NASHVILLE — If you’re still dividing the SEC by East and West, cut it out. It’s Alabama vs. everybody. The other six teams in the West should be so lucky to be considered in the same category as the Crimson Tide.
What happened to Vanderbilt on Saturday has happened to just about every other school in the conference since Nick Saban took over in Tuscaloosa (although it’s not clear if players on other teams wished they could go home in the second quarter).
It’s not as if Alabama is unbeatable in conference play. But — c’mon — you know the drill. The SEC as a whole was down in 2016. Except Alabama. The SEC as a whole is down in 2017. Except Alabama.
There might be an exception this year. Georgia looked like a title contender on Saturday.
Kirby Smart’s Bulldogs whipped No. 17 Mississippi State and have a legitimate chance to run the table before a potential No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup with Alabama in Atlanta. At the worst, the Dawgs should be 10-2 with an outside shot at the College Football Playoff by the time they meet the Tide.
They’re a solid football team with an elite running game and a pretty dominant defense. Freshman quarterback Jake Fromm would figure to be a weak link, but he’s done a decent job of taking care of the football, and he clearly has All-America potential down the line.
After a 4-0 start, the Dawgs just seem different from the usual non-‘Bama contenders. And because of their placement in a shoddy division, they most likely will earn a spot opposite the Tide at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in December.
For my money, the 2013 Missouri Tigers were the last elite SEC East team. Their only regular season loss came in double-overtime vs. South Carolina (a game in which Mizzou held a 17-0 fourth-quarter lead), and they were one quarter from playing in the national championship game.
Since then, it’s been a mess. A much weaker version of the Tigers won the East again in 2014, despite losing to Georgia by 34 points at home. The Bulldogs were solid that season, but an ugly 18-point loss to unranked Florida did them in.
The Gators won in 2015 and 2016 but failed to do any damage against Alabama as the Tide won their second and third consecutive conference championships. The Tide’s dominance has been thorough; but there also hasn’t been a strong challenger waiting for them in Atlanta in recent years.
Here’s how I would rank the SEC East’s best teams since 2014:
- 2017 Georgia
- 2014 Georgia
- 2015 Florida
- 2015 Tennessee
As good as they look, the current Dawgs need to be wary of a letdown over the next two weeks. Georgia travels to Tennessee next Saturday and then to Vanderbilt the first weekend of October.
Why do bad things happen to good Wildcats?
I had a feeling — and expressed it — all week: Kentucky was a better football team than Florida, but it was not going to snap its 30-game drought against the Gators. A streak that’s lasted three decades does not simply end when we decide it will end.
Saturday, Wildcats fans were horrified to meet an all-to-similar fate against UF. Kentucky — which blew a 13-point fourth-quarter lead — allowed 2 (TWO!) touchdown passes after failing to notice wide-open Florida wide receivers near the boundary. The Cats got nailed with a holding call on the second-to-last offensive play. Kicker Austin MacGinnis’ 57-yard try looked as if it might split the uprights before falling short in the back of the end zone.
All I can say is: I’m so, so sorry.
Here’s what caught our eye in Week 4
Alabama’s 59-0 beatdown of Vanderbilt was spectacularly ugly. Here’s a look at six records the Crimson Tide broke during the victory.
After Nick Saban pulled Jalen Hurts during the rout, backup quarterback Tua Tagovailoa tossed a pair of touchdown passes. His 27-yard throw to fellow freshman Devonta Smith drew Steve Young comparisons.
Sack… NOPE, TD
Bama absolutely pouring it on. pic.twitter.com/OZtv2kAggW
— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) September 23, 2017
You OK, South Carolina? One week after being outclassed by Kentucky, the Gamecocks needed a last-minute field goal to top Louisiana Tech 17-16. The wait for Deebo Samuel to return might be more painful than we thought.
It was not really necessary for anyone outside of Fayetteville or College Station to tune in to Arkansas-Texas A&M on Saturday, but the teams rewarded their viewers with an entertaining game. Behind emerging star Kellen Mond, the Aggies helped Kevin Sumlin live another day by topping the Hogs, 50-43, in overtime.
Armani Watts is a baller. pic.twitter.com/dlCPbab1Yf
— Trent Shadid (@Shadid13) September 23, 2017
Turns out, all Auburn needed to right its ship was a trip to Columbia, Mo., to play Missouri. The (away) Tigers scored early and often; running back Kerryon Johnson posted 5 touchdowns. The (home) Tigers have hit rock bottom — although they could sink to a new low vs. Idaho on Oct. 21.
Saturday brought plenty of Top 25 chaos. Several contenders escaped close calls, including No. 4 Penn State, which needed a touchdown pass with no time remaining to beat Iowa. This is my favorite clip of the winning play, sent to me by my brother, who was in attendance with a few other family members:
— Alex Martin Smith (@asmiff) September 24, 2017
This is not the place you’d usually go to watch Total Frat Move videos, but it’s safe to say this clip from the University of Maryland meets our standard of excellence:
Marry me. pic.twitter.com/jCjmDH3mVe
— TFM (@totalfratmove) September 23, 2017