Sports, Thrill of Victory

SEC football storylines to watch in Week Nine

Halloween’s approaching… find out if it’s tricks or treats for your favorite SEC team in this week’s Southeastern Conference Football snapshot.

THIS WEEK’S STORYLINES

The title race is on

With each team now having played four or five conference games, the title picture gets more clear.

The Gators are once again Treon Harris team. PHOTO COURTESY FLORIDA ATHLETICS

The Gators are once again Treon Harris team. PHOTO COURTESY FLORIDA ATHLETICS

In the East, barring something crazy, things boil down to Georgia and Florida. The two play each other in their annual game in Jacksonville and things are pretty simple: whichever team wins, wins the title so long as it wins out.

If that’s Florida, then the Gators would need only beat South Carolina on the road, and Vandy at home. And if the Gators were to win, then all other teams outside Georgia would be eliminated.

If it’s the Bulldogs, then Georgia would just need to knock off Kentucky in Athens, and then win at Auburn. Tennessee and Kentucky would still be in contention, but each would have to win out with UGA losing out.

The West is much dicier.

LSU controls its own destiny as the league’s only unbeaten team, but that’s the problem. According to ESPN’s Football Power Index, no team in the country plays a tougher schedule in the season’s last five weeks than LSU, and that starts with a trip to Alabama in two weeks. (On a side note, a one-loss LSU team that doesn’t win the West might well be in line for a College Football Playoff berth.)

If Alabama wins that game, the Crimson Tide would need for LSU to beat Ole Miss on November 21. If the Rebels and ‘Bama both one out, Ole Miss would win the tie-breaker there by virtue of its win over ‘Bama.

Two-loss Arkansas, Mississippi State and A&M are mathematically alive, but severe long-shots.

How’s your quarterback play?

Some teams are getting long-sought answers at quarterback, while others are not.

Auburn freshman Sean White completed 19-of-32 passes for 254 yards in the Tigers’ 54-46, quadruple-overtime loss at Arkansas, but part of the story is that his receiving corps had one maddening drop after another; according to AuburnSports.com’s Bryan Matthews, there were at least eight. You can’t expect a quarterback to play much better than that, and with former starter Jeremy Johnson not able to read and digest coverages in a timely matter, White seems to be the guy for now.

Vanderbilt freshman Kyle Shumer made his debut in the Commodores win over MIZZOU. PHOTO BY MATTHEW MAXEY

Vanderbilt freshman Kyle Shumer made his debut in the Commodores win over MIZZOU. PHOTO BY MATTHEW MAXEY

Vanderbilt got decent play out of true freshman Kyle Shurmur, who essentially just needed not to turn the ball over in VU’s 10-3 win over Missouri. Shurmur lost a fumble and generally played okay, but did split time with Johnny McCrary, and that appears to be the plan at Vandy going forward.

LSU quarterback Brandon Harris, after six games, still hasn’t thrown an interception. Granted, Western Kentucky’s defense isn’t good, and teams are keying on all-world running back Leonard Fournette, but Harris threw for 286 yards and three touchdowns in LSU’s easier-than-expected 48-20 win on Saturday.

Then, there’s Missouri. Tiger fans were screaming for highly-touted quarterback Drew Lock and got what they wanted after Tiger coach Gary Pinkel suspended starter Maty Mauk for undisclosed reasons. That started well when Missouri beat South Caroilna under Lock’s watch, but after the Missouri offense failed to register a single touchdown in losses to Florida, Georgia and Vandy, it didn’t go so well.

Where it goes from here is anyone’s guess; maybe backups Eddie Printz and Marvin Zanders even get involved. Truth be told, the Missouri offense is about as big a mess as an SEC team has ever fielded, and it’s not likely to get much better regardless of who plays.

Texas A&M’s situation is quickly becoming a mess. Kyle Allen was beyond dreadful (12-of-34, 88 yards, no touchdowns, one interception) and if you’re wondering why Kyler Murray didn’t play, this explains it pretty well.

Kevin Sumlin said the Aggies will make a decision on Friday, but one has to wonder if there’s a good answer in there anywhere.

The Alabama defense will get its toughest test yet when it faces LSU’s Leonard Fournette in two weeks. PHOTO COURTESY ALABAMA ATHLETICS

POWER RANKINGS (Overall record, SEC record)

  1. Alabama (7-1, 4-1): Crimson Tide defense leads the league with 12 interceptions, 276 yards per game.
  2. LSU (7-0, 4-0): Tigers held WKU quarterback Brandon Doughty to just under six yards per throw. (And yes, that’s good.)
  3. Florida (6-1, 4-1): Gator coach Jim McElwain noted this week that his team’s run blocking must improve.
  4. Ole Miss (6-2, 3-1): Rebels still trying to get DT Robert Ndemdiche cleared from the concussion he suffered two weeks ago.
  5. Texas A&M (5-2, 2-2): Will the Aggies fold or fight, given the issues at quarterback?
  6. Mississippi St. (6-2, 2-2): Dak Prescott’s streak of 288 passes with a pick ended, but when you throw for 348, run for 117 and account for six TD’s in a win, it ain’t a bad evening.
  7. Tennessee (3-4, 1-3): Running back Alvin Kamara has scored touchdowns rushing, receiving and on special teams.
  8. Georgia (5-2, 3-2): Star outside linebacker Jordan Jenkins (groin injury) could be back after missing the Missouri and Tennessee games.
  9. Arkansas (3-4, 2-2): Backup running back Rawleigh Williams (56 carries, 254 yards, 1 TD) lost for the season with a neck injury during win over Auburn.
  10. Auburn (4-3, 1-3): Tigers left to wonder what might have been if not for a slew of dropped passes in loss at Arkansas.
  11. Kentucky (4-3, 2-3): Wildcats will beat Charlotte on Nov. 21; can they get that one more against Tennessee, Georgia, Vandy or Louisville to get bowl eligible?
  12. Vanderbilt (3-4, 1-3): Vandy’s 16.3 points allowed quite impressive, especially considering all the high-powered offenses they’ve faced. Commodores get one more this weekend.
  13. Missouri (4-4, 1-4): How bad is Missouri’s offense? Punter Corey Fatony had one carry on Saturday for 26 yards; that came within 13 yards of tying Lock for the team lead, and would have led the Tigers the previous Saturday.
  14. South Carolina (3-4, 1-4): Gamecocks got a much-needed week off.
LSU's Leonard Fournette is the country's leading rusher. PHOTO BY KYLE ZEDAKER, COURTESY LSU ATHLETICS

LSU’s Leonard Fournette is the country’s leading rusher. PHOTO BY KYLE ZEDAKER, COURTESY LSU ATHLETICS

PLAYER OF THE YEAR

OFFENSE (rushes- yards – YPC – TDs; receptions – yards – TDs, completions – attempts – yards – TD/INT)

  1. Leonard Fournette, LSU, RB (176 – 1,352 -7.7 -15;  7 – 58- 0)
  2. Dak Prescott, MSU, QB (173 – 260 – 2,048 – 14/1; 72 – 445 – 5.2 – 7)
  3. Derrick Henry, Alabama, RB (180 – 1,074 – 5.8 – 14;  8 – 69 – 0)
  4. Laquon Treadwell, Ole Miss, WR (54 – 756 – 5)
  5. Christian Kirk, TAMU, WR (41 – 625 – 4; 524 return yards and two TDs)

DEFENSE (tackles -tackles for loss – sacks – interceptions – forced fumbles)

  1. Kentrell Brothers, Missouri, LB (103 – 7 – 5 – 2 – 0)
  2. Reggie Ragland, Alabama, LB (71 – 5 – 2 – 0 – 2)
  3. Vernon Hargreaves, Florida, S (22 – 0 – 0 – 3 – 1)
  4. Myles Garrett, TAMU, DE (37 – 13.5 – 8.5 – 0 – 4)
  5. Eddie Jackson, Alabama, DB (27 (21) – 1 – 0 – 5 – 1)

 

THIS WEEK’S PICKS

(49-17 overall, 27-34 vs. the spread)

Ole Miss stackedOle Miss 35, Auburn 20 (Ole Miss -7): Just when I think I have the Rebels figured out, I don’t. Translation: Ole Miss fans should be really worried.

 

TAMU logoTexas A&M 30, South Carolina 20 (A&M -16): One team has a new coach, the other, turmoil… hard to know what to expect either way.

 

florida gators logoFlorida 24, Georgia 17 (Florida -3): Gators play better defense and are far better in turnover margin, which is why they’ll win.

 

RightHogArkansas 52, UT Martin 10 (NL): Razorbacks get a practice round before heading to Ole Miss.

 

University of HoustonHouston 27, Vanderbilt 20 (Houston -12): If the Commodores can just get any offensive production in the red zone, or avoid turnovers, they’ve got a shot at an upset. Unfortunately for VU, that’s not happened all season.

 

Tennessee Power TTennessee 31, Kentucky 21 (Kentucky -7.5): It’s been almost a month since the ‘Cats really played well, and Vols’ last two games were a sign they weren’t ready to throw in the towel.