw's status in question after the senior suffered a knee injury against the Vols, running the table may be a lot to ask.
Vanderbilt Upends Georgia
Georgia's special teams has been awful all season, and it cost the Bulldogs big time on Saturday afternoon at Vanderbilt.
The Commodores scored 17 fourth-quarter points, including the game-winning touchdown with 2:53 to play one play after Georgia punter Collin Barber bobbled a snap on a punt to shock the Bulldogs and further muddle up the SEC East race.
It was the second straight loss for Georgia and the third overall on the season, essentially eliminating the team from BCS at-large contention and making the SEC East title seem more like fantasy than reality.
"It's definitely one that's going to hit us deep," linebacker Jordan Jenkins said in quotes released by the university. "We thought we had it won. We should have won. Some unfortunate things happened today, and we've just got to come back ready to work."
Any outside hopes quarterback Aaron Murray had for the Heisman Trophy were dashed after he threw for only 114 yards, zero touchdown and one interception.
Mizzou Stuns Florida
Not only is Missouri in the driver's seat in the SEC East, it left Florida hanging on to the tailgate after the Tigers dominated the Gators 36-17 with redshirt freshman Maty Mauk making his first career start at quarterback.
The Tigers are 7-0 (3-0 SEC) and looking very much like a BCS title contender. All seven of Missouri's wins have been by more than two touchdowns, including road wins over Vandy and Georgia.
Wide receiver L'Damian Washington had three catches for 84 yards on the day, and he is dreaming big, according to the university.
"This team is resilient, coming back from where we were last year," Washington said. "I told Coach [Gary] Pinkel, 'We've got to stop talking bowl games around here. Let's talk BCS, let's talk national championships.'"
It should. Missouri has South Carolina, Tennessee, at Kentucky, at Ole Miss and Texas A&M to close out the season. Challenging, sure. But this Missouri team didn't miss a beat with Mauk at quarterback, and that offense can put pressure on anybody.
Like Georgia, Florida is out of the BCS discussion. The Gators have two conference losses and three overall, which means the only way they're getting to the BCS is as a conference champ. Considering the injuries they've sustained and the painfully one-dimensional offense, that isn't likely.
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