We’ve talked Vanderbilt’s Saturday struggle with Northern Illinois to death, so now it’s time to take a look around the SEC. Since Saturday was a pretty light schedule for the league, I have a few additional thoughts about the state of the league a month into the season.
Texas A&M 31, Arkansas 27
The only logical conclusion after this one is that these two are destined to come down to the final possession regardless of the records. Actually, Arkansas managed to outgain Texas A&M 395-340, and also on a per-play basis, and this game was still in doubt until Arkansas failed to convert a 4th-and-5 at the Texas A&M 19 with 31 seconds left. This all happened with Nick Starkel knocked out of the game and previously-benched Ben Hicks coming on in relief.
Alabama 59, Ole Miss 31
On the one end, just before playing Vanderbilt, Ole Miss appears to have found its quarterback. It’s sort of weird how many SEC teams appeared to have made the wrong QB decision coming out of fall camp and yet that’s the only reasonable conclusion after John Rhys Plumlee produced 250 yards of total offense against Alabama — granted, that came with a 10-of-28 passing line and an interception, but this was a way better offensive performance than anything Matt Corral did. Meanwhile, Alabama is Alabama. I don’t really have anything else to say on that end.
Florida 38, Towson 0
Snore. Florida is 5-0 and yet I’m not sure they’re actually good, given that they’ve beaten two FCS teams and were lucky to come away with wins against Miami and Kentucky. They did beat Tennessee 34-3 though.
Auburn 56, Mississippi State 23
Oh. Oh, God. I had questions about Auburn starting a true freshman and those have been mostly answered after Bo Nix’s performance (16-of-21, 335 yards passing, 2 touchdowns; plus 7 carries and 56 yards and a rushing touchdown.) On the other side, Mississippi State actually appears to be somewhat fine with true freshman QB Garrett Shrader, who’s replaced Tommy Stevens (another team that appears to have made the wrong decision out of fall camp.) They just had no answer for Auburn’s suddenly ridiculous offense.
South Carolina 24, Kentucky 7
On the other hand, Kentucky does appear to have made the right decision at quarterback, only they lost said quarterback to injury. Sawyer Smith’s final line at South Carolina: 11-of-32 passing for 90 yards and an interception. Kentucky didn’t score until the fourth quarter and this was never in doubt.
So far, the SEC East race appears to be Georgia and everybody else, and Georgia’s performance against Notre Dame suggests they’re vulnerable to good teams — but there may not be such a team in the East. Florida appears to be fine with Kyle Trask replacing Feleipe Franks at QB; I don’t really buy that choosing Franks over Trask was wrong (Franks has a ton more upside, but is much more vulnerable to bad mistakes; whereas Trask doesn’t make too many mistakes but was clearly the backup for a reason.) The Gators are 5-0 but as I said above, that’s as much a reflection on their competition as anything else, and anyway with Auburn coming to town on Saturday we’ll find out pretty soon if they’re for real.
Beyond those two, Missouri has rounded into form after blowing the season opener against Wyoming, winning its last three games by a combined score of 122-21; granted, those three games were against West Virginia, SE Missouri State, and South Carolina. They’re still clearly behind Georgia, but they might actually end up being better than Florida — and they get the Gators at home.
The rest of the East is a disaster zone. South Carolina might be the best of the rest and also seems likely to miss a bowl game; they already have two losses and still have Florida, Georgia, Texas A&M, and Clemson on the schedule (and also a potential trap game against unbeaten App State in November.) Tennessee, Kentucky, and Vanderbilt are all varying degrees of disasters.
In the West, though, two legitimate challengers have emerged to Alabama. LSU scored a good road win at Texas and has destroyed everything else in its path; Auburn narrowly escaped Oregon to open the season and has only gotten better since then. There’s not a ton of interest elsewhere, though. Texas A&M is still probably a year away (and Kellen Mond is still probably not the answer at QB); Ole Miss and Mississippi State are both now starting freshmen at quarterback — come back and see me in a year or two in both cases. Arkansas recovered from the disastrous loss to San Jose State to nearly knock off Texas A&M, but they’re still not going to make a bowl game this year.