A few thoughts to jump start your Wednesday morning:
The coach is still quarantined and there are no practice updates, but it’s still football season so here are 10 more observations about football in the Southeastern Conference that could be light years away from reality. As always, I reserve the right to be obnoxiously right, slightly prophetic or dead wrong.
(1) The latest mock NFL Draft by Ryan Wilson of CBS Sports has five quarterbacks going in the first round. To no one’s surprise, Trevor Lawrence of Climpson (to the New York Jets) and Justin Fields of Ohio State (to the Jacksonville Jaguars) go 1-2. Taken with the fourth pick in this mock by Washington is Trey Lance of North Dakota State. The fourth pick might surprise you. Wilson has Florida’s Kyle Trask going to the New England Patriots with the 19th pick in the first round. The fifth QB to go is Alabama QB Mac Jones to the Chicago Bears with the 22nd pick. New England would be an excellent landing spot for Trask. Cam Newton has been plagued by injuries the past few years so there is no certainty he will be around a long time. The Patriots don’t seem to be quite so enamored with Jarrett Stidham, otherwise they wouldn’t have signed Newton in the offseason. Trask has the cerebral elements to his game that will fit well with Bill Belichick. Wilson also has Florida tight end Kyle Pitts going with the ninth pick of the first round to the Los Angeles Chargers but that shouldn't surprise anyone. Pitts is the best collegiate tight end in the country, bar none. Wilson has seven Alabama players going in the first round. Florida is the only SEC team other than Alabama with more than one pick.
(2) Kirby Smart made it official Tuesday that Stetson Bennett IV is still Georgia’s starting QB even after his three-interception performance in the Poodles’ 41-24 loss to Alabama. Smart said, “Like I have said before, I feel great about Stetson. He’s done a good job of managing situations we have put him in.” Hence the problem with Bennett. He is simply a game manager whose main job is to avoid mistakes. As long as Georgia’s defense can dominate games, the Poodles can get away with Bennett at QB. If they require a QB with the skills to win games, they have a real problem. What does that say about Southern Cal transfer JT Daniels that he’s been practicing with the team since August and still can’t win the starting job away from a former walk-on?
(3) It was only a year ago that the Heisman Trophy was supposedly a three-man race between Tua Tagovailoa (Alabama), Trevor Lawrence (Climpson) and Justin Fields (Ohio State). Then along came Joe Burrow, who set records while leading LSU to the national championship. It’s supposed to be a two-man race between Lawrence and Fields this year, but what Alabama QB Mac Jones is doing is off the charts (90-115, 78.3%; 1,518 yards, 13.2 per attempt; 12 touchdowns and two picks), so much so that Joel Klatt of Fox Sports says, “Mac Jones is your Joe Burrow.” Klatt points out that Jones is ahead of where Burrow was last year both statistically and in the thoughts of the people who will vote for the Heisman.
(4) Auburn would be smart to gear its offense around freshman running back Tank Bigsby rather than lean so heavily on Bo Nix throwing the football. Bigsby is 36-257 running the ball, averaging 7.3 yards per carry, which is quite better than what Nix is doing in the passing game. Nix is averaging a rather pathetic 6.1 per attempt, largely because he can’t throw the deep ball even though he’s got the fastest receiver in college football in Anthony Schwartz and one of the most athletic in Seth Williams. Nix might throw a better deep ball if he would start releasing the ball off his front foot instead of throwing weakly off his back foot. For those who wonder why Gus Malzahn doesn’t put Nix on the bench, he doesn’t have anyone else.
(5) Some of the “experts” were touting Tennessee’s offensive line as the best in the Southeastern Conference just four weeks ago. Four weeks later here is what the stats tell us: The Vols are averaging 3.55 yards per rushing attempt (9th in the SEC), just 6.6 yards per pass attempt (also 9th), 4.9 yards per offensive play (12th) and they’ve allowed 11 sacks (tied for 11th). If Alabama’s defense shows up all four quarters Saturday the way it did in the second half of the Georgia game, it’s going to be a complete and total embarrassment for Tennessee.
(6) As long as South Carolina can get opponents off the field on third down, then Will Muschamp’s promise to his team that the Gamecocks are going to win a lot of football games is going to come true. The Gamecocks lead the SEC in third down defense, allowing opponents just 13 conversions on 47 third downs. Opponents are 0-5 on fourth down conversions. The defense is getting help from the South Carolina offense, which leads the SEC and ranks ninth nationally in time of possession (33:29 per game).
(7) Jeremy Pruitt isn’t getting any love from the Kentucky staff for his firing of defensive line coach Jimmy Brumbaugh following the Vols’ 34-7 loss to Kentucky last Saturday. Kentucky tight ends coach Vince Marrow called the firing “a bunch of bull.” UK head coach Mark Stoops was cautious not to call out Pruitt, but his tone said everything. Stoops said, “I have no idea what goes on there [at Tennessee], that’s not my business but at some point I will reach out to Jimmy and that’s disappointing.” Brumbaugh was one of Stoops’ assistants from 2013-16.
(8) Garrett Shrader announced that he will enter the NCAA transfer portal and leave Mississippi State. Shrader, who is a dual threat QB who is a very dangerous runner, was moved to wide receiver by Mike Leach. Shrader tweeted out that he is leaving because he wants to play quarterback. As a true freshman last year, Shrader started four games and was 88-153 passing (57.5%) for 1,170 yards (7.6 per attempt) and eight touchdowns (five picks) while running for 587 yards (5.19 per carry) and six touchdowns. As a wide receiver this year, Shrader caught one pass for six yards. It’s amazing that Shrader never got a chance to play QB considering K.J. Costello has thrown 10 interceptions in four games while averaging 6.5 per attempt and true freshman Will Rogers is averaging a whopping 4.9 per attempt. Look for Shrader to possibly announce he will transfer to Oregon where former MSU head coach Joe Moorhead is the offensive coordinator.
(9) Here are the all-time records for SEC football teams, listed in order with their national rank: (1/4) Alabama 920-331-43; (2/10) Tennessee 848-397-53; (3/11) Georgia 834-426-54; (4/12) LSU 813-417-47; (5/13) Auburn 778-447-47; * (6) Texas A&M 752-487-48; (7/21) FLORIDA 737-421-40; ** (8/24) Arkansas 718-518-39; * (9/33) Missouri 686-566-52; (10/36) Ole Miss 676-535-35; (11/46) Kentucky 626-626-44; ** (12/52) South Carolina 615-585-44; (13/55) Vanderbilt 609-632-50; (14/67) Mississippi State 570-585-39
* Joined the SEC in 2012
** Joined the SEC in 1992
(10) The modern era of football in the SEC began in 1960. Here are the all-time records for SEC teams since 1960 along with their national rank: (1/1) Alabama 547-168-7; (2/8) Georgia 496-213-15; (3/10) FLORIDA 489-221-11; (4/12) LSU 479-224-14; (5/13) Auburn 472-232-9; (6/14) Tennessee 466-238-16; (7/21) Arkansas 432-267-10; (8/25) Texas A&M 411-291-9; (9/36) Ole Miss 376-309-10; (10/42) Missouri 371-316-13; (11/58) South Carolina 346-336-13; (12/81) Mississippi State 302-378-9; (13/84) Kentucky 286-389-10; (14/107) Vanderbilt 215-452-10
THEY PLAY FOOTBALL IN OTHER PLACES BESIDE THE SEC
Mike Locksley released his Maryland depth chart minus a starting quarterback. That will be either true freshman Lance LeGendre or Taulia Tagovaloa who was 9-12 passing for 100 yards and a touchdown as the third team QB at Alabama last year.
Does it seem really weird to you that the SEC is heading into week five and some teams will be playing their sixth game this weekend, yet the Big Ten and Mountain West are just starting? And, the Pac-12 won’t begin playing for two more weeks.
Southern Miss interim head coach Scotty Walden has tested positive for Covid-19. The Eagles didn’t have enough players to play last Saturday’s game with UTEP because of the virus. Next up is Liberty, unbeaten and coached by Southern Miss alum Hugh Freeze, who the USM fan base is hoping will come home to Mississippi to coach his alma mater. Don’t bet on it. USM had a bare bones financial situation and Liberty is absolutely loaded with cash. They love Freeze and will pay whatever it takes to keep him.
Penn State’s hopes to win the Big Ten may have taken a serious hit. Running back Journey Brown, who gained 890 yards and scored 12 rushing TDs last year, may miss the entire 2020 season to a non-virus medical condition.
JASON WHITLOCK OF OUTKICK THE COVERAGE ON LE’VEON BELL
To put it mildly, Jason is not a fan of running back Le’Veon Bell, who signed last week with the Kansas City Chiefs after the New York Jets released him. Whitlock wrote, “You see, Bell, to me, isn’t bad meaning good, he’s bad meaning bad. He’s a locker room cancer. He’s poison. In pursuit of cash, he bulldozed his way out of an ideal situation in Pittsburgh, where on the field he meshed perfectly with Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown. Bell landed in New York, where he flamed out with the Jets after playing just 19 games. Owing him an additional $65 million, the Jets cut Bell on Tuesday (last week) rather than deal with his bad attitude.”
That Kansas City would sign Bell tells you NFL teams will sign a repentant (sometimes) axe murderer if they think they can win with him. The fact that Colin Kaepernick remains unemployed should enlighten you. If anyone thought Kaepernick could win some games, he would have a job.
A FEW PITHY COMMENTS FOR WEDNESDAY: The Miami Dolphins aren’t paying Tua Tagovailoa all that money to carry a clipboard. The Dolphins are off this week but when they return on November 1 to face the Los Angeles Rams, reports are that Tua will get the start, replacing Ryan Fitzpatrick, who has guided the Fish to a 3-3 record so far … Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver John Ross is demanding a trade. That’s apparently what you do in the No Fun League when you have caught two passes for 17 yards through six games … Clayton Kershaw, who pitched six innings of two-hit ball to lead the Los Angeles Dodgers to an 8-3 win over the Tampa Bay Rays in game one of the World Series, is paid $31 million a year. The entire Tampa Bay pitching staff (13 pitchers) is paid a collective $31,413,800. And you wonder why a skinny weenie at Dodger Stadium costs $6.75. That’s not even the expensive dog either. They have a hot dog at Dodger Stadium that will set you back $21.