Winners and losers of the SEC after Week 6: Standouts, bouncebacks and an ugly scrum
Much of the SEC season so far has been back-and-forth close games, turning often on a missed call that favors Auburn. Well, that’s sort of a joke. But in any case, Week 6 didn’t get the memo. This week had two 11-point wins that weren’t really close were about as exciting as it got. Otherwise, the margins in question were 24, 33, 37 and 41 points. The good news is that Week 6 left us with plenty of winners and losers. Here’s our weekly deep dive.
How do you handle losing a big-time wide receiver like Jaylen Waddle? If you’re Alabama, you just tell your other All-America level wideout to post a 200-yard game, grab four touchdowns and tie the school’s all-time career receiving TD mark. Smith is one pace to top 100 catches this season and if he needs a few more grabs in the post-Waddle world, well, he’s fine with it.
The guy who was the butt of the joke that led to Matt Luke’s firing has certainly turned over a new leaf under Lane Kiffin. Moore’s second 200-yard game of the season has him closing in on 1,000 receiving yards already. And the highlight of his 6 receiving TDs in 2020? Nobody will ever have to tell Moore to act like he’s been there again!
Just when we were wondering if this group actually existed, they showed up against Missouri. Granted, the Tigers won’t be mistaken for the late ‘80s San Francisco 49ers anytime soon, but holding them to 1.7 yards per carry and 248 total yards while forcing 2 turnovers renders Florida as perhaps a mild favorite to take down UGA next week.
Speaking of much-maligned groups, the Tiger offense put it all together against LSU. Rushing for 200 yards is something Auburn should approach week in and week out. With Tank Bigsby developing by the week, that could well continue. Meanwhile, the ground threat opened things up for Bo Nix to post a 300 yard passing game, his first since a game against Ole Miss 364 days ago. Beating LSU wasn’t shocking, but steam-rolling them was a little impressive.
Other than DeVonta Smith, there’s a definite theme to this winners list. Every guy or group here has been maligned, has faced critics. Granted, most of them weren’t related to feigning urination in the end zone, but everybody has their own issues. As for Mond, he looked doomed to just never be quite good enough. A good game would be followed by a turnover-fest or an ugly grinder of a game. But in 2020, the Texas A&M quarterback has been rock-steady. On the night that he passed Johnny Manziel on A&M’s total-yardage list, Mond completed over 80% of his passes, averaged 10 yards per pass and avoided any turnovers. For the season, Mond is completing just under 65% of his passes, and his ratio of 12 touchdowns to 2 interceptions demonstrates his maturity and consistent excellence. Other guys will put up bigger stat lines (Mac Jones, Kyle Trask, etc), but Mond’s time is now.
What a weird season. In recent weeks, Mullen spoke out against fan limits, got COVID-19, fired up the home crowd after a halftime scrap, then went to his postgame press conference dressed as Darth Vader. Maybe Mullen has had the most on-brand 2020 season of any SEC coach.
The Missouri defense/bench-clearing scrum
Giving up 500 yards and 40 points wasn’t a good thing, but the reason Mizzou is here is the dirty hit on Kyle Trask that created a bench-clearing fracas. While it certainly takes two to tango, it’s not surprising that Florida took exception to the play. The whole thing was a bizarre moment of ugliness that we could all live without.
Air Raid in Starkville
After Week 1, the narrative was how nobody could stop Mike Leach and that the SEC wasn’t ready for his Air Raid offense. Halfway through the Bulldogs season, that theory hasn’t aged well. MSU is 13th in the 14-team SEC in scoring offense, a touchdown per game behind Kentucky and a field goal per game ahead of Vanderbilt. MSU is averaging 30 yards per game on the ground via 1.7 yards per carry. Meanwhile, though the Bulldogs are averaging 318 passing yards per game, they are dead last in pass efficiency because of 14 interceptions. That is more than Missouri, Kentucky, Alabama, Florida, Texas A&M and South Carolina combined.
Dead last in the SEC in total offense, at 294 yards per game, the 2-4 Wildcats could well be 4-2 or even 5-1 had they brought just an average offense to this season. Frustratingly, Kentucky is 2nd in the SEC in rushing, but the passing game has been the worst in the SEC by 70 yards per game. Not only does the passing game not produce results, but it’s 13th in the SEC in pass efficiency. Kentucky is 3rd in the SEC in total defense, but games like Saturday’s, when UK had 229 total yards and exactly one play longer than 12 yards, have doomed UK to the lower half of the SEC.
They lost to one-win Mississippi State and two-win Missouri, then the Tigers got boat-raced by Auburn. Bo Pelini’s defense has faced the SEC’s 6th, 8th, 10th, 13th, and 14th scoring offenses … and has given up 33.6 points per game, good for 12th in the league. Coach Ed Orgeron wasn’t shy about indicating that Dave Aranda was at fault for a disconnect between that blazing Tiger offense of 2019 and the LSU defense. But while Aranda won a national title, the Tigers look certain to finish sub-.500 without him. Yes, some key offensive losses matter, as has the injury to Myles Brennan. But LSU is having a nightmare season and the Auburn game was an appropriate Halloween match-up.