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.
Happy Halloween, SEC fans.
Truth be told: I still love candy. I can’t stomach nearly as much as I could as a 5-year-old. But even as an adult, when life gets you down, a little sugar always succeeds in perking you up a little.
And if that holds true, Tennessee coach Butch Jones will need to eat a lot of candy this week after the Vols got shocked by South Carolina, 24-21, in a loss he called “unacceptable.”
I mean, what was that?
“Some leadership needs to step up on this football team. … Everybody’s gotta own it. Everybody’s responsible for it,” Jones said after the game.
And yet, everybody is most certainly not responsible for this collapse. He cited “small details” like turnovers, lack of explosive plays, missed tackles, too many penalties on special teams. Those are all products of coaching, or lack thereof. As he said at other points during his news conference, this brutal defeat — UT’s third in a row — falls squarely on his shoulders.
The Vols were quite simply very lucky to be 5-0. You could see the problems in close games against Appalachian State and Ohio. In the horrendous first-half performances against Florida and Georgia. In committing 7 turnovers against Texas A&M, and the Alabama beatdown.
You could see the problems sitting under the surface for this football team. The coaching staff had every chance to address them, to make the proper adjustments on offense. But nothing changed. Against the Gamecocks, Tennessee’s offensive line still looked out of sorts, Josh Dobbs still looked way more uncomfortable than a senior should, and the receivers still looked out of sync with their quarterback.
Before the season began, I wrote anything less than an SEC East championship for Tennessee would put Jones on the hot seat. Well, the Vols are 5-3, sitting in third place in an awful division, and playing in Atlanta looks like a pipe dream.
The Tennessee administration now much ask itself: How much better is the football than on the day Jones was hired? The Vols are 12-17 in SEC games under his watch, and 1-7 against Florida and Alabama. We’re in Year 4.
If this team doesn’t regroup and win the rest of its games — all winnable contests against Tennessee Tech, Missouri, Kentucky and Vanderbilt — Butch’s house of bricks might be in danger of collapsing. Because right now, he’s in danger of losing his team.
Outside of the Tennessee game, the SEC didn’t play host to any remarkable results this weekend. Elsewhere around the country, however, we saw four undefeated teams go down and a number of top-10 teams survive nail-biters.
Louisville escaped Virginia, needing a last-minute Heisman Moment (TM) touchdown pass from star quarterback Lamar Jackson. Ohio State struggled at home with Northwestern. Washington passed its first big test of the year at Utah, Clemson barely knocked off Florida State on the road and Michigan had trouble with hated rival Michigan State.
Boise State, Nebraska, West Virginia and Baylor all took their first losses.
It’s a big reminder of how one weekend can drastically alter the national landscape.
The biggest SEC beneficiary of all the madness? LSU and Auburn are quickly rising up the rankings, but Texas A&M still holds the advantage. With West Virginia, Nebraska and Baylor no longer sticking around as unbeatens, and with Ohio State and Louisville both looking shaky against weaker foes, the Aggies could find themselves ranked as high as No. 5 sooner than later.
Projecting the College Football Playoff rankings
The first edition of this year’s rankings will be announced on Tuesday night, and while it’s a pretty meaningless exercise, here’s a quick stab at how the top 25 should shape up. The way things are now, picking four Playoff teams couldn’t be easier for the selection committee. For full bowl projections from SEC Country, click here.
- Texas A&M
- Ohio State
- West Virginia
- Western Michigan
- Florida State
- Washington State
- Virginia Tech
- Penn State
- Oklahoma State
- Boise State
We know Alabama coach Nick Saban likes his Little Debbie oatmeal creme pies. But how do he and his fellow SEC coaches feel about candy? Here’s a wild guess as to the favorite sweets for each:
- Saban: Circus peanuts. An off-brand candy befitting a man who eats oatmeal cookies daily, and whose mascot is a big elephant.
- Bret Bielema: Big Hunk. Really just any candy with the word “big” in the name. It’s also got protein (peanuts). Woo Pig.
- Gus Malzahn: Life Savers. Or job-savers, which is what 2016 has been for the Gus Bus.
- Ed Orgeron: Hot Tamales. Cajuns like everything spicy.
- Hugh Freeze: Sugar Daddy. Freeze can get on board with the idea of giving college-aged people extra financial support.
- Dan Mullen: Bit-O-Honey. Disappointing and hard to swallow, just like 2016 Mississippi State.
- Kevin Sumlin: Now and Later. The quarterback situation in College Station is fine now, but it won’t be later when two more inevitably transfer out.
- Kirby Smart: Warheads. They aren’t so bad once the initial shock wears off.
- Jim McElwain: Swedish Fish. To better explain his strange metaphors to players.
- Will Muschamp: Milk Duds. Because you pretty much have to be angry and possess tremendous jaw strength to even chew these suckers.
- Butch Jones: Candy corn. Like his coaching tenure at Tennessee, orange and very underwhelming.
- Mark Stoops: Werther’s Original. They get better with age.
- Barry Odom: Goo Goo Cluster. It’s chocolate, peanuts, caramel with marshmallow filling — things that seem like they would go together, but don’t.
- Derek Mason: Apple slices. They’re healthy, you say? That misses the entire point of Halloween candy. Vanderbilt misses the point of SEC football.
Here’s how I voted in this week’s edition of the official SEC Country Power Poll:
- Alabama — The Tide beat Bye Week 103-0, after which coach Nick Saban said “we could’ve played better.”
- Texas A&M — The Aggies beat down a weak New Mexico State squad and very much remain in the Playoff conversation.
- Auburn — No team is hotter right now. The nation’s No. 3 rushing attack cut right through a dangerous Rebels team.
- LSU — The Tigers have a fighter’s chance hosting the Crimson Tide, but if you come at the king, you best not miss.
- Florida — Took care of business against a mediocre Georgia squad, but the play of quarterback Luke Del Rio has to be a concern.
- Tennessee — Losing to South Carolina is inexcusable. Someone needs to take a hard look at this offense.
- Ole Miss — This team has some great individual pieces in Chad Kelly and Evan Engram, but the defense isn’t showing any improvement.
- Arkansas — Unless the offensive line suddenly improves, Florida could be another painful matchup for Austin Allen.
- Kentucky — Five of the last six games have gone UK’s way, and a date with December football is all but assured.
- Georgia — There’s been zero week-to-week consistency for this offense, and that has to be troubling for Kirby Smart.
- South Carolina — Beating Tennessee is huge, and Jake Bentley showed his debut outing was no fluke. Watch out in 2017.
- Vanderbilt — For a 4-4 team, nobody seems to have much faith in these Commodores.
- Mississippi State — Allowing 627 total yards to an FCS team? Defensive coordinator Peter Sirmon needs help.
- Missouri — As coach Barry Odom said himself, “this is not a very good football team.”
Headlines from around the league
- It ain’t pretty at times, but Jim McElwain believes Florida can win SEC (Zach Abolverdi, SEC Country)
- Tennessee must fix itself before it contemplates SEC championship hopes (Jesse Simonton, SEC Country)
- What in the world is Georgia doing on offense? (Kyle Tucker, SEC Country)
- Gamecocks land big win, along with the feeling of seeing ‘some results’ (Mike Wilson, SEC Country)
- Kentucky no longer satisfied: ‘This is about how much more we can do’ (Joe Mussatto, SEC Country)
- Auburn’s Kamryn Pettway punishes Ole Miss with third-straight career night (Lauren Shute, SEC Country)
- If Missouri coaches have a plan, it’s not working — at all (Alec Shirkey, SEC Country)
- Why Ole Miss is the best 3-5 team in America (Nick Forrester, SEC Country)
- Mississippi State WR Donald Gray sheds tears of joy when asked about setting school record (Nick Forrester, SEC Country)
- Is Florida a legit threat to reach SEC title game and steal a playoff berth? (Barrett Sallee, Bleacher Report)
- Misery Index Week 9: Knocked out in Knoxville (Dan Wolken, USA Today)
- An abrupt change of fortune for the state of Mississippi (Greg Ostendorf, ESPN)
- Punt, Pass & Pork (Andy Staples, SI)
Reviewing the predictions
Here’s how I fared in last Friday’s column:
- Kentucky at Missouri: Upset alert — And it wasn’t nearly as close as the final score might imply. True.
- No. 14 Florida “at” Georgia: Gators pitch a shutout — The Bulldogs managed 10 points, 3 of which came off a Luke Del Rio interception. Still, a shutout this was not. False.
- Samford at Mississippi State: Closer than you think — I’m not sure what the line was, but Samford definitely covered in MSU’s 56-41 win. True.
- No. 15 Auburn at Ole Miss: Three Tigers break 100 yards rushing — No, but Kamryn Pettway picked up 236 yards by himself. False.
- No. 18 Tennessee at South Carolina: Jake Bentley comes crashing back down to earth — Dead wrong. Even with Derek Barnett harassing the heck out of him, the freshman was crisp and efficient. False.
- New Mexico State at No. 9 Texas A&M: Starters get a breather by the halftime — Not quite, but they did get pulled plenty early. Close enough.
Things you need to know (besides football)
What’s that on the field? Sunday’s Patriots-Bills game drew a lot of interest in the media. Not because of Tom Brady continuing to do Tom Brady things, or the NFL’s tanking TV numbers, but because one fan (or multiple fans?) threw a sex toy on the field. Such an incident naturally leads to many questions, and The Ringer’s always-hilarious Shea Serrano spells out 59 queries he has about it. Just maybe don’t read it at work, or it may result in some awkward conversations with your co-workers or boss.
Halloween candy: This map, being published in a whole bunch of places on the Internet, is causing some serious controversy. It’s the result of a survey conducted by Influenster. I’m also going to call it complete BS, because nobody in their right mind likes candy corn, especially not the fine people of Texas, Tennessee and South Carolina. Oregon is full of weird hippies, so that’s believable. And then there’s Georgia, which supposedly prefers Pixy Stix — colored sugar in a straw that gets everywhere makes it a bad candy on premise alone — and Florida, which likes Crunch bars. You know what the most popular candy in the Sunshine State is? Butterscotch. A bowl of them sits within the home of every retiree and semi-retiree in that state, I guarantee it.
Baseball stuff: The Cubs forced Game 6 in Sunday night’s World Series clash with the Cleveland Indians. Just typing that sentence makes me feel like I’m dreaming. Besides good defense and a quality start from Jon Lester, the Cubs most notably got 2 2/3 one-hit innings out of closer Aroldis Chapman. It’s just another example of why baseball’s traditional bullpen roles — your best guy pitches the ninth, your second-best guy pitches the eighth — are obsolete. You play matchups, you play situations and you use your best reliever when the game is most in danger of getting away. The sport is getting smarter.
Speaking of the Fall Classic, I’ve got a story about Cubs outfielder Jason Heyward. Six years ago, I was in the stands at Turner Field for Heyward’s MLB debut with the Atlanta Braves (which, coincidentally, came against the Cubs). At the time, he was a mega-prospect being hyped as The Next Big Thing. And he famously hit a home run off Carlos Zambrano in his very first at-bat. Only problem: I missed it. We didn’t make the game until the second inning, because two of my friends (one of whom is a Cubs fan) really wanted to stop and get Costco hot dogs. Gross. We were further delayed by the always-bad Atlanta traffic after that. At the time, Heyward might as well have been Hank Aaron Jr., so I gave my friends a ton of crap. We had just missed baseball history, or so I thought. Fast forward and while Heyward is starting for the NL pennant winners, he might be their worst everyday guy (.230/.306/.325 in the regular season). Last laugh’s on you, Cubs buddy!
— Timothy Burke (@bubbaprog) October 31, 2016