The SEC was sloppy this weekend, as 10 teams combined for an absurd 30 turnovers across just five games. However, the mistakes allowed other players to get opportunities.
Alabama’s vaunted defense made things very difficult for Arkansas, and an underclassman defensive back played perhaps the best game of his career. Key injuries also allowed a pair of SEC backup running backs to post breakout performances in key spots.
Here are a few of the top studs and duds from Week 6 of SEC play.
Stud: CB Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama
Fitzpatrick posted one of the best individual defensive games of the college football season in Alabama’s dominant win over Arkansas. The sophomore tied the Alabama record with 3 interceptions against the No. 16 team in the nation.
Fitzpatrick returned one of those picks 100 yards for a defensive touchdown and added 5 tackles and 2 pass deflections. He was rated a 5-star prospect out of high school and already has lived up to the hype in his second year as a full-time starter for the Crimson Tide.
Dud: Mississippi State’s offensive line
Quarterback Nick Fitzgerald didn’t do himself any favors, but Mississippi State’s offensive line had a putrid effort against a strong Auburn front. There’s playing poorly, and then there’s whatever the heck this was by left tackle Martinas Rankin.
Mississippi State is… Not ready to play today… pic.twitter.com/tNUUwfSoFt
— Alex Martin Smith (@asmiff) October 8, 2016
That play generally summed up the Bulldogs’ effort on Saturday afternoon. The offensive line sleepwalked through the day, giving up 3 sacks, including a pair to Auburn DE Carl Lawson, and limiting the rushing attack to a measly 3.1 yards per carry.
Stud: RB Kamryn Pettway, Auburn
When Auburn leading rusher Kerryon Johnson went down with an ankle injury in the first quarter at Mississippi State, the Tigers seemed to be in trouble. While quarterback Sean White had shown flashes of brilliance, Gus Malzahn’s offense is still built around a strong rushing attack. Luckily, Pettway was able to fill the void seamlessly.
The sophomore received 39 carries, nearly twice as many as any previous game in his career. The 240-pound Pettway proved he could be an every-down back, rushing for a career-high 169 yards and 3 touchdowns in a dominant win over the Bulldogs to keep Malzahn off the hot seat for another week.
Dud: QB Jacob Eason, Georgia
Will Muschamp’s defense at South Carolina is quickly improving, but that’s not an excuse for the horrendous numbers Eason posted against the Gamecocks. He completed just 5 of 17 passes for 29 yards, a touchdown and an interception against one of the worst teams in the SEC.
Eason’s longest pass play went for just 9 yards as he averaged a pathetic 1.7 yards per pass attempt. His receivers didn’t do him many favors, but the true freshman looked his age in this one. A dominant rushing effort behind Nick Chubb and Sony Michel gave Georgia what it needed.
Stud: RB Alvin Kamara, Tennessee
There were worries that Tennessee might struggle with Jalen Hurd sidelined with a “lower extremity” injury, but Kamara made Vols fans forget all about Hurd. The CBS broadcast crew compared him to Stanford All-American Christian McCaffrey, and it’s easy to see why with the complete performance Kamara posted against No. 8 Texas A&M.
Kamara had 127 rushing yards, 161 receiving yards, 2 rushing touchdowns and a receiving score. He even added 24 return yards. Kamara was the No. 2 overall prospect in the 2015 JUCO class after transferring from Alabama, but has struggled to find a consistent spot in the rotation behind Hurd. This game proves that Kamara has to be on the field consistently one way or another.
Dud: Arkansas offensive line
Granted, it was playing against the most fearsome front seven in the nation, but Arkansas’ offensive line looked almost unrecognizable from the stout unit that took the field just a year ago in Fayetteville, Ark.
The Razorback line allowed Alabama to break through for 9 tackles for loss, including 6 sacks on star QB Austin Allen. The signal-caller was constantly running for his life from a variety of different players and was hurried 12 additional times. Thanks to all the sacks and tackles for loss, Arkansas averaged 2.0 yards per rush — it came into the game averaging more than double that. Only a gutsy performance from Allen kept the Razorbacks looking at all respectable.