1 thing I learned about every SEC team in Week 6
Well, we won’t forget that anytime soon. My goodness.
Alabama lost to an unranked team for the first time in 14 years. On top of that, the Tide lost to a non-top-15 team for the first time since 2010.
Oh, and in case you haven’t heard, Jimbo Fisher just became the first Nick Saban disciple to beat the master.
Just another Saturday in the SEC? Not so much.
In other news, we’re halfway there, y’all. I have no idea how, but as I always say, that’s how time works.
Mississippi State and Ole Miss are the only SEC teams that haven’t played at least half of their 2021 regular-season schedules. Six games in, we’re still learning things.
Like, we needed to find out how far Matt Corral came after last year’s Arkansas debacle. We needed to find out whether Kentucky could avoid getting a little too high after the Florida loss. We needed to find out if Georgia’s first-team defense could finally surrender an offensive touchdown.
Questions galore. Week 6 might not have been “Separation Saturday,” but we got a whole lot of answers.
Here’s 1 thing I learned about every SEC team in Week 6:
Alabama — The time has finally come
I mean, it had to happen sometime, right? At least, I thought it did. Saban falling to a former assistant was one thing. The fact that it happened as nearly a 3-touchdown favorite was stunning. Think about how stunning it was just to watch Alabama trail. This is the same coach who had coached in only 2 games against former assistants that were decided by 14 points or less. A&M did it with a backup quarterback, a banged-up offensive line and a team on the brink.
It was pretty clear from the jump that the Tide was getting beat at the line of scrimmage, and Zach Calzada picked the Tide apart. More on him in a bit. Alabama didn’t show up in the trenches, Bryce Young played like a redshirt freshman, and against a team as talented as A&M, the Tide saw what happens when you aren’t ready to roll in front of 109,000 people.
Will that be the start of Alabama’s championship DVD? Or will that be the sign of more issues to come? Time will tell, but for the first time since 2015, the Tide lost a game in the 1st half of the schedule, and goodness, it couldn’t have been less predictable.
Arkansas — Moral victories aren’t real, but man, that’s as close to one as it gets
Let’s start with the positive.
That game was unreal. I mean, it really felt like 2 legit top-15 teams battling it out. What we saw from the ground game was remarkable, and KJ Jefferson was clutch. Man, that kid played his tail off. Diving into the end zone, faking dudes out of their shoes on the RPO keepers, putting perfect touch on passes … you name it, he did it. Jefferson really hadn’t been in that spot late in a game this year as the starter. That was super encouraging. Arkansas is legit, and anybody doubting this group as a legit Top 25 team is mistaken.
But yeah, defensively, Barry Odom’s team struggled. A lot. Ole Miss is a juggernaut offensively, and when Corral makes plays like that, you can only do so much. But allowing 324 rushing yards was a gut punch, as was the last Ole Miss score. Biting on that fake on the 68-yard touchdown pass to Braylon Sanders was absolutely killer. If you’re going to be one of the league’s best defenses, you can’t have days like that. It was definitely a setback week in that department.
Auburn — That Bo Nix dominance from LSU? There wasn’t another level to that
To be fair, nobody was sitting here saying that he expected Nix to light up Georgia for 35 points. That’s not how it goes when you’re facing a defense that allowed 1 offensive touchdown in the first 5 games … and it wasn’t even in the first-teamers. So yeah, Georgia and LSU weren’t rolling out the same units. Nix knew that, you knew that and so did everyone at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
But Nix didn’t have that Superman element against Georgia. He spent half the day just trying to set his feet. Was there much help? Nope. Drops hurt him in the 1st half, as did some questionable (at best) officiating on pass interference calls. Nix clearly didn’t approve of that no call on the pass interference on 4th down when Auburn was down 17-3. But he didn’t have a run of 10 yards, he only got the 1 play of 30-plus yards in the passing game and on 4th downs, nothing really worked. That ball he zipped on 4th and 8 over the middle was off target when Auburn was in UGA territory in the 3rd quarter.
That’s the difference between having potential and being a great quarterback. Nix’s potential was evident last week vs. LSU. This week, it was a reminder that he’s still going to have frustrating days against elite defenses.
Florida — That obvious bounce-back game for the air attack did indeed happen
After the passing game clearly didn’t have Dan Mullen’s trust against Kentucky, yes, it was fair to assume that the Gators would look a bit better against Vandy. They did. But they did not just because of how inferior the competition was. We saw Emory Jones throw with confidence over the middle of the field. That pass in the seam to Dameon Pierce was exactly what Mullen needs from Jones. He hit 4 touchdown passes for the 1st time in his career, and he did so with a healthy Anthony Richardson (finally) struggling.
It wasn’t necessarily a lights-out performance. Jones still had a bad read on an interception, but what about the fact that Mullen left him in up 42-0? Clearly, the Gators wanted to figure some things out in the passing game. Getting the backs involved the way that Florida did with plays of 57 and 61 yards was huge for this offense. Florida desperately needed a week to get back on track, and thanks to Vandy (and some quality QB play), it happened.
Georgia — The 1st-team defense is physically capable of allowing a touchdown
Had me fooled. I wasn’t sure we were ever gonna see it. But don’t ya know it, it happened. Stunned. Go figure that it took Tank Bigsby breaking out of a couple tackles and bouncing a run to the outside to make it happen. Did I say a couple? I meant he was basically stopped.
Ridiculous touchdown from Tank Bigsby pic.twitter.com/u2ahjlnHJz
— Patrick Greenfield (@PCGreenfield) October 9, 2021
Granted, Bigsby’s longest run of the day was 6 yards. Georgia’s defense will take that all day, every day. The Dawgs allowed 46 rushing yards. No play better illustrated just how nasty Georgia’s defense was than that play on 3rd down in the 4th quarter when Nix was scrambling and he was threatening to scoot free, only to run into Jalen Carter, who was actually on the verge of being faked out, yet he still found a way to bring Nix down. That’s a 300-pound interior defensive lineman doing that. It’s silly.
Good luck getting to 14 against the Dawgs in 2021.
Kentucky — That letdown game? Mark Stoops’ team is beyond that
Same old Kentucky would’ve been letting a desperate LSU team come into Kroger Field and dominate. That didn’t happen. At all. Instead, Kentucky totally dominated in the trenches and rolled the Tigers for a lopsided win. Few thought Kentucky would start 6-0 for the first time since 1950. Well, at least back in August.
Is it crazy to think it was a positive that Kentucky entered Saturday ranked 2nd to last in FBS in turnover margin? Kentucky didn’t just clean that up. It also got back to its bread and butter. Kentucky surpassed 300 rushing yards, and it did so when it was limited in the passing game because of Josh Ali’s absence. It didn’t take a big Wan’Dale Robinson play, either. Don’t get it twisted. Robinson was excellent, and his grab in the end zone got everything going. LSU had to spend so much time tracking him, but it was encouraging to see the turnovers and penalties cleaned up.
The Kentucky team we saw on Saturday night probably won’t be good enough to beat Georgia, but that’s what a 10-win team is supposed to do against inferior competition.
LSU — Apparently things CAN get worse for Ed Orgeron
Buddy. I was there on Saturday night. I thought Kentucky would win. Did I think it’d be a total beatdown? Nope. That was embarrassing. There was no fight from the Tigers, who had their backs against the wall after blowing a lead late against Auburn. They actually didn’t look terrible in the ground game by their extremely low standards, but LSU’s problems go beyond that. They go beyond Derek Stingley Jr. being out, too. The Tigers couldn’t stop Kentucky’s ground game. It didn’t matter that the Wildcats were without Ali, or that Will Levis had been somewhat inconsistent with his decision-making.
Now the question is worth asking for Orgeron. Is he gone? Does Scott Woodward have any patience, or did losing in that fashion magnify the Tigers’ issues? Has Orgeron lost the team? Those are fair questions considering what the preseason expectations were. There is no bounce-back year in sight. You can’t chalk any of this up to the opt-outs or the championship hangover. Orgeron came into Saturday night 14-1 coming off a loss. And then Saturday happened.
It feels like Orgeron’s days are numbered.
Mizzou — Those defensive issues didn’t fade against the Mean Green
Yikes. I know we got a big-man touchdown from that Mizzou defensive line, which was a nice moment for a group that has been under scrutiny, and understandably so. The Tigers entered Saturday ranked dead last in rushing defense, which was why Eli Drinkwitz fired his defensive line coach. So against North Texas, surely those issues should’ve been taken care of, right? Well, not exactly. The run defense was better — that’s not saying much — by allowing only 188 rushing yards. At the same time, 6 different North Texas players had catches of 25 yards.
It was by no means a complete game. Allowing 21 4th-quarter points to North Texas surely won’t make Drinkwitz feel confident that his defense is suddenly figuring things out. Steve Wilks might like the fact that his team forced 3 turnovers, but there’s still reason to believe that SEC play is going to continue to beat up the Mizzou defense.
Ole Miss — You better believe Corral ain’t that 6-INT dude
Imagine ranking Spencer Rattler as a better quarterback than Corral heading into Saturday. Couldn’t be me. You know who you are. Corral was ridiculous, and the box score really didn’t do it justice. He did everything he said he was gonna do against drop-8 coverage. He picked it apart. Completely. Corral stepped up in the pocket, he found running lanes when he needed to and he was in total control. That was the ultimate redemption game for him. You could tell how much it meant when he found his dad in the stands immediately after that game and hopped up there to share a moment with him.
At this point, you’d better believe Corral is still in the Heisman Trophy race. That was a legit Arkansas defense, and Corral was never rattled. His last go-ahead touchdown was a corner biting on a fake, but it was Corral who recognized it and put it perfectly in stride for Braylon Sanders. I’d say 381 total yards, 13.7 yards per attempt and 4 touchdowns in a 52-point performance was a nice way to avenge last year’s debacle.
The dude is elite, and there’s no doubt about it.
South Carolina — The offense is a total disaster
Watching how much success Tennessee’s defense had against South Carolina was alarming, especially after Luke Doty said he felt like his ankle was back to full strength. Doty was held to 5.4 yards per attempt, and he couldn’t really stretch the field. Go figure that South Carolina’s biggest pass play of the day came on a fake punt. There’s nothing doing in the ground game, either. Kevin Harris still couldn’t bust one loose, and a rushing attack that was supposed to be versatile was held to just 3.7 yards per carry.
Marcus Satterfield might not want to search his name on Twitter. We knew that it would be rough for the Gamecocks on offense. Watching them turn 4 turnovers into 0 points against Kentucky was a sign that tough times were ahead. But falling behind 28-0 to Tennessee so early showed what a balanced, high-powered offensive scheme could look like. And it was different than Georgia, which obviously was far more talented than the Gamecocks. A humbling experience it was for Shane Beamer. The Gamecocks have to figure things out beyond just having stellar special teams.
Tennessee — That offensive identity wasn’t just a Mizzou weakness
Because running all over the worst run defense in FBS is all well and good, but lighting up a respected defense like South Carolina’s? That’s darned impressive. The Vols, with Hendon Hooker as the unquestioned QB1, put it on the Gamecocks. They got whatever they wanted. Big gashes in the ground game? Yep. Downfield shots to in-stride receivers with separation? You bet.
JAVONTA PAYTON…WIDE OPEN!
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) October 9, 2021
It was balance, it was tempo and it was everything Tennessee fans hoped to see in Year 1 of the Josh Heupel era. Sure, maybe there’s a little bit of Heupel from 2016-17 at Mizzou, where we saw the Tigers just beat up on inferior competition and struggle against the better teams. That’s fair. But if you’re a Tennessee fan, given how bad the offense has been for most of the last decade, this has to be a welcome sight.
Something tells me Saturday night in Knoxville for the Lane Kiffin reunion will have just a wee bit of juice.
Texas A&M — Zach Calzada had THAT in his bag?
Hand up. If you had told me that Calzada would’ve even been within a touchdown late on Saturday night, I would’ve laughed you out of the room. Did I think that he’d lead a game-winning drive and lift the Aggies to a win against an Alabama team that hadn’t lost to an unranked team since 2007? Um, no. Calzada had been arguably the worst QB in the SEC during his time as a starter, but man, did he make some beautiful throws.
Zach Calzada couldn’t have thrown a better pass. pic.twitter.com/U43LePKARZ
— SEConCBS (@SEConCBS) October 10, 2021
He connected with Ainias Smith on beautiful touch passes all night. There was so much resilience with that performance, and to come back after he got rolled up on showed a side of him that, quite frankly, I didn’t think he had. The guy who had been throwing into tight windows all year suddenly had open receivers, and when he didn’t? It didn’t matter. He still found a way to make things happen, whether it was on the run or in the pocket. I’m truly stunned that Jimbo Fisher drew up that game plan after how much the offense struggled the previous 2 weeks.
It just goes to show you — that’s why they play the games.
Vanderbilt — Field goal kicking isn’t a strength after all
I thought after Alabama transfer Joseph Bulovas walked it off against UConn that we’d see nothing but dominance from the Commodores’ kicking game. Against Florida, which rolled to a 42-0 win, we learned that the kicking game wasn’t exactly taken care of. Bulovas was 0-for-3, with all 3 kicks missed from 41 yards or fewer. There’s nothing more deflating than having a 14-play drive end with a missed field goal. Doinking a 33-yarder in a 42-0 game is a rough look.
On the bright side for Vandy? The next 3 games are against South Carolina, Mizzou and MSU. Something tells me they’ll be a bit nicer than Florida and Georgia, who outscored Vandy 104-0.