The end of the work week started off with some flamin’ hot rumors about Lane Kiffin frequenting Tuscaloosa bars under the alias “Joey Freshwater”, but luckily to Kiffin’s career and to our dismay, those rumors had little founding. However, much unlike the Joey Freshwater-saga, this week went along with what we had already previously thought about certain SEC teams. There weren’t really any major upsets, unless you count Kentucky beating Missouri, and even then Kentucky was picked by a field goal. Several SEC teams outright stunk this week, while others went about their business and got the win. Here are my thoughts about Week 4 in the SEC.
1. The Aggies have real problems in the run game.
Defensively, Texas A&M is having major trouble stopping the run game. Texas A&M squeaked by Arkansas 28-21 in overtime, but gave up 151 rushing yards to Alex Collins this week. Granted, Collins is one of the better running backs in the conference, but A&M still has to play Alabama and LSU, and if they reach the SEC championship game, most likely Georgia. All three of the those teams have Heisman-worthy running backs. So far this season, the starting running back for the A&M’s opponent in each of their games have averaged 4.56, 8.81, 6.29, and 5.8 yards per carry. Texas A&M has been a surprise team this season, but if they want to make it to Atlanta at the end of the season, they need to shore up their run defense.
2. Tennessee…get it together.
In recent weeks, I’ve harped on the pass defense. They gave up a pair of touchdowns in the fourth quarter to Tennessee, and gave up the game-winning touchdown against Florida this weekend with 0:52 left in the game. However, Tennessee’s woes extend beyond giving up touchdowns late in the game. Josh Dobbs hasn’t fully lived up to his potential. Myself (and others) predicted that Dobbs would become the next great dual-threat quarterback in the conference and would be able to capitalize on all the talent around him. This has proven not to be true. Against quality opponents like Florida and Oklahoma, he’s completing 47% of his passes, is averaging 4.3 yards per attempt, and has thrown one touchdown. Dobbs did run for 136 yards on 18 carries against the Gators, but the quarterback has to be able to make things happen with his arm. If Dobbs continues to show an inability to throw the ball, opponents will stack the box and eventually take away his running ability too. Finally, and the biggest reason the Volunteers have struggled, is because of Butch Jones. Jones has shown a complete inability to coach in close games, blowing three fourth quarter leads in the last 12 games, including the two this season against Oklahoma and Florida. The SEC is a league where the margin between first and fifth place in the division is extremely thin. There’s lots of low scoring, close games that result in a game-winning field goal or well-executed two minute drill. If Jones can’t keep it together in the final minutes of the game, his time as a head coach in the SEC is limited.
3. Don’t worry about the hangover games.
Neither LSU or Ole Miss looked particularly good on Saturday. LSU won 34-24 against Syracuse, a team they could’ve crushed, and Ole Miss won 27-16 against Vanderbilt. Both LSU and Ole Miss were coming off big weeks with wins over Auburn and Alabama, respectively. In fact, Vanderbilt was probably a good warm up for the Ole Miss defense. Vanderbilt actually sports a pretty good defense this year, and might win a couple SEC games. However, they have little to no offense, making this team similar to Florida, who the Rebels play on Saturday. As LSU, they had an 11:00a.m. kickoff on the road after demolishing Auburn 45-21. Brandon Harris still didn’t look great at quarterback, but Leonard Fournette ran for 244 yards, and that’s with an 88-yard touchdown called back. LSU has a couple easy weeks coming up, this upcoming Saturday against Eastern Michigan, and the following week they travel to Columbia, S.C. It’s not out of the question to see Leonard Fournette gain at least 150 yards in each of those games.
4. It’s time for #Locktober.
Two years ago as a redshirt freshman, quarterback Maty Mauk took over for Missouri in the middle of the season and led the Tigers to a 5-1 as the starter. His success swept the campus by storm and inspired the trend #Mauktober. Now, the time comes for true freshman Drew Lock to have his moment and start #Locktober. Mauk has struggled mightily this year for the Tigers, who have lowest amount of total offense in the SEC. Mauk has been dealt a rough hand however, with inexperienced receivers, a shuffled offensive line, and the injury bug plaguing the running backs corps. However, he’s shown an inability to at least elevate any of his receivers or backs, and when you’re a second-year starter who has helped lead the team to two SEC East titles, that’s what you’re expected to do. Lock has shown immaturity at times, but that comes with being a true freshman. Yet, at this point Lock seems like the only guy Mizzou has who can get the ball to his receivers consistently and accurately. It’s time to bench Mauk and bring on #Locktober.
5. We’re a third of the way through the season, so let’s give out some awards!
Each team (not counting LSU), has played four games so far, which means we can start to hand out The Thirdee’s, a completely useless award with little merit. However, it gives us some idea how individual players have performed, regardless of their team’s record.
SEC-eisman: Leonard Fournette. Who else would we give it to? He leads the conference in rushing yards, with 631, and is averaging 8.64 yards per carry. He’s been the most exciting player in college football and is poised to win the actual Heisman at the end of the season.
Best Quarterback: Tempting to give it to Kyle Allen of Texas A&M, but Chad “Swag” Kelly’s body of work beats him out. Kelly threw three touchdowns against Alabama, and is leading the conference in that category. Plus, he’s got a great nickname for a team that could make the College Football Playoff.
Best running back: See SEC-eisman.
Best Receiver: We’ll go with A&M this time around, and give this to Christian Kirk. The true freshman has been a phenom so far, with averaging over 100 yards per game and returns punts like he’s the next C.J. Spiller. The connection between him and Kyle Allen is what the Aggies playoff hopes hinge upon.
Best Defensive Lineman: Robert Nkemdiche. He only has a half sack to his name this season, but he’s been the heart and soul of the Ole Miss defense. He was an absolute force against Alabama, blowing up plays from the start. He’s a lock for a top-five pick in the upcoming draft, and should continue to be the leader of the Rebels defense. Oh, he’s also added three offensive touchdowns to his resume.
Best Linebacker: Skai Moore. He was single-handedly responsible for one of South Carolina’s two wins when he picked off UNC’s Marquisse Williams twice in the end zone, including the game-sealing interception. He added another interception against Kentucky, and is fourth in the conference in tackles. In a season where USC has already cycled through three quarterbacks and the team almost lost to UCF, Moore has been one of the few bright spots.
Best Defensive Back: The Rebels get another player on this list, this time safety Trae Elston. Elston leads the conference in interceptions, with a string of three consecutive games with a pick, including Alabama. He’s also been a threat returning them, taking two back to the house. Nkemdiche brings the pressure, and Elston capitalizes. With those two on defense, the Rebels will give offensive coordinators plenty of sleepless nights the rest of the season.