Alabama is another step closer to the College Football Playoff, while Texas A&M may have fallen out of the frame.
Leonard Fournette is still a monster, but is Auburn’s Kamryn Pettway the next big thing in SEC running backs.
Those things and more are included in what we learned about each SEC team in Week 8.
(Teams are listed by ranking, then alphabetically.)
No. 1 Alabama
We didn’t really learn anything about the Crimson Tide this week, we simply had what we already knew confirmed. This team is the best of the best. Against an incredibly talented No. 6 Texas A&M team, Alabama had their way on both sides of the ball in a 33-14 win. Jalen Hurts was spectacular, Damien Harris was great and the defense scored again. The only thing that didn’t work for Alabama on Saturday in Denny-Bryant were the toilets. This team has to know it’s headed for the College Football Playoff, but Nick Saban won’t let complacency set in. Look out, everyone else.
No. 6 Texas A&M
The Aggies will likely be the best team left out of the College Football Playoff. They have a great leader at quarterback, a dynamic running attack and arguably the best defensive player in the nation. However, they won’t get a shot at the SEC title after falling to Alabama. Maybe they could sneak into the four-team race late if the loser of Michigan/Ohio State and Louisville falter late in the year.
No. 17 Arkansas
The Razorbacks can’t win with Austin Allen on his back. The offensive line struggled again giving up four sacks as Allen was injured in the second quarter and later pulled in the fourth in a 56-3 loss to Auburn. It was Allen’s first game this season without a touchdown pass. Arkansas finally gets an off week to hopefully correct its issues in pass protection.
No. 21 Auburn
Sophomore running back Kamryn Pettway is the real deal. The 240-pound bulldozer of a back had 27 carries for 192 of Auburn’s 543 rushing yards and 2 touchdowns in the win against Arkansas. In the five games where he’s recorded carries, Pettway has gone for at least 123 yards in four of them. An argument can be made he’s the second best running back in the SEC behind a now-healthy Leonard Fournette.
No. 23 Ole Miss
The defense needs to start doing its part. The Rebels have the talent, which is a reason they stayed in the polls despite three loses, but the guys on defense aren’t doing their part. In the Rebels’ four losses they’ve given up 34 points or more. In three of those loses the offense has scored at lest 30 points. The one game it didn’t — Saturday’s 38-21 loss to No. 25 LSU. And 21 points against the Tigers in Baton Rouge isn’t too shabby. It doesn’t get any easier next week against an Auburn team that hung 56 points on Arkansas.
No. 25 LSU
Look out. Since Ed Orgeron has taken over as the interim head coach for LSU, the Tigers have paired an explosive offense with its stifling defense. And now Leonard Fournette is back and running wild after missing nearly a month with an ankle injury. Alabama in two weeks is the likely kryptonite for the roll LSU is on, but the Tigers certainly give the Tide plenty to worry about.
Mark Stoops may actually be back in 2017. Stoops was on an early hot seat when the season started 0-2, but now after winning four of their last five games (the one loss coming at Alabama) and beating Mississippi State for the first time in seven years Saturday, 40-38, Wildcats fans may be treated to another season of Stoops. That may not sound so good given Stoops is still just 16-27 in Lexington, but he has three more winnable games on the schedule and only needs two of them to be bowl eligible for the first time.
The Bulldogs are consistent. The same problems plagued them in a 40-38 loss to Kentucky have hurt them all season. Too much of a burden is being placed on the legs of QB Nick Fitzgerald and the defense struggled to stop the run. Next week against Samford may provide some reprieve, but expect similar struggles in two weeks against Texas A&M.
The Tigers have real issues on defense. Much is made about their offensive struggles, but Drew Lock and the rest of the unit scored 45 points Saturday. Too bad Middle Tennessee State posted 51. In the two games prior, Missouri allowed 42 points to LSU and 40 to Florida. The next three weeks Missouri faces Kentucky, South Carolina and Vanderbilt — three mediocre offenses — so maybe the three-game losing streak ends soon.
True freshman Jake Bentley could be the answer at quarterback. This sounds eerily familiar to what was said about Brandon McIlwain earlier in the season, but it’s the big story in Columbia. Bentley completed 17 of 26 passes for 201 yards in his first collegiate start and didn’t concede one snap to McIlwain or Perry Orth in a 34-28 victory against UMass. We’ll see what he’s really made of next week against Tennessee and then two weeks after that against Florida.
The Commodores have the right to enjoy their off week. Vandy followed up its road win against Georgia with a 35-17 victory over Tennessee State. This is the first time the school has won consecutive games since a 9-4 season in 2013. However, the rest of the schedule doesn’t bode well for a bowl berth with Auburn waiting in the wings two weeks from now. So enjoy that winning feeling while you still can, Derek Mason.