Welcome to The Crock Pot, your one-stop shop for all the SEC football news, notes, quotes and mishaps you might have missed during the weekend. Here’s what we’re stewing over …
There was a moment last weekend where coach Nick Saban did what he does best: Get angry at reporters who may or may not be affecting the play of his football powerhouse by showering praise upon what is clearly the best team in the country.
That’s fine. We’re not so sure Jalen Hurts went 12 of 19 against Arkansas because of the laudatory words typically published on SEC Country dot com, but at this point, Saban could probably say an all-spaghetti diet is the surest way to live a long life and fans would eat it up. The media’s opinion is pretty irrelevant when it comes to Alabama football, anyway; the Tide keep winning whether anyone likes it or not.
And that’s the likeliest outcome in what might falsely seem like a wide-open championship race — the Tide will keep winning.
Yes, Week 7 was a pretty wild one. Clemson lost. Washington lost. Washington State lost (even though it felt like the Cougars already had). Auburn has now lost twice. There weren’t many teams that looked like they’d stand in Alabama’s way back at the beginning of September, and now there appear to be even fewer: Ohio State, Clemson, Oklahoma and maybe Georgia. That’s it.
Alabama’s winning recipe is no secret. Talking heads like to over-analyze all the nuances of Saban’s football winning machine, but it’s really quite simple: He recruits and hires better than anyone else, which gives him a deeper roster and a deeper staff of on- and off-field coaches than anyone else. Football is a game of manpower, and the Tide continue to win that battle by a long shot.
“Rat poison” ain’t gonna change that.
3 other things you may have missed in Week 7
The SEC can pretty clearly get 2 teams into the playoff
Alabama is the surest bet in the country to make the College Football Playoff, but Georgia now has a good shot as well now that Clemson, Oklahoma and Washington all have one loss.
The only other undefeated Power 5 teams are Penn State, TCU, Wisconsin and Miami, and we’re not so sure any of them will stay undefeated. Wisconsin has the best shot of that bunch when it comes to the regular season, but the eventual Big Ten East division champ (Ohio State?) is likely to wallop the Badgers come December.
Let’s assume that Penn State, Wisconsin or Ohio State win out, that Clemson or Miami also wins out, that TCU finishes with one loss and that Georgia goes 12-0 with a competitive loss to Alabama in the SEC Championship Game. Which three teams make the playoff with Alabama?
- The Big Ten champion
- The ACC champion
- One of Georgia, TCU and the Big Ten/ACC runner-up
TCU’s marquee nonconference win is Arkansas. Penn State’s is Pittsburgh, Wisconsin’s is BYU and Ohio State’s is … Army?
Miami’s would be Notre Dame at home, while Clemson’s would be Auburn at home. Georgia, meanwhile, would theoretically have wins against both Notre Dame and Auburn on the road. The playoff pick is obviously the Bulldogs.
The likeliest threat to a one-loss Georgia team is an undefeated TCU squad. But the Horned Frogs still have to play at Oklahoma. For the time being, Alabama, Ohio State, Georgia and Clemson are my playoff teams in that order.
Coach O beats better team (with Les Miles’ players)
The narrative of LSU football in 2017 has suddenly changed because of the order in which Ed Orgeron won his first seven games. Yes, his team lost to Troy. Yes, his team lost to Mississippi State by 30 points. But because the Tigers beat a bad Florida team in The Swamp and a potentially overrated Auburn team at home, fans will probably end up calling this season a net win.
Why? Look at the remainder of this schedule: Ole Miss, Alabama, Arkansas, Tennessee and then Texas A&M at home. Three of those games are easy wins. The Aggies are beatable. That’s 9-3, albeit in a very bad SEC; the Bayou Bengals might very well finish third in the conference standings. Orgeron will earn praise for guiding the Tigers to a pretty good finish in his first full season, despite doing so with a roster full of good players he did not recruit and with two of the better coordinators in the country on staff.
On another note … really, Auburn? Gus Malzahn is now exactly 14-14 in the SEC since 2014; surely this is going over well on The Plains.
Anyway, here’s Orgeron talking about chicken on a stick.
— Ross Dellenger (@RossDellenger) October 16, 2017
Horrendous red zone play-calling: Big Orange Butch Jones Edition
Tennessee is now 3-3, which is actually somewhat fortunate when you consider this team could be 1-5 with a loss to UMass right now.
Why are the Vols so bad this season? That’s a loaded question. You have a bunch of new coaches, no more Josh Dobbs and fewer NFL-caliber players on the roster. Jauan Jennings is injured. Butch Jones is still the coach. And so on.
But a glaring issue that was highlighted during an excruciating loss to South Carolina was, of course, an offense that absolutely falls apart inside its opponent’s 20-yard line.
The Vols marched into the red zone four times on Saturday; three of those trips resulted in field goals. The fourth, which came in the waning seconds of a one-score game, resulted in nothing. And if that sounds bad, just consider what the Tennessee offensive staff actually called with a win less than 3 yards away.
- First down: With a freshman quarterback under center, Tennessee — which has no timeouts — calls play action out of shotgun; Jarrett Guarantano nearly takes a game-ending sack. Instead, he wisely chucks it away.
- Second down: UT’s best (healthy) receiver Marquez Callaway runs a slant and is the primary target, with John Kelly running a flat route on the same side of the field. Callaway is double-covered, and Kelly is jammed behind the LOS. Guarantano fires to Callaway and it’s knocked incomplete. The clock operator is on his game and stops the clock with 0:01 remaining.
- Third down: You have 1 second left, Kelly on your roster and 2 yards to gain. So, naturally, the Vols have Guarantano roll out to the far side of the field and throw across his body to Brandon Johnson?
That last play is funny because you have an offensive-minded coach who used to coach receivers (Butch Jones) pitted against a defensive-minded coach who used to coach the secondary (Will Muschamp). The South Carolina cornerbacks school the Tennessee receivers on this play, and Guarantano — who makes a pretty good throw, all things considered — is forced to fire incomplete.
Those three plays were almost a microcosm of Tennessee’s season, one that has to infuriate UT fans knowing the opportunity they missed last season with a far better roster.
Highlight of the week: A finesse back, you say?
Poor DeMarkus Acy. He deserved better in life. Kirby Smart has clearly waved the magic Saban wand over the Georgia strength and conditioning program.
Sony Michel is not to be taken lightly. pic.twitter.com/1KsYNBoO9O
— Deadspin (@Deadspin) October 15, 2017
SEC power rankings after Week 7
- Alabama: Not even left tackle-turned-quarterback Cole Kelley could slow down the Crimson Tide freight train, which gets Tennessee on national television next week, followed by a bye. Easy living, ain’t it? (Last week: 1)
- Georgia: Missouri could have been a trap game. It certainly felt like the sort of game the Bulldogs would barely win or even lose under Mark Richt. But we’re in the Smart era, where UGA racks up 696 total yards of offense when the defense has an off night. (Last week: 2)
- Auburn: Who else are you going to put here? Not Mississippi State, which was blown out by Auburn. LSU lost to Troy, and Texas A&M lost to UCLA. Auburn’s two losses are at Clemson and at LSU. And while Malzahn’s Tigers should have beaten LSU on Saturday, this is still one of the better teams in the SEC talent-wise. (Last week: 3)
- Mississippi State: The SEC West Bulldogs took care of business against a bad BYU team. Kentucky will be an interesting test for an MSU team that seems better than average, but not dominant. (Last week: 4)
- Texas A&M: That said, the Aggies are 5-2 and the only team that’s given Alabama any semblance of a competitive fight this season. Coach Kevin Sumlin deserves props for what A&M has accomplished thus far, UCLA game notwithstanding. (Last week: 5)
- LSU: Forgive me for not being sold on the Bayou Bengals just yet, but the Mississippi State head-to-head beatdown and the Troy loss are not so quickly forgotten. However, Orgeron’s Tigers are absolutely trending in the right direction, and the back half of their schedule makes 9-3 pretty likely. (Last week: 6)
- Kentucky: You are looking at the second-best team in the SEC East. Make of that what you will. (Last week: 8)
- South Carolina: The 7-point loss to Texas A&M in College Station is aging well. So is the win over 6-1 NC State. Quietly, Coach Muschamp has done a pretty good job. (Last week: 9)
- Florida: Oh, Jim McElwain, how far your Gators have fallen in the span of two weeks. Yes, the LSU and A&M losses were close; so were the Tennessee and Kentucky wins. A 6-5 finish is entirely possible; consider that for a moment. Quarterback Feleipe Franks needs some help, man. (Last week: 7)
- Ole Miss: Beat up on Vandy thanks to Shea Patterson, A.J. Brown and Phil Longo’s Air Raid. The 3-3 Rebels could pose some problems down the stretch against Kentucky, A&M and Mississippi State. (Last week: 13)
- Tennessee: Jones feels like a dead man walking, and Alabama may very well be his last game with the Vols. (Last week: 11)
- Vanderbilt: From 3-0 to 3-4, the Commodores simply don’t have the arsenal to support quarterback Kyle Shurmur or tailback Ralph Webb. (Last week: 10)
- Arkansas: I’m not so sure the Hogs will win another SEC game. At least Missouri is showing some life on one side of the ball. (Last week: 12)
- Missouri: The Tigers probably deserve to be higher, because they’re bound to win a few more games this season. Look at their last six games (Idaho, UConn, Florida, Tennessee, Vanderbilt and Arkansas) and tell me they couldn’t win five of those on the right day. Give Barry Odom some time. (Last week: 14)
Interesting SEC stats from Week 7
- Georgia, which rolled up a near-record offensive total against Missouri on Saturday night, has not topped 600 yards of total offensive since its 2013 win against Kentucky. That team had Aaron Murray, Todd Gurley, Keith Marshall and Chris Conley.
- The 2017 Georgia offense has especially picked up some steam on the ground in recent weeks, combining for nearly 800 yards rushing against Vandy and Missouri. Nick Chubb, Sony Michel and D’Andre Swift are all averaging at least 6.4 yards per carry this season.
- With its win over Arkansas, Alabama has now outscored SEC opponents, 193-31, this season. That 40.5-point average margin of victory against conference foes is better than what the Saban dynasty achieved in 2016 (24.9 points) and well above what the program did in 2015 (14.1 points) when it won a national championship. The Tide have obviously yet to play Auburn and LSU, but Tennessee is up next.
- Speaking of the Vols, Tennessee has the worst scoring offense in the SEC through six games (21.7 points per contest). UT hasn’t sunk that low in the scoring category since 2011, when it scored fewer than 13 points against six different SEC opponents.
- The problem for Tennessee here is clear: A lack of explosive plays. The Vols only have 19 plays of 20-plus yards this season, which is the worst mark among Power 5 schools. Even Rutgers.
- Two SEC defenses, meanwhile, have been among the best at limiting big plays this season. Georgia and Mississippi State rank No. 2 and No. 3, respectively, in the country when it comes to plays of 10-plus yards allowed. Alabama, Kentucky and Auburn are top 25 nationally in that category as well.
Tweet of the week
Arizona’s freshman backup quarterback has -1 rushing yards on the season, as one Twitter user pointed out, and his response to that illustrious accomplishment is elite.
😎😎 I give all the glory to God https://t.co/2NnS0K1y0Y
— Rhett Rodriguez (@rhett_rod) October 15, 2017