Welcome to The Crock Pot, your one-stop in-season shop for all the SEC football news, notes, quotes and mishaps you’ve been stewing over all weekend. SEC Country has been stewing, too, and what we’re cooking up for you every Monday morning is a tasty medley of the conference’s highlights, lowlights and every #ItJustMeansMore commercial in between.
As Clemson, Michigan and Washington all went down, Week 11 could have — should have — been the SEC’s time to make a statement.
So many detractors have called out the conference for being a “one-team league,” its name and Alabama merely puffing up an otherwise underwhelming group of teams. The division-wide ineptitude of the SEC East has only poured fuel on this discussion.
Well, Saturday handed the haters a whole bunch of ammo. Texas A&M inexplicably blew a 15-point halftime lead and lost, at home, to unranked Ole Miss and freshman quarterback Shea Patterson. Auburn could only muster 164 total yards and 7 points against a Georgia team that, among other things, lost to Vanderbilt at home four weeks ago.
Any tiny, minuscule chance the conference had at squeaking a second team in the College Football Playoff is dead and buried deep underground. There is no resurrection story here. It was a missed shot of major proportions.
All of this simply underscores the clear, wide gap between Alabama and the rest of the conference this year. Excluding close calls against Ole Miss and LSU, the Crimson Tide have won every game by at least 19 points. They have the No. 2 scoring defense, the No. 14 scoring offense and one of the best special teams units in the country. They are complete, deep and dangerous in any setting.
Their dominance also creates a ripple affect that puts tremendous pressure on the conference’s other coaches. LSU fired Les Miles for a few big reasons, and one was his inability to beat Alabama. Texas A&M fans want Kevin Sumlin gone because the school is spending money like Alabama, and recruiting like Alabama, but not winning like Alabama. The same went for Mark Richt at Georgia, who did fire its longtime coach in order to hire Saban’s right-hand man. Florida’s last two coaches have been Saban disciples.
It’s a brutal standard for the rest of the SEC to face every season. In that sense, Saban’s dynasty motivates the conference to stay on top of its game and supports the league’s national prestige. Especially in a down year like 2016.
For Alabama fans, watching the chaos unfold around the country Saturday had to be fun. It can’t be too lonely at the top.
Sean White cost Auburn a shot at the SEC West
Tigers quarterback Sean White said he re-aggravated an apparent shoulder injury during the Georgia game and didn’t fully disclose this information to his coaches.
“I kind of hurt myself a little bit more during the game,” White said Sunday night. “I think I could have done a better job letting the coaches know … wanted to play with my team, and I wanted to try to win.”
White went 6 of 20 passing for 27 yards and threw a pick-6 as Auburn lost to the Bulldogs, 13-7.
I’m not saying John Franklin III would’ve been some sort of savior. But forcing yourself to stay in the game when you’re clearly ineffective? He might have thought he was being selfless, but it’s actually the opposite.
By staying in the game, White literally cost his team the game and a chance at winning the division: His interception was the difference. Georgia did not score a single offensive touchdown.
The official Tigers athletics website tried to spin it was White being a “tough guy,” but the actual tough decision would have been to take himself out and give his team a chance to win.
Such is the life of the tough-minded White, who is second in the SEC in passing efficiency and who doesn’t want to be a labeled as an injury-prone quarterback after suffering injuries each of the last two seasons.
Don’t call me injury-prone, even though I’ve missed multiple games because of injuries in my short college career is essentially how I read that. You know what will make a quarterback’s career even shorter? Playing when he’s hurt.
It’s also on the coaching staff, who had the opportunity to pull White and did not. That’s now two games Auburn has lost due to quarterback mismanagement this season, after the Clemson game plan went awry in Week 1.
Auburn’s defensive players took the high road after the game and didn’t point fingers. But they have every right to be furious, as do Tigers fans.
They still love him
Your neat moment of Week 11 came after the otherwise forgettable Florida-South Carolina game, when a slew of Will Muschamp’s former Gators players lined up to greet their old coach.
Even though Muschamp’s rebuilding Gamecocks lost this one, 20-7, the entire game was a credit to Muschamp. Here are two great defenses more or less built by the same guy. Jarrad Davis, Alex Anzalone, Jalen Tabor, Quincy Wilson, Duke Dawson, Caleb Brantley — all of these guys were recruited by Coach Boom.
Don’t get me wrong, we all know why Florida parted ways with him. That was probably the right move for both sides in the end. But the man can recruit and knows defense, and he learned some hard lessons as a first-time head coach at one of the nation’s premier programs.
South Carolina’s season to date is also a credit to athletic director Ray Tanner, who took a chance on Muschamp. The hire was almost universally panned in the media when it became clear that SC missed out on a few of its top candidates, including Tom Herman, Justin Fuente and Kirby Smart.
But the Gamecocks are poised to finish 6-6 after going 3-9 and losing to The Citadel in Steve Spurrier’s final, partial season. This after the team lost its best player (linebacker Skai Moore) before spring practice and dealt with a small handful of transfers.
Muschamp can be a really good coach before all is said and done.
— Grace Remington CBS4 (@Grace_Remi) November 13, 2016
Interesting stats of the week:
1) Running Hog wild: Arkansas is 6-0 this season when holding opponents under 200 yards rushing, and 0-4 when it doesn’t. The Razorbacks have given up 1,563 yards on the ground in those four losses.
2) Sack masters: Alabama is averaging a nation-best 4 sacks per game this season. Since 2008, only two teams have had a better per-game sack rate: 2012 Stanford (4.07) and 2014 Utah (4.23). The Crimson Tide’s 40 sacks have resulted in a loss of 329 yards — that’s 63 more yards than Texas, the second-best FBS team in the category.
3) Playing the margins: The SEC leaders in takeaways? South Carolina and Texas A&M, with 23. The SEC leader in turnover margin? South Carolina, at plus-10, which is tied for seventh nationally. The six teams ahead of the Gamecocks — Washington, Old Dominion, Western Michigan, Ohio State, San Diego State and Minnesota — have a combined record of 51-9. Will Muschamp defense.
4) Break one off: If big offensive plays correlate to wins, Ole Miss should have a better record. Patterson completed six passes of 20-plus yards on Saturday, giving the Rebels 62 such plays on the year (tied 15th-most, FBS). All but four of the 15 teams tied with or ahead of Ole Miss in this category have eight or more wins this season. The big sore spot for Freeze has been rush defense (229 yards allowed per game), and the win over Texas A&M marked just the second time his defense held an opponent under 160 yards rushing.
Projecting the College Football Playoff rankings
Are there even four good teams left?
I kid, of course, but it is pretty remarkable how little separation exists behind Alabama. There’s a group of about eight top-tier teams with similar resumes and talent levels. How the Playoff selection committee plans to objectively sort through this mess is beyond me, but here’s my best guess as to what they could throw our way on Tuesday.
- Ohio State
- Penn State
- West Virginia
- Oklahoma State
- Florida State
- Texas A&M
- Washington State
- Western Michigan
- Boise State
- Virginia Tech
Here’s how I voted in this week’s edition of the official SEC Country Power Poll:
- Alabama — The only constant in a conference of mystery.
- LSU — The Tigers opened up a can of Woo Pig whoop-ass on the road against a pretty good Hogs team.
- Auburn — Rivalry games are tough, and the Georgia run defense is underrated.
- Tennessee — You don’t always know what you’ll get from the Vols each week, but that’s half the fun, right? Josh Dobbs is still an immensely talented quarterback.
- Texas A&M — Injuries have taken their toll, but the ground game has almost evaporated. The Aggies were held under 130 yards rushing by Ole Miss.
- Arkansas — If they can stop the run, the Hogs and Austin Allen will put up a fight. If not, yikes.
- Ole Miss — Hey, the Rebels have another good quarterback, and signed the nation’s No. 5 recruiting class in February. Reloaded, indeed.
- Florida — ESPN’s FPI gives the Gators less than a 25 percent chance to win each of their last two games. On the bright side, Austin Appleby looked pretty good.
- Georgia — Upsetting Auburn is a major, major momentum builder that changes the outlook on Year 1 under Kirby Smart.
- Kentucky — In each of their five losses, the Wildcats have given up at least 460 total yards. Tennessee racked up 599 on Saturday.
- South Carolina — Will Muschamp’s revenge bid fell short, but a likely bowl bid will cure those blues.
- Mississippi State — Figuring out this team feels like trying to decipher the message in your fortune cookie. “The best prophet of the future is the past … except this week.”
- Missouri — Barry Odom snapped his alma mater’s awful SEC losing streak. Good for him.
- Vanderbilt — Ralph Webb is hurt, and it’s hurting the Commodores offense.
Headlines from around the league
- Amid chaotic season, LSU suddenly in driver’s seat for Sugar Bowl berth (Alex Hickey, SEC Country)
- Austin Appleby gives slumping Florida offense an encouraging spark (Ryan Young, SEC Country)
- A fitting moment: Maurice Smith helps Georgia – and Alabama (Seth Emerson, DawgNation)
- What Nick Saban said after Alabama’s blowout win over Mississippi State (Marq Burnett, SEC Country)
- What Hugh Freeze said after Ole Miss’ thrilling upset win against Texas A&M (Alec Shirkey, SEC Country)
- Arkansas squandered chances, maybe its season, against LSU (Eric Bolin, SEC Country)
- Gus Malzahn sticks with Sean White in Auburn’s worst offensive game since 2012 (Justin Ferguson, SEC Country)
- Casual Friday: Freshmen Fox and Monk played it too cool for Calipari in Kentucky’s opener (Kyle Tucker, SEC Country)
- Will Muschamp expects Brandon McIlwain to start baseball workouts in December (Mike Wilson, SEC Country)
- 5 things worth considering for Tennessee (Mike Griffith, SEC Country)
What you need to know (besides football)
Do better, be better: About that whole election thing. Objectively, my biggest takeaway is: Much of the media seems to be out of touch with a wide swath of the country and how it felt about the presidential race. Yes, “the media” is not a single entity, but rather a bunch of different organizations comprised of independent reporters who each have different beliefs, opinions and skill. But there’s a problem: Reporters tend to exist within a bubble, particularly with the rise of Twitter. You don’t follow your readers, you follow important people who say shocking things, which you then parse, analyze and pass on to your readers. And you follow other reporters. There’s been heavy use of the phrase “echo chamber,” and in the case of the 2016 election, I think there’s definite truth to that. There’s an interesting NiemanLab piece on this very subject. With the country as divided as it is, we need better journalism in the political arena, plain and simple.
Return: Dave Chappelle has kept himself out of the limelight in recent years — I mean, the guy lives on a farm near Yellow Springs, Ohio — but that all changed this weekend when he hosted SNL. The comedian’s apparent aging was a little jarring to see, and his long opening monologue was more serious and political than it was strictly funny. But I did love this particular sketch, because it revived a bunch of Chappelle’s old characters on the Chappelle show, including Tyrone Biggums, Clayton Bigsby and Lil’ Jon. Those were simpler times.
Memory lane: We’re fast-approaching holiday season, which means you’re going to have people talking about Peanuts holiday specials … again. Here’s my hot, hot take: I’ve never thought Peanuts was funny, or enjoyable, or even mildly amusing. It’s pretty dark, somber and dreary. Don’t believe me? This is purportedly the first Peanuts comic strip to ever run in a newspaper (the year was 1950). Good grief, Charles Schulz, what the hell is wrong with you?
Full disclosure: I went to Georgia — and before you ask, my fandom was beaten out of me as soon as I began pursuing journalism. But I have friends that attend games on a regular basis. A couple buddies own a big blanket imprinted with CBS legend Verne Lundquist’s face. Before the Auburn game on Saturday, through people who know people and so on, a CBS staffer saw a picture of it and showed it to Verne, who loved it. Anyways, these friends apparently bought fake tickets from a scalper and couldn’t get into the game. So they approached the CBS truck near the stadium and relayed the story about their Verne blanket. As it turns out, CBS had leftover tickets. My friends got into the second half of the Auburn-Georgia game for free. So thanks to Uncle Verne and CBS for the generosity. You guys rock.
I don’t have an actual photo of the blanket, but this is the wonderful Verne shot they used to make it: