What was billed as a relatively average week of college football quickly became filled with mayhem.
One of the two SEC playoff teams tripped against an easy opponent, and another top 10 team nearly fell against Vanderbilt. The third- and fourth-highest ranked teams also lost to send the SEC standings into chaos.
Here are the biggest studs and duds from Week 10 of SEC play:
Stud: Mississippi State QB Nick Fitzgerald
Dan Mullen has historically been great at developing quarterbacks, most notably Tim Tebow and Dak Prescott. Obviously, Fitzgerald has a LONG way to go to be in the same stratosphere as those names, but he has quietly improved substantially the past few weeks.
Fitzgerald threw for 209 yards and two touchdowns and added 182 yards rushing and two scores in a shocking win over No. 4 Texas A&M. By far his most impressive play was a 4-yard scoring run to clinch the outcome, pushing through the entire Texas A&M front seven into the end zone. He still has plenty of room to grow as a passer, but Fitzgerald is flashing some of the playmaking ability that made Dak beloved in Starkville.
Dud: Florida QB Luke Del Rio
Del Rio set the tone early with an embarrassing pick-six on his first throw and barely got much better as the game went on. Even though he ultimately threw for 229 yards, his performance was one of the worst of his career.
The sophomore threw a pair of interceptions and found himself unable to lead the Florida offense. The Gators “D” has to be one of the best in the country, with three defensive backs that could compete for All-SEC. It doesn’t matter. Del Rio’s inability to get the ball to his talented wide receivers meant UF was out of the game almost from the start. It’s time for Jim McElwain to explore other options.
Stud: Vanderbilt LB Zach Cunningham
Cunningham actually had fairly pedestrian numbers by his lofty standards, posting just nine tackles and recovering a fumble. However, the SEC’s tackle leader had one of the most freakish plays of the SEC season thus far to give his team one last shot to beat No. 9 Auburn.
With only a few minutes left and Vanderbilt down a touchdown, the linebacker timed it perfectly and jumped over the offensive line to block Daniel Carlson’s field-goal attempt that would have put the game away.
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— Campus Insiders (@CampusInsiders) November 5, 2016
Kyle Shurmur later threw an interception to end the comeback bid, but Cunningham’s heroics at least gave the Commodores one last shot. Cunningham should be an All-American.
Dud: LSU QB Danny Etling
Verne Lundquist and Gary Danielson tried to salvage perception of Etling’s games, pointing out that he at least hadn’t thrown a turnover. Of course, Etling soon acquiesced and forced an interception to Minkah Fitzpatrick that capped a brutal day and set up an Alabama field goal.
Etling threw for just 92 yards and averaged 3.8 yards per attempt. His QBR was 5.7 out of 100. Granted, Alabama has one of the best defenses in the country, but this kind of performance is unacceptable. Any time a defense can hold Alabama to just 10 points, it should be enough to win the game.
Stud: Auburn RB Kamryn Pettway
Pettway demolishing the competition has become almost routine at this point. The former fullback rushed for 173 yards on 6.9 yards per carry against Vanderbilt, and would have had a breakaway touchdown had he not come up limping late. However, that’s not why he’s on this list.
Pettway became the first Auburn player to rush for 150 or more yards in four consecutive games since the 1980s. You might remember the last guy who did it: Bo Jackson. That’s an incredible accomplishment, especially for a player who wasn’t even expected to play tailback full-time for the Tigers. Now, he’s probably an All-America contender. Plus, I can’t wait to play with Pettway on Tecmo Bowl.
Dud: Texas A&M
It’s hard to narrow down exactly what unit deserves the blame for Texas A&M’s embarrassing loss to Mississippi State because it was truly a team effort. The obvious story is that Trevor Knight went down with a shoulder injury, but the Aggies were slipping well before he exited.
The defense allowed 574 yards to an inconsistent Mississippi State offense. The Aggies, who have arguably the best rushing offense in the SEC, mustered only 3.7 yards per carry against the inconsistent MSU defense. Fans were shocked that Texas A&M was ranked ahead of undefeated Washington, and this game made the College Football Playoff committee look that much dumber.