Week 10 SEC QB Power Rankings: Preseason favorites all struggling
I’ve written it before and I’ll write it again: It wasn’t supposed to be a banner season at quarterback in the SEC.
Nevertheless, nobody could have predicted this back at Media Days in July. The preseason first-, second- and third-team QBs were Chad Kelly of Ole Miss, Joshua Dobbs of Tennessee and (gulp) Brandon Harris of LSU, respectively.
The Rebels and Volunteers are two of the most disappointing teams in the country, with Kelly and Dobbs both deserving their fair share of the blame. Mississippi is struggling with bowl eligibility. The Vols went from atop the East to looking up at basketball-centric Kentucky in a stunningly short period of time.
As for Harris, he was mercifully benched in Week 2. While we’ve had some pleasant surprises this year, the fact that Harris was regarded as a potential all-conference passer is quite telling about the talent pool.
Here are my quarterback rankings entering Week 10. The top and bottom are easy to determine, but the middle is a muddled mess.
14. Kyle Shurmur
Last week: 14
Of the 13 signal callers in the league who qualify, Shurmur is 12th in passer efficiency rating with a mark of 102.3.
Also, he’s 12th in completion percentage (53) and dead last in touchdown-to-interception ratio (4-to-3). The only player beneath him in efficiency and completion percentage is South Carolina’s Brandon McIlwain, who has been benched.
Facing Auburn on Saturday, Shurmur better have a big day for Vanderbilt. The Tigers defend the run better than the pass.
13. Drew Lock
Last week: 10
No quarterback in the SEC has flown up and down these rankings on a weekly basis more violently this season than Lock.
Second in the conference in passing yards (2,215) and tied for first in TD passes (18), his numbers mean very little since Missouri has lost four consecutive and occupies the East cellar. The Tigers are tumbling these days.
Lock can rack up stats in the first half against bad teams and in garbage time against good teams. He’s proven nothing else, though.
12. Stephen Johnson
Last week: 12
Very quietly, Johnson has won three consecutive starts and placed Kentucky second in the East ahead of Tennessee and Georgia.
As coincidence would have it, the Wildcats take on the Bulldogs at home and then the Volunteers on the road the next two weeks. Facing the other division titan in Week 2, Florida, they were blown off the field 45-7.
Johnson augmented the ‘Cats running game with 208 yards through the air defeating Mizzou in Week 9, although he’s yet to beat a team of consequence.
11. Nick Fitzgerald
Last week: 13
This league’s version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, you never know what to expect from Fitzgerald week to week.
This past Saturday, he threw for 417 yards, ran for 119 more and accounted for 7 total touchdowns. Still, it was against a Samford program that hung with Mississippi State much longer than the talent disparity suggests it should have.
Fitzgerald has thrown a combined 6 interceptions vs. his past four foes, with only Auburn fielding a respectable defense among them.
10. Jake Bentley
Last week: 11
Admittedly, I was lukewarm on Bentley after his first career start in Week 8. So he beat a bad UMass club. Big deal.
But to my surprise, he helped orchestrate an upset of Tennessee seven days later. His numbers against the Minutemen and Volunteers were somewhat similar, too. In two games, he’s 32-of-46 for 368 yards with 4 TDs and 0 INTs.
Even if the Vols are unraveling as we speak, that’s a legit SEC roster. South Carolina just might have found a QB in Bentley.
9. Jacob Eason
Last week: 8
Speaking of unraveling, Georgia has now lost four of five and looked atrocious offensively in a Cocktail Party loss to Florida.
A true freshman, Eason wasn’t supposed to carry the Bulldogs immediately. Right now, his blocking is awful, his running game isn’t living up to the hype and his receivers don’t catch the ball consistently. The kid needs help.
The five-star phenom is going to be an outstanding quarterback one of these days, but this isn’t the formula for Dawgs football.
8. Luke Del Rio
Last week: 9
On the other end of the Cocktail Party, Del Rio was 15-of-25 for 131 yards with 1 TD and 1 INT in that 24-10 win over Georgia.
His first throw of the game was definitely his worst, as he fired late back across his body over the middle of the field. Bulldogs safety Dominick Sanders will never have an easier interception at the college level.
Florida took the air out of the ball in the second half after grabbing the lead. At best, Del Rio is the proverbial “game manager.”
7. Joshua Dobbs
Last week: 6
Tennessee’s season was pretty easy to explain up until this past week’s head-scratching upset at the hands of South Carolina.
Dobbs was again too loose with the ball, throwing a pair of interceptions and also losing a fumble. His 11 INTs are three more than any other QB in the conference. The senior has been a turnover machine in 2016, plain and simple.
Losers of three straight and now dealing with the sudden departure of running back Jalen Hurd, there is serious turmoil on Rocky Top.
6. Danny Etling
Last week: 7
No matter if he beats Alabama on Saturday or not, the move to bench Harris in favor of Etling was clearly the right thing to do.
Since Les Miles was canned and replaced with Ed Orgeron on an interim basis, LSU has scored 42, 45 and 38 points during its three-game winning streak. The transfer from Purdue has completed 49-of-76 passes along the way.
The Tigers have only allowed 11 sacks this year, but the Crimson Tide lead the country with 32. Etling better make up his mind quickly.
5. Chad Kelly
Last week: 4
Unthinkable at the beginning of the campaign, Ole Miss is presently bringing up the rear in the West with a 1-4 mark in league play.
Kelly has put up numbers, no question about it. His 316.5 yards passing per game are tops in the SEC by a wide margin. However, he’s completing throws at a lesser rate than a year ago and keeps chucking the ball to the other team.
If Knoxville weren’t such a dumpster fire these days, we’d be hearing more questions about what’s gone wrong in Oxford.
4. Sean White
Last week: 5
Due to the strength of his running game, White outdueled Kelly in Week 9 despite throwing about a third the amount of passes.
Still the top-rated passer in the SEC at an even 159, it’s hard to be impressed with 8 touchdown tosses in eight contests. That being said, he averages a conference-best 9.2 yards per attempt, so he makes the most of each throw.
The ground game gets the majority of the headlines on The Plains, but somebody has to steer the ship. White has done so increasingly well.
3. Trevor Knight
Last week: 3
Knight was happy to see New Mexico State come to College Station after getting beaten up badly seven days prior at Alabama.
The former Oklahoma quarterback was 15-of-24 passing, the first time he’s crossed the 60-percent threshold all season long. Curiously, he only picked up 3 yards on 5 rushes. He still has 529 yards rushing on the year, though.
The Aggies have an outside shot to make it to the College Football Playoff. They’ll need Knight to be effective both throwing and running.
2. Austin Allen
Last week: 2
Bruised and battered for eight straight weeks behind a faulty offensive line, Allen surely needed last week’s bye.
The first-year starter has been a revelation for Arkansas and performed incredibly well from a statistical perspective. Losing to Alabama and Auburn in a three-week span was rough, but he has very good arm talent.
Allen could be running for his life again in Week 10. Florida visits Fayetteville having just harassed the hell out of Eason.
1. Jalen Hurts
Last week: 1
Alabama might still be the No. 1 team in America with another player lining up at the game’s most important position.
Having said that, the Crimson Tide no doubt wouldn’t be as dangerous offensively. Hurts offers the kind of dual-threat ability that simply wasn’t on the table with the likes of Blake Barnett, Cooper Bateman or David Cornwell.
Offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin has worked wonders with the true freshman. Expectations have been exceeded across the board.