If we learned anything about the SEC in Week 11, it’s the quarterback crop will be wildly entertaining for the next few years.
Jalen Hurts had another banner performance, Jacob Eason led Georgia to another win and Shea Patterson took over at Ole Miss in exhilarating fashion.
Those three playmakers, along with Nick Fitzgerald at Mississippi State and Jake Bentley at South Carolina, give college football fans plenty to look forward to.
But let’s break things down a bit further. Here’s what we learned about each team Saturday.
(Teams are listed by College Football Playoff ranking, then alphabetically.)
No. 1 Alabama
It’s all about Jalen. Freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts had his best game to date with 447 totally yards and 5 touchdowns in a 51-3 win against Mississippi State. He’s systematically earning himself an invite to New York City as a Heisman Trophy finalist. As thrilled as Alabama fans and Nick Saban have to be with Hurts this season, they have to be even more excited about the next two (or three) seasons with Hurts under center.
No. 8 Texas A&M
When it rains, it pours. The Aggies lost to Alabama, lost to Mississippi State, lost Trevor Knight and now lost to Ole Miss 29-28. Jake Hubenak struggled in the second half as Ole Miss freshman Shea Patterson burst onto the scene looking a lot like an old Heisman-winning Aggies QB. A date with cupcake UTSA next week is a welcome sight for Kevin Sumlin … or is it?
No. 9 Auburn
Gus Malzahn has no faith in John Franklin III. Sean White wasn’t right all day as he completed just 6 passes the entire day in a 13-7 loss to Georgia. With Kamryn Pettway out of the game, the Tigers offense had no resemblance to the team that hung 56 points on Arkansas a few weeks ago. After the game, Malzahn backed his decision to stick with White the entire game. However, one has to wonder if Franklin could have given the team the spark it was sorely lacking.
No. 24 LSU
This team still has something to prove. The Tigers won’t be in the SEC Championship, or the College Football Playoff. And Ed Orgeron likely won’t be the head coach next season. But this team is capitalizing on every moment it gets in 2016. After losing to Alabama a week ago, LSU ran all over Arkansas for a 38-10 road win. Derrius Guice led the way with a career-best 252 rushing yards and 2 scores on 21 carries, while Leonard Fournette added 98 yards and 3 touchdowns on 17 carries. I’d hate to be the two teams left on the Tigers’ schedule (Florida and Texas A&M).
No. 25 Arkansas
This team can’t find its identity. After holding Florida to 12 rushing yards last week, the Razorbacks allowed LSU 390. After scoring 31 points on the Gators, the offense managed just 10 against the Tigers. Since starting the season 3-0, Arkansas has alternated wins and losses for seven weeks. At least every week is an adventure for Razorbacks fans.
Austin Appleby can get it done. The Purdue transfer played earlier the season while Luke Del Rio dealt with injury, but his performance in a 20-7 win against South Carolina was impressive. The senior completed 17 of 21 passes for 201 yards, 2 touchdowns and 1 interception. Those numbers aren’t terribly sexy, but it’s enough to do the trick when your defense allows just seven points. We’ll see if Appleby is called upon to do it again next week against LSU.
Running the ball and playing defense works for this team. Nick Chubb recorded his third 100-yard rushing game of the season, while the defense scored the only touchdown of the day for Georgia. Freshman quarterback Jacob Eason is more than capable of managing the game for Kirby Smart at this point in his career, but pairing a nice defensive effort and an effective ground game gets you wins.
The Wildcats still can’t tackle. It’s as if Josh Dobbs and Alvin Kamara were covered in butter for Tennessee’s 49-36 win against Big Blue. The Vols ran for a total of 376 yardsand had scoring plays of 24, 51, 17, 45 and 29 yards. If Tennessee wasn’t nearly just as bad in the tackling department, allowing 443 rushing yards, this game could have been even uglier for Mark Stoops’ defense.
There is still work to be done. After upsetting Texas A&M a week ago, the Bulldogs crashed to earth against Alabama in a 51-3 loss. Quarterback Nick Fitzgerald completed just 10 of 33 passes for 145 yards and managed just 15 rushing yards on 11 attempts. This team has some pieces, and Alabama is making every team look foolish this season, so there’s no reason to panic if you’re a Mississippi State fan. Let your young players continue to develop and enjoy the next couple of seasons.
The Tigers can get after it on defense. Vanderbilt may have totaled more than 400 yards in a 26-17 Mizzou win, but the Tigers repeatedly stifled the Commodores on third down and recorded 9 tackles for loss, including 6 sacks. Barry Odom has been waiting weeks for his defense to come around, and it seems they may have as Mizzou broke a 5-game losing streak.
The Shea Patterson era will be fun. Rebels fans didn’t like the news of Chad Kelly’s torn ACL, but it has given them an early look at the future. Patterson, wearing No. 20, threw for 338 yards and 2 touchdowns in a 29-28 win against Texas A&M. He flashed incredible ability with his arm and legs as he rushed for 64 yards and routinely extended plays. This kid is must-watch television for the remainder of the season and going forward.
Jake Bentley can’t walk on water. The freshman QB was quickly becoming a folk legend in South Carolina after winning his first three starts, but on Saturday he became just another victim of Florida’s top-flight secondary. He completed 18 of 33 passes for 213 yards, no touchdowns and 1 interception in a 20-7 loss. But don’t hang your head Jake, there aren’t many defensive units like that around and you have at least two more seasons to figure them out.
Josh Dobbs still owns Kentucky. Hobbs is 4-0 against the Wildcats. In those four games, he has 10 passing touchdowns and 6 rushing. Saturday, he threw for 223 yards and 3 scores while leading the team with 147 yards rushing and a pair of touchdowns. We all knew Dobbs had this type of game in him, but they’ve been few and far between in 2016. The Vols need more of the same if they want to be in Atlanta for the SEC Championship Game.
Staying on the field is hard for the Commodores. In a 26-17 loss to Missouri, Vandy converted just 3 of 14 third-down attempts and failed on its only fourth-down try. Somehow Vanderbilt still won the possession battle 36-24. However, it’s never good to see your punter trot onto the field seven times. It’s not easy to lose to Missouri, but Vandy found a way.