10 previously unthinkable SEC headlines that are now in play
A month ago, we thought we knew everything.
We thought we had the SEC pegged. We felt like we could predict the future headlines.
As it turned out, we had some calls that were a bit off (looking at you, Jarrett Stidham hype train conductors).
Consider this a mulligan of sorts.
These are 10 unthinkable SEC headlines that now look like very realistic possibilities in 2017:
1. Jacob Eason to transfer from Georgia
As Ron Burgundy would say, that escalated quickly. A month ago, we were talking about the former 5-star recruit making that big Year 2 step. Now, we’re talking about him never starting another game at Georgia. When Eason went down in the season opener, Jake Fromm stepped up and did everything Kirby Smart asked of him.
If Fromm does keep the job when Eason returns as many expect, Smart could have an odd situation on his hands. The thought of the big-time recruit transferring after his sophomore season wasn’t on anyone’s mind in the preseason, but now, it’s going to be a major topic of discussion for the foreseeable future.
2. John Kelly finishes 2017 as SEC’s leading rusher
Wait, didn’t you mean Derrius Guice? No, the guy who hoped to replace Alvin Kamara might even be an upgrade. After four games, Kelly leads the SEC in rushing and has forced 34 missed tackles. Frankly, he should have even more yards and touchdowns if Butch Jones felt like giving him the ball deep in the red zone.
3. Luke Del Rio leading Florida’s push for third straight East title
Not Feleipe Franks, not Malik Zaire. Apparently, it’s Del Rio who will be given the keys to the station wagon that is the Gators’ offense. Del Rio was supposed to be the forgotten man and the most likely transfer candidate of the group. Now, Jim McElwain is putting his trust in Del Rio to get Florida out of its offensive sinkhole. And after a 2-0 start to SEC play, the Gators are still very much in the mix to contend for another East title.
4. Missouri fires Barry Odom
It’s certainly not crazy to think that the Tigers will part ways with the second-year coach. Despite all the preseason talk about Missouri’s high-powered offense, it has averaged 10 points in three games vs. Power 5 foes. Woof.
The Tigers had expectations of at least making a bowl game in 2017. Now, it’s looking like an extremely real possibility that they don’t win an SEC game. If that happens, Odom won’t make it to Year 3.
5. Dave Aranda searching for answers to cure defensive woes
After LSU’s first two games (without Arden Key), it looked like Aranda was once again showing America why he was one of the nation’s top defensive coordinators.
But after his defense surrendered a combined 63 points to Mississippi State and Syracuse (with Key), the Tigers don’t look like a finished product on that side of the ball. Perhaps those first two games fooled us into thinking that all of the talent lost from last year’s squad wouldn’t make that much of an impact. Clearly it has.
6. Austin Allen benched in favor of Cole Kelley
Huh? You mean to tell me the guy some believed was the SEC’s best quarterback entering 2017 could actually get benched? It’s not crazy to think given how much Allen and the Razorbacks’ offense have struggled to sustain drives in the first three games.
Against Texas A&M, Kelley was used effectively in the red zone sort of the way Urban Meyer broke in Tim Tebow. Nobody is confusing the 6-7 Kelley for Tebow, but if the Hogs get desperate, inserting the freshman into the lineup on a more permanent basis could happen this season.
7. Texas A&M A.D.: Kevin Sumlin will be back in 2018
Could Sumlin really get a vote of confidence from Scott Woodward, the guy who basically put him on the hot seat this offseason? It’s not crazy. While some assumed Sumlin’s days were numbered (myself included) after the epic UCLA collapse, he has won three games in a row and could actually be in position to surprise a few SEC teams that haven’t performed as well as some expected.
Would eight wins really convince Woodward to pay Sumlin $11 million not to coach? If the Aggies surpass those attainable expectations, Sumlin might get another year after all.
8. Shea Patterson shatters SEC single-season passing record
Ok, so we all thought Patterson was going to be really good. But did we expect him to put up numbers quite like this as a sophomore? Through three games, he already leads the SEC with 1,281 passing yards. Even without a postseason game, Patterson could easily best Tim Couch’s 4,275 yards in 1998.
Patterson is currently on pace for 5,124 yards (!) in 12 games. He probably won’t sustain that, but given Ole Miss’ up-tempo, air-it-out style, he seems like a safe bet to chase down the 19-year-old record.
9. SEC sack leader Charles Wright earns first-team all-conference honors
Raise your hand if you had Vanderbilt’s Wright having nearly double the sacks of anyone in the SEC. Put your hand down, liar. With the exception of maybe Derek Mason, nobody saw the first-time starter making this big of an impact.
The former 2-star recruit only had one Power 5 offer. Shoot, he only had one sack coming into this year. Many questioned who would replace Zach Cunningham’s production. It looks like Vanderbilt got its answer from an unlikely source. Wright has 6 sacks already.
10. Alabama-Clemson set for grudge match in national championship
Predicting Alabama to make a national championship is like betting on Rick Pitino to lie (too soon?). But betting on a Clemson team that had to replace Deshaun Watson looked like a big gamble. Now, it seems quite likely that we’ll get Alabama-Clemson, Part III.
In three combined games against top-25 teams, Alabama and Clemson allowed an average of 11.33 points. Something tells me that if these teams meet for the third time, it’ll be a defensive slugfest. Either way, it would be quite the achievement in this era of college football for a third matchup to happen.
Who’s down for a trilogy?