5 things I can't wait to see today in and around the SEC
Eight weeks ago in this spot, I wrote I wanted to see Shea Patterson vs. Jacob Eason, Round 1 of many.
Ole Miss already was 1-2. Its biggest preseason goals were all but done. It wasn’t time to fast forward to 2017, but it was time to at least push the play button on Patterson’s career.
A few snaps here and here. Let Chad Kelly win now while getting Patterson ready to win later.
Ole Miss obviously chose a different route. Patterson sat, which was a fine strategy … in 2000. But the best college quarterbacks don’t play four years anymore. Andrew Luck played three at Stanford before becoming the No. 1 pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. Johnny Manziel obviously didn’t work out, but he redshirted and played just two before becoming a first-round pick in 2014. Jameis Winston also redshirted and played just two years at Florida State before becoming the No. 1 pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. Marcus Mariota, the No. 2 pick behind Winston, left early as well.
Jacob Eason and Jalen Hurts won’t be in the SEC in 2019. It’s a new world for quarterbacks. The sit-and-watch method has gone the way of the Timex.
For the nation’s best quarterbacks, from the moment they step on campus, it’s a three-year race to the NFL. The game has changed.
Patterson playing today at Texas A&M is the first of five things I can’t wait to see today in and around the SEC in Week 11.
2. So much drama in the East: Six teams can finish 4-4, but not all six still have a chance to win the East, so I have focused instead on the ones who can get to Atlanta.
You can envision upsets and myriad possibilities, but also know we could have a champion by 4 p.m. today.
If Florida beats South Carolina and Kentucky beats Tennessee, Florida returns to Atlanta for the second consecutive year under Jim McElwain. Kentucky would finish 5-3 in the SEC. That would be the worst Florida could finish, and Florida owns the head-to-head tiebreaker over Kentucky.
Any other combination in those two games and this drags on another week.
3. Will Muschamp’s return to The Swamp: Muschamp isn’t a favorite son in Gainesville, but it’s important to honor the fact he built the defense that won the East last year and might do so again this year.
You can make a case, a pretty strong one, actually, that he’s had a Coach of the Year type season in Columbia.
His bold decision to make Jake Bentley the starting quarterback saved the Gamecocks season and put them on verge of making a bowl game, something few thought was possible in Year 1.
If the Gamecocks shock Florida — and given how bad Florida’s offense has played lately, this won’t be a run-away-and-hide type game — he’s certainly wrapped up the unofficial title as the East’s top coach.
Regardless of what happens today, the Gamecocks should secure bowl eligibility next week against Western Carolina.
Speaking of coaching, I want to see Florida’s offensive minds find an answer. Other teams are on their second, third quarterbacks and moving the ball just fine.
Florida’s inability to get out of the mud makes you question McElwain’s offensive creativity.
4. The Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry: Auburn, unwatchable early in the season, has become must-watch thanks to another coaching decision, albeit forced. Kamryn Pettway in the open field reminds me of those sandlot Turkey Bowl games most of us played in. Give it to the biggest guy on the field and watch him have fun running over people.
Pettway is dealing with a leg injury, which might matter a bit more if he relied on 4.3 speed. Unfortunately for Georgia’s defensive backs, he doesn’t. He takes the direct path to the end zone, destroying whatever human happens to be in his way.
For whatever reason, call it blind optimism that it’s going to click today for Jacob Eason, I don’t think this is a walk-over, however. Auburn’s defensive front seven is otherworldly, but if you can somehow limit Pettway, Auburn’s offense is pedestrian.
Chad Kelly threw for 465 and 3 TDs against Auburn. Kyle Shurmur just threw for 221 with a touchdown. The Tigers have just six interceptions; only Vanderbilt has fewer.
I think Auburn’s secondary is vulnerable and Eason has a big day.
5. Around the globe: The ACC and Big Ten’s Playoff contenders don’t play anybody of note this week. No. 4 Washington, however, gets it chance to show doubters it is Playoff-worthy in a 7:30 p.m., ET, time slot on FOX.
The Huskies host No. 20 Southern Cal (which Alabama blew out 52-6 on a neutral field in the season-opener, of course). The Trojans have three losses but did upset a ranked Colorado team at home.
As high stakes go, this Pac-12 matchup can’t match a typical Saturday Down South in the SEC, but it’s something. And this week, it’s about all we have.
SEC fans should watch, anyway. Jake Browning can play, but it’s his style of play that poses almost zero threat to Alabama, should they meet in the Playoff.
Browning is a pure pocket passer, and at 6-2, 209, not a big one, either. Small-ish pocket passers don’t last long against the Tide.
Give him time, however, and he can do damage. He’s already thrown 34 touchdown passes this season and is on pace to break Jared Goff’s Pac-12 record of 43.
Browning was the No. 5-rated pro-style QB in the 2015 class.
No. 2 in that class? Blake Barnett. Ricky Town (No. 6), Drew Lock (No. 7), Ty Storey (No. 9), Quinten Dormady (No. 11) and Kyle Shurmur (No. 13) were other four-star, pro-style QBs in his class.
In other words, we’ve seen a version of him already.
Chris Wright is Executive Editor at SaturdayDownSouth.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @FilmRoomEditor.