Brutal slate of games this weekend, but at least we got one exciting game with the quadruple overtime in Arkansas vs. Auburn. Hockey and college football have the two most exciting overtime formats in all of sports. I love the fact that both teams get the ball and a chance to score. I can’t believe the NFL has yet to adopt this format, but that’s because it’s the NFL where new and different ideas go to die.
Back to our original topic, it really was a rough set of games. Yes, Alabama and Tennessee played it close, but the final score was 19-14, so it wasn’t exactly an offensive shootout. Vanderbilt and Missouri played a “close” 10-3 game, and somehow the Mizzou offense figured out a way to get worse. It really, truly amazes me week to week the different ways Mizzou can shoot itself in the foot. Outside of those two games, every other game was at least a 20 point spread and a channel-changer by the fourth. Unfortunately, Week 9 appears to be similar in this aspect to this past Saturday
Let’s check out what else happened this week around the SEC.
1. Tennessee loses a close one…again.
Another SEC game where the line opened up wayyyyyy too high. This game started the week favoring Alabama -15, which is a ridiculous line when you think about how much talent Tennessee has. The Volunteers responded to the haters by playing Alabama close, and actually leading 14-10 for a brief minute in the fourth before Alabama responded with a touchdown of their own. Tennessee got the ball back with 2:24 remaining to engineer a scoring drive to win the game. I understand it’s a tall task, especially against the Alabama defense, but Tennessee has the playmakers to give themselves a puncher’s chance. Butch Jones & Co. responded with an illegal formation, sack, timeout, and then a strip-sack. That illegal formation is 100% on the coaches, and you absolutely need to understand that when you’re trying to drive 80 yards, you can’t be pulling stuff that moves you back five yards. Following that up with two sacks and a turnover has to be absolutely brutal to watch for Tennessee fans, and in that situation, you know Alabama is going to send the pass rush. Add extra blockers, call the correct scheme, or do whatever to make sure your quarterback has the proper protection. It’s stuff like this that makes the Butch Jones Hot Seat burn with more intensity.
2. What’s the deal with Kyle Allen?
Admittedly, I didn’t get the chance to watch this game fully, but Allen is the lynchpin of that offense and he needs to do more than 88 yards passing. I’m not a quarterback guru, so I can’t tell you if it’s his mechanics, reads, or a lack of blocking, but his performance these past two weeks has been rough to watch. The worst part is that he started off the season strong, too. He had wins over Arizona State, Arkansas, and Mississippi State, and had eight touchdowns against two interceptions in those games. Whatever happened to make the wheels come off two weeks ago, needs to be undone to make sure the Aggies get their season back on track. Interestingly, when Sumlin pulled Allen in the fourth, he didn’t go with his freshman wunderkind Kyler Murray. He may have felt Murray didn’t have enough experience, but they were down 20 points already, so it didn’t really matter who went in at that point. Murray adds the read-option game to the offense, which could bring the offense back to a similar style like when Manziel was there. I’m sure Sumlin has his reasons, but it’s an interesting decision by Sumlin to not put in Murray after Allen proved ineffective.
3. The growth of parity in SEC, and college football.
The SEC this year has been bad, straight up bad. Top to bottom, the conference isn’t the powerhouse it once was. The rise of “coaching camps” has brought more outsider coaches into the fertile recruiting territory of the South that was once walled off by SEC schools. Schools now realize they need multi-million dollar facilities to sway recruits to their school. These state-of-the-art complexes are now becoming the norm at schools across the nation, giving recruits more high quality choices. Hell, just look at the complexes that Texas A&M and Alabama have, and you’ll realize why they’re competitive every year. The prevalence of coaching camps and construction of top of the line facilities has led to more opportunities for recruits to compete and train at a high level. This has led to more highly-touted recruits choosing non-SEC schools, and making it even more of a bloodbath of recruiting between SEC schools. Programs with history, money, and coaching such as Alabama or Georgia will always be the cream of the crop, but more schools are approaching their level. As recruiting season starts to kick into full gear in the coming weeks, keep this in mind. The five-star kids aren’t so much of a lock to head to the premier schools as they once were.
4. Be on the lookout for rumors about filling the plethora of head coaching jobs.
With Al Golden being fired at Miami yesterday and George O’Leary stepping down at UCF, the list of top tier programs with head coaching vacancies grows. South Carolina, Miami, Central Florida, Virginia, and Maryland are just a few of the growing list of schools that have fired their head coach. If I had to rank these in order, I’d go Miami, South Carolina, Central Florida, Maryland, Virginia. The reason I put Maryland over Virginia is because of the Under Armor connection, and Nike has proven at Oregon how beneficial that sort of partnership can be. The big names for these positions will be Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart, Memphis head coach Justin Fuente, LSU defensive line coach Ed Orgeron, and Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez. Smart is being tossed around as the guy most likely to take the South Carolina job, which makes sense given his familiarity with the SEC. One of those five is almost guaranteed to make an offer to Orgeron, who previously was the interim head coach at the other USC. I could see him claiming one of the Virginia or Maryland jobs (Illinois has a vacancy as well, who should also reach out to him). If I were South Carolina and I don’t get Smart, I’d be making my next call to Justin Fuente, who currently has Memphis ranked at #16 and is undefeated. If he can turn that program around, I’d love to see what he can do with at South Carolina.
5. There’s still plenty more to come.
The previous eight weeks of college football have been earth-moving, with former powerhouses becoming laughing stocks, the coaching carousel spinning at full speed, and three teams from the American Conference being ranked in the AP Top 25. We still have a whole month of football left to play, with jobs and playoff spots on the line. Here are the SEC matchups we have left (all rankings are current): #4 LSU at #7 Alabama, a Will Grier-less #11 Florida vs. Georgia, #4 LSU vs. #19 Ole Miss, #19 Ole Miss vs. #25 Mississippi State, #11 Florida vs. #17 Florida State, and the SEC championship which might involve an undefeated LSU and Florida. Throw in the fact that Bret Bielema and Butch Jones could be coaching for their jobs, and there’s very interesting forces at play here. Imagine a scenario where Alabama beats LSU, and makes the SEC championship game and loses to a one-loss Florida. You could have two one-loss SEC teams in Florida and LSU, but Alabama has the head-to-head win over LSU. Based off simply head-to-head record, the selection committee would likely have to go with Florida over Alabama and LSU, but LSU would have a more impressive body of work than an SEC East team. This also assuming an SEC team is in play for a playoff spot, which might not even be the case. I could totally see Les Miles using the rationale and going full Gary Patterson on the selection committee if they were left out. SEC fans better buckle their seatbelt, because a crazy season is about to get that much more bumpy.
Note: this article has been corrected to show that Florida has one loss, not zero.