Five things we learned about SEC Football over the weekend:
1—With the Ohio State loss to Purdue, there is again the possibility that the SEC could get two teams into the playoffs:
How? Here’s how: No. 1 Alabama loses at LSU on Nov. 3 and finishes the regular season at 11-1. LSU goes on to win the SEC championship and finishes 12-1 with wins over four Top 10 teams at the time they played—Miami, Auburn, Georgia, Alabama. In fact, you could make a compelling case in this scenario that LSU should be the No. 1 seed.
Let’s say LSU, Clemson, and Notre Dame all make the playoffs. The CFP selection committee is trying to find a fourth team and Alabama’s only loss was to the No. 1 seed.
Long shot? If the Big Ten champ and Big 12 champ are both 12-1 it probably is. But it’s possible.
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2—It was a big quality of life win for Auburn (5-3, 2-3). But let’s tap the brakes on what it means:
Auburn’s ailing offense found just the cure in the Ole Miss defense. The Tigers put up 484 total yards (269 rushing) in beating Rebels 31-16 in Oxford.
But a couple of reality checks are in order:
Auburn dominated the worst rushing defense in the SEC. The issues on the offensive line still exist for the Tigers.
Auburn is still likely to finish 6-6 as the rest of the schedule includes No. 16 Texas A&M (5-2) and Liberty at home plus road trips to No. 7 Georgia (6-1), and No. 1 Alabama (8-0).
With an open date coming up this week, what Saturday’s game did was cool the jets (for at least a few days) of the folks who want to fire Gus Malzahn just eight games into a seven-year contract.
3—Kentucky had better find a passing game and fast:
The Wildcats (6-1, 3-1) were struggling on offense all night against Vanderbilt. But with the game tied at 7-7, Benny Snell literally put the offense on his back and Kentucky drove 80 yards for the go-ahead touchdown. In the 12-play drive Snell carried it 10 times for 74 yards. He was just remarkable.
And now, with conference games against Missouri, Georgia, and Tennessee remaining, the Wildcats control their own destiny in the SEC East.
But Kentucky is not going to run the table—or come close to it—if it doesn’t find a passing game between now and Saturday’s trip to Missouri (4-3), which smoked non-conference Memphis 65-33.
Against Vanderbilt Kentucky's Terry Wilson attempted ONLY NINE PASSES and completed three for 18 yards.
As well as Kentucky’s defense is playing—and they are playing lights out—the Wildcats aren’t going to hold Missouri or Georgia to under 21 points, IMO.
4—The Alabama game showed Jeremy Pruitt and Tennessee just how far they need to go:
In 2007, Nick Saban’s first season at Alabama, the Crimson Tide played LSU in Tuscaloosa. I was on the field when the two teams were warming up.
I looked over at the Alabama players. Then I looked over at an LSU team that would go on to win the SEC championship and the national championship.
It wasn’t even close. Alabama was physically over-matched.
That’s how the first-year Tennessee coach felt after watching the Volunteers get manhandled 58-21 by No. 1 Alabama. It took Saban and his staff a few years to do it, but now Alabama is annually a team that can intimidate its opponents during the pre-game warmups.
“If you look at their sideline and look at our sideline it don’t hardly seem the same,” Pruitt said after the game.
5—Mississippi State’s Joe Moorhead has a decision to make at quarterback:
Nick Fitzgerald is the leading rusher among quarterbacks in the history of the Southeastern Conference. He is an undisputed leader on his team. But he is not an accomplished passer and that was painfully evident Saturday night as he threw four interceptions in a 19-3 loss to LSU. He completed only eight of 24 passes for 59 yards.
“I’ve just got to be better,” Fitzgerald said after the game.
Fitzgerald has seven interceptions and four touchdown passes this season.
Mississippi State (4-3), I predict, is going to get to a bowl but so much more was expected. So it may be time to give sophomore. Keytaon Thompson a try, starting Saturday with Texas A&M in Starkville. Thompson started the opener against Stephen F. Austin when Fitzgerald as suspended. Thompson completed 13 of 31 passes for 364 yards and five touchdowns. He has thrown only three passes (all vs. Louisiana-Monroe) since.
Thompson is a former Gatorade Player of the Year from Louisiana and was recruited by Dan Mullen to be Fitzgerald’s eventual successor. Thompson played in 10 games as a true freshman last season.