Saturday assured us of things we already knew about several teams. For example, Alabama is good … very good.
However, not everything is so obvious. Here’s what we learned about every SEC team that took the field in Week 7.
(Teams listed by ranking, then alphabetically.)
No. 1 Alabama
The Crimson Tide are the hunted. The College Football Playoff picture didn’t change over the weekend, but as Ohio State and Clemson needed overtime to stay undefeated, Alabama destroyed No. 9 Tennessee 49-10 on the road. There’s no longer doubt that Nick Saban’s boys are head and shoulders above the rest of the country with a bruising run game, dynamic freshman quarterback and a grown-man defense.
No. 9 Tennessee
An SEC East title is the best the Volunteers can hope for. Tennessee fans came into the season with high hopes, but after consecutive losses to SEC West powers Texas A&M and Alabama, expectations must be tempered. The Vols need Florida to drop at least one more conference game to make it to the SEC title game, where they’ll likely get a second shot at either the Aggies or Crimson Tide. If that happens, it’s hard to envision a different result, especially if Rocky Top’s luck is really gone.
No. 12 Ole Miss
The Rebels can’t ask Chad Kelly to do it all. The senior has respectable mobility, but he shouldn’t be expected to lead his team in carries as he did in a 34-30 loss to No. 22 Arkansas. Now they were a productive 14 carries for 89 yards and 2 touchdowns, but Ole Miss has lost all three games this season where Kelly has at least 13 carries. In the team’s four wins, he has a combined 11.
No. 18 Florida
This Gators defense should lead Florida to the SEC title game. How good is this secondary? It held Drew Lock, the conference’s leading passer, to just 4 completions and 39 passing yards. Florida has three more significant hurdles on the schedule with Arkansas, LSU and Florida State (not to mention its rivalry matchup with Georgia in two weeks), but this defense should keep them favored in every game. It’s unclear if this Gators team can stifle Alabama or Texas A&M, but we’ll likely find out in the SEC championship game.
No. 22 Arkansas
Bret Bielema may have it figured out. He gets a lot of heat for his record against SEC teams, which is still just 8-19 after Saturday’s win, but this Razorbacks team is doing everything it should this season. Their only two losses have come to Alabama and Texas A&M, and aside from a 21-20 victory over Louisiana Tech to open the season, Bielema’s boys have played up to snuff in their five wins. Without a marquee quarterback or a dominant defense, reasonable expectations were never to win an SEC title this season, but this team is certainly well-coached, and that bodes well for seasons to come.
Georgia fans need to chill. Saturday’s 17-16 loss to Vanderbilt was ugly and coach Kirby Smart called it “sickening” after the fact. But let’s stop wondering if Smart was a bad hire and if Mark Richt really should have gotten the boot. Georgia’s defense did its part, holding Vandy to just 171 total yards. The most questionable decision of the day has to be handing the ball to Isaiah McKenzie instead of Nick Chubb or Sony Michel on the fourth-and-1 play that decided the game. But these blunders can be ironed out going forward. Smart is a good coach and Jacob Eason has at least two more seasons to shine in Athens.
Ed Orgeron has the ear of this team. LSU was tied at 10-10 with Southern Mississippi at halftime. Then Orgeron must have challenged his Tigers in the locker room before they came out and turned on the afterburners en route to a 45-10 win. Since Orgeron was named interim coach, LSU has outscored its opponents 87-17. Now it’s time time to see how serious we should take the Tigers as contenders with Ole Miss, Alabama, Arkansas, Florida and Texas A&M to close the 2016 campaign.
It’s time to look to 2017. After dropping to 2-4 with a loss to BYU, the Bulldogs may not earn a bowl bid. This is nothing for fans to be too upset with, as the team has shown signs of promise. Mississippi State has a young, dynamic quarterback in Nick Fitzgerald and the defense held BYU to 311 yards in a tough road game nearly 2,000 miles from home. This isn’t the season to judge Dan Mullen — reserve that for 2017 and 2018.
These guys need a break. The Tigers offense was prolific early in the season, but in Missouri’s last two games — loses to LSU and Florida — it’s managed just 21 points. Quarterback Drew Lock completed just 4 passes Saturday and finished with an 18.2 passer rating. Next week, Lock gets a break from SEC defenses against Middle Tennessee before a stretch against Kentucky, South Carolina and Vanderbilt — a trio of defenses well below the talent of Florida and LSU.
Vandy needed this win over Georgia. It probably didn’t deserve it, but that doesn’t matter to Derek Mason and the Commodores this week. The offense sputtered all afternoon, but the defense led by Zach Cunningham and his 19 tackles ensured Mason his first road SEC win. This may not save Mason’s job, but it at least affords him a week of reprieve and a “signature win.”