1 thing I learned about every SEC team in Week 11
The SEC Championship is decided, but that doesn’t mean the rest of conference play is an afterthought.
Saturday was the only time all season that we had a full slate of conference games with all 14 teams in action. One could argue that for that fact, it was the most telling week of the year for the conference as a whole.
So here are some things we learned about SEC teams:
Alabama: This Tua Tagovailoa injury stuff isn’t going away
It’s just not. For the fourth consecutive game, we saw Tagovailoa at least favor his right leg noticeably. Every time Alabama fans watched the southpaw go down — he was sacked a career-high 4 times — had to feel like the climax of a suspenseful movie. The sack he took from Willie Gay Jr. was bad enough, but the group sack he took on his final play was cringe-worthy. Alabama said it was the quad and not the knee. Whatever it is, Alabama will think long and hard about playing him against The Citadel, regardless of if he’s “fine” as Nick Saban said he was.
Arkansas: Cheyenne O’Grady is the best tight end that nobody is talking about
That includes me until now. He was suspended to start the year, but O’Grady has been the Hogs’ top pass-catcher when he’s been on the field. In 6 games, he has 27 catches for 359 yards and now 6 touchdowns after he picked up 2 scores against LSU. The 6-4 junior is certainly a passionate guy. I thought he could have been flagged for taunting after an impressive jump-ball score in the fourth quarter, which Chad Morris wasn’t pleased about. Still, though. It’s clear that Ty Storey trusts O’Grady. And throwing him the ball seems like a better option than whatever this was.
“Arkansas, describe your season in one play.”
— Connor O'Gara (@cjogara) November 11, 2018
Auburn: We aren’t about to get November Auburn
Remember last year? Auburn was unbeatable in the final month. After Jake Fromm’s touchdown pass to Terry Godwin at the end of the first half, the Tigers looked plenty beatable. Allowing Georgia to go on that kind of run probably brought back shades of the SEC Championship. Kirby Smart made the adjustments and Gus Malzahn didn’t. Baffling it is that the Tigers struggle so much offensively. Well, I guess it isn’t baffling when Kerryon Johnson is in the NFL and the entire offense is swing passes that the defense figures out. Whatever the case, this is shaping up to be a frustrating day for the Tigers when they travel to Tuscaloosa in a couple weeks.
Florida: The Gators are really buying into the “us against the world” thing
It’s not often we see quarterbacks scoring a touchdown and shushing their home crowd. Lamical Perine has done it before, too, but that was an interesting move by Gators quarterback Feleipe Franks, who has been at the center of plenty of criticism the past couple weeks … like every quarterback at a major program who struggles in consecutive blowout losses. I thought it was odd that they showed Franks’ Twitter interaction with former Florida quarterback Luke Del Rio. Does the fan base need to lower expectations? I don’t know. Does Franks need to get some thicker skin? Probably. But for now, it’s clearly a motivating factor.
Georgia: Injuries apparently don’t matter with the ground game now
To be clear, that’s injuries to the offensive line. We know that the likes of Andrew Thomas, Lamont Gaillard and Kendall Baker are all banged up. Did that matter? No. At least it didn’t look like it. D’Andre Swift and Elijah Holyfield looked like they were getting 8 yards before anyone even touched them. Part of that was probably a product of Auburn’s gassed front seven, but still. The fact that a group that’s had injuries galore this year is able to put together a dominant performance like that is an extremely good sign moving forward.
Kentucky: The hangover is real
Um, hey. Kentucky. Not sure if you heard but even after last week’s loss to Georgia in the SEC East title game, you know you still have regular season games left … right? Sorry, but based on that dud at Tennessee, it’s clear that the Wildcats forgot about that.
Credit Tennessee for delivering a dominant defensive performance and containing a 1-dimensional Kentucky offense. Even if you take away that Hail Mary, that’s still a convincing victory for Tennessee. It’s hard to really pinpoint that game on any individual area, but it’s never good to see your best player saying something like this.
Benny Snell: “On the team, there’s not guys that have that dog mentality… if you don’t have any more, we don’t need you.” pic.twitter.com/7dZOQZkE3S
— Kernel Sports (@KYKernelSports) November 11, 2018
LSU: The Hangover Part II
See what I did there? OK, so LSU might not have been totally hungover from the Alabama loss, but the scoreboard would probably indicate that a 7-point win against 2-win wasn’t exactly the response Ed Orgeron was looking for. In the Tigers’ defense, it should have at least been a 14-point win if not for Nick Brossette’s Vegas-hating attempts to avoid the end zone. Still, though. I thought it was a positive to see Joe Burrow hit on some big plays in the passing game, and up until the fourth quarter, the LSU defense was ready which suggests it wasn’t really a hangover. Ah, whatever. A hungover win is still a win.
Mississippi State: The careless mistakes aren’t in the rearview mirror yet
It goes without saying, but you just can’t give Alabama yards and opportunities. There were drops, delay of games, muffed punts and that time Nick Fitzgerald slid on third down. Those are all things you just cannot do if you’re going to knock off the No. 1 team on the road. Maybe those issues can go unexposed against Texas A&M or Louisiana Tech, but yeah, that’s not happening in Tuscaloosa. That had to be the most frustrating thing about Saturday’s effort.
Speaking of mistakes, this one wasn’t on MSU. At all.
Be better, officials. Goodness. pic.twitter.com/1w57b2kd0n
— Connor O'Gara (@cjogara) November 10, 2018
Mizzou: Drew Lock can handle a little adversity
I’ve questioned that throughout his career. He’s great when he’s rolling, but whether it’s an injury to a receiver, sub-par offensive line play or some inclement weather, it seems like a lot of things can hold Lock back. On Saturday, he was without safety valve Albert Okwuegbunam. Lock also fell behind by 9 points in the second half. Still, the Tigers quarterback put together a pair of touchdown drives in the second half to lift Mizzou to its second straight win. Not a bad late-season response from Lock. When have we heard that before?
Ole Miss: A.J. Brown is the Rebels’ all-time leading receiver
Confession time. I missed the note during the week that Brown was so close to this record. In my defense, Brown was only No. 3 on the all-time Ole Miss receiving leaders list heading into Saturday. But thanks to a 127-yard performance, that title now belongs to Brown. It’s too bad that a lot of those yards of come in SEC losses like Saturday, but that doesn’t diminish the fact that few in America have been better than Brown since the beginning of last year. NWO’s lead dog is going to be fun to watch in the NFL.
South Carolina: The Gamecocks haven’t quite turned the corner
A win Saturday and the Gamecocks are riding a streak of 3 straight, with a 5-3 record in SEC play for the season. For most of the afternoon, it looked like that would happen. But the Gamecocks blew a 17-point lead on the road late in the third quarter and ruined that. I wouldn’t put that one on Jake Bentley or even a running game that struggled down the stretch. Allowing 367 rushing yards isn’t a recipe to win SEC road games. The No. 86 run defense struggled again. Surely that frustrates a defensive-minded guy like Will Muschamp, who watched his team allow 35-plus points in consecutive games to finish SEC play.
Tennessee: Jeremy Pruitt hates your 1-dimensional offense
Well, maybe he likes it. His defense stopped Auburn’s 1-dimensional offense, and it stopped Kentucky’s. The Vols might not get the credit they deserve because there’s some confirmation bias that’ll set in with the Wildcats, but don’t let that diminish what they did on Saturday. That was a battle-tested No. 11 team that Tennessee not only beat, but it dominated. It almost felt more like a Year 2 performance from Pruitt’s defense. They prevented the home-run plays — the longest of the day from Kentucky was 20 yards — and they forced 3 turnovers. That’s the type of performance that Pruitt can build on, and now, bowl eligibility is looking more realistic than ever.
Texas A&M: Ole Miss was indeed Kellen Mond’s get-right game
As I always say, nothing will get a struggling skill player right like an afternoon with the Rebels’ defense. Ole Miss came to College Station at a nice time for Mond, who struggled a lot the past couple weeks. Not only did Mond throw the ball all over the place — in a good way — but he also ran for his first rushing score since September. Mond had some frustrating misfires early on in the second half, but he recovered late with some huge touchdown drives. Jimbo Fisher said he even thought about making a quarterback change. Instead, he got Mond playing some of his best ball of the year and ultimately, A&M ended its losing streak.
Vanderbilt: The Commodores can apparently blow leads on road, too
We saw Vanderbilt blow a big lead at home against Florida. Not to be outdone, the Commodores coughed up a double-digit lead against Mizzou. After Kyle Shurmur threw a beautiful fade to Kalija Lipscomb to make it a 28-19 game in the middle of the third quarter, Vanderbilt couldn’t muster a single scoring drive. Meanwhile, the Commodore defense surrendered 182 yards and 2 touchdowns on the next Mizzou drives. And … that’s why Vanderbilt has 1 SEC win.
Jared Pinkney called it “the same old story.” Yeah, it’s hard to argue with that.