1 thing I learned about every SEC team in Week 11
Well, it was another typical week in the SEC.
Alabama allowed more points than it ever has under Nick Saban in its first loss to LSU in 8 years. Meanwhile in Arkansas, Chad Morris was fired less than 2 years into his time in Fayetteville.
Nothing to see here.
Just kidding. There was a lot to see.
Here’s what we learned from the weekend that was in the SEC:
Alabama — This is a new era of Alabama football
What if I told you that Nick Saban would have 2 weeks to prepare for a huge matchup … and his defense would allow more points than it had since he arrived at Alabama … and that team would be LSU.
Welcome to 2019.
In Alabama’s last 2 matchups against top-10 teams, it surrendered an average of 45 points. In its last 4 such matchups, Alabama’s defense surrendered at least 28 points and coughed up an average of 38.3 points with an average of 337.3 passing yards. This is no longer 2012, when scoring on Saban’s defense was some improbable feat. Granted, the 4 quarterbacks who did that were Jake Fromm, Kyler Murray, Trevor Lawrence and Joe Burrow. But it’s telling that even with ample time to prepare and talented secondaries, teams are throwing the ball all over the place against Saban’s defense.
Arkansas — Enough was enough
I agreed with the belief that if Western Kentucky was an embarrassment, it was time to move on from Chad Morris. Already. It turned out, a 26-point home loss to former Arkansas quarterback Ty Storey and the 5-4 Hilltoppers was all she wrote for Morris. The lack of development at the quarterback position was alarming, and ultimately, losing a fourth game to a Group of 5 team was too embarrassing of a sell for Hunter Yurachek to make. In firing Morris, he tried to save his own job and change course. A $10 million buyout will make this next hire an interesting one.
Here’s hoping the Hogs can somehow bring Mike Leach to the SEC.
Florida — A perfect example why this Florida team is different
In years past, Florida would’ve struggled to get up for a game like that coming off the Georgia loss. A noon kick against Vandy? No Jabari Zuniga or Jeremiah Moon? Yikes. Instead, the Gators shook off a slow start and dominated an inferior opponent. They reminded us that while they might not have a division title to play for anymore — assuming Georgia avoids an epic collapse — Florida is still trying to get to its second New Year’s 6 Bowl since the Urban Meyer era. That’s significant.
Georgia — This defense is even more disciplined up close
Saturday was my first time seeing Georgia up close in person. There was a sequence near the end of the game when Mizzou ran what was essentially a modern triple option. A receiver runs the jet sweep route in one direction, a tailback runs a sweep in the opposite direction and the quarterback can run up the middle. My eyes, from just behind the end zone Mizzou was trying to score on, went the wrong way twice. Meanwhile, the entire Georgia defense was in the midst of taking down the ballcarrier for a loss.
Um, I can now see why Georgia has yet to allow a rushing score this year. My goodness.
Kentucky — It’s hard to make offensive adjustments when there aren’t many to be made
That might sound obvious, but Saturday’s Kentucky game felt a little like when a starting pitcher takes the mound and he’s got this 101 MPH fastball. The first time through the order, he’s blowing it by everyone. But by the second and third time, hitters have adjusted to the heat. He can’t throw his off-speed stuff for a strike, so they sit fastball and suddenly the hits start rolling in.
That’s like how Tennessee defended Lynn Bowden and the Kentucky offense. The Cats jumped out to that early lead and then were stuck on 13 points the rest of the night. It wasn’t like they were suddenly going to start throwing the ball 25 yards downfield every play. As awesome as it’s been to watch Bowden and the Kentucky offense, that’s a limiting factor against a good defense who can make that adjustment even if its looks like they’re on their heels early.
LSU — This is different
That’s what we’ve been hearing all year and rightfully so. This LSU offense was off to a historic start that was rewriting the record books.
But can you imagine how we’d be talking about the Tigers if it had been more of the same on Saturday? It would’ve felt like “man, this is just never gonna happen, is it?” That didn’t happen. Instead, Joe Burrow, Clyde Edwards-Helaire and the LSU offense did everything they set out to do. The 46-point showing was an all-time effort from LSU, and while the defense was arguably better last year, holding Alabama to that 13-point first half was huge. The Crimson Tide finally had to play catch-up all afternoon, which proved to be too tall a task against this incredibly explosive LSU offense, which kept its foot on the gas in ways it hadn’t during the 8-year losing streak. What a sentence.
Burrow earned this kind of welcome:
Joe Burrow arrives home to Baton Rouge to a hell of a scene. pic.twitter.com/7dnYH9gmOK
— Marty Smith (@MartySmithESPN) November 10, 2019
Mizzou — Kelly Bryant wouldn’t have made much of a difference
Against that Georgia defense? Nah. Taylor Powell didn’t have much of a chance, but it was probably smart for the short- and long-term health of Bryant that he sit out on Saturday. I was actually down on the field as he was warming up and thought he was getting ready to start. That didn’t prove to be the case, though. Mizzou didn’t get push at the line of scrimmage, and early, you could tell it was going to be a long day for the offense. Barry Odom’s squad is now 0-4 on the road having been outscored by an average of 15.5 points. Not ideal.
Ole Miss — Not every game has to be a nail-biter, especially not against winless teams
Aaaaaaand that’s how you’re supposed to look against New Mexico State. Seven of Ole Miss’ 9 games before Saturday were decided by 14 points or less. Against that NMSU squad, there was no way that was going to continue. John Rhys Plumlee got full control of the offense, and the ground game was unstoppable. It’s always a good day when you break off 447 rushing yards. Consider it a nice final tuneup before LSU and the Egg Bowl, which could determine Matt Luke’s future in Oxford.
South Carolina — The lack of offensive development is extremely frustrating
I know that the Gamecocks’ ground game was beat up, but goodness, what an inefficient performance it was. It’s not good when the following happens against a Group of 5 team, albeit a respectable Group of 5 team:
- A) Throw the ball 57 times
- B) Average 5.6 yards per pass attempt
- C) Average less than a yard per carry
- D) Trail by double digits in the fourth quarter
- E) All the above
It’s “E.” It’s always “E.”
And even worse was the fact that despite all of those things happening, all Ryan Hilinski had to do was not overthrow a wide open Bryan Edwards on the final play and we’d instead be talking about the Gamecocks’ epic walk-off win. Now, though, Will Muschamp needs to beat Texas A&M AND Clemson to get to a bowl game. In other words, the Gamecocks and their inefficient, frustrating offense will have a long offseason to figure out how to save their head coach when his job will be on the line in 2020.
Tennessee — Good defense travels, and the Vols have a good defense
I was waiting to see how the Vols, who looked like a team who had turned the corner, were going to play away from the friendly confines of Neyland Stadium. That was still in question early, but the discipline we saw from Jeremy Pruitt’s defense was remarkable. Avoiding those back-breaking runs from Lynn Bowden was huge, and that goal-line stand could easily be the difference in whether the Vols make their first bowl game since 2017.
If you take away the fumble return for a touchdown on Jarrett Guarantano’s goal line fumble against Alabama, Tennessee’s defense allowed 15.8 points in the last 5 games. Considering how awful this season started, that’s darn impressive.
Vanderbilt — This is going to get dicey for Derek Mason after all
And with that, Vandy is officially not going to a bowl game. Shocking, I know. With the talent that his team returned on the offensive side of the ball, here’s an alarming stat. After Saturday’s 56-0 drubbing at the hands of Florida, Vandy is averaging just 13 points per SEC contest. I realize when you’re starting a third-string quarterback, there’s only so much you can do, but my goodness. I feel bad for guys like Ke’Shawn Vaughn who came back to really see Mason’s vision through, but losing like this is going to be a hard sell for Mason to his new boss Malcolm Turner.
This home stretch will be extremely telling for Vandy. Will this team give up on Mason? Or will they finish strong and help him make a closing argument to Turner? Stay tuned.