The anti-Heisman: Ranking the SEC MVP candidates after Week 3
Holy cow. This is getting tough. Week after week, the best players in the conference keep proving themselves to be just that. Meanwhile, more standouts are putting up performances equally worthy of recognition.
Maybe we should expand this to a top 20. Or maybe an 18-way tie for third would be better.
But we won’t take the coward’s way out. We’ll keep splitting ever-finer hairs, weighing the recent greatness with the proven track records and formulating our list of the SEC’s best.
For the first-time readers, here’s the mission statement:
We’re endeavoring to sort out the conference’s best players by taking into account all the things the Heisman voters tend to leave out. To top our list, you don’t need to be a household name playing for a national title contender — though, if we’re being honest, it doesn’t hurt. We aim to find the best player in the conference who is also his team’s most indispensable piece.
So we’re going to try not to overreact to one week’s results and will take into account a player’s track record. As we move deeper into the season, the reputation a player has developed over the course of a career will fade in the equation, replaced proportionately by what they’ve done for their teams lately.
The goal is noble, the means are modest, and our aim is at least as true as a Jeremy Johnson back-shoulder fade.
10. Cam Robinson, Alabama
Last week: 7
Though Bama quarterbacks were harassed throughout Saturday night’s loss to Ole Miss, Robinson did his part. He remains among the best linemen in the country and holds onto his spot in the top 10 even with others (namely LSU’s mauling right tackle Vadal Alexander) closing in.
9. Vernon Hargreaves III, Florida
Last week: 10
Hargreaves returned to the field Saturday night and the Gators were glad to have him back. The standout cornerback intercepted a pass and returned it 53 yards to the 19-yard line, setting up one of only two Florida touchdowns in a 14-9 win over Kentucky. On the night, Wildcats quarterback Patrick Towles completed just 8 of 24 passes for 126 yards.
8. Derrick Henry, Alabama
Last week: 5
Henry ran for 127 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries against a top-flight defense, so the fact that he slides a bit in the rankings is more a reflection of those ahead of him than any shortfall of his own. Henry currently ranks third in the conference with 123 rushing yards per game and leads the SEC with seven rushing scores through three contests.
7. Chad Kelly, Ole Miss
Last week: 8
It wasn’t perfect, but even with its shaky moments, Kelly’s first SEC road start was no less impressive. Without much of a running game to lean on, Kelly led the Rebels to their first win in Tuscaloosa since 1988, about six years before Kelly was born. He benefited from one fortuitous bounce on a 66-yard touchdown pass to Quincy Adeboyejo, but the JUCO transfer never let the enormity of the stage get the better of him and finished with 341 passing yards, three passing touchdowns and one rushing score.
6. Kentrell Brothers, Missouri
Last week: 3
Brothers added 10 more tackles and a blocked extra point in the Tigers’ 9-6 win over Connecticut, leading a defense that was Missouri’s saving grace. He’s now up to 42 tackles through three games, leading the conference by nearly three tackles per contest.
5. Myles Garrett, Texas A&M
Last week: 10
Garrett zooms past other MVP candidates this week like so many heavy-footed left tackles. On Saturday against Nevada, the Aggies’ sophomore defensive end did what he does: wreak utter havoc in opposing backfields. He finished with seven tackles, 3.5 sacks and two hurries, and now leads the SEC with 5.5 sacks on the season. That puts him at an even 15 sacks through 15 games played in his collegiate career.
4. Robert Nkemdiche, Ole Miss
Last week: 6
Nkemdiche is to defensive linemen what Leonard Fournette is to running backs: too big to be that fast and too fast to be that big. In a game loaded with NFL talent, he looked like the best player on the field in the Rebels’ win over Alabama on Saturday and earned SEC Defensive Player of the Week honors with six tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss and 0.5 sacks.
3. Dak Prescott, Mississippi State
Last week: 2
Just a ho-hum 10-of-11 day for 227 yards and two touchdowns for Prescott, who led the Bulldogs to a 62-13 win over Northwestern State and became Mississippi State’s all-time leading passer in the process.
2. Leonard Fournette, LSU
Last week: 4
Did you see this game? Have you seen the highlights? Do we really need to make the case for Fournette? After 228 yards against Auburn, he’s now run for 387 yards and six scores in just two games this year.
1. Nick Chubb, Georgia
Last week: 1
While Fournette stole the show on Saturday, Chubb quietly went about the business of being consistently great. The sophomore is up to 11 consecutive games now with at least 100 rushing yards and is averaging 8.4 yards per carry on the season. Fournette has narrowed the gap here considerably and may eventually force a tie or overtake Chubb. But for now, we’re siding with Chubb’s consistency over Fournette’s fireworks.
One thing that’s not debatable: if you enjoy watching great running backs, the next year or two is going to be an amazing time to be an SEC football fan.