Six SEC teams were on the couch Saturday. Some were scheduled that way and others had Hurricane Matthew interfere with those plans.
Still, we came away with plenty of talking points about the conference’s best and worst programs.
Here’s what we learned about each SEC team that took the field.
(Teams are listed by ranking, then alphabetically.)
No. 1 Alabama
In time, Jalen Hurts may wind up being the best quarterback Nick Saban has had at Alabama. In a 49-30 win over No. 16 Arkansas, Hurts completed 13 of 17 passes for 253 yards and 2 touchdowns. He rushed for 2 more scores. Through six games, he’s accounted for 14 touchdowns and he’s only a freshman. AJ McCarron is largely considered the best Tide QB under Saban, but one with Hurts’ skill set in this offense has a chance to really put up some numbers and win a lot of games if allowed to grow. Blake Barnett made the right call by leaving — Hurts is only getting better.
No. 8 Texas A&M
Trevor Knight has to be in the Heisman conversation. The graduate transfer was incredible in a 45-38 double-overtime win against No. 9 Tennessee with 349 total yards and 5 touchdowns. He won’t wow anyone with his accuracy (53.5 completion percentage), but the way he’s leading this Aggies group is something to watch. If he doesn’t pop up on a few Heisman ballots this season, he can rest assured know he built a nice legacy in his one season in College Station.
No. 9 Tennessee
Luck runs out for everybody eventually. Football fans fully expected Tennessee to win Saturday despite falling behind. Why not? But even a late Texas A&M fumble and a missed field goal couldn’t get the Volunteers and Butch Jones another wild win. Luckily, this is not a backbreaking loss for UT, as they’ll likely stay in the top 15 with a date against Alabama in a matter of days. Maybe the pixie dust just needed a break.
No. 16 Arkansas
The Razorbacks aren’t ready to be the big dog quite yet. Bret Bielema has a good team, but Saturday’s loss to Alabama was humbling. He has a worthy quarterback in Austin Allen, but the offensive line struggled mightily against a talented Tide defensive front and gained just 73 rushing yards on 36 attempts. Arkansas, which should stay in the Top 25, can build on this season and maybe, just maybe, eventually knock off the Tide. They had come close in the two prior games entering Saturday.
Rhett Lashlee is the real deal. The Tigers have won three in a row, including Saturday’s 38-14 win against Mississippi State, since Lashlee took over play-calling duties. Sean White all of a sudden looks like a college QB after another efficient, effective outing, and the ground game is still averaging more than 4 yards per carry. Gus Malzahn’s best coaching call this season was handing the reigns to Lashlee.
Nothing makes Kentucky look better than Vanderbilt. Mark Stoops is a lousy 6-22 in SEC play after Saturday’s 20-13 win against the Commodores. The Wildcats had a field day on the ground rushing for 258 yards — their most in one game since going for 341 in 2010 … against Vanderbilt. Stoops may actually save his job this year if he devises a way to reschedule Vanderbilt for his remaining six games.
This team can’t win with one player. QB Nick Fitzgerald is a solid piece worth building around, but he’s not Dak Prescott. Fitzgerald did his best in a lopsided loss to Auburn with 242 of Mississippi State’s 289 total yards, but the rest of the team, defense included, didn’t show up. Dan Mullen needs to hit the recruiting trail hard (if he’s still around after the season) and find some playmakers to make use of Fitzgerald’s time in Starkville.
Derek Mason’s days are numbered as Vanderbilt’s coach. He fired his offensive and defensive coordinators after a miserable 2014 campaign, and where has that gotten him? In a 20-13 loss to Kentucky, the only Vandy touchdown was a fumble recovery return, while the Wildcats had their way on the ground. Mason is now 9-21 overall and 2-17 in conference games. Granted, Vanderbilt doesn’t hang its hat on being a football school, but nobody likes being the village idiot.