Winners and losers of the SEC after Week 5: A new QB, a new DC, and those @#$% officials
With several of the top teams in the SEC off in Week 5, it turned into a battle between a group of half-beaten-up junkyard dogs (and Alabama beating on Tennessee). Auburn, Missouri, and LSU each picked up wins that gave their awkward 2020 seasons a shot of positive mojo. Ole Miss, Kentucky, and South Carolina all were left wondering about the rest of the season. We’ll take a little deeper dive into the winners and losers of the SEC.
So much for the thought to open the season that Jones would be a game manager. Then some thought that the Alabama quarterback’s success must just be a result of the stars around him. Stars such as Jaylen Waddle. So when Waddle gets hurt on the game’s opening kickoff, all Jones did was … well, the same thing he’s done every week. Saturday against Tennessee, Jones was 25 for 31 for 387 yards and 3 touchdowns. There is a possibility that (very far) down the line, losing Waddle will hurt the Tide offense. There’s also the possibility that they just keep blowing everybody away. And Jones is a significant part of that possibility.
If you watched South Carolina’s mind games on Finley’s first trip near the goal line, you might have worried about the true frosh QB who started for LSU. But there was no reason to worry — the kid was fine. Finley was 17 for 21 for 265 yards with 3 total touchdowns — two passing and another on the ground. His game management was superb and LSU did a good job of not asking him to do anything too crazy — just to throw the ball to playmakers in space and let them do the rest.
We’ve given a lot of credit to Barry Odom and his good work as defensive coordinator at Arkansas. But it’s not like Missouri just forgot about defense. Ryan Walters’ group shut Kentucky down virtually all day in Columbia. That set the tone for the Tigers offense to hold the ball, run the clock, and pick up a crucial second straight SEC win.
With Auburn trailing by a point and backed into a corner, perhaps the SEC’s most underrated wide receiver did what he does: Snagging a short Bo Nix pass and making game-winning magic happen. Williams had 8 catches for 150 yards including the 58-yard reception for a touchdown with 1:11 left in the game. If Auburn can salvage the 2020 season, Williams will be at the middle of it.
On a week where several teams stumbled, they should take some inspiration from Palmer. The reserve LSU receiver (3 career catches) muffed a kickoff, went back and gathered the ball in … and took it 93 yards to the house for a touchdown. It’s not always how you start, but how you end up that matters.
South Carolina’s defensive line
The Gamecocks expected to be competitive at LSU and they just flat weren’t. Much of that falls on the South Carolina defensive front. With LSU breaking in a new (freshman) starting quarterback, the Gamecocks got blown off the ball to the tune of 276 rushing yards on 54 carries. South Carolina did little to get to Finley, either. The Gamecocks ended up with no sacks no QB hurries, and just 2 tackles for loss.
Lane Kiffin’s clock management
Ole Miss did its fans proud by hanging around Auburn and nearly pulling off the win (more on this below). But during the Rebels’ final offensive possession, Lane Kiffin sat on two timeouts, watching the clock burn down needlessly. Matt Corral’s final pass didn’t even reach the end zone. After the Rebels seemed utterly unaware of time, it’s not hard to figure out why.
It’s Auburn again. A crucial kick glanced off the leg of an Auburn player, rolled into the end zone and was recovered by Ole Miss for what should have been a touchdown. The officials missed it in real time (despite the Auburn player circling back desperately after the ball), but on replay … well, nothing happened. Apparently, the SEC replay crew looked at the ball hitting the Auburn returner and determined that the ball didn’t hit him. Whoops, another near-Auburn loss that magically disappears. Pitiful.
The Wildcats had 47 yards passing. 8 first downs. 36 total plays. 16:50 time of possession. The numbers illustrate Kentucky’s problems on offense, as well as QB Terry Wilson looking confused for three hours. Kentucky offensive coordinator Eddie Gran has made a reputation as the Fred Sanford of SEC coordinators. Which is good, because Kentucky’s offense looked like a massive hunk of junk on Saturday.