10 things I'm absolutely overreacting to after Cupcake Week
Ah, Cupcake Week. Or, as my cold-weathered friends in the Midwest call it: Rutgers Week.
The funniest part about Week 13 is that, in the SEC, Cupcake Week sets up Rivalry Week. In the Big Ten, it just sets up somebody else for Rutgers Week.
Alas, here are 10 things I’m absolutely overreacting to in and around the SEC. In honor of Jake Fromm, I wrote the first couple of items while wearing a glove …
10. Can you imagine if Alabama had to beat Rutgers in Week 14 to win a division title?
That was a potential Big Ten scenario. It didn’t happen because Ohio State took care of Penn State.
But had Penn State upset the Buckeyes on Saturday, all the Nittany Lions would have had to do next week was beat Rutgers to win the Big Ten East.
And those guys still want to talk about SEC scheduling and the B1G’s mighty 9-game conference schedule.
9. In a pre-Jalen world, Mac Jones would be just perfectly fine
Jalen Hurts changed everything about how we view Alabama quarterbacks.
A program that perfected the game-manager role by surrounding him with Heisman running backs and stifling defenses changed almost overnight to take advantage of Hurts’ immense skills.
And then, obviously, it changed even more drastically once Tua Tagovailoa won the starting job.
All of which is to say: The bar is unfairly and impossibly high for Mac Jones.
He’s not Tua. He’s not Jalen.
But he’s as skilled as any Bama QB who came before those 2.
8. Saturday offered few clues about how Jones will play against Auburn
In an ideal world, Jones would have hit Jerry Jeudy or DeVonta Smith on a couple of go routes or posts.
Instead, he overthrew or underthrew the few deep balls he threw.
Sure, his numbers looked outstanding, including 2 completions covering 50+ yards.
The reality was he completed short screens that Smith and Jaylen Waddle turned into long TDs. The one legitimate deep ball he connected on — a 44-yard toss to Jeudy — Jeudy had to come back for and was tackled immediately.
Tagovailoa certainly threw his share of slants and screens that resulted in long TDs, too, but he also delivered 50-yard rainbows over the top.
Auburn is going to dare Jones to hit the long ball and focus on limiting yards after the catch in the screen and intermediate game.
7. It didn’t offer a lot of positive clues about Justin Fields, either
What a weird game.
I’ve been waiting all season for somebody to challenge Justin Fields, to make him uncomfortable, to force him to make a throw or 3 with the game on the line.
His numbers had been outstanding and the opportunity was ripe to rip apart a porous Penn State secondary.
It never happened.
Worse, Ohio State’s coaches never really gave him a chance to make it happen.
The weather wasn’t exactly Pasadena-like, but he only threw 22 passes. He ran it 21 times, fumbling 3 times. He didn’t complete anything over 28 yards.
It worked Saturday. Heck, I predicted a 42-17 Ohio State blowout, so Penn State’s inability to do anything on offense was hardly a surprise. But if you’re a rational Buckeyes fan, you’ve gotta be a little bit concerned about what you saw from the passing game Saturday — knowing what’s coming.
6. There are no such doubts about Chase Young, however …
We’ve seen some dominant DEs in these parts this decade. The well-rested Chase Young showed again why he belongs in that company. Maybe at the very top.
He had 3 sacks and forced 2 fumbles Saturday in setting the Buckeyes’ single-season record for sacks (16.5 and counting … though I wonder how many people will go out of their way to note he missed 2 games?).
Fresh legs or supernatural talent? Let’s go with B.
Chase Young’s get-off is unrealistically quick. pic.twitter.com/SoiHxIZJcM
— Eleven Warriors (@11W) November 23, 2019
If LSU or Georgia (or Alabama) runs into Young in the Playoff, they better chip him with a back or tight end every time Joe Burrow or Jake Fromm (or Mac Jones) drops back.
5. Bottom 5 of Power 5
The worst of the weak, in order of ineptitude, because the alphabet is far too forgiving.
1. Ohio State fans (Big Ten): No, boys, this dome is not in New Orleans.
THE DIS 👏🏼RE 👏🏼SPECT 👏🏼 pic.twitter.com/prSg0QcTSG
— kelsey (@kelseytaysutton) November 23, 2019
2. Vanderbilt fans (SEC): Let me guess. Everybody on both sides already is on Broadway?
Haven’t posted a crowd pic in a while because it seems like piling on. But today it seems newsworthy.
ETSU vs Vandy at national anthem pic.twitter.com/QyWskUBPqK
— Adam Sparks (@AdamSparks) November 23, 2019
Vandy announced the attendance at 19,863. I’m not sure there were that many toes in the stands. I was decent at math but stopped after calculus, so I’ll just have to trust that Vandy used some seriously advanced-level formula to spit out that figure.
Jokes aside, it’s easy to crush Vandy’s attendance and even easier to connect this turnout to the decision to retain Derek Mason. Don’t. Football attendance isn’t going to determine whether Derek Mason stays or goes. Wins will. Vandy won big Saturday behind big performances from its seniors. Too bad so few showed up to notice.
3. Northwestern (Big Ten): What happened? The Wildcats won 9 games last year. They’ve won 2 this year. They already have 9 losses (and possibly a 10th next week). Oof. That -7 already is the largest year-to-year reduction in wins among Power 5 programs.
4. Texas A&M (SEC) play-calling: 4th-and-inches and the Aggies line up in the shotgun. Do I even need to finish the thought? Why do teams do this?
5. ACC Coastal: Danny Kanell picked a really, really bad time to take a shot at the SEC by telling us how great Pitt, Miami and Virginia’s defenses were.
Va. Tech, which scored 24 against Furman and lost 45-10 to Duke, hammered Pitt 28-0 Saturday.
I tried to tell him (and the anonymous trolls who called me all sorts of nice things) …
I'm sure Pitt, Miami and UVA would have held Burrow and Tua to 147 yards. Plumlee would be lucky to run for 18 yards against those guys. Good thing they got to avoid that struggle. You know this, of course, which is why I laughed. Keep 'em coming…
— Chris Wright (@CWrightSDS) November 21, 2019
It got even funnier with Miami gave up 30 points in a loss to … FIU.
At least Virginia held Liberty to 27.
4. The 4 Playoff teams are …
1. LSU, No. 2 Ohio State, No. 3 Clemson, No. 4 Alabama.
This won’t be the Playoff committee’s top 4.
I expect their top 4 to stay exactly the same for the 3rd consecutive week when the rankings are released Tuesday night. That means Georgia at No. 4 and Alabama at No. 5.
Not mine. I’ve seen enough.
Georgia’s offense simply can’t play with those 4 teams. It just can’t. I’m tired of waiting and listening to excuses.
Y’all can talk about the rain, about Jake Fromm wearing a glove for the first time. I see a great defense. I continue to see a second-rate offense and missed opportunities in the passing game.
Kirby built a team to win it all in 2012.
3. Penn State still in the Top 10 or nah?
Why am I always at least a week ahead of the Big Ten folks on their stuff? Maybe they’ll reappear next week after they take care of Rutgers.
Penn State has a path! No, it really didn’t.
Minnesota has a path! No, it doesn’t.
The Big Ten belongs to Ohio State. And don’t think the Buckeyes aren’t good enough to win this thing, either.
2. Jake Fromm should come back to Georgia
I was never sold on the idea that Jake Fromm was a 1st-round prospect, but I certainly didn’t expect to see 3 consecutive duds like this, either.
The one thing you could always count on with Fromm was his accuracy. He’s been below 50% in 3 consecutive games.
Why? Blame South Carolina.
The Gamecocks jumped the back-shoulder throw like no other team had previously. Other teams not named Florida obviously picked up on it.
They’re sitting on that route and it’s made Fromm uncomfortable and vulnerable.
I’ve made the point several times over past 2+ seasons, but Fromm doesn’t live between the hashes, where NFL starters must thrive. He doesn’t drive throws over the middle.
Safe and short, usually out wide. Aaron Murray 2.0.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with being Aaron Murray 2.0, by the way. It’s just not enough to win a national championship this year.
This isn’t all on Fromm, either. The play-calling has been suspect. George Pickens seems to make a play every time he is targeted, so why isn’t he targeted 10+ times per game? He caught 2 balls Saturday. No other receiver caught more than 1.
The idea of Fromm returning to Athens for his senior season seemed laughable in July, when his draft stock was at its peak, and maybe even 2 weeks ago.
Now? Who knows.
I will say, dealing with him again is probably every other SEC team’s nightmare. It’s certainly Florida’s and every other team’s in the East.
1. So long, Oregon. Hello, 2 SEC teams in Playoff
Oregon became the 51st Power 5 program to lose to an unranked team this season.
ELIMINATION POOL UPDATE: w/ Oregon's loss to unranked Arizona State.
The 65 Power 5 teams' last loss to unranked team:
2019: 51 teams
2017: 3 (Clemson, Michigan, LSU)
2016: 1 (Notre Dame)
2007: 1 (Alabama)
— Chris Wright (@CWrightSDS) November 24, 2019
What does that mean for the Playoff race?
Well, it’s one fewer team a 2nd SEC team has to worry about (and there will be a 2nd SEC team in the Playoff). And it all but guarantees LSU will be in the Playoff field for the first time, regardless of what happens against Georgia in the SEC title game.