Vols, Bulldogs handle non-SEC breathers

The conference grind begins again next week for No. 23 Mississippi State and Tennessee. Neither team could afford a hiccup with SEC competition waiting in the wings, and neither team did.

Mississippi State 30, South Alabama 10: It wasn't quite the scare the Bulldogs faced last week against Troy, but it was another ho-hum victory for Mississippi State. The Bulldogs only outgained South Alabama 356-347 on the night, and quarterback Tyler Russell was an unimpressive 13-of-27 for 171 yards and an interception. The Mississippi State ground game accounted for two touchdowns en route to a 20-0 halftime lead. The Bulldogs were content to grind out the win after the break, with Russell running in the only second-half score. The Jaguars scored their only touchdown with four minutes remaining.

Tennessee 47, Akron 26: The final score looks fine, but the Zips gave Tennessee all it wanted for about a half. The Volunteers fell behind the eight ball early when quarterback Tyler Bray threw a pick-six on the first possession of the game. Tennessee bounced back to take a 20-13 lead, but Akron hung tough to force a 23-23 halftime tie thanks largely to a 70-yard touchdown run from running back Quentin Hines. The Zips couldn't keep up the pace in the second half, and Bray took over with three touchdowns. He completed 27-of-43 passes on the night for 401 yards, four touchdowns and the interception. Tennessee wide receiver Justin Hunter was his primary benefactor with eight receptions for 115 yards and a touchdown.

Mississippi State travels to face Kentucky next weekend, while Tennessee faces a stiff test Between the Hedges at No. 5 Georgia.