10 things I'm absolutely overreacting to after Week 5 in the SEC
Welcome back, B1G.
Leaving so soon, Penn State? You just got here!
We’ll get to the SEC, but I flipped over to Wisconsin-Illinois on Friday night and thought for a second Ole Miss’ defense was wearing white with orange numbers. Honest mistake. Guys were running free. Redshirt freshman Graham Mertz went 20-for-21 with 5 TD passes against the Illini’s secondary.
And they say SEC teams aren’t playing any defense? Lovie Smith is a former NFL defensive coordinator and head coach, right?
Who knows, maybe Smith will be Ole Miss’ defensive coordinator next year. He might need the work, and that job might be open.
Speaking of next year, Georgia fans probably are looking forward to it. Why? They’ll no longer have to hear about what could have been with Justin Fields because he’ll be in the NFL. For the next 3 months, every highlight Fields creates is just a painful reminder.
Those and Jaylen Waddle’s dreadful injury are among the 10 things I’m absolutely overreacting to after another Saturday Down South in and around the SEC.
10. Jeremy Pruitt, you’re hired!
And y’all think I overreact?
We knew Tennessee fired assistant coach Jimmy Brumbaugh last week.
Late this week, we learned that Pruitt reportedly fired him during halftime of last week’s game against Kentucky.
Halftime! As somebody who writes this column live every Saturday as games are unfolding, I love it.
Hey, Coach Pruitt, if this coaching thing doesn’t work out long-term in Knoxville, we’ll find a spot for you here at SDS.
9. Justin Fields is still good at football
Fields launched his Heisman campaign in typical style: He started 11-for-11 for 176 yards and a TD in the opening half against Nebraska. His first incompletion was a perfect 43-yard strike to Chris Olave on a deep post. It would have been another TD, but Olave dropped it when he hit the ground.
Turns out, that was Fields’ only miss on the afternoon. He finished 20-for-21 for 276 yards and 2 TDs. He also led the Buckeyes in rushing (not ideal, mind you) with 54 yards and added a TD run.
What’s done is done and I’m not going to rehash it every week, but Georgia would be a unanimous No. 1 in the nation if Kirby Smart had gotten the QB decision right before Fields left. The Dawgs might have a national championship ring, too.
8. This is MY team, dammit!
Gus showed us, huh.
In last week’s Overreactions, I blasted Auburn’s play-calling. I said if Auburn doesn’t lean on Tank Bigsby and run it 45+ times against Ole Miss, I’m not sure what anybody is doing.
So of course Auburn’s best running back and most consistent playmaker didn’t even appear in the Tigers’ opening series — a 3-and-out that started with a Bo Nix misread on an RPO and ended with another scramble/errant overthrow.
Twitter didn’t take long to react.
On Auburn’s next drive, Bigsby carried 6 times for 44 yards and a TD. Auburn covered 95 yards on 14 plays. It ran 11 times for 76, Nix threw it 3 times for 19 yards.
On Auburn’s next drive, the Tigers ran it 6 times for 40 yards. Nix capped the drive with a 4-yard TD run. Nix threw it 4 times. None of the passes covered more than 5 yards in the air. Simple stuff, well executed.
To that point, Auburn had run 19 times for 120 yards. Nix was 7-for-8 for 55 yards.
Give Nix credit for making timely throws, especially on Auburn’s game-winning drive late in the 4th. But the biggest key was Auburn got back to Auburn football: season-high 47 rushes and 30 passes.
Auburn improved to 50-8 under Malzahn when it rushes at least 45 times in a game. It has won 19 consecutive games when it reaches that threshold.
It’s really not nearly as difficult as Auburn made it look the first 4 weeks.
7. Holy Schiano!
I definitely didn’t see that coming.
Michigan State is starting over. But so is Rutgers. And no matter how far the Spartans seemingly fell in the final years of the Mark Dantonio regime (keep in mind they still went to a bowl game each of his final 3 seasons), they were dozens of football fields ahead of Rutgers.
Rutgers had lost 21 consecutive B1G games. That’s what Greg Schiano inherited.
Now Rutgers is 1-0. When Michigan State gained momentum and pulled within a TD, we all thought, “Rutgers gonna Rutgers.” But Rutgers didn’t panic. It didn’t make mistakes.
That 1-0 feeling 🪓 pic.twitter.com/XmdzeeG1u0
— Rutgers.Football (@RFootball) October 24, 2020
Wonder what Tennessee fans thought about that performance?
At least I didn’t see any cigars in the celebration.
6. Kentucky has no idea what it wants to be on offense
Pick a stat, any stat. It doesn’t matter. The Cats can’t throw it and they can’t run it.
Saturday’s numbers were skewed by the fact Missouri held the ball for almost 3 quarters, but 8 first downs are 8 first downs.
Terry Wilson was 3-for-9 for 35 yards.
Kentucky didn’t throw the ball last season, but it didn’t matter. It didn’t try to. It had an identity with Lynn Bowden and stuck with it.
These Cats have no idea what their identity is. Nothing is working.
And now comes Georgia.
Here’s what I would do: Go all in with Joey Gatewood.
Nobody in the SEC needs a bye week to figure things out worse than Kentucky, but the Cats will have to absorb another beating before they get there.
5. Bottom 5 of Power 5
The worst of the weak.
1. Illinois: Take your pick. The offense gained 8 first downs. The defense was on the field for almost 45 minutes (that’s 3 full quarters!). It was every bit as brutal as the 45-7 score suggested.
2. Matt Corral’s final pass: Corral had another rough day. He threw 2 more interceptions, giving him 9 on the season, but Ole Miss still had a chance. On the final play, at the Auburn 29, Corral casually rolled to his right, kept running and kept running. He eventually crossed the line of scrimmage. About 3 yards later, he decided to throw it. That pass was intercepted too, but the result was immaterial. Even a TD pass would have come back. Quarterbacks have to have much better field awareness than that. It’ll be interesting to see how much longer Lane Kiffin sticks with Corral.
3. Kansas: Goodness. The Jayhawks fell to 0-5 and have been outscored 191-52 in 4 Big 12 games.
4. Mel Tucker’s B1G debut. Double goodness. Seven turnovers on offense. Couldn’t get enough timely stops on defense. Rutgers hadn’t scored 38 points in a B1G game since 2015.
5. Florida State: Remember how good that 31-28 victory over then-No. 5 North Carolina felt last week? Good. Hold onto that feeling and flush Saturday’s 48-16 nightmare against 2-4 Louisville.
4. The 4 Playoff teams are …
1. Alabama, 2. Ohio State, 3. Clemson, 4. Georgia
Jaylen Waddle’s season-ending (college career-ending?) injury makes Alabama less dangerous, but the reality is, the Tide still are plenty dangerous.
It didn’t take long to reshuffle the B1G pecking order — from No. 2 through the rest, anyway. It’s still Ohio State and everybody else. The Buckeyes play Penn State next week in a game we all were pointing to. Then Penn State lost to Indiana.
Unless you legitimately think Indiana or Michigan will challenge Ohio State (I don’t; those respective winning streaks stand at 24 and 8, by the way), the Buckeyes have as easy a path to the Playoff as Clemson.
Notre Dame won big? Congratulations.
3. Is LSU really going to bench Myles Brennan?
If I had to guess, I’d say … yes.
Myles Brennan has been the ultimate teammate. He’s proven to be a pretty good quarterback, too.
But whether the play-calling improved or TJ Finley is simply a better fit, it’s hard to argue with the results Saturday.
LSU dominated South Carolina.
Finley, in his first career start in place of the injured Brennan, made plays with his arm and his legs. He’s a threat, and for an offense that has NFL talent outside as well as in the backfield, he might be better equipped to get the most out of this offense.
As long as Brennan is out with an undisclosed “lower body” injury, there is no controversy. Finley did more than enough to earn the start next week at Auburn.
It’ll get real interesting real fast, however, if Finley plays well and earns another victory.
After Auburn, LSU has a bye week to prepare for Alabama. Even if Brennan is declared healthy by then, it might be too late.
2. That’s Indiana’s most famous 2-pointer since 1987 …
Indiana is a basketball school, the B1G’s version of Kentucky, if you will.
The Hoosiers know how to get 2-point buckets, even though their last NCAA title came in 1987.
That’s also the last time the football team beat a top-10 team … until Saturday.
QB Michael Penix stretched as far as possible to score the winning 2-point conversion and beat No. 8 Penn State 36-35 in overtime.
Tom Allen’s decision to go for 2 was impressive enough. Penix’s execution was better than that.
Did he actually score? I don’t know. I thought the ball landed out of bounds before it hit the pylon, but I’m not gonna argue with history.
UNREAL ENDING IN BLOOMINGTON! 😲
— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) October 24, 2020
1. Injuries suck, but don’t blame Saban this time
Part of what makes Alabama so dangerous is its playmakers often play special teams.
Anybody who saw it will never forget Mack Wilson destroying Speedy Noil on a kickoff return. Mack Wilson is now an NFL linebacker. Kenyan Drake returned kicks for Alabama. So did Damien Harris. And Henry Ruggs. And Josh Jacobs. All of those guys are in the NFL. That’s where Jaylen Waddle will be, too.
On cue and in hindsight, though, Alabama fans began questioning why in the world Nick Saban would risk Waddle by having him return kickoffs. Stop. Now, if you want to fault Saban for questioning why Waddle would bring out that particular kick, get in line. That was not a good look.
But as for criticizing Saban’s decision to have Waddle return kicks, those same second-guessers no doubt cheered when this happened …
— Alabama Athletics (@UA_Athletics) November 30, 2019
Waddle had a chance to do that every time he touched the ball. That’s why he was back there.
I’m going to miss writing about Waddle’s explosive plays. He was so much fun to watch. I hope the injury doesn’t hurt his NFL stock.
Injuries suck. Season-ending injuries are worse than that. That should be your takeaway. But this wasn’t a kickoff return issue. Maybe if he’s out there in the 4th quarter of a 30-point blowout, but this was the opening kick. This is what he does. This could have happened any time he was tackled. Heck, Clemson lost star receiver Justyn Ross before the season after he was injured in a practice. It’s football. And football is a brutal game.
So now somebody else is going to be back there returning kicks.
And somebody else is going to be on the receiving end of Mac Jones’ rainbows.
If you’re an Alabama fan, just be thankful that your next men up are NFL prospects, too.