The College Football Playoff march
Some Southeastern Conference teams did what they needed to do to continue to march towards one of the coveted four spots in the College Football Playoff, while others did not.
The best news for the SEC came when Alabama thumped Mississippi State, 31-6, on Saturday. The Crimson Tide, ranked No. 2 in last week’s playoff rankings, will certainly be in the playoff no matter what, so long as they keep winning, because ‘Bama has a list of seven wins—LSU, Arkansas, Wisconsin, Mississippi State, Tennessee, Texas A&M and Georgia—that nobody can match.
If Alabama were to add Auburn and Florida to that list, the Crimson Tide might even have a compelling case as the top overall seed.
Florida stayed alive in the playoff chase with a 10-point win at South Carolina. The Gators probably can’t survive a second loss that would likely come with playing Alabama in the title game, they’ve at least earned the right to participate in the SEC title game. A victory there, coupled with one over Florida State, would certainly do the trick.
A 17-point loss to Arkansas essentially did LSU in; according to Nate Silver at fivethirtyeight.com, ‘Bama and the Gators are the only two remaining SEC teams with better than a one percent shot of making the Playoff.
Of course, much depends on what happens elsewhere. Key non-SEC games to watch this weekend include Ohio State-Michigan State, Oklahoma State-Baylor and Oklahoma-TCU.
Fournette’s fade, Henry’s rise
After Alabama completely shut down LSU’s Leonard Fournette, the once shoe-in for the Heisman Trophy fell behind Alabama running back Derrick Henry in the race for the game’s highest individual honor. Fournette’s game against Arkansas wasn’t awful (19 carries for 91 yards, three catches for 36, one TD) but the problem is that the Tigers lost. Fournette may make it to New York City as a finalist, but winning the big prize may now be impossible.
Meanwhile, Henry followed up with a 22-carry, 204-yard, two-touchdown game in ‘Bama’s road rout of Mississippi State, and is now clearly the league’s best hope to bring home the trophy.
MSU quarterback Dak Prescott had a chance to make his Heisman case, and had 314 yards of total offense. However, State scored just six points and Prescott threw a pick, virtually eliminating him as well.
A crazy month at Missouri got stranger when coach Gary Pinkel revealed that he had non-Hodgkins lymphoma—he was diagnosed in May—and will retire. Pinkel will coach the 5-5 Tigers to a bowl game, if there is one.
You might not think of Pinkel as a Hall of Fame coach, but perhaps you should. Between 25 years at Missouri and Toledo, Pinkel is 191-108 (.637) and 118-61 (.624) at Missouri, with a 64-57 conference mark between the Big 12 and the SEC. In the 16 seasons preceding Pinkel’s arrival at UM in 2001, the Tigers had only two winning seasons.
Our thoughts and prayers will be with Pinkel as he fights an awful disease, though fortunately it’s not a terminal diagnosis.
Meanwhile, Missouri will search for a new football coach for the first time in 15 years.
POWER RANKINGS (Overall record, SEC record)
- Alabama (9-1, 6-1): Getting LT Cam Robinson healthier hasn’t hurt Derrick Henry, for sure.
- Florida (9-1, 7-1): Gators swept the SEC East for the first time since 2009.
- LSU (7-2, 4-2): Tigers offensive line may have killed Leonard Fournette’s Heisman hopes more so than did Leonard Fournette.
- Arkansas (6-4, 4-2): Razorbacks (road wins over LSU, Ole Miss and Tennessee; home losses to Toledo, Texas A&M and Texas Tech) have had the SEC’s strangest year.
- Ole Miss (7-3, 4-2): Rebels still mathematically alive in the SEC West title race.
- Tennessee (6-4, 3-3): Vols pitched their first FBS shutout since 2011 with 24-0 blanking of North Texas.
- Mississippi St. (7-3, 3-3): MSU offensive line has some work to do after Alabama sacked Dak Prescott nine times.
- Texas A&M (7-3, 3-3): After QB Kyler Murray’s thrown three TDs against five picks the last three weeks, former Kyle Allen could be in the mix to start on Saturday.
- Georgia (7-3, 5-3): Backup RB Keith Marshall announced he’ll not take a medical redshirt and instead, enter the NFL Draft next spring.
- Auburn (5-5, 2-5): Tigers gained just 62 yards passing on 27 attempts between Jeremy Johnson and Sean White in a 20-13 loss to Georgia. If you thought it couldn’t get worse, White’s injured knee could keep him out a while.
- Vanderbilt (4-6, 2-4): Commodores finally got what they needed out of the QB position, which was, a reasonably productive, turnover-free game from true freshman Kyle Shurmur.
- Missouri (5-5, 1-5): Tigers have gained 2,977 yards this year, and given up exactly the same number.
- South Carolina (3-7, 1-7): Interim coach Shawn Elliott says he’s not discussed being Carolina’s full-time coach with athletic director Ray Tanner.
- Kentucky (4-6, 2-6): Wildcats had first-and-goal situations from the Vandy 1 and 3, and failed to score a single point on those drives Saturday.
PLAYER OF THE YEAR
OFFENSE (rushes-yards-YPC-TDs; receptions-yards-TDs, completions-attempts-yards-TD/INT)
- Derrick Henry, RB, Alabama (240 – 1,458 – 6.1; 9 – 69; 19)
- Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU (214 – 1,474 – 6.9; 10 – 94; 17)
- Dak Prescott, QB, MSU (112 – 432 – 3.9 – 7; 222-of-343 – 2,651 – 18/2)
- Brandon Allen, QB, Arkansas (48 – 113 – 2.4 – 1; 183-of-284 – 2,617 – 22/6)
- Alex Collins, RB, Arkansas (199 – 1,209 – 6.1; 9 – 90; 14)
DEFENSE (key stats; assisted tackle counts as 1/2 tackle)
- Vernon Hargreaves, CB, Florida (20 tackles, 4 INT, 1 FF, 2 PBU)
- Myles Garrett, DE, TAMU (41 tackles, 1 INT, 5 FF, 17.5 TFL, 10.5 sacks, 7 QBH)
- Jon Bullard, DL, Florida (38.5 tackles, 13.5 TFL, 5.5 sacks)
- Kentrell Brothers, LB, Missouri (94.5 tackles, 8.5 TFL, 2.5 sacks, 2 INT, 3 blocked kicks)
- Reggie Ragland, LB, Alabama (63.5 tackles, 5.5 TFL, 2.5 sacks, 5 PBU, 2 FF)
With two weeks to play in the regular season, Chris Lee brings you up to date in what’s happening with Southeastern Conference football.
THIS WEEK’S PICKS (65-20 overall, 38-40 vs. the spread)
Ole Miss 27, LSU 21 (Ole Miss -4): I’ll take the Rebels because they’ve got more explosive dimensions to their offense, but guessing what either of these teams does any more is usually a losing proposition.
Alabama 41, Charleston Southern 0 (no line): For what it’s worth—which is nothing, in this case—CSU has won nine straight since a season-opening, 44-16 loss to 3-7 Troy, the only FBS team that the Buccaneers have played.
Auburn 51, Idaho 17 (Auburn -32.5): Vandals, who’ve given up 154 points to Appalachian State, South Alabama and New Mexico State, should be a cure for Auburn’s offensive ailments… at least until it faces ‘Bama next week.