On Thanksgiving, here's 1 thing I'm thankful for from every SEC team
Do you do the thing where you go around the Thanksgiving table and say something you’re thankful for? If you don’t, you should.
We have a lot of fun on this here website, but it’s important to take those moments to process what we have to be thankful for. Besides just having a plate full of food with infinite amounts of Hawaiian Rolls, these past 2 years should make us especially thankful to have our health. If you’re reading this and you are fortunate enough to be in good health, take a moment to appreciate that. I mean, live your truth, but really. It can always be worse.
And if you do have your health this Thanksgiving, what do you also have? A full 3-day weekend of SEC football to close the regular season. What a beautiful thing that is.
I’ll continue to say that the Egg Bowl is my favorite Rivalry Week game every year. Any game that makes you consistently stand on your feet from home without any rooting interest is as good as it gets.
I’ll also continue to say that Black Friday is the single most underrated college football day on the calendar. It’s like a mini-New Year’s Day. The college football gods even blessed us with Texas at noon on a Friday. If that’s not something to be thankful for, I don’t know what is. We’ve got non-stop college football all day for 12 hours, with 6 ranked teams in action.
Be thankful, y’all.
Here’s 1 thing I’m thankful for from each SEC team:
Alabama — The Tide are giving us competitive games
I could’ve gone in a few different directions here. I’m thankful Will Anderson exists. The same goes for Bryce Young. The fact that both are second-year players who will return next year seems unfair.
But I’m most thankful that not every Alabama game is a blowout like last year. Five of the Tide’s 7 SEC contests have been 1-score games in the 4th quarter. We’ve seen the likes of Tennessee, LSU, Arkansas and Florida all be within arm’s reach late in a game, and of course, Texas A&M finished the deal. When you’ve dominated the sport unlike any team has in the modern era, yeah, the neutral fan is going to enjoy watching a competitive game that provides 4 quarters of entertainment instead of 1.
Arkansas — Treylon Burks continues to be worth the price of admission
I’m ready to take on anyone who doubts Burks in the pre-draft process. What he’s able to do at 6-3, 230 pounds is simply absurd. We should be grateful that in his 2 non-Chad Morris years, he’s been that dude. The catch radius is insane, and his role in the Kendal Briles offense is excellent. You can line him up anywhere. Why? There’s no matchup he can’t win.
Treylon Burks vs Alabama. 2022 WR1? pic.twitter.com/qWk1azMSXF
— MB (@memphisbendon_) November 21, 2021
Even though he’s been banged up with different injuries this year, he’s still going to hit 1,000 yards and have plenty of pre-draft buzz. That is, assuming he’s off to the next level. You could make a case he’s one of the best receivers in program history, regardless of what happens in his last 2 games of his pre-draft season.
Auburn — The love-hate relationship with Mike Bobo is so back in the SEC
I hope eventually Bobo graces each SEC program with his presence. Georgia and South Carolina fans know the Bobo relationship all too well. Go figure that he spurned both of them in the last 2 years. Now, it’s Auburn fans who have the love-hate relationship with the well-traveled offensive coordinator. One week, he gets all the credit in the world for turning Bo Nix into the best version of himself. The next week, he’s public enemy No. 1 because he doesn’t give Tank Bigsby the ball in a key spot.
It’s fitting that Auburn and Bobo found each other. One is a roller coaster program, the other is a roller coaster coordinator. Would a bad Iron Bowl showing prompt Bryan Harsin to move on from Bobo? We saw Harsin have a quick trigger with his staff already by firing receivers coach Cornelius Williams after the Georgia State game. Fortunately for Bobo, even if he is fired, he’ll inevitably find another SEC home and continue the cycle.
Florida — Even at their worst, the Gators are never boring
They really aren’t. Dan Mullen press conferences became must-see events. They provided a week’s worth of discussion. And don’t get it twisted. That’s not some anti-Florida take saying that the program is at its most interesting once the sharks start circling (pun absolutely intended). It was a short year ago that Mullen blessed us with Kyle Trask, Kyle Pitts, Kadarius Toney and Trevon Grimes. Those dudes were never boring … and neither was Mullen. Whether it was starting a brawl, wearing a Darth Vader costume or chewing out Todd Grantham on the sidelines, he always delivered.
This year, though, Florida was the car accident you just couldn’t take your eyes away from. And if you did, perhaps you missed 3 turnovers in a 2-minute stretch during the biggest game of the year. That’s the gift that keeps on giving.
I don’t know what’s next for the Gators in the post-Mullen era. I do know that I’ll be here for every second of it.
Georgia — Jordan Davis exists
When Davis announced last year that he was returning for his senior season, I could’ve just penciled him in for this spot. Davis is a Swedish Fish-eating, offensive line-trucking, quarterback-hunting, 360-pound king. No, you cannot convince me he’s at 340 pounds, especially when you look at him next to 315-pound best friend/fellow Georgia defensive lineman Devonte Wyatt:
Jordan Davis 😳 pic.twitter.com/ak1PJFwjhz
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) November 20, 2021
But nothing about the way Davis operates suggests he’s as big as he is. He’s gonna run a sub-5 second 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine. He frees up defenders unlike anyone in college football. That’s what he takes pride in. That’s what makes him the best player on a historically dominant Georgia defense. He’s perhaps the one guy that Georgia cannot afford to lose if it wants to end the 1980 jokes.
More importantly, I’d invite him over any current SEC player to come eat at my Thanksgiving table.
Kentucky — Wan’Dale Robinson came home
This Kentucky offense was brutal to watch before 2021. It was the worst Power 5 passing offense in America. Even in 2018 when the Cats had a magical year, they had far from a high-powered offense. That’s actually why Robinson dropped his Kentucky commitment and went to Nebraska out of high school. Fast forward 2 years and Robinson ultimately decided to come back to the Bluegrass State and become a legend playing receiver full-time.
In Liam Coen’s revamped offense, there’s no denying that Robinson has been the team’s most valuable player. He’s 6 catches away from setting the program’s single-season receptions record, and he’s 245 yards away from the single-season receiving yards record. He’s unlike any player that Kentucky has had in the Mark Stoops era. On top of that, he’s extremely well liked within that locker room and community. Regardless of Robinson’s pending NFL decision, he’s earned a place in Kentucky lore.
LSU — That depleted defense still plays its tail off
Damone Clark, Jay Ward, Cordale Flott and the rest of LSU’s remaining defensive starters deserve a ton of credit. Same with Daronte Jones. Ever since Lane Kiffin told Ed Orgeron to switch up his basic defense, it yielded a defensive turnaround. An LSU team who is being led by a lame duck coach with nowhere to go but the Liberty Bowl is playing like every game will make or break its SEC title chances. That’s what you love to see.
Bryce Young took a SHOT from Jay Ward and popped right back up pic.twitter.com/4jcmazexwZ
— Patrick Greenfield (@PCGreenfield) November 7, 2021
We wondered if LSU would just pack it in after Orgeron was fired. Offensively, it’s been a bit of a mess, for sure. But defensively, LSU has done its part to make sure that we’re watching competitive football on a weekly basis. As crazy as it sounds when we’re talking about such a prestigious job, that has to be a selling point to Orgeron’s successor. They won’t inherit a dumpster fire that needs a culture transformation like Texas. In a season full of losses, that’s a win.
Mizzou — Savage Eli Drinkwitz (and obviously Tyler Badie)
I said in the preseason that Mizzou was going to beat Florida and Drinkwitz was going to have his annual “how do you like me now” moment. Little did I know that it would come in such loud fashion. Drinkwitz delivered the nail in the coffin with a walk-off 2-point conversion in overtime, and then he doubled down … and tripled down.
I don’t know what Drinkwitz’s season-long grade would be, but he gets an “A+” in the art of trolling Dan Mullen:
MIC DROP from #Mizzou football coach Eli Drinkwitz after beating Florida in OT! 😂
“May the force be with you.” pic.twitter.com/cVw9CcvXK0
— Andrew Kauffman (@AndrewABC17) November 21, 2021
But wait, there’s more!
“My father was a farmer, and there’s an old saying you reap what you sow. If you sow kindness, you reap kindness. If you sow jackass, you reap jackass.”
— Matt Hayes (@MattHayesCFB) November 23, 2021
We need an annual dose of Drinkwitz going off the top rope. We also need an annual dose of him letting elite running backs shine. Badie has been that guy for a Mizzou offense that would be totally lost without him. Shoot, given Mizzou’s early defensive struggles, where would that entire team be without him?
You could make a case that Badie is the SEC’s single-most valuable player. He’s the nation’s No. 4 rusher, he’s got 19 more catches than any Mizzou receiver and he’s responsible for nearly half of Mizzou’s offensive touchdowns. The guy is a machine. Fingers crossed that he takes advantage of the free year of eligibility from 2020 and he returns for 1 more season.
MSU — Will Rogers emerging means we get vintage Mike Leach
We were never going to get the full Leach experience unless the Air Raid started lighting up SEC scoreboards on a consistent basis. It took a little longer than some MSU fans were hoping for, but that did eventually happen. The Bulldogs are averaging 10 points per game more than last season, and Rogers has become one of the best quarterbacks in the country. Rogers’ progression in the offense means that Leach can now do things like comment on his favorite candy, or fire off takes about candy corn. It also means we get postgame shots of Leach’s, um, dance moves?
This is the Leach we need. It’s not as fun to see him getting blasted for his stubbornness with the lack of a run game, or watching him not work an official after a horrendous call. November Leach has been fantastic. If MSU can get to 9 wins, we’re going to get the Leach rants we were promised when he came to the SEC after the 2019 season.
Ole Miss — The Matt Corral/Lane Kiffin/Jeff Lebby encore didn’t disappoint
We again got play sheets flying and scoreboards lighting. That’s all we could’ve asked for. Corral might’ve tailed off a touch after the ankle injury he suffered against Tennessee, but make no mistake. The guy was excellent. He turned into a bonafide first-round prospect because his command of the offense was taken to a new level. All those skeptics who wanted to talk about his 5-interception and 6-interception game last year were quieted in 2021. Corral got significantly better against drop-8 coverage, and he only threw 3 interceptions in his first 11 games.
But it’s always more than just the accuracy with Corral. He’s got juice. You see the way he can, when healthy, truck a defender.
Après Arkansas et Tennessee, Ole Miss tape LSU.
Matt Corral (18/23, 185 yards, 2 TDs) toujours en patron.
4 possessions consécutives avec des points et les Rebels ont croqué les Tigers (31-17). pic.twitter.com/a2VoaysPN5
— #MidMajors (@MidnightCampus) October 25, 2021
His fire, his leadership and his maturation have been one of the better SEC things to watch in the last 2 years. He turned into a special college player after Kiffin and Lebby arrived. Matt Corrals don’t grow on trees.
South Carolina — I can’t get enough Shane Beamer postgame moments with his family
Maybe I’m just a sucker for this type of stuff, but every time South Carolina wins, I feel like the TV crew captures at least 1 special moment with Beamer’s entire family hugging him. That includes his dad, Frank Beamer, his mom, his wife and his kids.
Awesome moment for Shane Beamer.
After the postgame interview, he hugs his wife, then his dad, his daughter and his mom. pic.twitter.com/Bx46gz6mOi
— Connor O’Gara (@cjogara) November 7, 2021
Beamer always feels like the most popular guy in the room, and after somehow knocking off the likes of Florida and Auburn, he’s certainly earned the right to be the most popular man in Columbia.
He’s a first-year coach who is clearly soaking in every bit of this experience. It might not always be this wholesome. Lord knows this league chews up and spits coaches out unlike any in the sport. Beamer might not always have that same boyish charm once the actual expectations set in. For now, though, Beamer can do no wrong in the Palmetto State.
Tennessee — Hendon Hooker became a thing
I almost said I’m thankful that Joe Milton didn’t keep Tennessee’s starting quarterback job, but that would be far too negative on a day like today. Instead, I took the high road and chose to praise Hooker, who has become one of the better signal-callers in the country in his first year — and perhaps his only year — in Josh Heupel’s offense. He might not have Milton’s arm, but Hooker has shown his ability to stretch the field and also take off and make plays with his legs. He’s also got the highest quarterback rating under pressure (via PFF).
Hendon Hooker: 134.5 Passer Rating while under pressure
Best in college football 🔥pic.twitter.com/6voNMVD6MB
— PFF College Football (@PFF_College) October 28, 2021
The Virginia Tech transfer has been everything that Tennessee fans could’ve hoped for, and then some. Even though he wasn’t recruited by Heupel’s staff, he’s proving to be an ideal fit in this offense, which ranks No. 3 in the SEC and No. 11 nationally. The guy ranks No. 4 in FBS in quarterback rating with a 24-3 touchdown-interception ratio. Not bad for a guy who wasn’t QB1 to start the year.
(I know I said I’d stop referencing that, but I just can’t stop. I’ll never know how Milton beat out Hooker.)
Hooker still has another year of eligibility, to technically, it’s not a forgone conclusion that he’s 1-and-done in Knoxville. I’d be especially thankful if he decided to run it back for 1 more year on Rocky Top.
Texas A&M — Mike Elko put together a truly special defense
It’s one thing to watch a special individual defensive player like a Will Anderson. It’s another to watch a group that’s loaded with NFL-ready talent at every level of the defense. For the first time since A&M joined the ACC, that’s exactly what we’ve seen in College Station. It wouldn’t surprise me to see 5-6 A&M defensive players drafted this year alone.
DeMarvin Leal is the headliner, and understandably so. He plays inside and outside because he rushes the passer and blows up ball-carriers. Jayden Peevy returned and become the force that Aggie fans hoped he would, as has Michael Clemons and Tyree Johnson. I’d expect all of those stud defensive linemen to be off to the NFL. Johnson technically can return for Year 6, but he won SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week 3 different times, so nobody would be surprised to see him leave.
Between that defensive line, Aaron Hansford at linebacker and Leon O’Neal with Demani Richardson in that secondary, the Aggies are about to lose the majority of that special group to the NFL. Antonio Johnson will be one of the league’s top returning players after a breakout sophomore season as Elko’s Swiss Army Knife. A&M has the No. 2 scoring defense in the country behind only Georgia. It’s a championship-level group that set a new defensive standard in College Station.
Vanderbilt — Mike Wright provided some much needed juice
I realize that Vandy is likely about to complete its second consecutive season without an SEC win. There’s not a whole lot to be thankful for if you’re a Vandy fan. But those who have watched this team in the last month will tell you that there’s been some life with Wright as the team’s quarterback. That’s not a shot at Ken Seals, but with that offensive line, you need someone back there who can move. Wright can do just that.
He’s developing as a passer, too. His growing connection with Chris Pierce was evident in that Ole Miss game, especially. A lot of people would be surprised to know that Wright helped Vandy cover the spread in 3 consecutive SEC games. It’s be interesting to see if he ends up being the starter moving into next year, as well. At the very least, he made a previously horrendous Vandy offense much more tolerable.