Several young players have made their cases to be the SEC’s top running back, but LSU RB Leonard Fournette put all that talk to sleep in his return to action against Ole Miss.
A true freshman signal-caller also made his mark on an SEC East team, while another running back made his case to be first-string heading forward. Meanwhile, a couple of defenses proved that they aren’t ready to compete at this level.
Here are the biggest studs and duds from Week 8 of SEC play.
Stud: Leonard Fournette, LSU
Have a day, Leonard Fournette. It took just 7 carries for Fournette to remind the nation that he is still the standard among running backs in college football. In those first 7 carries, Fournette blew away the Rebels defense for 249 yards and 3 touchdowns. That’s an obscene 35.6 yards per carry.
Ole Miss finally adjusted late, but Fournette set LSU’s single-game rushing record with 284 yards against the Rebels. Despite only playing in four games because of an ankle injury, Fournette still ranks No. 6 in the SEC in total rushing yards. He doesn’t have enough carries to qualify, but Fournette would rank No. 2 nationally in rushing yards per game, behind only San Diego State’s Donnel Pumphrey.
Dud: Arkansas offensive line
It’s time to talk about this horrendous Arkansas line. Bret Bielema is known for power rushing and offensive line play, but the Razorbacks have been horrendous in both aspects thus far. The line allowed 3 sacks on QB Austin Allen in the first quarter alone against Auburn and the running game mustered just 0.8 yards per carry.
It was always going to be tough to replace all the starters that graduated, but this is worse than anyone could have expected. SEC Country’s Jason Kersey wrote about the punishment Allen has taken this season and pointed out a telling stat: The Razorbacks have allowed 21 sacks through eight games, which is more than the last two seasons combined (28).
Stud: Kamryn Pettway, Auburn
Auburn was missing starting RB Kerryon Johnson, but Pettway made sure no one noticed. The sophomore posted a career-high 192 yards and added 2 touchdowns. This was the fourth 100-yard rushing game of the year in only six games (and he didn’t earn a single carry in the opener vs. Clemson).
The 6-foot, 240-pound Pettway is a giant, physical back who can be relied on to be a workhorse, even against better opponents. His productivity was similar even though he had a combined 66 carries the last two weeks between Mississippi State and Arkansas.
Dud: Arkansas front seven
Losing a football game is one thing, but Arkansas’ front seven got completely exposed in Saturday’s matchup with Auburn. The Razorbacks allowed Auburn to rush for 543 yards, which broke the SEC record in a regular season conference game. The record had been previously held since 2007 by Arkansas, which rushed for 542 yards against South Carolina — an effort powered by Darren McFadden and Felix Jones.
Auburn was playing without starting running back Kerryon Johnson in this devastating victory, but the Razorbacks still allowed the Tigers to rush for 7 touchdowns and 9.5 yards per carry in front of its home fans. Five different players ran for at least 60 yards and each had at least one run of 27 yards or more. Part of this has to do with Auburn being successful, but no SEC team should ever allow an opposing offense to embarrass them to that extent. That is flat out unacceptable.
Stud: Jake Bentley, South Carolina
I was ready to criticize the desperation move of pulling Bentley’s redshirt, but it couldn’t have worked out better. Despite being a true freshman and having graduated high school a year before schedule (the SEC Network broadcast constantly reminded us), Bentley looked calm and poised in the pocket and delivered South Carolina 2 passing touchdowns, doubling the team’s season total.
Bentley fizzled out slightly closer to the end of the game, but that’s somewhat to be expected with a player in his first live game action. He might have been playing against a subpar defense, but Bentley completed 65 percent of his passes and threw for 200 yards in his first start. He’ll be tested much more against Tennessee next weekend, but Gamecocks fans have a right to feel excited about his potential.
Dud: Missouri defense
There was a time Missouri had one of the most disruptive defenses in the SEC. With star linemen like Charles Harris and Josh Augusta on the roster, there’s no reason why this shouldn’t still be true. But against Middle Tennessee, the Tigers looked more like the Big 12 team they used to be.
The Tigers gave up 51 points and 584 yards to Middle Tennessee on Saturday despite playing in front of a homecoming crowd in Columbia. Blue Raiders QB Brent Stockstill was virtually uninhibited, throwing for 280 yards and 4 touchdowns in the win. RB I’Tavius Mathers added 215 yards on 7.7 yards per carry. Barry Odom tried to install a new defense this season, but it sure hasn’t caught on yet.