College Football

Around the SEC: Week 5

Nobody really knows what’s happening in college football anymore. Utah might be the best team in the country, Toledo is now ranked, and Iowa, Cal, and Northwestern are all undefeated. I mean going into this season, if you had told me the Toledo Rockets would be ranked, I’d probably laugh in your face…well, they have a win over Arkansas and are 4-0. As for SEC teams, there are only three undefeated teams left and it’s week five. It usually feels double that amount are undefeated by this point after feasting on powerpuff FCS teams and the traditional conference bottom-dwellers like Vanderbilt or Kentucky. After all this craziness, we still have seven more games to play and as we get into conference play the stakes only get higher.

Here are my thoughts on Week Five in the SEC.

 

Is Florida football back?

New coach, a pair of quarterbacks who are unproven passers, and the departure of some key pieces on both sides of the ball. That was the argument for another 6-6 record in Gainesville, and a logical one. Yet here we are, five weeks into the season and the Gators are undefeated and have three conference wins. Redshirt freshman Will Grier has taken the starting quarterback job, and shown improvement over the course of the season, capping it off with a four touchdown performance win against formerly third-ranked Ole Miss. The Gators have caught some breaks and dealt with lack of consistency on offense, but Jim McElwain has done a great job bringing hope back into The Swamp this early into his coaching tenure.

 

Alabama is clawing their way back towards a playoff spot.

Alabama absolutely rolled Georgia on Saturday, and it’s exactly what they needed on their resume after their loss to Ole Miss two weeks ago. Their performance Saturday was all-around dominant, scoring on offense, defense, and special teams. Nick Saban tabbed Jake Coker as the quarterback for the game, and never subbed in Cooper Bateman, which could be a sign Saban will be going with Coker the rest of the way. Coker didn’t play great, but was the perfect game manager. He didn’t commit any turnovers, handed the ball off to Derrick Henry, and made plays when the defense gave it to him. As for the man-child Henry, he ended with 148 rushing yards and a score, but the real star of the game was the Alabama defense. The secondary picked off Georgia quarterbacks three times, including once for a pick-six. Even more impressive though, they held Nick Chubb in check for most of the game. Chubb ended up with 146 yards and a touchdown, but 83 of those came on a garbage-time touchdown run. Take away that run, and the defense held Chubb to 3.3 yards per carry. Alabama plays Texas A&M in two weeks, in a matchup that has similar conference title game and playoff implications. If the Alabama defense continues to play at the same level that they played on Saturday in Athens, the Aggies will have a tough one coming up.

 

#Locktober is in full swing.

After a suspension to starting quarterback Maty Mauk for “disciplinary reasons”, freshman phenom Drew Lock was tabbed as the starter against South Carolina. Gary Pinkel said Mauk’s status would be reevaluated after the game, and it’s hard to see him getting his job back with the way Lock played. He went 21-for-28 with 138 yards and two touchdowns and looked more like a guy who had a season of experience under his belt, rather than an 18-year-old making his first collegiate start. There were a few growing pains, including a near-interception inside Mizzou’s own 20-yard line, but didn’t seem to force any throws that weren’t there. Lock also got the added benefit of an effective run game (something that’s been missing all season), but it opened up the passing game, and Lock took full advantage. If the defense can keep Mizzou in the game, I’d watch out for the Tigers. The offense looked rejuvenated and Lock could be the real deal.

 

Arkansas vs. Tennessee…the second chapter to “Good Bye, Butch.”

No fumbles, no interceptions, but still Butch’d it. With second-and-five on the Arkansas 49 and three minutes remaining, Butch Jones calls a pass play. When you have Jalen Hurd/Josh Dobbs and only need five yards, you run the ball. Hurd is averaging almost five yards per carry, and is 6-foot-4, 240-lbs. Even if you only get forward three yards, him falling forward gets you another yard or so. Instead, Jones calls a pass play and Dobbs is sacked for eight yards. After failing to complete a pass on the following two plays, the Volunteers turned the ball over on downs with just over two minutes left. I can understand wanting to catch Arkansas off guard with a pass play, but you have Dobbs AND Hurd. Just run the damn ball, Butch. Oh, and now there’s also a rumor floating around that Jones punched an offensive lineman after the loss. Go Vols!

 

The state of quarterback play in the SEC.

Before the start of the season, SEC quarterbacking was projected to be questionable at best. Questionable might not have been the best term to describe it, perhaps “diverse” would be a better term. At one end of the scale, you have guys like Brandon Harris. Harris has 382 passing yards in five games, but has Leonard Fournette as his running back, so his ability to pass the ball isn’t really the key to this offense. Then you’ve got guys like Jake Coker, Josh Dobbs, Brandon Allen, Johnny McCrary, and Patrick Towles. None of those guys have been particularly consistent this season, each of them either being benched or losing entirely winnable games. Now you throw in the young guns, Will Grier and Drew Lock. Both are freshmen this season, but show a lot of promise and led their teams to must-win games this weekend. Finally, you’ve got the cream of the crop, Kyle Allen, Dak Prescott, and Chad Kelly. That trio have unquestionably been the most consistent performers through the first five games, and they’re led by Allen, who could be a top draft pick some day. All-in-all, it hasn’t been as bad as I thought it’d be, mostly plagued by inconsistency or poor decision making, rather than the lack of talent like I had thought.

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