Ranking the SEC's Top 10 performances from Week 9
Well, Week 9 was fun.
Of course, the big stories coming out of the weekend involved coaches getting fired. Florida officially cut ties with Jim McElwain on Sunday, and Tennessee was under enormous pressure from the fan base to do the same, though Butch Jones still had his job at the time of this article.
But while those stories dominated on Sunday, other SEC coaches, players and teams around the league rested and enjoyed themselves. Mississippi State secured a solid road win at Texas A&M, while Arkansas and Bret Bielema picked up their first league victory of the season. There were plenty of other impressive performances as well.
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Here are the 10 best from Week 9, with coaches, players and teams eligible for consideration:
10. Jordan Ta’amu
Ole Miss fans weren’t happy on Saturday after their team blew a 31-7 first half lead against Arkansas and lost 38-37. But it wasn’t all bad for the Rebels. All last week, everyone wondered how Ta’amu would look in a full game in place of starting quarterback Shea Patterson. Ta’amu’s performance was more than respectable. He didn’t have a passing touchdown, but he completed two-thirds of his passes and racked up 368 yards through the air.
9. Kentucky pass rush
This unit had seven sacks against Tennessee in a 29-26 win in Lexington (just the Wildcats’ second win against the Volunteers in the past 33 seasons). Kentucky’s three leading tacklers — Jordan Jones, Mike Edwards and Denzil Ware — each had a sack. All in all, eight Wildcats penetrated the Tennessee offensive line and contributed to the sack total. Had these ‘Cats not wreaked havoc on Tennessee quarterback Jarrett Guarantano the way they did, the final score may have looked different.
8. Drew Lock
You probably already saw this one coming, considering UConn came into Saturday with the nation’s worst pass defense. But even though this has become standard practice for Lock, that’s no reason to leave him off the list of impressive performances. With 377 passing yards, five touchdowns and no picks against the Huskies, he’s well-deserving of a spot in this week’s Top 10. Moreover, he completed 31 of his 37 pass attempts (83.8 percent).
7. Ty Chandler
Tennessee lost its best player, running back John Kelly, last week after he was cited with a misdemeanor marijuana charge. His backup, Chandler, had huge shoes to fill on Saturday night. And though his team lost, he came up big. Chandler rushed for 120 yards and two touchdowns in Kelly’s absence and helped provide balance for an offense that put up 445 total yards. The Vols’ offense has been abysmal this season, but Chandler might provide a needed spark.
6. Sony Michel
Speaking of running backs … Michel was phenomenal again on Saturday. Georgia’s No. 2 running back (it seems unfair calling him that considering how good he is) ran for 137 yards and two touchdowns — onb just six carries. He gained 74 of those rushing yards on one play in the first quarter, busting through the Florida defense and taking it to the house to put the ‘Dawgs up 21-0. That’s not a knock on him for having inflated numbers. It’s more proof of how great he was in UGA’s 42-7 win.
5. Johnny Townsend
If you follow this list of performance rankings each week, you know kickers and other special teams players often make the Top 10. For the first time this season, a punter has made the list. Florida’s Townsend was phenomenal in Saturday’s loss to Georgia. He might have been the Gators’ lone bright spot. Townsend punted seven times for a 54.4 yard average and a long of 70. It’s no wonder he leads the SEC in punting.
4. Kyle Shurmur
Like Ole Miss, like Tennessee, like Florida … Vanderbilt’s top performer was at his best in a game his team lost. But Shurmur certainly delivered. The Commodores quarterback threw for 333 yards and four touchdowns, to three receivers, in a 34-27 loss to South Carolina on Saturday. Shurmur continuously kept Vanderbilt in the game, but the Commodores didn’t have enough in the tank to overcome a two-score deficit.
Nothing on the stat line would indicate that Arkansas had an impressive performance on Saturday — especially when it trailed 31-7 in Oxford. Who would have thought that this downtrodden Razorbacks squad, which had lost its previous four SEC games this season, would rally in the second half? Props to the Hogs and head coach Bret Bielema — whose seat was just about as hot as any SEC coach coming into the weekend — for pulling off an incredible comeback.
2. Dan Mullen
It’s safe to say Mississippi State had the best SEC win considering the quality of its opponent. Mullen’s squad went into College Station and stepped on Texas A&M’s face for four quarters. The Bulldogs were in complete control from start to finish of a 35-14 win. The Aggies had won five of its previous six, with the lone loss coming to No. 1 Alabama. Now, State fans won’t want to hear this, but Mullen was a big winner in more than one way. Sure, his team won, but he also improved his stock again on the coaching carousel. If he is looking into leaving Starkville, he’d likely be a prime candidate for at least one school.
1. Benny Snell Jr.
You’ve gotta hand it to Big Benny Snell. Literally … Hand him the ball. This guy punished Tennessee’s measly defense Saturday night, and it made it look easy. Snell’s stat line: 27 carries, 180 yards, three touchdowns. Not a bad day. The sophomore running back’s numbers weren’t inflated by a huge run, either. He and the offensive line just dominated the Vols’ front seven. Snell also caught the two-point conversion pass from quarterback Stephen Johnson late in the fourth quarter to give Kentucky a three-point lead and its final points of the game.