Is Todd Grantham still cursing like he’s auditioning for a role in The Wolf of Wall Street II?
Is Gus Malzahn still calling stupid plays? Is he still employed?
Is Jarrett Guarantano still looking like a long-lost Manning brother?
Is Ed Orgeron coach of the year?
Is Tua OK? Are you sure? Really, really sure?
Are you still calling Georgia “Alabama East?” Don’t. There’s only one plug-and-play program in America.
What a day. Here are 10 things I’m absolutely overreacting to after a Playoff-altering Week 7 in and around the SEC.
10. Coaches gone wild
Florida defensive coordinator Todd Grantham might have taken the SEC lead Saturday in F-bombs dropped.
In a rare and explosive exchange of unpleasantries more suited to rush hour frustration on I-75, Grantham and Vandy head coach Derek Mason went after each other after Gators LB James Houston lit up Vandy linebacker Dare Odeyingbo on a punt return. (Gators head coach Dan Mullen quickly joined in the F-bomb fireworks, which was more amusing than menacing.)
Todd Grantham seems fun pic.twitter.com/5DlhSx57gv
— Christian D'Andrea (@TrainIsland) October 13, 2018
Houston’s hit on Odeyingbo was illegal and correctly ruled targeting. It was the kind of blindside peel-back block that old-school types love but really has no place in the game. Houston lined him up from 10 yards away. Whether that was payback for Odeyingbo’s hit on Luke Del Rio last year is anybody’s guess. But Houston ran past two other ‘Dores.
Both sides were noticeably frustrated before the play. Mullen spent much of the first half screaming at officials. (For what that’s worth, they were terrible all day, starting with Vanderbilt’s first-quarter interception return that they initially ruled a touchdown until replay showed the interceptor’s knees hit the ground … 3 separate times after he caught the ball.)
Mason clearly didn’t like the hit, which happened in front of Florida’s bench.
So we've got James Houston IV with a disgusting hit on Dare Odeyingbo, targeting and ejected. Derek Mason on the field, angry. Screaming back and forth at Florida coaches. Dan Mullen looking like he wants to fight Mason. Both teams nearly fight. Not yet halftime.
— Joe Rexrode (@joerexrode) October 13, 2018
Neither side handled it well. Expect some fines and/or suspensions. And the accused will overreact to that, too.
One benefit? It woke up the Gators, who erased a 21-3 deficit to keep their SEC East title hopes alive.
9. Worst play-call of the week?
At what point, if any, does Tennessee’s defense look fooled?
Everything about this was terrible, including this tone-setter: Ryan Davis gave away whatever hint of deception existed with his utter disregard for trying to sell the jet sweep. This was so slow, so obvious, it looked like a walk-through … or an attempt to get his QB mauled.
Jarrett Stidham throws his 2nd intereception of the day to Jonathan Kongbo 😳 pic.twitter.com/8R078rPCna
— BetQL (@betqlapp) October 13, 2018
Blame Stidham all you want. This play had no chance from the jump.
And that’s where we’re at, where we’ve been with Gus Malzahn.
I’m just so happy that I finally, at long last, gave up on Malzahn fixing this thing last week.
I’d suggest you do the same. It’s liberating.
8. This one wasn’t much better …
LSU saw this fake coming all the way. pic.twitter.com/AfiIqNTVu1
— SEConCBS (@SEConCBS) October 13, 2018
It’s all fun and high-fives when this works a couple of times at practice.
But at what point do you think Rodrigo Blankenship looked up, saw the swarm of angry LSU defenders and said: “You know, I wish we would have just kicked the field goal.”
Kirby, Kirby, Kirby.
7. I’ll take, “Predictable things Big Ten people say” for $500, Alex
Had to laugh when Desmond Howard said he’s not all-in on Tua Tagovailoa because the Tide haven’t played anybody.
Why don’t you turn that laser analysis toward your own conference.
Remember last year how everybody ripped Alabama’s schedule because FSU tanked? I don’t hear anybody (other than me, when I’m talking to myself in the car line) questioning Ohio State’s schedule.
Funny, too. I said before the Buckeyes beat TCU in Week 3 that the Horned Frogs weren’t that good. They’re now 3-3. Unlike FSU, they’re losing with their starting quarterback.
Ohio State’s signature nonconference moment never really looked impressive, and it’s looking worse by the week. And, of course, its signature comeback was against an overrated Penn State team that nearly lost to App State in Week 1 and did lose — again — in Week 7. (How, you ask? By giving up another game-winning touchdown drive in the final minute, this time to mediocre Michigan State.)
But, please, keep talking about Alabama …
(P.S. Tua just opened another game with another long bomb to cap a 2-play TD drive.)
6. Doubt LSU, Coach O at your own peril
I’d say the Tigers are back, but the Tigers never really went away. In my mind, anyway. I laughed when AP voters dropped them 8 spots last week — because they lost to a ranked SEC team on the road by one score.
LSU pounded No. 2 Georgia in a performance that looked eerily similar to Auburn’s beatdown of Georgia last season.
LSU now owns 3 victories over Top 10 teams.
You knew all along that their coach believed. You saw Saturday that the Tigers believe, too.
Joe Burrow bounced back with a huge game. Make no mistake, Ed Orgeron sets the tone. But in Burrow he has a smash-mouth quarterback who embraces everything Orgeron espouses. Tough, physical football.
I mean, Orgeron had to call timeout on 4th-and-2 just to keep Burrow from running a sneak into 11 defenders.
“Pretty decent rebound,” Burrow told ESPN afterward.
Alabama awaits. Everybody in the country says they want Alabama. LSU actually believes it. Nobody is better suited to handle what the Tide are doing.
5. Remember, every game matters …
- Maryland 34, Texas 29
- Texas 48, Oklahoma 45
- Notre Dame 24, Michigan 17
- Stanford 38, Oregon 31
- Florida 27, LSU 19
- LSU 36, Georgia 16
I could add others. The only thing more enjoyable than arguing about which undefeated teams (that never play each other) are better is arguing over which 1-loss teams are better.
Four Top 10 teams lost Saturday: No. 2 Georgia, No. 6 West Virginia, No. 7 Washington and No. 8 Penn State. Washington and Penn State lost for the second time, which makes you wonder why they were ranked so far ahead of LSU.
If every game truly mattered, we wouldn’t be talking about Texas, Michigan, Oregon, LSU and Georgia as Playoff hopefuls. But here we are.
I say this every week, but the only thing these upsets and close calls prove is the need to expand the Playoff to 8 teams.
4. The 4 Playoff teams are … (well, that depends on Tua)
First things first: Is Tua Tagovailoa healthy? If so, there’s no debate. It’s Alabama’s world … and you’re just losing in it. If he sustained any kind of structural damage, Alabama still might not lose in the regular season, but the postseason just got a lot more dicey.
We saw again Saturday the difference that Tagovailoa makes. This offense is fairly normal without him. I’d sit Tagovailoa next week against Tennessee. Give him 2 full weeks to get healthy for the trip to LSU and beyond.
After the game, Nick Saban said Tagovailoa is fine and could have returned to action if needed.
All righty then … on to the rankings:
No. 1 Alabama, No. 2 LSU, No. 3 Ohio State, No. 4 Clemson, No. 5 Notre Dame, No. 6 Georgia. No. 7 Texas. No. 8 UCF.
3. Why doesn’t Kirby Smart trust Justin Fields?
Clemson put every single chip it had on its true freshman Trevor Lawrence.
Smart continues to use Fields — the No. 2 prospect behind Lawrence — in an odd Jalen Hurts-like designated runner role.
Practice tells all. Maybe Fields is about as accurate as Nick Fitzgerald. But there is no denying Fields provides an element of danger that Jake Fromm doesn’t.
Georgia’s offense was punchless Saturday, but Smart stood by his guy, Fromm.
Would switching QBs have made a difference? We’ll never know. But you got the sense Fromm could have dropped back 70 times and that result wasn’t changing.
Why? Glad you asked …
2. 2017 Georgia > 2018 Georgia
I wrote it all offseason: You couldn’t expect Georgia to replace all of its veteran stars and be the same machine. Only Alabama does that.
I’ve hinted at Georgia’s problems several times in this space, even dropping them to No. 6 two weeks ago. Often, the schedule hid the issues.
Saturday, LSU exposed them.
Fromm is an excellent college quarterback. He’s not the game-changer many hype him to be. He wasn’t last year, either. He’s not Tua. His arm is not electric. It’s extremely accurate. Usually. Jordan Rodgers got bashed for saying it, but he knows what an NFL arm looks like. Every quarterback needs help, but if Georgia has to lean on Fromm to win, Georgia is in trouble.
Last season, Georgia leaned on Nick Chubb and Sony Michel and a sensational defense. Sure, D’Andre Swift looked great in spots, but I reminded you that Swift was a non-factor in the Playoff games. To just assume that he would step in and fill the shoes of two of Georgia’s greatest running backs was, well, optimistic.
Not only has Swift failed to do that, he’s slipped behind Elijah Holyfield on the depth chart.
Georgia’s Playoff hopes aren’t done, but the Dawgs have no wiggle room. They have to win the SEC Championship Game.
They did it last year, but any talk that this team is as good as that team ended Saturday in Death Valley.
1. I’m sorry, Vols
A few weeks ago, we debated when the Vols’ SEC losing streak would end. Given the fact Tennessee hasn’t beaten Vandy since 2015, I thought there was a chance it would stretch into 2019. I certainly didn’t think there was any chance the Vols would end it at Auburn in Week 7.
Now, that debate was before Auburn got exposed last week and forced our divorce on the grounds of irreconcilable coaching differences. But Saturday wasn’t about Auburn.
Saturday belonged to Tennessee. And Jarrett Guarantano.
And the SEC East just got a lot more interesting … for the rest of this season and beyond.
Well done, Vols. Very well done.