Early impressions on each SEC game in Week 10 of 2020
Somehow, someway, we got to Rivalry Week.
Yeah, it’s a little different. We don’t get these games as regular-season finales. Like, a regular-season game after the Iron Bowl? What do you mean we don’t get the Egg Bowl on Thanksgiving?!
Hey, now is not the time for that. Embrace the weird. It’s 2020.
Now is a time to be thankful that we even have these games, not upset that they’re different.
So, here are my early impressions on each SEC Rivalry Week game:
Kentucky vs. Florida — Why this could feed into the Mac Jones vs. Kyle Trask Heisman debate
It’s not really much of a mystery. Jones just played Kentucky. Trask gets to face the same defense a week later. At a time of year when it seems like everything related to the Heisman is a knee-jerk reaction, it would make a loud statement if Trask went out and threw for 400 yards an 5 touchdown passes after Jones had a pretty “meh” performance against the Cats, who appear to be plenty vulnerable right now.
Trask continues to set records in 2020, and it seems like he could bypass the Heisman field if that continues. Yes, this could come down to the SEC Championship. It could be a different conversation if Trask has something like 1,000 more yards and double the touchdown passes, which isn’t that far off at this point. Saturday will be another key test for Trask, who should definitely be the leader in the clubhouse after Justin Fields had a subpar game and Trevor Lawrence had a last-minute postponement.
LSU vs. Texas A&M — Watch out for those pass-catching A&M backs
I know it was a long time ago, but I keep thinking about Kylin Hill making a million catches out of the backfield in that season-opener against LSU. It seems like A&M is going to want to try and get those mismatches in space with both Ainias Smith and Isaiah Spiller, who should be in for heavy workloads after the multi-week layoff. By “heavy,” I mean that they could combine for 30 scrimmage touches. I’ll be surprised if Jimbo Fisher doesn’t try to force LSU to cover backs with linebackers.
It’s interesting that this matchup felt like it was all but over from the jump last year. A&M wanted to be able to run the ball with designed runs from Kellen Mond, and it couldn’t get anything with the backs. Now, with an offensive line that’s arguably the best in the SEC, it opens up so many more possibilities for this offense. Those opportunities for busts and big plays should be there, especially if LSU doesn’t properly account for Smith wherever he’s lined up.
Georgia vs. South Carolina — Mike Bobo vs. Georgia? Weird
Of all the things to happen in 2020, Mike Bobo getting a late-season Georgia reunion as an interim head coach is certainly one of them. The longtime Georgia offensive coordinator might’ve lost favor with the Georgia fan base, but go figure that JT Daniels just did something that we haven’t seen in Athens since Bobo was the Dawgs’ offensive coordinator.
The weird thing, of course, is that the Dawgs were reportedly trying to hire Bobo back but he took the South Carolina gig. Now, the Dawgs will get to see what they missed out on. I say that tongue-in-cheek because as frustrating as the quarterback situation has been, I think Georgia fans are happy that they ended up with Todd Monken’s offense. Go figure that Monken and Bobo finally found their quarterbacks last week.
Give me Daniels to light up a South Carolina defense that no longer has Israel Mukuamu or Jaycee Horn after they opted out.
Tennessee vs. Vanderbilt — This could easily be rock bottom for Jeremy Pruitt
Man, you can’t lose this. Not to winless Vandy. Not for a 6th consecutive loss. That can’t happen in Year 3 for Pruitt, even with Phillip Fulmer’s somewhat unconditional loyalty to him. That $13 million buyout gets a whole lot more appealing if you can’t even beat little brother in state. And the crazy thing? I’m not so sure that the Vols are the better team right now.
Vandy, unlike Tennessee, has shown much more promise actually staying in games. The Vols have just 14 second-half points in their last 5 games, and they allowed 108. Vandy isn’t going to play like a team to lose. Ken Seals is becoming more and more confident, and his connection with Chris Pierce Jr. is becoming better by the week. If the Vols aren’t playing for Pruitt, they can absolutely get embarrassed by the Commodores, just as they did a couple of years ago when Pruitt missed out on a bowl in Year 1.
Arkansas vs. Mizzou — I didn’t think the winner of this game would have 4 victories … and Barry Odom reunion!
No chance. I didn’t think they’d combine for 4 wins in 2020. Not with how much this offseason deck was stacked against them. Now, both are sitting there with 3 wins in position for a 4th. Either fan base would’ve been fired up to hit 4 wins this year with their new coaches. Does that mean a potential SEC Coach of the Year game is brewing? I wouldn’t rule it out, though my vote was given to Pittman the second he clinched win No. 3.
Why have these teams been able to surpass expectations? Besides having new head coaches who players legitimately seem to like — I’m not convinced that’s the case in Starkville — they also have defensive coordinators who have done a remarkable job. The Barry Odom reunion should be a good one. Will we see his defense bounce back after a late letdown against LSU? And what about Ryan Walters? We’re not talking about the job he’s done fully taking over for Odom’s defense at Mizzou.
With that in mind, take the “under” in this one.
MSU vs. Ole Miss — What a difference a year makes for Elijah Moore
This should be a major national storyline. You know, the guy who delivered the most monumental fake dog pee touchdown in college football history is now having the best season of any Power 5 receiver. Instead of letting that moment define him, Moore embraced Lane Kiffin’s offense. How ironic it is that Moore’s celebration is the reason that both Egg Bowl coaches will be on their respective sidelines. Now, you’ve got Kiffin campaigning for him to win the Heisman. Can you blame him?
Look at these numbers that Moore is putting up:
- 74 catches (No. 1 in FBS)
- 1,054 receiving yards (No. 1 in FBS)
- 3 games with 200-plus yards
- 6 games with double-digit catches
- 27 catches for 463 yards and 5 TDs in last 2 games
You line up Moore anywhere and he makes plays. I wouldn’t expect that to change against an MSU defense who has been remarkable defending the run, but just watched Georgia’s previously dormant passing attack light it up in JT Daniels’ debut. This has the makings of a “full-circle” game for the wildly productive Ole Miss wideout.
Auburn vs. Alabama — K.J. Britt returning would almost make this a fair fight
The Auburn linebacker wanted to return for Tennessee, but he wasn’t cleared yet. Could Britt be cleared for Alabama after missing the last month and a half with a thumb injury? I hope so. If not, that’s not going to be an even bout in trying to stop Najee Harris, who is playing his best of his 4-year career. We just saw Eric Gray run all over the Tigers, though Kevin Steele’s defense got bailed out by Jarrett Guarantano.
But even with Britt back, this matchup still favors the Crimson Tide offense. Nobody has shut down this Alabama offense since the start of 2019, and quite frankly, that includes Auburn. Jones still had all sorts of success against an Auburn defense that had Derrick Brown and Marlon Davidson. If the Tigers can’t dial up pressure with Owen Pappoe, a more experienced Jones will pick apart the Auburn defense.
Here’s hoping one of the SEC’s top defensive players can give it a go so we get a more competitive Iron Bowl.