Welcome to The Crock Pot, your one-stop shop for all the SEC football news, notes, quotes and mishaps you might have missed during the weekend. Here’s what we’re stewing over …
Already we can envision the hordes of agitated Alabama fans flocking to the SEC Country Facebook pages, decrying the notion that their undefeated, soon-to-be No. 1 Crimson Tide are anything but perfect.
Technically, they are an unblemished 10-0 headed into a Week 12 tune-up against Mercer. But the Tide’s scare in Starkville on Saturday laid bare the weaknesses we only caught glimpses of against Texas A&M and LSU. The offense looked disjointed and at times failed to sustain drives; three of its five first-half possessions ended in punts. A thin group of Crimson Tide linebackers looked pedestrian against MSU’s rushing attack, as the defense let Aeris Williams run for 97 yards.
Quarterback Jalen Hurts hit big plays and, of course, came up in the clutch. However, he only completed 10 of 19 pass attempts and was inconsistent from drive to drive. Many times, when MSU brought the blitz, he looked like he had no clue what to do as the Bulldogs proceeded to sack him 5 times.
Auburn, meanwhile, looked fantastic against a Georgia team that entered the weekend unbeaten. Tigers workhorse Kerryon Johnson powered it up the middle, beat UGA linebackers around the perimeter and generally made life hell for the No. 1-ranked team’s defense. And Kevin Steele’s defense has been a clear top 10 unit.
The Iron Bowl now seems like the only SEC game anyone needs to pay attention to before the winner plays Georgia in Atlanta. It’ll be a good game on The Plains, and a much closer one than any Alabama fan wants, unless the 2017 Tide can learn from Mississippi State. Auburn can likely make the playoff as a two-loss conference champion if they don’t.
Did Butch Jones leave Tennessee better off than he found it?
Short answer: Probably.
We’re not highlighting Jones’ unceremonious dismissal because it was a foregone conclusion. Vols athletic director John Currie clearly wanted to wait until the end of the regular season to send Jones packing, but the sad state of Tennessee football and fan outrage warranted a dismissal that probably happened two weeks too late.
Regardless, that’s not why we’re discussing Jones, the Rocky Top coach-turned-pariah who brought the Vols from Derek Dooley depths to, well, a respectable 9-4 peak. The problem was how he never really maximized the talent he lured to his own program and, subsequently, tried to deflect blame to things out of his control — injuries, scheduling, etc.
The “brick-by-brick” mantra Jones made his own didn’t hold up in 2017, when a lack of roster depth and quarterbacking talent, as well as ill-fated coaching decisions, doomed the Vols. Naming Larry Scott offensive coordinator and Mike Canales quarterbacks coach certainly didn’t help matters. As former colleague Jesse Simonton so aptly put it, the 2017 Tennessee offensive is comparable to the hapless 2012 Sal Sunseri defense, and that’s ultimately what kicked Jones to the curb.
Consider this: Tennessee has scored a combined 116 points since the Week 3 loss to Florida. That’s 14.5 points per game. That’s awful.
Did Jones leave Tennessee better off than he found it? It sure seems like he did, but then again, Dooley set the bar oh so low.
Even with Auburn loss, Georgia is well ahead of schedule
Consider where Jones and many other SEC coaches were in Year 2. Yes, Mark Richt left Kirby Smart with a cupboard pretty well-stocked with talent (and he’s doing OK at Miami, I guess). But Smart has capitalized quickly in a way few other recent head-coaching newbies haven’t.
The Auburn loss is a setback, of course, and it served as a painful reminder to Georgia’s players that they are absolutely beatable. But this defeat also doesn’t end their remarkable 2017 run.
Take care of Kentucky and Georgia Tech over the next two weeks, and the Bulldogs will either get a shot at Alabama or a rematch with Auburn in the SEC Championship Game. Win that game and they’re in the playoff, for sure — maybe even as the No. 1 seed.
But like Alabama, Georgia needs to correct its mistakes from this past Saturday. The dumb penalties are the easiest fix for Smart and his staff. Freshman quarterback Jake Fromm didn’t play his most crisp game, but it no doubt served as a learning experience. The play of the offensive and defensive lines isn’t so easily addressed, but it’ll give the coaches some motivational fodder when they’re going at it in practice.
Bottom line: Georgia lost on the road against a top 10 team. There’s no shame in that. Smart still has this team in a good place.
Highlight of the week: Stayin’ alive
Alabama’s star quarterback remains cool, calm and collected in the biggest moments. Jalen Hurts only completed 10 of 19 passes, but he made them count, racking up 282 total yards and 2 touchdowns.
The play that kept the Tide unbeaten. pic.twitter.com/FeZUQjAqXc
— ESPN (@espn) November 12, 2017
Interesting SEC stats from Week 11
- Georgia’s 23-point loss to Auburn is the worst by a No. 1-ranked teams since the playoff system was instituted in 2014.
- The Bulldogs entered their matchup with Auburn averaging 279.3 yards rushing per game. The Tigers held them to 46 yards on 32 carries. That’s what domination looks like.
- Missouri quarterback Drew Lock has thrown 35 touchdown passes in 10 games, putting him within clear striking distance of single-season SEC record-holder Andre Woodson (40 touchdowns in 2007). Especially if the Tigers make a bowl game.
- Mizzou, by the way, is averaging 7.35 yards per play, which is fifth-best in the FBS behind Oklahoma, UCF, Arizona and Oklahoma State.
- Mississippi State possessed the football for a few seconds shy of 39 minutes in its loss to Alabama. The Bulldogs lead the SEC in time of possession with a 33-minute per-game average.
- Missouri entered Week 11 allowing more than 440 total yards of offense per game, along with just 9 takeaways in nine games. Then, the Tigers held Tennessee to 285 offensive yards and forced 4 turnovers. Yeesh.
From 1977-2008, Tennessee had 2 football coaches. Its next coach will be its fifth in 10 seasons (Fulmer, Kiffin, Dooley, Jones and the new guy).
— Mike Huguenin (@MikeHuguenin) November 12, 2017
SEC power rankings after Week 11
- Alabama: Flawed though they may be, we’re no Tide-haters. They remain the class of the SEC. (Last week: 1)
- Auburn: That the Tigers offense did that to a top-ranked defense is scary, and a huge credit to Gus Malzahn. (Last week: 2)
- Georgia: Ground and pound had been the Bulldogs’ bread and butter, and they’ll have to regain their confidence there in the coming weeks. (Last week: 3)
- Mississippi State: Gave Alabama all it could handle and should finish a nice 9-3. Todd Grantham’s defense has certainly taken a step forward since the Georgia and Auburn losses. (Last week: 4)
- LSU: The Auburn and Syracuse wins have aged well, and the loss to Troy feels like it happened ages ago. (Last week: 5)
- South Carolina: The Gamecocks have won a bunch of close games this season, but they also haven’t lost by more than 14 points — and that was at Georgia during Week 10. Will Muschamp is getting the job done, ugly though it may be. (Last week: 6)
- Texas A&M: Now bowl eligible, but the Aggies are probably looking for a new coach regardless of where they finish. (Last week: 7)
- Ole Miss: Not a bad team, underneath it all, now that Jordan Ta’amu has quickly found his rhythm under center. The Rebels should give A&M a game next Saturday night. (Last week: 9)
- Kentucky: The Wildcats are 7-3, but their best win is South Carolina. Here’s guessing they won’t be adding Georgia to the victory list next week. (Last week: 8)
- Missouri: Dropped 50 points on Tennessee for its fourth consecutive win. The Tigers have a real shot at finishing 7-5, if you can believe it. (Last week: 11)
- Florida: The Gators at least gave South Carolina a game after looking downright lifeless against Missouri. (Last week: 12)
- Arkansas: Put together a competitive first-half performance against LSU, but a 23-point loss further underscores how far the Hogs have fallen in the SEC West. (Last week: 14)
- Vanderbilt: Kentucky manhandled the Commodores, and we expect Missouri to do the same next weekend. This team simply doesn’t have the muscle to compete in the SEC. (Last week: 10)
- Tennessee: The Vols’ annual matchup with Vandy will feature the worst two teams in the conference — a matchup we’re not so sure Tennessee can win at this rate. (Last week: 13)
Hittin’ the links: SEC Country news you may have missed
- Alabama might have taken an important step toward becoming college football’s best team (Chris Walsh)
- Jalen Hurts drives the bus, the cowbell silencer and what to make of Alabama’s defense (Marq Burnett)
- How Auburn spoiled Georgia’s party and started one of its own in Jordan-Hare Stadium (Justin Ferguson)
- LSU offense explodes in second half as Tigers defeat Arkansas (Nick Suss)
- Breakdown at the lines: Georgia dominated physically by Auburn (Seth Emerson)
- Tennessee coaching candidates: Big names on list to replace Butch Jones in Knoxville (Mike Griffith)
- What Florida’s prospective coaching targets must think watching this Gators team (Ryan Young)
- South Carolina football coach Will Muschamp reunites with former players (Hale McGranahan)
- Kentucky football: Benny Snell’s record day comes with reminder that he’s just a sophomore (Joe Mussatto)
Tweet of the week: Another sad night on Rocky Top
Jones has always praised players for consistency. Apparently, he’s not so fond of seeing it out of the UT media, and responded by chowing down on a big plate of his favorite dish: cliché spaghetti. This might as well be our lasting image of Jones at Tennessee.
I asked Butch Jones if he felt like he still had the support of AD John Currie, what his message was to the team after another embarrassing loss.
He did not like the questions. pic.twitter.com/SFvRNyo1KU
— Jesse Simonton (@JesseReSimonton) November 12, 2017