Week 12 of SEC football didn’t feature too much excitement outside of a classic between LSU and Florida, but we didn’t walk away from our television sets empty-handed.
After a forgettable first half in Tuscaloosa, Nick Saban showed his trademark disdain for ugly football. Tennessee showed us what it was supposed to be all season. And Ole Miss prodigy Shea Patterson looked like a freshman against Vanderbilt.
With the regular season winding down, here’s a breakdown of what we learned about every conference team Saturday.
(Teams are listed by College Football Playoff ranking, then alphabetically.)
No. 1 Alabama
Nick Saban hasn’t lost a bit of his edge. Alabama trailed Chattanooga 3-0 after the first quarter and only led 14-3 at halftime. Saban took his frustration out on ESPN reporter Olivia Harlan before heading to the locker room.
Nick Saban seems unhappy. pic.twitter.com/GcB4roBYCd
— Deadspin (@Deadspin) November 20, 2016
While the bulk of college football fans raised their eyebrows at that interaction, Tide fans love that fire — it’s likely to bring them a fifth national title since Saban came to Tuscaloosa.
No. 15 Auburn
We learned nothing of value about the Tigers in Week 12. This 55-0 win over Alabama A&M was treated like an NFL team treats their fourth preseason game. Jeremy Johnson played nearly the entire game at quarterback while Sean White rested a shoulder injury. Gus Malzahn hardly played John Franklin III, either. Leading rusher Kamryn Pettway also took the game off while Kerryon Johnson and freshman Kam Martin handled backfield duties. The Tigers were clearly all in — for next week against the Crimson Tide.
No. 16 LSU
Ed Orgeron is toast. LSU is firing up the phones and ramping up efforts to lure Jimbo Fisher after LSU’s 16-10 loss to Florida. Oregon is still highly regarded by the school and the players, but he’s shown it’s unlikely he can meet the standards in Baton Rouge. Oregon will give fiery speeches somewhere next season, but it won’t be at LSU.
No. 19 Tennessee
An efficient Vols team is scary. They were outgained 740-609 in a 63-37 win over Missouri, but averaged more than 9 yards per play with 223 passing yards and 386 rushing. But even more impressive is Tennessee converting 9 of 15 third downs and committed only 5 penalties for 45 yards. Penalties and inconsistency on offense have haunted this team all season. Saturday showed us a glimpse of what everyone thought this team could do prior to the season.
No. 23 Florida
Jim McElwain really wanted this win over LSU. This game was originally supposed to be played in Gainesville before Hurricane Matthew wreaked havoc on the Southeast. Florida caught a lot of flack online after the postponement, and a pregame scuffle only stoked an apparent fire inside McElwain. After the tense 16-10 win, McElwain puffed his chest out and said the LSU haters “got what they deserved.”
No. 25 Texas A&M
The Aggies will go from playoff team to unranked by season’s end. The mighty have fallen hard in College Station, and Kevin Sumlin may be out of a job if he drops his regular season finale against LSU. A 23-10 win over UTSA at home wasn’t enough to stifle any flames under Sumlin’s seat. The Thanksgiving night game is of the utmost importance for Texas A&M.
The Razorbacks are still consistently inconsistent. Coming off a loss to LSU where it scored just 10 points, Arkansas lit up the scoreboard in a 58-42 win over Mississippi State. Rawleigh Williams’ 205 rushing yards guided Arkansas to 661 yards of offense. We’ll see if Bret Bielema’s boys can put together back-to-back wins for the first time since mid-September next week at Missouri.
The Bulldogs figured it out too late. In a 35-21 win over Louisiana-Lafayette, Nick Chubb rushed for more than 100 yards for a second straight game, the first time he’s done that this season. And the defense played well as Georgia led 35-7 before backups took the field. This was the team Kirby Smart was expected to have this season. But instead of playing for an SEC title, it’ll have to settle for a mediocre bowl game.
Benny Snell Jr. has only started breaking Kentucky records. With 152 rushing yards in a 49-13 win over Austin Peay, Snell broke the freshman rushing record for a season previously held by Moe Williams. He has 1,006 yards and 12 touchdowns, and if he continues this projection over the next 2-3 seasons, he should break Williams’ single-season mark (1,600) and Sonny Collins’ career record (3,835) at some point.
Dan Mullen has the most important piece already in place with Nick Fitzgerald and needs to build around him. The sophomore is the Bulldogs offense. He finished a 58-42 loss to Arkansas with 459 total yards and 6 touchdowns. Quarterbacks aren’t easy to come by, so with the development of playmakers around Fitzgerald, the Bulldogs are set up nicely for the next season or two.
Barry Odom’s defensive scheme isn’t the answer. The head coach, who started calling defensive plays Oct. 29 vs. Kentucky, looked smart in a win over Vanderbilt last week, but the dynamic weapons of Tennessee made him look foolish in a 63-37 Tigers loss. Odom is well-liked in Columbia, but his first season at the helm has been disappointing at best. Better days are certainly ahead, right?
Shea Patterson isn’t quite ready to take over the world. After lighting it up against Texas A&M a week ago, Patterson fell flat against Vanderbilt in his second start. He relied too much on his legs and bailed out of the pocket prematurely on a number of occasions. He finished the 38-17 loss by completing 20 of 42 passes for 222 yards and 2 touchdowns. Trust inside the pocket should come in time for the promising freshman.
Will Muschamp should, and will, get votes for SEC Coach of the Year. Despite a 2-4 start, the Gamecocks are bowl-eligible after a 44-31 win over Western Carolina. Muschamp shuffled quarterbacks all season before burning Jake Bentley’s redshirt in search of a spark. That spark lit a fire, and South Carolina has won four of its last five games with Bentley running the offense. If Muschamp knocks off in-state rival Clemson this Saturday, he may get a statue before the new year.
Derek Mason isn’t done yet. He looked like a dead man walking early in the season, but now with wins over Georgia and Ole Mis, his team is 5-6, ensuring his best record in three seasons in Nashville. It won’t be easy to become bowl-eligible against Tennessee next week, but Mason already has saved his job with some inspired performances in recent weeks.