5 things an SEC fan can watch for in Super Bowl LIV
We here at SDS pride ourselves on providing SEC fans with year-round entertainment. That’s mostly football, though we do talk plenty of hoops and when other sports get into crunch time, we have that content, as well.
But one of the things we like doing is helping the average SEC fan get through the Super Bowl. You know, assuming that you’re not already gambling on it in some form. Even if you are, consider this a mini viewing guide for the average SEC fan.
I came up with 5 things to watch for a week from Sunday:
1. Honey Badger doing Honey Badger things
Duh. This is the most obvious one.
Dare I say that Tyrann Mathieu, AKA The Honey Badger, is looking like his 2011 LSU self? Scary, I know. The 1st-team All-Pro safety has been everywhere for the Chiefs in the playoffs. Whether he’s blowing plays up in the backfield or reading quarterbacks (like Deshaun Watson) perfectly, Mathieu is the best defensive player on a Chiefs team that’s surging right now.
There’s a reason that this guy took the college football world by storm. He might be on his 3rd NFL team, but he’s back to playing at an elite level for a championship contender. That’s a scary sight for a 49ers offense that hasn’t exactly been deceptive.
If you’re looking for a fun, feel-good redemption story to watch, Honey Badger is it.
2. Mecole Hardman’s jets
It might only happen a couple of times in this game, but you don’t want to miss the former Georgia star in this Chiefs offense. It’s funny because when Hardman was drafted by the Chiefs, it seemed like a such a perfect situation for him. He’d get to play in a system that attacked downfield with speedy wideouts like he and Tyreek Hill, and he’d get Patrick Mahomes throwing him touchdowns.
Hardman can hit the home run play with a different kind of burst. Four of his past 13 catches were touchdowns of 20-plus yards, including this one:
Rewatching Chiefs-Titans from Week 10 in preparation for this weekend.
Madness. Full of explosive plays, like Mecole Hardman hitting the afterburners.
I’ll take a repeat pic.twitter.com/K1jB4EETuZ
— Josh Norris (@JoshNorris) January 16, 2020
The guy has video game speed. Get him space in the open field and forget about it. We saw that at Georgia, too. When Hardman turned the corner, he could flip it into a different gear.
For all we know, Hardman will make the back-breaking play in this game. The question might be if that comes via a long pass, an end-around, a punt return or a kick return. He can do it all.
Regardless of what kind of impact the rookie wideout makes in this game, here’s a crazy thought:
High school football seniors: ‘Play in the Super Bowl’ is not too big for your five-year goals.
This was Mecole Hardman Jr. in high school, four years and two months ago. pic.twitter.com/PllBWUvKt5
— Wes Blankenship (@Wes_nship) January 20, 2020
Speaking of lightning quick rookie receivers from the SEC, Deebo Samuel quickly became all sorts of impactful for the 49ers. It’s been fun watching him be utilized by an actual elite offensive mind like Kyle Shanahan. The former South Carolina wideout has quickly emerged as the top non-George Kittle weapon in the 49ers offense (Kittle actually called Samuel a “bowling ball” because of how hard he runs).
Like Hardman, Samuel has been used in the run game, as well. He has a carry in each of the 49ers’ past 7 games, including a huge 32-yard run early in the NFC Championship. All signs point to Samuel getting used to run off the edges with the versatile San Francisco ground attack.
For a guy who just couldn’t seem to stay healthy long enough in college, it’s been refreshing to watch Samuel not only stay on the field but thrive for a successful team. He’ll have plenty opportunities to make his presence felt in Miami.
4. Stand up, Vandy
Wait, who has 4 players on Super Bowl rosters? Is it Alabama? Is it Ohio State? Is it Clemson? No, it’s Vandy. Only Iowa, Penn State and LSU will have more representation than Vandy in Miami:
- Jordan Matthews, WR
- Justin Skule, OT
- Kyle Shurmur, QB
- Emmanuel Smith, LB
To be fair, Shurmur and Smith aren’t on the Chiefs’ active roster. Matthews, meanwhile, doesn’t have a catch in the playoffs after rejoining the team in early December.
But Skule has been an incredibly valuable part of the ground attack after getting picked in the 6th round in 2019. He started at 3 positions (both tackle spots and right guard) as a rookie. He stepped in with the 49ers getting banged up on the offensive line, and the unit has actually played even better as of late.
In other words, whenever the 49ers bust loose a big run — which they did frequently against the Packers — a Vandy fan can take credit by saying it was probably Skule who paved the way.
5. Dee Ford’s redemption
Yes, the former Auburn star had a massive offsides penalty last year in the AFC Championship. Who could forget that? Some said that the Chiefs would have won the Super Bowl had Ford not jumped offsides.
So now, what’s Ford trying to do? Beat the Chiefs in a Super Bowl.
Ford was shipped to the 49ers in a major offseason trade, and he was promptly given a 5-year deal worth $88 million. After helping the 49ers close out the NFC Championship, Ford said that “it’s a blessing” to be able to play his former team.
This story has been and will continue to be written about, especially if he has a big game in Miami. He should be able to do that, too. If those 2 are on the field at the same time, all eyes are going to be on Nick Bosa rushing off the edge, as they probably should be.
Can you imagine if Ford made a game-clinching sack to end the Chiefs’ Super Bowl hopes for a second year in a row? Lord knows Kansas City fans have already played that nightmare scenario out in their heads.