1 thing I learned about every SEC team in Week 6
I’ve accepted that through 5 weeks, I don’t know everything.
I know that LSU’s offense isn’t your older brother’s LSU offense. I know that Florida’s defense is elite and I know that New Gus will give you a roundhouse kick to the jugular if you doubt him.
I don’t know everything, but hey, that’s not bad considering I still have 2 more months of regular season games.
Here’s what I learned from every SEC team who played in Week 6:
Auburn: Bo Nix has much longer to go than originally thought
Woof. It wasn’t one of those “are we sure he’s a true freshman” kind of performances. Like, not at all. Instead, it felt like on the broadcast, Nix kept making poor decisions and we’d get the reminder that he was only a true freshman. That’s usually not the sign of a banner day. After the banner day he had against Mississippi State, Nix had what was easily his worst performance of the year.
It wasn’t just that the stat line was ugly (11-for-27, 145 passing yards, 1 TD, 3 INTs, 18 rushing yards). Even on a long gain, Nix overthrew Seth Williams on what would have been a go-ahead touchdown. He then followed that with a poor throw on an open slant and then proceeded to do the ultimate no-no — a red zone interception. And the sack that he took to drop Auburn out of field goal range in the 4th quarter was all sorts of awful.
Better days are ahead. Saturday certainly wasn’t on of them.
Florida: This defense is special … with or without Jabari Zuniga
There’s a reason that Nix struggled so much. A Florida defense that’s been exceptional without C.J. Henderson and Jabari Zuniga was expected to get a lift with their returns. Instead, only Henderson was in action while Zuniga dressed but apparently wasn’t able to give it a go on that ankle. And sure, Florida would have loved to have had the star edge rusher. But Todd Grantham’s unit was nasty. They forced 3 interceptions and held Auburn to 1 trip to the end zone.
Since Kyle Trask took over, Florida has allowed just 16 total points over 13 quarters. Marco Wilson and Henderson being healthy together bodes well for this team, as does the depth at linebacker. That probably explains why Zuniga’s absence hasn’t been felt as much as some thought it would. Now let’s see the ultimate test — how it defends the record-setting LSU offense.
Georgia: Lawrence Cager looks like the guy Jake Fromm needs
What Cager did Saturday night was what I thought Jeremiah Holloman was going to do as Fromm’s go-to target. Cager, the Miami grad transfer, looked like Fromm’s top target for the second consecutive week. Whether it was back-shoulder throws, settling into the zone or getting behind the secondary, everything Fromm and Cager did together worked. That was Cager’s 3rd consecutive game with at least 3 catches and a score.
Cager might not be the athlete that Demetris Robertson or George Pickens are, but it’s clear how well he and Fromm are connecting. The Dawgs need that connection to continue to grow as they get into the meat of the SEC schedule.
LSU: That bye week was big for the LSU defense
Yeah, it’s Utah State. But it was still a matchup against one of the nation’s best quarterbacks for a defense that most recently allowed nearly 40 points against Vanderbilt. An LSU banged up defense looked like it appreciated the bye week. Getting K’Lavon Chaisson back and healthy certainly helped.
Even with short fields, it held strong early on Saturday. Utah State settled for field goals and really didn’t have much of a chance to score even when it got into the end zone. It certainly helps when you have a true freshman cornerback make plays like this in 1-on-1 coverage:
Derek Stingley, my goodness. pic.twitter.com/B1xM2tjhLx
— Connor O’Gara (@cjogara) October 5, 2019
LSU held Utah State to 4.5 yards per pass attempt and 0.9 yards per rush. Yep. That’ll do. That group needed a get-right game before Florida, which has plenty of offensive balance (and confidence) after Saturday’s impressive win against Auburn.
Missouri: Just when Mizzou is really hitting its stride …
Kelly Bryant’s injury happens. In case you missed the play, Bryant threw a touchdown pass to make it 42-7 but got his knee twisted awkwardly as he released the ball.
Kelly Bryant just threw a TD to put Mizzou up 42-7 on Troy and this happened to his left knee as he got hit late.
He’s gone to the locker room. pic.twitter.com/wljIgprTdE
— Yahoo Sports College Football (@YahooSportsCFB) October 5, 2019
Yikes. Bryant didn’t return to the game and we didn’t get an official diagnosis. Taylor Powell came in and the Mizzou offense couldn’t do much of anything. It’s been a devastating year for the health of SEC East quarterbacks. Between Feleipe Franks, Terry Wilson and Jake Bentley and now Bryant, the division quarterbacks can’t seem to catch a break.
The good news? Mizzou’s defense looks like one of the SEC’s best and looks capable of frustrating plenty of teams this year regardless of who plays at quarterback.
Ole Miss: The RichRod offense is here to stay
John Rhys Plumlee is a more natural fit in Rich Rodriguez’s offense. It didn’t take a college football lifer to recognize that. After surpassing 100 rushing yards against Alabama, the true freshman did that again against Vandy … in the first half. Plumlee ripped off a 54-yard run and operated the system at the tempo needed to keep Vandy on its heels all night. The Commodores were gashed repeatedly by that Ole Miss ground game. By the way, that was the first time that Ole Miss ran for 400 yards against an SEC opponent since 1979.
Who would have thought that running the ball and playing defense would be a good formula of success for Ole Miss winning SEC games?
Tennessee: The Maurer era is here
See what I did there? Brian Maurer’s Twitter handle told the future. That, as we found out, is now the present.
Credit Maurer for actually giving the Vols a surprising 2nd-quarter lead against Georgia. It was ugly after that, but it’s clear that Jeremy Pruitt is ready for the Maurer era to be here. Jarrett Guarantano’s snaps were extremely limited. Jim Chaney dialed up some nice plays in the first half before Georgia scored 33 unanswered.
Granted, Maurer can’t take shots like he did in the 4th quarter and expect to play a full SEC season. That was a horrendous hit he took on the scoop and score. Here’s hoping that Maurer isn’t still feeling the effects of that next week.
Vanderbilt: Yes, it can get worse
I said before Saturday that I thought Vandy was the worst team in the SEC. Did anything on Saturday suggest that take was wrong? I mean, the Commodores were gashed for over 400 rushing yards in a blowout loss to drop to 1-4. In its past 7 quarters of football against Northern Illinois and Ole Miss, Vandy has just 1 touchdown. In that stretch, it was outscored 49-16. That’s, um, not good.
No longer can Vandy sit on the crutch that “it had the toughest schedule in FBS.” I believe that was the case. What I also believe is the case is that an inexperienced defense is getting trucked on a weekly basis. Despite the fact that it has a favorable schedule coming up, I have zero faith in Derek Mason’s defense to figure things out. It ranked last in Power 5 in scoring heading into the weekend.
I wouldn’t hold my breath on that turning around anytime soon.