Oh, no and 3: Takeaways from the SEC's lackluster start to bowl season
It certainly hasn’t meant more to the SEC just yet. An 0-3 start to bowl season was not exactly what the doctor ordered, but at the very least, it was entertaining. None of the SEC’s 7-win teams could get that 8th win, all of whom lost in frustrating fashion.
Here were the takeaways from the SEC’s winless start to bowl season:
1. Barry Odom has his work cut out for him
Remember that Missouri winning streak coming into the Texas Bowl? Well, it faded pretty quickly when the Tigers lost a game that many expected them to win. That’s the thing about bowls. They’re a huge factor in public perception.
Right now, the perception is that there’s a whole lot of pressure on Odom to get his offensive coordinator hire right. If he doesn’t, Drew Lock could leave for the NFL. There’s also that all-too-real possibility that Missouri’s offense flounders and it can’t save Odom’s lackluster defense like it did in 2017.
Odom might actually have the most pressure on him of any SEC coach this offseason. His defense has to improve, and his offensive coordinator has to fit in seamlessly. He has to beat at least 1 quality foe. He has to look like he’s the coach of the future, and not just the coach who benefitted from having one of the nation’s top offensive coordinators.
That’ll be easier said than done.
2. I want Christian Kirk on my football team
Say what you want about Texas A&M’s defensive effort. It was horrific. It lacked motivation. It looked like a depleted unit. All of those criticisms are fair.
But man, Kirk is one heck of a football player.
In case some were wondering if he was going to play with any reservations with his likely NFL exit, those concerns were squashed in a hurry. What a closing note for his illustrious career. Kirk recorded 13 catches for 189 receiving yards and 3 touchdowns — all three career-highs — for a Texas A&M offense that did everything it could to end 2017 with a victory.
Christian Kirk just delivered this nasty stiffarm en route to a 9-yard TD catch. Aggies now trail 38-35 with 12:51 left. pic.twitter.com/AFSylkIPnw
— Ben Baby (@Ben_Baby) December 29, 2017
Kirk is going to make some money in the NFL, and inevitably, he’s going to become a prolific slot receiver/return man. I would take him on my team in a heartbeat, especially after watching the way he bounced back after getting his leg rolled up on in the third quarter. His numbers speak for themselves. So does his work ethic.
Those liver smoothies will be fueling an outstanding player for years to come.
3. Nick Starkel should have a big leg up to win the starting job
If you were looking for positives from the wild Belk Bowl, Starkel was certainly one of them. Yes, that interception was awful, as was the fumble. But Starkel finished the day with 499 passing yards and 4 touchdowns. Wake Forest really didn’t have an answer (on defense) for the Aggies passing game.
Even better for Starkel’s long-term future was the fact that Kellen Mond was used for one play. Jimbo Fisher was in the house, and you know he was taking notes on the Aggies quarterbacks. Starkel needed to make a big-time statement that he should be the front-runner for the job this offseason.
It’s hard to argue with nearly 500 passing yards and 52 points.
4. That Benny Snell ejection was trash
My goodness. Was this really enough to even warrant a flag?
Kentucky RB Benny Snell Jr. was ejected for this. What a bleeping joke pic.twitter.com/5M0KV24DGi
— Dustin Schutte (@Schutte_B1GFB) December 29, 2017
The fact that one of the most valuable players in the country was ejected for doing that was a travesty. There are no two ways about it. You know it’s bad when even Northwestern fans are saying how bad of a call it is. That was the case for Snell after he simply refused to allow an official to help him up.
And for all the people saying “well, he could’ve said something.” The sensitive official ruled that Snell was ejected for “making contact with an official.” That’s not saying some choice words. That’s saying the contact was too much.
I understand that officials make mistakes, but in a bowl game, you cannot make that kind of error in judgment. That’s awful on every level.
5. Can you really even take anything from the Music City Bowl?
I mean, what a joke. It’s hard to even consider that a real football game when the officials dictate so much of the outcome. The aforementioned Snell ejection was a travesty. Equally awful was the fact that officials refused to call a late hit while Stephen Johnson was pile-driven out of bounds.
Stephen Johnson injures his right shoulder on this hit, that was not called for a late hit (pretty egregious takedown)
And Kentucky got an unsportsmanlike for complaining, apparently. This is awful. pic.twitter.com/vMaVWtAC9E
— Dr. Saturday (@YahooDrSaturday) December 29, 2017
Johnson was, um, not pleased. You better believe he wanted at least one flag there. There should’ve been. He went to the locker room and had to have his shoulder checked out.
But wait, there’s more!
Northwestern’s Paddy Fisher then got ejected for targeting … on this hit.
— Dr. Saturday (@YahooDrSaturday) December 29, 2017
Pat Fitzgerald said that might’ve been the worst call he had ever seen in the history of college football. You know it’s a rough day when each team has an argument for that before they even go to the locker room.
Keep in mind that the woeful officiating calls came after Northwestern quarterback Clayton Thorson injured his knee on a halfback pass and didn’t return. By halftime, both backup quarterbacks were in and Justin Jackson was the only household name left on the field.
All of those pregame factors went out the window and it became a game in which both teams looked completely different, and a big reason was because of poor officiating. That shouldn’t happen in a regular season game, much less a bowl game.
That quickly became an exhibition game, and that’s a shame.
6. That 2-team Playoff bid is saving the SEC
So you know all of those people ripping the SEC for that 0-3 start to bowl season? Well, that would be a pretty big deal if the SEC only had one team in the Playoff and not two. Instead, the SEC still has the conference supremacy argument (at least it should) because it achieved history, and it can achieve some more history with an Alabama-Georgia national championship.
Sure, it’s not a good look for the SEC. Losing to the ACC, Big 12 and B1G isn’t the best look to start the postseason, but that argument stops when the 2-team bid discussion comes back.
It just might take a little longer for those “SEC! SEC!” chants to get going this year.