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.
Get ready for a reboot in The Boot.
Les Miles is gone. He coached LSU to 114 wins, three conference titles and a national championship across 11-plus seasons in Baton Rouge. But, in the end, his body of work wasn’t enough to satisfy the demands of Tigers brass, to ease the frustration of a die-hard fan base or to quiet his most vehement critics.
You can look at the 3-7 record against Alabama coach Nick Saban. You can look at the high-profile recruiting misses at quarterback. You can even cite the clunky, stagnant offensive scheme.
But what all of that boils down to is easy, convenient ammo for those who already wished to oust Miles. The underlying culprit in LSU firing its longtime coach is an all-too-common one:
Jump back to the 2011 season. Jarrett Lee and Jordan Jefferson were the quarterbacks. Same offensive style. Greg Studrawa was coordinator for a team that averaged 35.7 points per game. LSU was 13-0 after steamrolling Georgia in the SEC title game.
And then, by virtue of the flawed BCS selection system, the Tigers were forced to play Alabama for a second time that season and squandered their shot at a championship in the ensuing 21-0 loss.
If Miles wins that game, the story is completely different. Instead, he “only” coached LSU to 37 wins and presided over three top-10 signing classes during the next four seasons.
Apparently, the 10-win seasons were no longer enough to appease LSU fans anymore — just like they weren’t for Mark Richt at Georgia, just like they weren’t for Bo Pelini at Nebraska.
By last November, when the 7-0 Tigers proceeded to stumble through three consecutive losses, those with influence over LSU athletics made a power play. They were convinced they could find someone newer and fresher to lead the lucrative football program, convinced that an unknown quantity would be a better investment than a consistent (albeit expensive) coach.
But for whatever reason — public/player sentiment, buyout total, returning talent in 2016 — the athletic department got cold feet and did not fire Miles, despite the many leaks indicating that there was real support for getting rid of him. So they wait until the last week of September, after a 2-2 start, to get ahead of the competition on hiring a new coach?
What a mess.
If this was Wall Street, LSU would be a laughingstock, paying a bunch of money to get rid of a sure thing and then buying an unknown quantity. Maybe Tom Herman is the next great college football coach. Maybe he’s not. He looks like it, but you never know.
The Tigers are prideful, perhaps to the point where they feel anyone — even the second-winningest coach in school history — is easily replaced. Georgia fans thought the same, but they learned after a blowout loss to Ole Miss that success is never guaranteed to be instantaneous.
The Mad Hatter undoubtedly is responsible to a point in his own demise. Sticking with Cam Cameron despite being pressured to make a change was a poor choice. Sticking with Brandon Harris at quarterback, at least initially, also backfired. But all of this happened in the span of four games. If you supposedly were committed to Miles for 2016, then commit. Joe Alleva bungling this is not a good look at all.
Sabans don’t grow on trees, Joe. Remember that.
While I'm at it…
Dear Les Miles,
Purdue would love to have you. We have delicious grass & you could stay forever.
A Purdue Alum
— Robby Donoho (@RobbyDonoho) September 25, 2016
Ring of fire
Under normal circumstances, a literal last-second win against LSU would be cause for wild celebration at Toomer’s Corner. Initially, this was the case. And then … this happened:
Someone inadvertently set the one of the Toomer's Oaks on fire. It's out now, but all the toilet paper is burned off pic.twitter.com/0cSGRUBEFZ
— Sam Butler (@_sam_butler) September 25, 2016
This image is strangely symbolic of the Gus Malzahn era at Auburn. Something good happens, and then shortly after, the Tigers sabotage themselves. Auburn beat a team playing for its season, but for it to happen in 18-13 fashion only placed a microscope on Malzahn’s perceived flaws.
Like Miles, he hasn’t recruited well at quarterback. His offense has been an issue. His record against Saban is no bueno. He made the national championship game in 2013, but nobody cares about that now because he hasn’t even come close in the following years.
Malzahn’s latest tinkering with the offense gave protege Rhett Lashlee play-calling duties. To what end? Why now? The results didn’t change. Auburn netted 154 yards on 49 rushes. The offensive line allowed another 3 sacks.
Though the final score Saturday was the nail in Miles’ coffin, it merely delays what appears to be inevitable for Malzahn. In over-celebrating this win, Auburn is clinging to this positive moment blissfully ignorant of how much still isn’t working.
Like what happened with the tree, it won’t take long for us to realize that Auburn football still is burning.
Texas A&M is very good this year
No really. We promise.
Excluding Chad Kelly, Austin Allen might be the SEC’s best quarterback — that much was made clear on Saturday, especially given the way he stood tall despite taking hit after hit. The signature moment of this game, though, was when even Allen could take no more: On the final drive, Aggies safety Armani Watts came on a blitz and decked the Arkansas passer in the pocket, forcing an incompletion. All Allen could do was lay there, contemplating how for five years now, Texas A&M has bested the Hogs.
The Aggies are legitimate, without question. Trevor Knight is no Peyton Manning, but he has a capable arm and legs that can burn a defense. Teams have made the national title game with worse guys at quarterback. Trayveon Williams, who leads the SEC with 9.7 yards per rush, is downright explosive. The receiving corps is deep, the offensive line plays tight. And it cannot be emphasized enough how good a job John Chavis is doing with the Texas A&M defense.
Last week, I wrote the Aggies were the only SEC team that still can stand in Alabama’s way this season. I absolutely stand by that. Mark Oct. 22 down on your calendars as a game that could shift the college football landscape.
Do you buy computer rankings that judge college football teams? Whether it’s “yes” or “no,” one set of rankings placing undefeated Wake Forest ahead of Alabama is sure to amuse you.
The biggest takeaway here: Unlike baseball, which has a defined set of outcomes for each plate appearance, it is difficult to numerically quantify and analyze football. There’s great work done at sites like Football Study Hall, but, the truth is, numbers can only tell a fraction of the story. Evaluation of this game will almost certainly always rely on the film, first and foremost. There are simply too many factors working at a time for it to be any other way.
Some notable CFB computer rankings from around the country after Week 5 action pic.twitter.com/QM5pPjUkaQ
— BCSKnowHow.com (@BCSKnowHow) September 25, 2016
Here’s how I voted in this week’s (likely controversial) release of the official SEC Country Power Poll. My top four did not change from last week. There’s a legitimate argument that four SEC West teams are better than anyone in the SEC East.
- Alabama — The Kent State cream puffs were especially tasty to Nick Saban’s hungry Tide.
- Texas A&M — September good, or actually good? I default to the latter until further notice.
- Ole Miss — The Rebels finally put together a full game, and they looked dangerous doing it.
- Arkansas — The Hogs have their flaws, but Austin Allen is a dang good quarterback.
- Tennessee — Maybe, just maybe, the SEC East isn’t very good.
- Florida — The second half of the Tennessee game has me questioning everything about this defense.
- Auburn — Most games the Tigers win likely will be of the 18-13 variety.
- LSU — Hey, Ed Orgeron went 6-2 as USC’s interim head coach.
- Georgia — Offensive line coach Sam Pittman has a real project on his hands.
- Missouri — The Tigers are starting to look like an SEC East sleeper.
- Mississippi State — Dan Mullen certainly doesn’t want his program to be in dog fights with South Alabama and UMass.
- Kentucky — These Wildcats don’t have many bright spots, but Stanley Williams is one of them.
- South Carolina — 91 yards rushing against that defense? Oof.
- Vanderbilt — At least the Commodores beat Western Kentucky this year.
Headlines from around the league
- ‘I am healed.’ How Tennessee’s comeback against Florida stabilized the fragile psyche of the Vols fan base (Kyle Tucker, SEC Country)
- 10 potential candidates to replace Les Miles at LSU (Sam Spiegelman, SEC Country)
- Borderline Erotic Podcast: What went wrong in Arkansas’ loss to Texas A&M? (Jason Kersey, SEC Country)
- Week 4 SEC bowl projections (SEC Country)
- How Les Miles went from a championship to fired at LSU (Pat Forde, Yahoo Sports)
- ‘Soul Ripped Out’: The Fans Who Endured the Final Hours of Les Miles Era at LSU (Barrett Sallee, Bleacher Report)
- Les Miles lost his job because he refused to evolve like Nick Saban (Jon Solomon, CBS)
Reviewing the predictions
I fared quite poorly in Week 4. Enjoy laughing at this.
- Kent State at No. 1 Alabama: Crimson Tide record at least 5 sacks — Only 3 sacks. Oh, well. False.
- No. 12 Georgia at No. 23 Ole Miss: Nick Chubb’s 30 carries keep this one close — Ahahahahahaha. Very false.
- No. 19 Florida at No. 14 Tennessee: Gators make it 12 straight — I still don’t understand how that happened. False.
- Mississippi State at UMass: Dan Mullen shakes hands with every MSU fan in attendance — For fans to travel that far to watch that kind of performance, he should have. False.
- Vanderbilt at Western Kentucky: Nothing left to see here — A 1-point overtime win at Western Kentucky does precious little to change how I feel about the Commodores. True.
- No. 18 LSU at Auburn: Closest game of the week — One second was the difference between 3-1 LSU and interim coach Ed Orgeron. True.
- South Carolina at Kentucky: Serious questions about the Gamecocks offense surface — The Gamecocks are “re-evaluating all personnel on offense.” Very true.
- No. 17 Arkansas at No. 10 Texas A&M: Myles Garrett establishes himself as a Heisman contender — Not Garrett. But the Aggies established themselves as an SEC force. False.
What you need to know (besides football)
Rest in peace #1: Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez died this weekend in a boating accident. He was only 24. His final start: 8.0 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 BB and 12 K. On Sunday, ESPN’s Eduardo Perez offered a heartfelt remembrance of Fernandez on SportsCenter. It’s terrible for anyone to die that young, but for it to happen to one of baseball’s young stars — one who managed to escape Cuba as a teenager, no less — is especially heartbreaking.
Rest in peace #2: As if that wasn’t bad enough, golfing legend Arnold Palmer also passed away this weekend at the age of 87. Go mix some lemonade and iced tea, add a shot of bourbon if that’s your thing, and pour one out for The King.
The best that never was: If you’ve never heard of Ayrton Senna, he was to Formula One what Dale Earnhardt was to NASCAR — an all-time great, tragically killed on the track. There is a fantastic 2010 documentary about his life (“Senna,” a recommended watch) in which Senna named the driver he most relished racing against. It was not any of his biggest Formula One rivals, but a British kart racer named Terry Fullerton, whom Senna could never beat. Fullerton, though clearly amazingly talented, never made it to Formula One. Now few know his name, and he’s “basically got no money.” That’s according to a fantastic feature published on Jalopnik that explains Fullerton’s fascinating story. Read it.
When hate is love: Have you ever become friends with someone who shares your disdain for a certain sports team? That’s exactly what happened to a police officer and a South Carolina/Redskins fan ready to jump off a bridge in Columbia, S.C. Thankfully, the cop was able to talk the man down and pull him away from the ledge. At least part of the officer’s success is owed to his claimed hatred of the Dallas Cowboys, this via video of the incident published by The State. So if you’re ever in a similar situation … just remember that most people hate the Cowboys. Mississippi State fans excluded.
In honor of Arnold Palmer. What would the drink named after you be?
— Nubyjas Wilborn (@nwilborn19) September 26, 2016
Silver tequila, grapefruit juice, agave nectar and orange blossom water. Trust me, it’s delicious, and tequila is the best of all spirits.