Welcome to The Crock Pot, your one-stop shop for all the SEC football news, notes, quotes and mishaps you might have missed over the weekend. Here’s what we’re stewing over …
Three blowouts and a Sun Belt upset of an established power highlighted the SEC action from Week 5. Here are three takeaways and much more from the continuing madness:
1. Butch, baby, it’s not working out
If ever there was a perfect metaphor for a football season, it’d be the 2017 Tennessee Vols and their smokey grey, “Team 121” emblazoned trash can, because it so succinctly encapsulates everything about the Butch Jones era on Rocky Top that has drawn ridicule and eye-rolling.
It’s not that Jones is an awful football coach — Derek Dooley was an awful football coach. Defenders of Jones are quick to point out the mess he inherited from his predecessors, the lack of NFL-caliber talent on the roster and the general malaise hanging over the program.
The problem is Jones will all-too-quickly point that out, too. You’ve probably heard it before: Back-to-back 9-win seasons and top-25 finishes. Three consecutive bowl wins. Earlier this season, we heard 17 wins in the last 21 games. Nobody’s getting fooled here; everyone with a vested interest in Tennessee football knows these rose-colored glasses stats are coming from the program itself.
Then there’s the corny, schmaltzy, rah-rah Butch sayings we hear when he’s behind the mic: Brick by brick. 5-stars hearts. Champions of life. Most recently, when asked about two of his players fighting, he responded with a question: “What do we want out of our media?”
It was bizarre and seemed to highlight the extent to which Jones is freelancing at the podium.
He can’t get out of his own way off the field, or on it. There’s no authenticity to what he says in a public forum; it feels like fabricated, half-hearted nonsense that doesn’t seem to resonate with fans, boosters, reporters and, perhaps to some degree, his players. Therein lies the problem.
A key part of being a head football coach, cliche though it may sound, is being able to effectively communicate and sell a vision to recruits, players, the administration and fans (via the media and social media). Tennessee football is a brand, yes, and Jones is the de facto CMO. Because of him, it is a brand all of the above now identify with a trash can, Champions of Life, self-congratulation for modest achievements and, most recently, losing.
Jones made a mention of fake news last week. Here’s some real news he might want to digest before pointing fingers:
- Tennessee is 7-6 in its last 13 games, dating back to the Texas A&M loss.
- Tennessee is 2-6 in its last eight SEC games, the same as Missouri.
- The Vols are 14-20 in SEC games under Jones. They are also 0-8 against the SEC West, 1-3 against Florida and 2-2 against Vanderbilt under Jones.
- The 2017 Tennessee offense is averaging 5.19 yards per play, which is 10th-worst among Power 5 teams.
- Excluding John Kelly, Vols skill players have combined for 1,336 total offensive yards in five games, or 227.2 yards per game. That means without Kelly, Tennessee would have the second-worst offense in football — better only than UTEP, whose coach just resigned.
- Among SEC teams, Tennessee ranks third-worst in turnover margin, third-worst in time of possession and second-worst in red zone scoring percentage.
- Tennessee has scored 3 or fewer points in 10 of its last 12 quarters played.
We could go on, but it’s clear by this point that plenty of people around Rocky Top are sick of it. The only question that matters now, in a season that likely holds a few more losses for the Vols, is whether John Currie and the boosters feel the way many fans do.
— BUM CHILLIPS (@edsbs) September 30, 2017
That moment when you want to hide in your shirt, but your head is just a little too big.
2. Why, exactly, was Coach O a ‘perfect’ hire for LSU?
Imagine falling for the idea of Ed Orgeron being a great hire and the long term answer at LSU pic.twitter.com/wJy038VMHg
— CFB Chalkboard (@CFBChalkboard) October 1, 2017
Maybe these media folks like Ed Orgeron because he talks funny, and he had a nifty story about some binder that supposedly won Joe Alleva over and proved that Coach O was new and improved. Wrong! Orgeron, if you recall, was essentially Plan C for the Tigers once Jimbo Fisher and Tom Herman were ruled out.
Orgeron is still the same guy who went 10-25 at Ole Miss. Winning games with rented players is not the same as running your own show, and LSU fans were dealt a harsh reminder of that Saturday night. The offense looked abysmal, finishing 0-for-9 on third down and committing 4 turnovers; Danny Etling and Myles Brennan each threw an interception, while the ground game averaged a relatively shocking 5.6 yards per carry.
Then there was the matter of Nick Brossette’s game-opening fumble, which apparently caught Orgeron by surprise; he thought Darrell Williams was going to get the ball. Bad, bad look.
LSU is 3-2 entering back-to-back games against Florida and Auburn. The Tigers also travel to Tuscaloosa in a month. They’ll almost certainly lose all three if the offensive line is getting knocked around like that and the quarterback play continues to resemble a “worst hits of the Big Ten” album.
Also… called it. Sort of.
— Alec Shirkey (@AShirkey) October 1, 2017
3. Nobody’s going to crown either offense yet, but Georgia and Auburn have very, very good defenses
Auburn is allowing 3.77 yards per play (No. 3 in the FBS) and has played Clemson (No. 26 offense), Missouri (No. 44 offense) and Mississippi State (No. 59 offense).
Georgia is allowing 3.8 yards per play (No. 4 in the FBS) and has played Notre Dame (No. 30 offense), Mississippi State and … Tennessee. The Vols are bad, but a shutout is a shutout.
Point is, both of these defenses look elite, and the numbers back that up. Kevin Steele has overseen a defensive renaissance on The Plains powered by some astounding signings on the defensive line and quality development of its linebackers and secondary. Kirby Smart and Mel Tucker have done the same in Athens, developing key stars like Roquan Smith and recruiting tons of depth on the D-line.
The Week 11 clash between these two in Auburn will be fun.
Interesting SEC stats from Week 5
- Alabama’s average margin of victory this season is 37.6 points. I’ll write that again: Alabama’s average margin of victory this season is thirty. seven. point. six. points.
- The only team to not commit a single turnover in 2017 … is Alabama. The Crimson Tide have a plus-10 turnover margin through five games.
- Tennessee hadn’t been shut out in 23 years before Georgia blanked the Vols at home on Saturday. The Bulldogs haven’t won an SEC game by 41-plus points since 2013, when it beat Kentucky 59-17.
- Vanderbilt quarterback Kyle Shurmur is tied for the SEC lead in passing touchdowns (11), and his 197 passing yards per game has the junior on pace to finish third on the Commdores’ single-season passing leaderboard.
- The SEC is home to three of the country’s best five punters, if we’re judging them by average punt distance. Johnny Townsend, Trevor Daniel and Corey Fatony are all netting more than 46 yards per punt.
Maybe the stat of the year so far: UGA is now 17-for-17 in the red zone. Playing Smart.
— Jeff Sentell (@jeffsentell) September 30, 2017
Highlight of the week: An aptly-named freshman appears
This might not be the sort of jaw-dropping highlight we typically fawn over at SEC Country, but look at the initial burst and then the leg-churning power of Georgia tailback D’Andre Swift on this third-down handoff. The kid has some good football ahead of him.
— Dayne Young (@dayneyoung) September 30, 2017
SEC power rankings after Week 5
- Alabama: So far it’s Alabama 125, SEC 3. And here’s a scarier thought: Will any of the Crimson Tide’s next six opponents fare any better? Texas A&M, Arkansas, Tennessee, LSU and Mississippi State could all turn into blowouts. (Last week: 1)
- Georgia: Speaking of blowouts, the Bulldogs have a mighty impressive defense. What Jim Chaney and Smart decide to do with the quarterback situation will remain a source of intrigue, but that stable of running backs has Alabama-like depth. (Last week: 2)
- Auburn: Back on the right track, the Gus Malzahn squad only has two true challenges left on the schedule. If the Tigers can continue to find their footing on offense, they’ll remain a top-ranked team leading into the Iron Bowl. (Last week: 3)
- Florida: The Gators continue to win ugly, even as injuries deplete their offense at the skill positions. No Antonio Callaway, no Jordan Scarlett and now, no Luke Del Rio. If the offensive line keeps playing like that, it might now matter. (Last week: 5)
- Mississippi State: Were the losses to Georgia and Auburn abysmal? Yes. Will the Bulldogs lose this badly again, outside of their matchup with Alabama? Probably not. The nature of these blowouts has been surprising, but the talent and the coaching are enough to orchestrate a rebound. (Last week: 4)
- Vanderbilt: The other reason MSU slotted in at No. 5 is because, frankly, there’s a complete absence of quality teams after the top-four. LSU? Lost to Troy. Kentucky? Almost lost to Eastern Michigan. Vandy? Yeah, OK. The Commodores gave the Gators a game in The Swamp, at least, so here we are. (Last week: 8)
- Texas A&M: Beat a decent South Carolina team at home. This team should be 5-0, but as Twitter likes to point out, the Aggies ain’t played nobody yet, Pawl, and their next four games are against Alabama, Florida, Mississippi State and Auburn. (Last week: 9)
- LSU: How much trouble are the Tigers in here? A loss to Troy is inexcusable, but the talent is there to be better than that. Coach O and Matt Canada need to step their games up. (Last week: 6)
- Kentucky: This is a team that keeps playing to the level of its competition. That’ll result in heart-attack games like the one we saw Saturday, but it’s also might be enough to finish third in the SEC East. (Last week: 7)
- South Carolina: The N.C. State win is beginning to feel more like a mirage. Kind of like the Gamecocks’ running game, which ranks 12th in the conference this season. (Last week: 10)
- Arkansas: New Mexico State is a decent team — one that nearly beat Arizona State and Troy. The Hogs need to show much more life against the Power 5 for anyone to be happy, though. (Last week: 12)
- Tennessee: The Vols could just as easily be 1-4 had the Georgia Tech and UMass games not fallen in their favor. And in a head-to-head matchup, Arkansas would probably win. Burn it all down. (Last week: 10)
- Ole Miss: There are only two questions worth asking about the Rebels right now: How badly will the NCAA hammer them, and who will the next coach be? (Last week: 13)
- Missouri: The Tigers had one heck of a game against Bye Week. They really gave it their all. We promise. (Last week: 14)
Hittin’ the links: SEC Country coverage you don’t want to miss
- Kentucky basketball: Former Wildcats reflect on Rick Pitino’s legacy before Louisville scandal (Kyle Tucker)
- Georgia’s defense remains ‘on the path to domination’ (Seth Emerson)
- At this point, Georgia’s play is doing all the talking (Chip Towers)
- Jim McElwain loses his starter again, but Florida not crippled at QB this year (Zach Abolverdi)
- Florida has to hope QB Feleipe Franks can build on confidence booster vs. Vanderbilt (Ryan Young)
- Alabama football re-establishing itself as turnovers kings, and not just on defense (Christopher Walsh)
- WATCH: A feisty Nick Saban meets with reporters following big win over Ole Miss (Marq Burnett)
- ‘White Lightning’ strikes again: Auburn WR Will Hastings continues rise as unlikely big-play weapon (Justin Ferguson)
- By staying the same, LSU defense is getting worse (Nick Suss)
- Communication a troubling weakness for Ed Orgeron (Alex Hickey)
- Deon Stewart, Jordan Jones broke out, and they will be essential for Arkansas (Eric Bolin)
- OL woes leave South Carolina trying to play eight-man football in SEC (David Caraviello)
- Tennessee football coach Butch Jones ‘holding everyone accountable’ (Mike Griffith)
- Wildcats admit to playing down to competition after Eastern Michigan game (Joe Mussatto)
Tweet of the week
Sources: Full-time sports reporting is not the foundation of an active lifestyle. Can confirm.
Every #Vols player not named John Kelly combined to out-gain the media by 20 yards in the first half. And we’ve got some fat people up here.
— Wes Rucker (@wesrucker247) September 30, 2017