Georgia-Tennessee was many things — exhilarating, soul-crushing, season-saving, agony-inducing, heart-stopping, awesome — but the wild finish to the 34-31 Vols win Saturday was undeniably something we don’t see much anymore.
Bulldogs coach Kirby Smart mentioned why: These days, teams practice last-second Hail Mary situations every week. These are one-in-a-million shots. In Tennessee’s case, wide receiver Jauan Jennings was one of two Volunteers’ participants in a scrum of at least six UGA defenders. And yet it still happened. That in itself is amazing.
On a larger scale, Tennessee all but secured its spot in the SEC Championship with this win. But there’s an equally compelling storyline to be found here:
The SEC has a major Heisman Trophy contender again. With LSU and Leonard Fournette fading from the picture, Josh Dobbs has 100 percent met the media’s criteria for “a Heisman moment” and clutch performance the past two weeks.
The senior has accounted for 655 total yards and 9 touchdowns against Florida and Georgia, two of the Vols’ biggest rivals. The offensive line has been a mess at times. The defense has been plagued by key injuries. The rushing attack, one of the country’s best in 2015, ranks merely 8th in the SEC this season.
If not for Dobbs and Derek Barnett, this team is probably looking at two, maybe even three losses and the story is flipped on its head. Tennessee’s choking again. Butch Jones can’t keep his players focused. Etc, etc.
No, the tune is very, very different now. Even if the Vols didn’t necessarily deserve to win that game, they did. Perhaps it’s destiny.
As for Dobbs he’ll have the chance to further improve his stock by traveling to College Station this weekend and hosting mighty Alabama soon after.
Louisville’s Lamar Jackson remains the prohibitive favorite (4/11 odds). But the season is long, and if Dobbs’ heroics continue, few if any of the country’s elite players have this sort of drama on their resumes.
Upon further review: Sights, sounds and more from Tennessee-Georgia
Instead of rehashing more of a game you probably saw live, let’s let photos, videos and reactions do some of the storytelling, shall we?
Somehow … some way … some team ? pic.twitter.com/8364u0RPrM
— Tennessee Football (@Vol_Football) October 2, 2016
Butch Jones' reaction to the touchdown catch by Jauan Jennings. pic.twitter.com/FRQB3RBg09
— Josh Ward (@Josh_Ward) October 1, 2016
Tennessee's chance to win fell to 0.23 percent after Georgia's extra point with 10 seconds left. pic.twitter.com/NotZYM3DhB
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) October 2, 2016
— Tim Morris™ (@TIMtation_19) October 2, 2016
— Janna Abraham (@SportsPundette) October 2, 2016
Maybe Tim Tebow should actually stick to baseball
On the set of SEC Nation this weekend, the former Florida quarterback posited that the true downfall of Les Miles was “picking certain offensive coordinators that didn’t put quarterbacks in position to succeed… that’s his one knock.”
This is a bad opinion, because choosing who runs your offense — one that has a Heisman-caliber player at running back and a host of other returning starters — is perhaps the most important decision a head coach makes, along with picking the defensive coordinator and maybe the recruiting coordinator. Miles had every opportunity to get rid of Cam Cameron and willfully plugged his ears, buried his head in the sand and for all intents and purposes said “I don’t care.”
Nick Saban hired Lane Kiffin. Missouri hired Josh Heupel. Texas A&M hired Noel Mazzone. Those three teams comprise three of the SEC’s top four scoring offenses (Ole Miss is the other).
In its first game without Cameron and Miles, LSU scores 42 points and tallied 634 total yards of offense without its best player. That’s pretty damning, and it raises a big question:
How many points have the Tigers been leaving on the table all these years? In Cameron’s first season (2013), LSU has an offense that featured Zach Mettenberer, Jeremy Hill, Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry, and they still scored fewer points per game than five other SEC teams.
The offensive coordinator is a reflection of the head coach’s philosophy and decision-making skills. You cannot single out Cameron, Tebow.
It’s ugly now, but the reboot is getting there
Continuing with the subject of offensive coordinators drawing fan ire, the Kurt Roper-led Gamecocks offense scored less than 20 points on Saturday for the third time this season. Through five weeks, the unit ranks 126th nationally in scoring offense, 97th in passing offense, 106th in tackles for loss allowed and 119th in third down conversion rate.
Freshman quarterback Brandon McIlwain has shown little improvement through five weeks, and now we might be back to Perry Orth in Columbia.
This rebuilding effort was never supposed to be easy, though. Weak offensive recruiting during the final Steve Spurrier years left the team talent-depleted on that side of the ball.
There are bright spots, too. South Carolina’s top nine receivers are all freshmen or sophomores. Freshman tailback AJ Turner had his best game to date against a great Aggies defense, romping for 113 yards on 10 carries. And USC’s 2017 recruiting class currently ranks 11th in the nation.
The sore spots are still areas that haunted Muschamp at Florida: quarterback and offensive line. But so long as the game of offensive coordinator musical chairs doesn’t repeat itself at South Carolina and Roper can recruit a little bit, this team should look pretty good in 2017.
Vanderbilt can’t do anything right
What was it that caused Vandy to lose in the most Vandy way possible on Saturday?
Was it three turnovers in a 7-point game? Was it being forced to play backup quarterback Wade Freebeck, who threw a pick on the final drive, after Kyle Shurmur sustained injury?
No. It was forcing a key Florida fumble on the 1-yard line, and punting on 4th and 7 at its own 43-yard line with under two minutes left in the game. This on a day when the Commodores crossed midfield just three times. The punt went for a touchback, too.
— Augustine (@Augustine8) October 1, 2016
Someone needs to take this program out back and put it down, before anyone else is subject to this torment.
As if that wasn’t enough, the school’s band isn’t even allowed to play its own upcoming homecoming game. Tennessee State’s band will do so instead, for reasons not entirely clear yet. There’s a petition for the school to reverse its decision — 2,500-plus have signed on — but as far as we know, the chancellor forgot there’s a football team.
It’s time for JF3 to really play
In beating up on Louisiana-Monroe, Auburn’s Gus Malzahn found the perfect chance to continue tinkering with enigmatic junior college transfer John Franklin III. The results were intriguing.
On just three touches late in the blowout, Franklin reeled off an 80-yard touchdown run and completed a 39-yard touchdown pass to freshman Nate Craig-Myers. He’s now averaging more than 12 yards per carry and is 6 of 10 passing.
At what point do Malzahn and Rhett Lashlee get Franklin involved outside of mop-up duty and gimmick plays? Sean White has been fine at quarterback, but Auburn desperately needs the kind of big-play threat that can keep opposing defenses from stacking the box.
With Mississippi State on deck, a team that has allowed only five plays of 30-plus yards this season, it might not be bad if the Tigers kept plugging into Franklin’s electric legs next Saturday.
— Karina Anglada (@KarinaAnglada) October 2, 2016
Mack goes back when he feels like it
This falls outside the technical boundaries of SEC Country, but since you probably didn’t see it, ESPN color commentator Mack Brown left his BYU-Toledo assignment early on Saturday so he could catch his plane ride back to Bristol, which forced Adam Amin to call the rest of the game by himself.
There’s a reason the Worldwide Leader’s boss men stuck Brown on an ESPN2 game like this. The guy gives zero you-know-whats.
— Funhouse (@RNs_Funhouse) October 1, 2016
Here’s how I voted in the Week 5 release of SEC Country’s official Power Poll. My top five remains the same as last week, because the SEC East still isn’t very good.
- Alabama — The schedule heats up the next few weeks, but Texas A&M is the game I really want to see.
- Texas A&M — South Carolina put up a fight, but the Aggies took care of business with cushion to spare.
- Ole Miss — Even without Justin Fuente and Paxton Lynch, Memphis could wind up a pretty solid win.
- Arkansas — The Hogs swept their non-conference schedule, but can they survive the rest of the SEC West meat grinder?
- Tennessee — Are there two SEC players more valuable to their team than Josh Dobbs and Derek Barnett? You wonder where UT would be without them.
- LSU — No Leonard Fournette needed. Wow.
- Auburn — If only the Tigers could put up that type of offense against Power Five teams.
- Florida — The Gators scored 13 points on Saturday, which is also the number of times Jim McElwain asked “When does Luke Del Rio get back?”
- Georgia — That one hurts.
- Mississippi State — Nick Fitzgerald will get better. The defense could be another story.
- South Carolina — How to Not Handle Your Quarterbacks, by Will Muschamp.
- Kentucky — That game probably won’t reduce the number of UK fans googling “Mark Stoops buyout.”
- Missouri — Drew Lock in three games against Power Five teams: 4 TDs, 4 INTs, 50 percent completion.
- Vanderbilt — So long, Derek Mason.
Headlines from around the league
- Tennessee can’t keep living this way — or can it? (Kyle Tucker, SEC Country)
- Jim McElwain wants his ‘ugly babies’ to start throwing punches (Zach Abolverdi, SEC Country)
- ‘Bowling ball’ Joshua Jacobs posts big numbers for Alabama in second straight game (Marq Burnett, SEC Country)
- How Alabama shocked the recruiting world and landed 5-star LB Dylan Moses (Chris Kirschner, SEC Country)
- Week 5 SEC bowl projections (SEC Country)
- The night Georgia fans destroyed The Hedges (Barrett Sallee, Bleacher Report)
- ‘Stuff you dream about:’ Inside Tennessee’s miracle win over Georgia (Edward Aschoff, ESPN)
- No Leonard, no Les, but Ed Orgeron’s debut leading LSU a success (David Ching, ESPN)
- Source: Texas DC Vance Bedford to be demoted (247Sports)
- The Orgeron Effect is real. Can LSU keep it up? (SB Nation)
- Gut check: Why Butch Jones changed call on Tennessee’s final play (SEC Country)
- Arkansas’ fullback was reportedly arrested this weekend (SEC Country)
- Cam Newton got his bell rung by former LSU star Deion Jones (SEC Country)
- And Danny Kanell had a stupid opinion about that hit (SEC Country)
Reviewing the predictions
It was a major rebound week in the football forecasting department. Here’s how I fared:
- Alcorn State at No. 20 Arkansas: Razorbacks don’t cover — The spread was a massive -49, but I’ll take it. True.
- No. 23 Florida at Vanderbilt: Another shutout for UF — Vandy managed two field goals, punted six times and turned it over three times. False, technically.
- No. 11 Tennessee at No. 25 Georgia: Bulldogs pull the upset — Fate disagreed. False.
- Louisiana-Monroe at Auburn: Kerryon Johnson sets a career high, JF3 adds 100 — Spot on. Johnson, who romped for 146 rushing yards against LA-Monroe’s terrible defense. Franklin tallied 121 total yards on three touches. True.
- No. 9 Texas A&M at South Carolina: Trevor Knight wins with his legs … again — It wasn’t what he did against Arkansas, but Knight’s 84 yards on the ground were crucial in a close game. True.
- Kentucky at No. 1 Alabama: 100-yard freshmen — Josh Jacobs topped 100 yards rushing. Neither Jalen Hurts nor any other freshman back did. so it’s partial credit in Kentucky’s moral victory. Half-true.
- Memphis at No. 16 Ole Miss: Oxford town becomes Pick City — Chad Kelly threw one, and Memphis quarterback Riley Ferguson threw three. True.
- Missouri at LSU: An emotional Les Miles tribute will take place — LSU scoring 42 points in its first game without Miles is not a great look for The Mad Hatter. False.
What you need to know (besides football)
It’s that time of year: We’re entering peak pumpkin season on the beer-drinking calendar. There are many mediocre pumpkin beers on shelves these days because they’re so common now. Some people really like foodstuffs branded as “pumpkin” or “pumpkin spice” when really the flavoring resembles a shameful, sugary impostor. If you want a pumpkin beer that actually tastes good, try this one and thank me later.
— Dogfish Head Brewery (@dogfishbeer) September 22, 2016
Fare thee wells: Sunday was the final day of MLB’s way-too-long regular season, and with it came a number of notable goodbyes. David Ortiz played his last non-playoff game for the Red Sox. The Atlanta Braves played their last game in Turner Field. Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira called it a career, too — in a ceremony that was nowhere near as long or extravagant as Big Papi’s, to be sure. But the best goodbye absolutely belonged to lifetime Dodgers voice-smith Vin Scully, the Mr. Rogers of baseball who’s been calling Dodgers games since they played in Brooklyn. Below is the end of his last broadcast. He’s one in a million.
Vin Scully's final message as he signs off on his final broadcast. pic.twitter.com/N2dTeWdQmJ
— Arash Markazi (@ArashMarkazi) October 2, 2016
Must be nice: Speaking of broadcasters, if you thought being a handsomely-paid sportscaster was the best, cushiest gig out there, well, you might not be wrong. This Bleacher Report profile of Al Michaels is from a few months ago, but it paints a good picture of the guy and, among other things, reveals that Michaels has an unwavering disdain for vegetables. He and Jeremy Pruitt probably have something in common.
Halloween is coming up in a few weeks, and if you’re looking for a funny, irreverent couples costume, I’ve got the best idea for you:
Harambe and the zoo keeper: Great Halloween couples costume, or greatest Halloween couples costume?
— Alec Shirkey (@AShirkey) October 3, 2016