SEC Winners and Losers after Week 8: Heisman campaign, clipboard throw & bad defense
SEC Week 8 was a lot of sitting around and waiting … then an offensive explosion. With only 3/7ths of league games going as scheduled, at least the teams that played gave us something to watch and plenty to ponder. So let’s consider the winners and losers of SEC Week 8.
Kyle Trask’s Heisman Campaign
Why not? COVID-19 and the Notre Dame loss dropped Trevor Lawrence down the list. Mac Jones is impressive, but Trask has been making noise in Gainesville. The Gators have become a legitimate CFP hopeful and destroyed two solid defenses in the past two weeks. Trask’s 28 touchdowns to 3 interceptions in 6/10ths of an all-SEC schedule is simply absurd.
Lane Kiffin’s Clipboard and Play Sheet
Have we occasionally been a bit reluctant to buy in on Lane Kiffin? The Biblical prodigal son would think that Kiffin has some issues with running off, but if he isn’t settling into calm middle aged maturity, Kiffin is at least having a lot of fun. Ole Miss is perennially among the lowest spending football schools in the SEC and the Rebels have rarely been a significant factor in a West Division race in the history of SEC division races.
But Kiffin has brought mojo by simply having fun — not only putting up an Indy 500 on grass offense, but then throwing his clipboard and/or play sheet in the air when good things happen. You’d have to think any big-time recruits who throw or catch are watching … and contemplating heading to Oxford.
On the other hand, again, credit goes to the guy who isn’t celebrating like a wild man. After 7 games this season, Moore has 74 catches for 1,054 yards and 8 touchdowns. To do all of this on the heels of his fake peeing in the end zone fiasco to end 2019 … well, it does show that good things can happen in 2020. To say that Moore has adapted well to Kiffin’s offense is the understatement of the year.
Kentucky’s physical running back, built in the mold of Benny Snell, has distanced himself from starter A.J. Rose and reserve Kavosiey Smoke during the season. Kentucky’s string of four consecutive seasons with a 1,000-yard rushers looked destined to end with the 10-game, SEC-only season. But Chris Rodriguez, with 149 yards on Saturday, keeps hope alive to continue that streak. He’s 438 yards shy, with potentially 4 games remaining.
The late John Schlarman
Plenty has been said and written about the passing of the 45-year-old Kentucky offensive line coach. One thing that bears repeating: Cancer did not defeat Schlarman. It shortened his days way too far, but Schlarman remained a sharp football mind and a great example of leadership through the end of his battle. He fought bravely and well. He now leaves the fight to the rest of us, who would do well to follow his example.
The explosion of SEC passing games appears to have coincided with the league’s defenses regressing into a Big 12-like model. Georgia has the SEC’s top defense, at 20.8 points per game allowed. It pretty well was rocked by Florida and Alabama. Week 8 was a great example of the league’s issues. The standout defenses were Florida and Kentucky, neither of which played well and each of which allowed 35 points to fairly underwhelming opponents.
South Carolina has the league’s top rusher by a margin of more than 100 yards in Kevin Harris. Playing an Ole Miss team that had literally no answer for him (25 carries for 243 yards), the Gamecocks decided to throw the ball 29 times for no particularly good reason. Between that and a complete inability to even slow the Ole Miss offense, South Carolina’s season slipped farther behind the 8 ball.
Arkansas’s collision with the talent ceiling
Arkansas has been the feel-good story of 2020 in the SEC, perhaps along with Mizzou. But this week was a big-time collision with the fact that there are the top four teams in the SEC and then there’s everybody else. Arkansas has been among the best of the rest, but Florida rolled with ease over the gutty Razorbacks defense. There’s still a very bright future for this program under Sam Pittman, but Saturday was a reminder that there’s still some work to be done.