1 thing we learned about every SEC team in Week 4
The beauty of college football is that one Saturday can completely change our perspective on things.
For example, I expected a come-back-to-Earth game for Kentucky against Mississippi State. By the end of the night, it was clear that the Wildcats were still soaring to a new galaxy.
That revelation was a bit more noteworthy than others, but there were still plenty of things that we learned about each SEC team in Week 4:
Alabama — Nick Saban is desperate
To find some negativity with this year’s squad, that is. His team is so good that he’s literally asking the media for negativity. This is almost too Saban. Like, this could easily be part of an SEC Shorts or something. But when you’re 4-0 having dominated every opponent so far on both sides of the ball, the last thing he wants to read is that he has a super team on hand. You want some negativity, Saban? The offense could have been better with Jalen Hurts in there. There, I said it.
Arkansas — The defense definitely hasn’t given up
To be clear, I don’t think anyone on Arkansas’ roster has given up. I singled out the defense because in a game in which everyone expected the Hogs to get their doors blown off, they didn’t. If not for some special teams miscues, that could have been much more interesting down the stretch. Dre Greenlaw led an Arkansas attack that didn’t make life easy on Jarrett Stidham and the Auburn offense. Nobody would have predicted the Tigers to be held under 100 yards rushing. The result wasn’t there obviously, but at least it wasn’t much, much worse.
Auburn — The offense has a long way to go
It’d be fascinating to see where the Tigers would be right now without an elite defense because the offense definitely hasn’t been elite. Not counting special teams touchdowns, the Tigers are averaging just 23 points per game vs. FBS opponents. The inexperience up front has been evident for a team that took a step back in rushing. Not gaining 100 yards against Arkansas certainly wasn’t a good sign in the second SEC game of the year. And Jarrett Stidham having just 3 touchdown passes through 4 games certainly won’t bode well. He did start slow last year, though.
Florida — The Gators are capable of beating a Power 5 team
Remember, Florida was searching for its first Power 5 win since Sept. 2017. Technically, Tennessee counts as a Power 5 win. That means the streak of 7 Power 5 consecutive losses is over. The Gators took advantage of some horrendous Tennessee turnovers — still not sure how that fumble into the end zone happened — and rolled to an easy win in Knoxville. It’s never a bad day when Feleipe Franks completes 9 passes and Florida scores 47 points. And hey, Florida actually controlled the battle up front!
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) September 23, 2018
Something tells me the Gators’ next week at Mississippi State will be a touch more difficult.
Georgia — The line(s) has some improving to do
I was surprised at how even of a battle it was at the line of scrimmage between Georgia and Mizzou. I thought the Dawgs would absolutely dominate. Instead, they were essentially matched in rushing yards per attempt. Andrew Thomas being banged up probably had something to do with that, though Cade Mays had filled in well so far. And while the Dawgs did finally generate some pressure on the quarterback via sacks, there were still instances when it felt like Mizzou could sustain drives via the run. Maybe that was just because Drew Lock was the focus of the defense, but I came away thinking Georgia wasn’t quite on the level it needed to be in the trenches.
Kentucky — These ain’t your dad’s Cats
Well, unless your dad’s Cats were the 1977 Cats. That was the last time Kentucky started 2-0 in SEC play before it accomplished that feat in convincing fashion on Saturday. With Benny Snell running the show, the Cats have a swagger that was evident throughout the upset win against MSU.
Keep doubting @benny_snell…
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) September 23, 2018
Snell took over on offense and Josh Allen took over on defense. Kentucky shot all the way up to No. 17 in the Associated Press Top 25, which marked the program’s first appearance since 2007. These Cats look like they’ll be plenty of relevant by the time Midnight Madness rolls around.
LSU — The defense can’t put it on cruise control
There are few offenses in the country who are going to have an advantage on the Tigers’ defense. When they’re on like they were at Jordan-Hare in Week 3, they’re as nasty as it gets. But for one quarter, LSU let its guard down against Louisiana Tech and made things a bit too close for comfort. LSU still wound up winning by 3 scores, but getting beat in total yards by Louisiana Tech won’t sit right with Ed Orgeron and Dave Aranda.
Mississippi State — Yikes, offensive line
Two things seemed to happen every time MSU touched the ball. Kylin Hill, Aeris Williams and Nick Fitzgerald were met with a brick wall when they tried to run up the middle. And when the Bulldogs tried to pass, Josh Allen was on Fitzgerald before he even had the ball. It was an awful, awful showing from an MSU offensive line that put together an impressive first 3 weeks. I don’t know if that was just not respecting an opponent or what, but Joe Moorhead surely won’t like what he sees when he looks at the film.
Mizzou — The Tigers are better at the line of scrimmage than were last year
What if I told you that Emanuel Hall would get injured and Drew Lock would be held without a touchdown pass? You’d assume that Mizzou got dismantled against No. 2 Georgia, right? That wasn’t the case. If not for some strange plays — the fumble return for a touchdown shouldn’t have counted — that was a game that the Tigers could have taken down the the wire. That was because Mizzou actually matched Georgia up front. They nearly outgained the Dawgs on the ground, which was a positive sign for Derek Dooley’s offense. I’d be surprised if Mizzou got pushed around by anyone in the East this year.
Ole Miss — NWO is even more freakish than I thought
I know. That’s saying a lot. I’m of the belief that Nasty Wide Outs is as good as any receiver group in the country, as I know many are. But man, watching what DaMarkus Lodge and D.K. Metcalf did on consecutive plays was on a different level.
In other news, Lodge, Metcalf and A.J. Brown have a combined 57 catches for 933 yards and 7 touchdown catches. Nasty, indeed.
South Carolina — The Gamecocks can win a street fight
After the Georgia game, I questioned how much South Carolina wanted to try and establish the run. All the talk of the new offense under Bryan McClendon was about how much the passing game would improve. In their first road game of the season, the Gamecocks showed that they can play smash-mouth football, too. An impressive 273-92 rushing advantage showed that South Carolina can indeed win a street fight … and apparently Derek Mason’s comments about playing in a street fight added some fuel to the fire.
Tennessee — It might be another winless SEC season
That was a very beatable Florida team. What did Tennessee do in its first marquee home game of the Jeremy Pruitt era? It forked the ball over 6 times and essentially spotted the Gators 3 touchdowns. Costly mistakes prevented any chance of a rivalry win. It was painfully obvious that Jarrett Guarantano couldn’t march the Vols downfield via the pass, which has been all too familiar reality for Tennessee since the start of last year. But given how tough the schedule is, the Vols were such a mess that it’s easy to wonder if that first SEC win of the Pruitt era will come in 2018.
Texas A&M — Jimbo Fisher’s every play counts thing is for real
No, Fisher didn’t become the first Nick Saban disciple to beat the G.O.A.T. If that trend continues for a few years, then some will start to question his program’s upside. But Saturday was a teaching moment on the road in Tuscaloosa. When Fisher called a timeout down 22 in the final seconds, it showed just how serious he is about maximizing every snap.
Someone in the media asked Jimbo Fisher why he was still calling timeouts and trying to score while down 22 points late in the 4th Quarter.
— Saturday Down South (@SDS) September 23, 2018
Put that on a recruiting billboard and watch kids run through a wall.
Vanderbilt — The Commodores aren’t ready to make noise in the East
Coming off that 5-point loss at Notre Dame, a lot of people were ready to jump all over Vandy as a team that could be a problem in the East. Well, Vegas was ready. And so was the College GameDay crew. The fact that the Commodores only got 1.5 points said a lot about where the confidence level was entering its SEC debut. It wasn’t quite as bad as last year’s SEC debut against Alabama, but South Carolina took it to the Gamecocks. Even though it was a weird game with the weather delay, allowing 534 yards of offense wasn’t exactly a ringing endorsement for Derek Mason’s defense. If that’s not turned around, it’ll be another long year for Vandy in the SEC.