The 2019 SEC Midseason Superlatives
If you don’t take the time to look back, you won’t appreciate what’s ahead.
How’s that for a generic cliché to get this thing started?
Sadly, the midseason point is upon us no matter how much I tell myself it’s not. The good news? This is the longest football season of recent memory with teams getting an extra bye week. I don’t hate that.
In honor of that, I thought I’d try to tell the story of the first half of the SEC in 2019 by handing out some superlatives. Picture your senior class yearbook on steroids.
Let’s get weird:
Class clown: Steve Spurrier
In Week 0, Spurrier gave us the meme of the year in college football:
Steve Spurrier’s reaction to that interception. pic.twitter.com/UepK02Adia
— James (@GamecockSplash) August 25, 2019
That’s essentially been the default tweet for any time a team does something stupid. Spurrier’s GIFable moment, ironically enough, hasn’t really applied to Florida very much this season.
But in fitting Spurrier fashion, his class clown-ness has been seen by trolling others. Spurrier took a jab at Florida State for the Willie Taggart hire, he called Rocky Top “Rocky Bottom” after Tennessee lost to Georgia State in the opener (not his most original troll job) and he even had a classic cameo appearance in the HBO documentary “College Football 24/7” wherein he walked into the Florida meeting room to draw up a play.
Spurrier is forever the SEC class clown.
Best midseason position change: Lynn Bowden, Kentucky
Now I know there’s a decent chance that Bowden will move back to receiver at some point this year, but how could you not appreciate what he did the other night for Kentucky? The former high school quarterback ran for 196 yards and even passed for a touchdown in a win against Arkansas. The Cats were absolutely decimated at quarterback via injuries and preseason transfers, and without Bowden, Kentucky would be staring at 0-4 in SEC play.
Call it Randall Cobb 2.0 or as Kirby Smart suggested, a bit Hines Ward-like, but what Bowden did was awesome. Here’s hoping we get more of Bowden at quarterback.
Biggest upset: South Carolina defeats Georgia
I hear you, Tennessee fans. I didn’t forget about the Vols losing to Georgia State. I realize that was pretty awful. But that was the opener.
We had nearly half a season of data to explain why Georgia was a 3-touchdown favorite against South Carolina. The Dawgs had already defeated a top 10 team while South Carolina had 3 losses, one of which was to lowly UNC. The Gamecocks hadn’t defeated a ranked opponent since 2016, which was the last time the Dawgs lost to a divisional foe. Shoot, since the start of 2017, Georgia had beaten every divisional foe by at least 14 points.
The fact that it also happened between the hedges only made matters worse for Georgia. The home fans watched Rodrigo Blankenship, arguably the best kicker in the country, miss a kick in double overtime while South Carolina celebrated a win that was capped by 3rd-string quarterback Dakereon Joyner.
South Carolina deserves all the credit in the world for making my 45-14 score prediction look all sorts of awful.
Best glow-up (team): The LSU offense
You know when you show up for classes on that first day back from summer vacation and you see that person who looks unrecognizable because of how big of a glow-up they’ve had? That’s the LSU offense. It looks like a different person. Errrr, team. Joe Brady was essentially P90X for LSU. It got in incredible shape and elevated its status in a hurry. Through the first half of 2019, LSU has:
- The No. 1 offense in FBS
- The best 5-game offensive start in SEC history
- Scored 40-plus in every game
- Defeated 2 top 10 teams
- The No. 3 candidate in Heisman odds (Joe Burrow)
To say this new offense is working out would be like saying “working out twice a day for 4 months got me in better shape.”
Uhhhhh, ya think?
Best glow-up (coach): Gus Malzahn, Auburn
New Gus ripped the sleeves off every shirt he owns, got his arms tatted up and traded in his Ford Taurus for a Harley.
OK, maybe not, but you get it.
The new version of the Auburn coach is sitting at the midseason mark with a borderline top 10 team, a top 20 rushing offense and a pair of wins against ranked teams away from Jordan-Hare. For someone who entered the year with his job seemingly on the line, I’d say that’s a pretty good start.
Yes, his offense struggled against Florida and the loss of Boobie Whitlow hurts. But Auburn is going to be a scary team in the second half as Bo Nix continues to develop (which I believe he will). Malzahn’s team has looked much more decisive with him back calling the plays. Compare that to a year ago when his offense was a disaster and his team crawled to a 3-5 mark in SEC play.
New Gus is the best Gus.
Best blow-up: Rich Rodriguez, Ole Miss OC
I realize “best blow-up” isn’t a real superlative. I really just wanted an excuse to show this video:
— Mike Dubberly GDA (@MikeDubberlyGDA) September 28, 2019
That’s basically how I feel when I have to put the fitted sheet back on our bed when we wash it. Every angle feels wrong and I want to punch a hole in a wall.
I feel ya, RichRod.
Most sensitive: Texas
Tom Herman wants you to know that “Horns Down” is offensive and that anyone who commits such an egregious act should be penalized and probably put to death. Just joking about that last part, but it wouldn’t surprise me. It is Texas. You know, the program that has the most mock-able hand gesture in the history of college football. Meanwhile, the guy who literally invented “Horns Up” doesn’t find “Horns Down” offensive.
Meanwhile, all Texas does to troll others is:
- A) Shoot a cannon through a Joe Burrow jersey to open College GameDay
- B) Use a Texas A&M bucket for Bevo’s poop
- C) Openly mock Drew Lock’s backpack celebration
- D) Get “Real DBU” shirts to troll LSU … and then allow 471 passing yards
- E) All the above
It’s “E.” It’s always “E.”
Worst visual: Empty seats for Vandy
I’m sorry. I know that “paid attendance” and “actual attendance” are different things, but I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that fewer than 20,000 people paid for tickets to see Vandy lose to UNLV by 24 last week.
The crowd at kickoff for UNLV-Vanderbilt. Using my scientific method of counting the people in one section and then extrapolating that to the entire stadium, I’d put actual attendance around 2,500. pic.twitter.com/dU1jSwoKZ8
— Mike Grimala (@MikeGrimala) October 12, 2019
It’s one thing to be bad. It’s another to be bad and not have anyone care about your program. That’s an awfully tough pill for Derek Mason to swallow at the midway point of his first season with his new boss.
Best visual: The Alabama light show that Georgia also has
Hey, I didn’t say that anybody stole anything! Light shows are all the rage now. We saw Alabama release this just before the start of the season:
— Alabama Football (@AlabamaFTBL) August 16, 2019
We’ll get a chance to see that when Alabama hosts Tennessee in its first night game of the season, so I guess that’s a preemptive “best visual.” Georgia, on the other hand, already rolled out its extremely similar light show against Notre Dame, but the announcement came after Alabama’s, which made it look like the former copied the latter.
Before the season, @UGAAthletics installed new LED lights at Sanford Stadium.
This is what they look like in action.
— Front Office Sports (@frntofficesport) September 22, 2019
For what it’s worth, both sets of lights were installed before the start of the 2019 season. And in my opinion, both are insanely cool ways to make some of the top college football venues that much more … lit.
I’ll show myself out.
Biggest disappointment: Texas A&M
I get that expectations were tempered because of that daunting schedule, but consider this.
A&M is at the midway point of the season with 1 Power 5 win and it was a 1-possession win against lowly Arkansas in Dallas. The Aggies already have 3 losses and while they were all against top 15 teams, they were outscored by a combined 99-51. I’d argue the Auburn and Clemson losses weren’t as close as the final score indicated, either.
Part of the problem was the injury to Jashaun Corbin. The Aggies simply cannot run the ball. In Jimbo Fisher’s system, that’s a problem. Teams know that. That’s putting way too much pressure on Kellen Mond to fit balls into tight windows or to scramble for first downs. That’s not an ideal formula for success, even with a decent defense.
The Aggies came into 2019 as a legitimate top 15 team because of their roster in Year 2 of the Fisher era. Now, they’re looking more and more like a 6-win team.
Most likely to succeed: Tua Tagovailoa (Alabama), Joe Burrow (LSU)
The last time the SEC had a pair of quarterbacks finish in the top 5 of the Heisman Trophy voting was in 2013 when Johnny Manziel and A.J. McCarron finished 5th and 2nd, respectively. Call me crazy, but I think this year’s duo is going to finish even better than that.
As of right now, Tagovailoa and Burrow have 2 of the top 3 odds to win the Heisman. Their early November showdown could decide who ultimately wins the award. Yes, both have tough finishes to the season in terms of the defenses they’ll face, but what suggests this is suddenly going to taper off?
As of right now, either Burrow or Tua (or both) rank in the top 2 nationally in:
- Quarterback rating (No. 1 Burrow, No. 3 Tagovailoa)
- TD passes (No. 1 Tagovailoa, No. 2 Burrow)
- Yards per attempt (No. 2 Burrow, No. 4 Tagovailoa)
- Passing yards (No. 2 Burrow, No. 3 Tagovailoa)
- Completion percentage (No. 1 Burrow, No. 5 Tagovailoa)
Tagovailoa’s numbers aren’t necessarily surprising considering what he did in the first 2 months of last year. That’s why it’s sort of under the radar nationally. But what Burrow is doing couldn’t have been predicted by the most optimistic LSU fan. I predicted in the offseason that LSU would have a top 20 offense and now I feel somewhat embarrassed by that. I actually said Burrow was only the No. 4 quarterback in the SEC. Now, there aren’t 3 better quarterbacks than him in the country.
Burrow and Tagovailoa are already national household names, but their stocks are going to continue to rise even more in 2019. No midseason superlative was easier than this one.