As a college student, sometimes I have other obligations that come up and prevent me from submitting my picks for the upcoming weekend. Last week was one of those weeks, and it was Mizzou’s 104th Homecoming, which meant Monday through Friday was dedicated to building floats, pomp boards, and various other decorum for the school. With that being said, it’s probably best that I didn’t go on record with my picks for this weekend. I ended up losing a lot of money on games this weekend, mostly because of I didn’t expect Florida to hold Mizzou to a field goal and for Cal’s Jared Goff to throw five interceptions against Utah (who are for real, by the way. The fact they aren’t ranked first overall shows how dumb the AP Poll is).
Anyways, we had a few teams on a bye week this week, so there were only six SEC games being played on Saturday; four of which were head-to-head SEC matchups. We’re now past the halfway point of the season, bringing us closer and closer to the dark days of the spring. By this point, every team has developed an identity of some sort, except for a few, bringing up some interesting storylines for the remainder of the season.
1. The Florida Gators are in the driver’s seat for the SEC East.
The Gators didn’t have a world-beating performance this week like they did against Ole Miss, but they played well enough to beat Mizzou 21-3. I was skeptical of this game for both teams. For Florida, they were coming off a big win and will play LSU in Baton Rouge on Saturday. Throw in the fact they were starting a redshirt freshman quarterback on the road against a very good Missouri defense, and my “trap game” siren went off. Luckily for the Gators, the Tigers had true freshman Drew Lock making his second career start, who couldn’t get anything going all game. Lock completed less than half his passes, had under 200 yards passing, and threw two interceptions. Against a Missouri team devoid of a go-to guy on offense, that’s all Florida needed to do. They didn’t need Will Grier to have an amazing day, they just needed him not to get rattled by Missouri’s defensive line and let the Gator defense do the heavy lifting. Jim McElwain called a great game, and now the Gators are sitting at 6-0, with four of those wins against SEC teams. The Gators play LSU next week in Death Valley, Georgia the following week, and Florida State the final week of the regular season. The only game I see the Gators losing is next week to LSU. If they finish the season 11-1 with wins over Ole Miss, Florida State, and Georgia on their resume, they’ll be in consideration for the College Football Playoff.
2. Kevin Sumlin coming off bye weeks and Alabama’s first half performance.
Since being hired as the head coach at Houston in 2008, Kevin Sumlin is 7-1 coming off a bye week. He’s going to have a lot of time to prepare for Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide, and will be watching a lot of film from the Ole Miss game, as well the tape from the stinker of a first half that Alabama had on Saturday. Alabama won 27-14, but until midway through the third quarter, it was a 7-3 game. Jake Coker threw two picks, including one eventually resulted in a score for the Razorbacks. Against a team who can light up the scoreboard like Texas A&M, Coker coming out flat could be a stroke of death. The Aggie’s defense has been susceptible to the run game all year, so you can be sure that Alabama will lean on running back Derrick Henry to help them establish the offense. Yet as good as Henry is, he won’t be able to keep them in the game if the Aggies start putting up points in a hurry. Coker has looked up and down all year, and I wouldn’t want to be relying on him to climb out of multi-score deficit. I picked this game as an upset for Texas A&M, but considering they’re now ranked ahead of the Tide, it really can’t count as one.
3. Where does Georgia go from here?
On his first carry of the game, Nick Chubb suffered a gruesome knee injury that unfortunately happened to take place right in front of a sideline camera. After the video of his injury was plastered all over the Twittersphere, it was reported he had torn his PCL and two other ligaments, ending his and Georgia’s season. Backup Sony Michel came in for Chubb, carrying the ball 22 times for 145 yards, but the Bulldogs still lost 38-31 to Tennessee. Lambert did throw for 279 yards and a pair of touchdowns, although the offense has always been centered around Chubb until this point. Michel has had a great season so far, averaging 6.7 yards per carry, but he’s still no Nick Chubb. Georgia still has to face Missouri and Florida, who rank 11th and 16th in total defense respectively, as well Georgia Tech in a rivalry game that now seems much more winnable than before for the Yellow Jackets. Georgia sits at 4-2, with a conference record of 2-2. Those are three games where Georgia could drop one or two games, and there’s potential for them to even lose one more outside of that to either Auburn or Kentucky. Georgia came into the season with 12-0 potential, but now will be lucky to end up ten wins.
4. Props to you, LSU.
SEC fans catch a lot of grief for their unabashed love of their conference, but LSU did a great job of supporting their SEC counterpart, South Carolina. With the disastrous flooding in South Carolina, the game had to be moved on short notice to Baton Rouge. The game was only played in front 42,000 fans, but the Tigers went out of their way to make sure Gamecock fans felt right at home. The Tigers flew the South Carolina flag above the stadium, had the Red Cross accepting donations for disaster relief, and played the Gamecock’s signature entrance song “2001: A Space Odyssey.” Leonard Fournette even got approval from the NCAA (!!!) to auction off his jersey and donate the funds to help out South Carolina, a cool move on his part considering he’s from New Orleans and lived through a similar situation with Hurricane Katrina. The whole weekend was well done by the LSU community, and a bright spot for football when cheating, concussions, and NCAA sanctions flood the headlines.
5. Georgia Richt’d it while Tennessee…didn’t Butch it?
Even though losing Chubb right off the bat took a little bit of wind out of their sails, the Bulldogs actually had a 21-point lead at one point in the game. However, a pair of late touchdowns aided by good special teams play by the Volunteers, cut that down to just a single touchdown come the end of the first half. The second half was a different story for the Bulldogs, punting on five of their six possessions, while the Volunteers scored touchdowns of three of their six drives. Tennessee flirted with another blown fourth quarter lead blown when Georgia drove all the way down the field to Tennessee 27, but that drive petered out as time expired. I’m not sure if this means anything for Butch Jones’s tenure at Rocky Top, but it’s a nice win for a program that’s been much maligned over the past few weeks.