Early impressions on each SEC game in Week 11 of 2020
Wait a minute. December? Regular-season games in December?
Weird, I know. Strange it is that there are still sort of 3 regular-season weekends of SEC football left after Rivalry Week. What that remaining schedule looks like, who knows. It’s loosely in place, though it does feel like we still will have the SEC Championship on Dec. 19.
The good news is that the SEC isn’t the B1G, and it appears that the majority of SEC teams are going to get 10 games or darn close to it. It’ll probably take some more shuffling to make that happen, but that’s better than the alternative.
Here are some early impressions on each post-Rivalry Week matchup in the SEC on the first Saturday of December:
Texas A&M vs. Auburn — That A&M defense can give Bo Nix all sorts of problems
A&M nearly shut out LSU, which means a lot less in 2020 than it did in 2019, but it was still a darn good performance by Mike Elko’s bunch. They got pressure on the edges and made true freshmen quarterbacks scramble. Against an Auburn team that might still be banged up at the tackle positions, that’s a bad formula for Nix. We saw how that played out against Alabama. Auburn’s offensive line was a liability entering 2020 with just 1 returning starter. Depth issues are only going to magnify that.
Bobby Brown can be to Nix what Christian Barmore was to the Auburn quarterback this past weekend. That’s bad news for the Tigers, especially if Tank Bigsby isn’t healthy. The good news? Auburn has been a much better team at home than on the road this year. It’s A&M that has the pressure to keep its Playoff odds alive.
Florida vs. Tennessee — Is that … snow in the forecast?
The early forecast is predicting snow for Saturday in Knoxville, which is essentially every Vols fan’s dream. When the adjusted schedule came out over the summer, Tennessee fans were fired up about the possibility of the Gators having to come to Knoxville to play in the cold in December. Granted, that was when Tennessee actually looked like a legitimate SEC football team and not some Group of 5 cupcake.
Will that impact Florida’s high-powered offense? Who knows. They say you can throw in rain and snow, but it’s the wind that proves to be trickiest. If this does turn into more of a ground-and-pound type of game, Florida’s odds of presenting a challenge are much better than last year. Dameon Pierce and Malik Davis are quietly having nice seasons for a Gators offense that can be balanced when it chooses to be. It’s sometimes hard to justify that when you’ve got Kyle Pitts and Kadarius Toney lighting defenses up.
It’ll be interesting to see how much the elements impact a Florida offense that has hit 34 points in every game this year.
Vanderbilt vs. Georgia — If Vandy couldn’t get into field goal range against Mizzou …
Then I sure as heck don’t have much confidence it can happen against Georgia. Ken Seals had what was easily his worst game against a Mizzou squad that clearly wasn’t rooting for history. This Georgia defense has the ability to give the Commodores all sorts of problems, especially if Jordan Davis is able to return. If Davis and Richard LeCounte are back, well, don’t assume we’ll see Vandy get close to scoring.
Yes, it’s OK to root for Sarah Fuller. Yes, it’s OK if she isn’t booming kickoffs or drilling 45-yarders. She had never kicked a football until the beginning of last week. Groundbreaking moments in sports are awesome. This is one of them.
You’d better believe that if Fuller is active, there will once again be a whole lot of eyes on that Vandy offense to do … anything.
South Carolina vs. Kentucky — Finally, a team Kentucky’s offense matches up well against
It feels like it has a hot minute since we’ve seen that. Shoot, Kentucky didn’t even match up well against Nick Bolton and the Mizzou defense. Vandy is the only defense in the last month and a half that didn’t really have the game plan to slow down the Cats. Like Vandy, South Carolina is totally depleted on defense. Georgia ran through that defense like a hot knife through butter. A whopping 332 rushing yards could’ve been even more had Georgia not run out to a 21-0 lead in the 1st quarter, which made it somewhat pointless for the starters to play deep into the second half.
If Kentucky can get Chris Rodriguez back, this matchup sets up well for the Cats. Even Eddie Gran, who has lacked the necessary in-game adjustments, should be able to dial up the right looks to give Kentucky some offensive juice. South Carolina isn’t in position to play 60 minutes against a team that wants to be as physical as Kentucky up front.
Arkansas vs. Mizzou — Why this could clinch Sam Pittman’s SEC Coach of the Year Award
Lane Kiffin is going to get consideration for SEC Coach of the Year, but my thinking is simple. If Pittman can beat Mizzou, he’ll be 3-0 against the first-year SEC coaches. That’s something nobody would’ve predicted entering 2020. Pittman will have clinched a 4-win season with what Hunter Yurachek dubbed “the toughest schedule in college football history.” At the time, he wasn’t wrong. Now, I’d argue, it’s maybe not the same challenge.
But if Pittman can get to win No. 4, that’ll more than double his optimistic 2020 win total. Nobody had a steeper hill to climb in Year 1 than Pittman. The guy even tested positive for COVID. Now, he’s facing a Mizzou squad coming off its most complete game of the season. He’ll see a Mizzou defense that’s been tremendous lately. Pittman ending the losing streak to Mizzou would be a deal-breaker if I had a Coach of the Year vote.
Alabama vs. LSU — I’m still not buying LSU’s defensive plan to work on Alabama
That is, despite the fact that it worked against A&M. Bo Pelini’s man-to-man defense finally yielded some quality results. Stunning, I know. I still don’t think that’s a formula that’ll work against receivers like Alabama’s. You can’t guard DeVonta Smith with 1 guy. That includes Derek Stingley Jr., who had his share of struggles against Smith last year (I realize there was the long touchdown on the play when Stingley was looking to the sidelines for a call).
But am I really banking on Pelini to out-fox Steve Sarkisian? No chance. The Alabama offensive coordinator is still going to scheme guys open, just as he did last year when LSU actually had a decent defense. And while LSU’s pass defense was much better against A&M, we saw Isaiah Spiller torch the Tigers. Najee Harris has been arguably the best back in America. This is still a defense he can run all over.
Was it encouraging to finally see LSU figure some things out and not have receivers running open downfield? Absolutely. But A&M’s passing attack is nowhere near the level of Alabama’s. I think we’ll get plenty of reminders of that on Saturday.