Worst of the Worst, Week 12 in and around the SEC
There are plenty of columns that will break down what was good about college football’s Week 12. And there were exciting finishes, a few upsets, and a ton of big plays. But we’re not about any of that.
Here’s the worst of the worst of Week 12. We focus mainly on the SEC, but have to reach out and slug somebody from the national stage now and again too.
1. Biggest CFP choke job: Louisville
The No. 5 Cardinals were the darling of the CFP water cooler discussion … until Thursday night, when they didn’t just lose to an unranked Houston team that dropped games to Navy and SMU. No, they got mauled 36-10. Lamar Jackson was sacked 11 times, Louisville committed a penalty on what seemed like every other play, and the game really wasn’t as close as the score.
If you’d prefer the story in visual format check out this Louisville lineman falling for no reason — kind of like his team. On the upside for The Ville, former coach Charlie Strong will likely be available again soon ….
2. Worst decision to play their way out of a possible upset: Michigan State
The Spartans have been the biggest disappointment of this season (sorry, Ole Miss), and they figured out one more way to screw up 2016. They finally played a great game, hanging with Ohio State all the way before scoring a touchdown to pull within 17-16 with 4:41 to play.
At which point coach Mark Dantonio lost his mind. Go for two? Of course. I mean, if you get it, you leave Ohio State almost five minutes to kick even a field goal to win. And if you miss it? Well, then you lose by one point. If Dantonio makes the call with 41 seconds to play, we could get behind it. But 4:41? Odd.
3. Worst punt ever: Austin Peay v. Kentucky
When a regular punt goes wrong, it’s ugly. When a rugby punt goes wrong … well, take a look. There might not be a single play that better symbolized Kentucky’s 49-13 win over an FCS team with a 27-game losing streak.
4. Worst imitation of a decent run defense: Tennessee
So UT gave up 443 rushing yards to Kentucky last week, almost giving the Wildcats a single-game school rushing record. But that was Kentucky, and they run well. This week against Mizzou? Well, a lame-duck Tigers squad rushed for 420 yards. Freshman Damarea Crockett had 225 and junior Ish Witter added 163 more. No to mention that Mizzou passed for another 320 yards. So Tennessee gave up 740 yards in the win, a week after giving up 635 yards in a win against Kentucky — and on the week when the Vols officially lost the SEC East for the ninth year in a row. We wouldn’t swap jobs with defensive coordinator Bob Shoop’s agent!
5. Worst late-game performances, 2016: LSU
Sure, this week was more about Florida exercising its superior will to win than LSU blowing it. Evidence here:
Florida Clinches SEC East With Goal Line Stand Against LSU https://t.co/uAsW7YlUXk
— Babalú Henry Lou (@HenryLGomez) November 20, 2016
But … this LSU season hinged on a few blown plays in the clutch. First there was the untimely Brandon Harris pick against Wisconsin with the Tigers on the edge of field goal range in Week 1. Then, there was the game-winning touchdown that wasn’t that sealed Les Miles’s fate against Auburn. And now this play. LSU could easily be 9-1, with Les Miles still deeply entrenched on the bayou. But they stunk on the big play, and they stunk again on Saturday.
6. Worst halftime snark: Nick Saban
We knew it was coming. Some of us had invoked Saban’s classic “(expletive) through a tin horn” rant earlier this weekend, but when the FCS Chattanooga Moccasins trailed just 14-3 at halftime Saturday, Saban obliged us with some mildly amusing snarkiness for ESPN’s sideline reporter, Olivia Harlan.
7. Worst run defense against inferior opponents (non-Tennessee division): Georgia and South Carolina
Surprise, surprise. Virtually the entire SEC played the run terribly Saturday. Two of the biggest offenders did so against competition they should have crushed. Georgia jumped out early on 4-5 Louisiana-Lafayette and then spent the rest of the night getting gashed in the run game. UL-L ended up with 276 yards rushing and a 6.0 yards per carry average in Georgia’s 35-21 victory. Not to be surpassed, South Carolina did a lousy job with 2-8 FCS opponent Western Carolina. The Catamounts picked up 236 yards rushing for a 5.5 yards per carry average in that 44-31 victory that sent the Gamecocks bowling. Want to guess that UGA and USC’s bowl opponents will check out these tapes?
8. Worst defense overall: Arkansas v. Mississippi State
It’s not a secret that neither team is the ’85 Bears, but they each put on a display to make defensive coordinators everywhere sick. Sick or dusting off their job applications. When the dust settled, there were 100 points, 1,194 yards, and zero turnovers. And while Austin Allen and Nick Fitzgerald are fine players, it wasn’t Manning vs. Brady. Although it may have resembled it at times.
9. Worst encore performance: Shea Patterson
It’s not that I’m picking on the kid. It’s that the gunslinger who came back on Texas A&M was not in evidence during Saturday’s 38-17 loss to Vandy. The loss left both teams at 5-6, with work to do. The Rebels have to win the Egg Bowl to be bowl-eligible, and the Commodores would have to knock off Tennessee (but could get in at 5-7 because of their extremely high APR score). Winning at Vandy would’ve greatly simplified matters for Patterson and the Rebels.
10. Worst division: SEC West
The East beat the West in both Week 12 games, which is hilarious. After a season talking about how down the East is, give the East credit for the final word. (Well, at least until Atlanta.) As has happened for most everybody in the league but Alabama, when it was winning time, the West didn’t get it done Saturday.