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.
For as ugly and drawn out as it felt at times, there’s an argument that Tennessee-Texas A&M was the most important SEC matchup of the year.
Alabama games against the Aggies and Vols will dictate a lot, but Texas A&M’s nail-biting 45-38 overtime victory in College Station holds bigger implications because it really opens the door for two SEC teams making the College Football Playoff.
There’s still a small possibility that happens, but a blowout on either side would’ve done even more damage. If Texas A&M beats Alabama or plays the Tide to a close loss, the Aggies have a strong case for the Playoff; if the beat-up Vols do the impossible and thwart Nick Saban on Saturday in Neyland Stadium, that also would greatly strengthen UT’s Playoff argument.
What else needs to happen outside the conference?
Well, Houston losing to Navy was a big first step. With the Cougars all but out of Playoff contention now — an unbeaten Boise State team wouldn’t have the resume points to crack the top four — no Group of Five team has a real shot.
Baylor and West Virginia had byes. They’ll play on Dec. 3, so at most one would be undefeated, and even that might not get the Big 12 a Playoff spot. The winner of Baylor-West Virginia losing a game along the way would all but guarantee it.
That leaves the ACC, Big Ten and Pac-12. The ACC has Clemson and, if the Tigers lose to Florida State or another team, potentially 11-1 Louisville. The Big Ten has Michigan and Ohio State, both teams that look poised to remain unbeaten until rivalry week. Washington is the only West Coast team with an inside track.
The big domino that really needs to fall is Washington. One loss wouldn’t end the Huskies’ hopes if they win the conference title. Two losses would.
After that, Louisville (only loss a narrow one at Clemson) and the loser of Michigan-Ohio State also would have strong Playoff claims. Which means wins against bowl-eligible teams — a major factor for the Playoff selection committee — would play an important role in the decision.
Texas A&M is looking at seven potential wins against bowl teams, as are the Vols. Michigan might have eight, and its toughest remaining opponent outside of OSU is probably Indiana. Louisville might only have five or six.
So the last thing needed for two SEC Playoff teams is a two-loss Michigan team.
- Alabama narrowly beats Texas A&M or takes a close loss at Tennessee, and wins every other game
- Texas A&M finishes with one loss, or Tennessee runs the table
- Washington loses two games
- One of Michigan/Ohio State loses two games
There’s so much football left to be played that this feels pretty irresponsible, but it’s fun to dream.
On luck and 2013 Auburn
I’ve written plenty already about Texas A&M, and how for the past several weeks I’ve written on record that the Aggies are legitimate. But they’re still not the biggest story from last Saturday in College Station.
Tennessee, which turned the ball over 7 (7!) times while dealing with a rash of injuries, fought back and forced overtime in College Station. It was incredible to behold.
Eventually, though, the magic ran out.
There’s this debate about whether Tennessee’s 5-0 start was “lucky.” From the standpoint of fumble recoveries, first-half deficits and, of course, the Hail Mary at Georgia, yes, a lot of things went the Vols’ way from Week 1 to Week 5. Even against the Aggies, Tennessee benefited from Trayveon Williams’ goal-line fumble, which turned a touchdown into a touchback.
But from an injury standpoint, the Vols have been cursed. Cam Sutton, Darrin Kirkland, Jalen Reeves-Maybin, Jalen Hurd. Danny O’Brien had to be carted off the field Saturday after suffering an incredibly scary injury (he has, thankfully, been released from the hospital).
There have been several comparisons to 2013 Auburn with this group of Vols, but Gus Malzahn’s first Tigers team didn’t have the depth to withstand these sorts of losses. Butch Jones’ squad is incredibly deep. Tennessee third-string running back John Kelly nearly racked up 100 yards at Kyle Field. Backup linebacker Colton Jumper picked off Trevor Knight.
Imagine what this team can do once it starts getting healthier. Outlasting Alabama, beat up as Tennessee is, after an intense game like that will be nearly impossible, but finishing 10-2 and potentially getting another crack at the Tide in Atlanta might be all the Vols need.
Time is on LSU’s side, but it might not matter
Even if Malzahn holds onto his gig at Auburn, which now appears more likely, there are several high-profile coaching jobs that could open this offseason: Texas, Oregon, USC, Notre Dame. Meaning LSU will be far from the only big dog fishing to land Houston’s Tom Herman.
With Navy pulling off a shocking upset against the Cougars this weekend, mortally wounding if not killing Houston’s Playoff hopes, Tigers athletic director Joe Alleva is first in line to pitch Herman on moving his family to Baton Rouge.
But it’s more likely Herman ends up at Texas, where he served as a graduate assistant, or USC, located about 57 miles from his college stomping grounds of Cal Lutheran. LSU is objectively a top-5 job in the country; Herman simply might prefer other programs for personal reasons.
So, Alleva will need several Plan B options here. Jimbo Fisher, Ed Orgeron and Lane Kiffin are all names prominently discussed these days, but those aren’t the names I have circled.
Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy, who is butting heads with school booster T. Boone Pickens, might not be so happy in Stillwater. He also offered the following quote on Les Miles’ firing:
— Kyle Fredrickson (@kylefredrickson) September 26, 2016
The Cowboys have lost to Central Michigan, Baylor and nearly dropped one to Iowa State. If internal pressure for a change somehow mounts, would it really surprise anyone to see Gundy trying to duck out ahead of the proverbial storm?
The SEC Network needs something to fill airtime
Even broadcasting non-revenue sports like soccer and volleyball haven’t eaten up enough space on the schedule for the conference’s TV network.
When LSU-Florida got postponed/canceled, originally scheduled to air on ESPN, that bumped Auburn-Mississippi State to the four-letter network and left the SEC Network with nothing for the noon to 4 p.m. time slot. That resulted in a strange setup in which Booger McFarland and Marcus Spears were commenting on the game live from the studio.
This is the problem that arises when an entire network is dedicated to the sports programs of 14 colleges. There’s a lot of dead space to fill, especially outside of football season. Obviously, the network still is generating tons of revenue, so it’s not a money issue, but from a viewership standpoint there’s a lot more the SEC/ESPN could do to diversify the experience.
One suggestion: Hire a team whose only job is to film features on great SEC games of the past, as is done on the NFL Network. Who doesn’t enjoy watching those features and, perhaps, learning some football history?
Teaching the Big Men how to celebrate TDs.
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) October 9, 2016
Here’s how I voted in this week’s edition of the official SEC Country Power Poll:
- Alabama — Nick Saban’s frightening collection of pass rushers made us fear for Austin Allen’s well-being on Saturday.
- Texas A&M — The Aggies needed a lot of Tennessee mistakes and injuries to beat UT at home in overtime.
- Tennessee — If the Vols can get a little healthier, they’ll be very dangerous down the stretch.
- Ole Miss — Still one of the country’s very best two-loss teams.
- Auburn — Letting Rhett Lashlee call plays has rejuvenated the Tigers offense; 8-4 is quite possible.
- LSU — Will we see the offense that put up 13 points on the Plains or ran all over Mizzou in Death Valley?
- Arkansas — The Hogs have great talent at the skill positions, but offensive line play undid them in Fayetteville.
- Florida — The Gators’ last two games have been concerning, to say the least.
- Georgia — The Bulldogs knocked off South Carolina on the road, 28-14, but it was sloppy. Offensive balance (236 yards rushing vs. 29 yards passing on Sunday) still eludes them.
- South Carolina — The defense has been commendable. The offense has been atrocious. The Gamecocks need offensive linemen.
- Kentucky — The Wildcats have looked marginally better lately. Believe it or not, six wins is a real possibility.
- Missouri — The quality of their two wins is a concern; Drew Lock still has a ways to go.
- Vanderbilt — The ‘Dores are averaging 19 points per game, 120th in the FBS.
- Mississippi State — This might be Dan Mullen’s worst team since he started coaching in Starkville.
Headlines from around the league
- Separating fact from fiction as we point fingers for Florida-LSU postponement (Zach Abolverdi, SEC Country)
- Nick Saban shares message he gave to Arkansas center Frank Ragnow, whose father died of a heart attack (Marq Burnett, SEC Country)
- Florida players’ families in the path of Hurricane Matthew are really sorry about your football game (Kyle Tucker, SEC Country)
- The Great Tennessee Magic Act is no more, and the road to Atlanta is disappearing (Alex Smith, SEC Country)
- Week 6 SEC bowl projections (Alec Shirkey, SEC Country)
- Tennessee DT Danny O’Brien leaving hospital after exiting game with injury (SEC Country)
- Georgia’s Rushing Performance a Sign That Future Is Bright for Kirby Smart (Barrett Sallee, Bleacher Report)
- Alabama’s secondary remains last piece of championship puzzle (Edward Aschoff, ESPN)
- 10 takeaways from a wet and wild day of college football (Pat Forde, Yahoo)
- Houston’s loss could mean a lot more than just the end of its playoff hopes (Jon Solomon, CBS)
Reviewing the predictions
Here’s how I fared this weekend:
- LSU at No. 18 Florida: The game will be made up if necessary — Commissioner Greg Sankey said “the game needs to be played.” TBD, but feeling good.
- Auburn at Mississippi State: Upset alert — Noooooope. False.
- No. 9 Tennessee at No. 8 Texas A&M: An SEC team finally contains Derek Barnett — Not quite. The Vols star pass rusher registered a sack and 2 QB hurries. Impressive. False.
- Vanderbilt at Kentucky: Both coaches lose their jobs, eventually — Ugly game, but maybe the Wildcats can scrape their way to 6-6, and Mark Stoops sticks around. TBD.
- No. 1 Alabama at No. 16 Arkansas: The same O-line woes will haunt the Hogs — Yep. Hogs quarterback Austin Allen took a real beating. True.
- Georgia at South Carolina: The Bulldogs release some pent-up rage — Depends. On one hand, Georgia racked up 326 rushing yards. On the other, 29 yards passing and 8 penalties is no bueno. Half-true.
What you need to know (besides football)
TV rec: There’s a great mini-series out on Hulu that premiered earlier this year called 11.22.63. The program, produced by J.J. Abrams and based on a Stephen King book of the same title, stars James Franco as an English teacher from Maine who travels back in time to 1960 Dallas, with the goal of preventing John F. Kennedy’s assassination. The premise is fascinating, the show is gripping and it leaves one wondering, “Was everyone really this much of a jerk in the ’60s?” Baby Boomer readers, please watch the show and confirm or deny.
TV rec No. 2: You’re probably tired of hearing LeBron James talking about hard work, Northeast Ohio, etc. That’s fine. However, The King’s return to Believeland has given birth to something awesome that’s not a Cavs title — the CNBC show Cleveland Hustles. The program is backed by James, who as far as I’ve seen hasn’t actually appeared outside of the intro sequence, and involves four different investors picking who among eight promising entrepreneurs will have the right to open a storefront in the Gordon Square area of Cleveland, a neighborhood the city long has been trying to revitalize. It’s entertaining and, for once, takes place in a city that needs more small businesses.
Sneaky Samsung: While everyone was shaking their head at the presidential debate on Sunday night, Samsung dropped a news release announcing it will halt production of the Galaxy Note 7 smartphone. From CNN: “Samsung is putting the brakes on its beleaguered Galaxy Note 7 smartphone as fears spread that even replacement versions of the device can burst into flames.” People complain that you can’t delete those silly default apps from iPhones, but at least it’s non-combustible.
MLB playoffs update: The Blue Jays swept the Rangers. The Cubs and the Indians have a chance to sweep the Giants and Red Sox on Monday, respectively, meaning it could be David Ortiz’s last game The Dodgers and Nationals are looking to break a 1-1 tie in Game 3. As far as the SEC goes, there were three schools with four alumni on playoff rosters when the postseason began: Georgia, Missouri and South Carolina.
If you haven’t seen our reporters pimping this on Twitter yet, SEC Country has a great new app that has everything you need to keep up with your favorite team on the go.