In what felt like one of the wildest weeks in modern American history, it was a relief to have an entire day of college football to kick back and enjoy on Saturday.
Even if the loser coronabros out there continued to be upset with the fact that sports are occurring and people in the SEC are trying to live normal lives while rooting on their favorite football teams.
College kids are more likely to die of the seasonal flu, loser. https://t.co/IQO996viD0
— Clay Travis (@ClayTravis) October 4, 2020
Imagine being a grown man taking videos of college kids and posting about them not wearing masks and standing too close to each other? I just can’t even imagine how pathetic of a life that would be.
What the coronabros — who are constantly rooting for bad things to happen in sports and life — don’t seem to realize is this: we’re all aware bad things can happen with this virus, but at some point in time you have to recognize that you can’t live your life in perpetual fear. If a coronabro wants to live in perpetual fear that’s certainly their right — they can curl up in the fetal position and never leave their homes until a vaccine arrives — but the rest of us aren’t going to be terrified of a virus that has almost no impact on anyone under the age of fifty. Protect the elderly, particularly those in nursing homes, and let the rest of us get back to school, work and sports.
Props to the SEC for playing a second straight week of a full slate of games.
I’m sure there will be challenges for the teams going forward, but as of now the SEC has managed to play a full 20% of their season without a single team needing to cancel a game.
With that in mind, let’s dive into Saturday’s results.
1. After Oklahoma and Texas both lost, the Big 12’s playoff chances are (likely) down to Oklahoma State.
And given the inconsistency that Oklahoma State has tended to show over the years, it’s hard to see the Cowboys finishing the Big 12 season undefeated or with a single loss. Heck, it’s hard to see anyone in the Big 12 finishing their year with a single loss at this point.
But the bigger story here has been Oklahoma’s collapse.
Oklahoma is now 0-2 in the Big 12 for the first time in 22 years and Iowa State beat the Sooners at home for the first time in sixty years.
Leading to this outstanding locker room celebration from Iowa State.
Iowa State’s locker room celebration. This is fantastic. pic.twitter.com/0xTApzzDhu
— Clay Travis (@ClayTravis) October 4, 2020
And now the Red River Shootout, far from being a national showcase for the Big 12’s playoff chances, is a brutal battle to see which team can stay alive for a chance at the Big 12 title game.
Both of these coaches, Tom Herman at Texas and Lincoln Riley at Oklahoma, now desperately need wins to stay relevant. Barring an unbelievable comeback on the road against Texas Tech, Texas and Oklahoma should have started the Big 12 season 0-4.
I know it’s a crazy year, but the Big 12 hasn’t won a playoff game yet — they are 0-5 — and they haven’t won a national title in 14 years. It feels like a good bet that’s going to become 15 years this season. Worse than that, the conference looks like an underdog to get a team in the playoffs at all.
I love them for finding a way to play this fall, but the Big 12 is in a rough spot.
2. Arkansas got its first conference win since 2017 and the Mike Leach experience went from an outrageous high to outrageous low in the space of seven days.
Mississippi State turned the ball over four times and lost despite outgaining Arkansas 400 to 275 yards.
So after looking like Mike Leach and K.J. Costello were going to take the league by storm last week, this week Mississippi State is back to exactly where we expected them to be when the season started: sitting at 1-1 as they prepare for week three against Kentucky. The big difference is we never thought the win would be on the road against LSU and the loss would come at home against Arkansas.
This is what life may be like for some time for Mississippi State fans, the highs will be high and the lows will be low under Mike Leach.
Heck, sometimes that even occurs within the games themselves.
If I’m an LSU fan I’m even more angry about our loss now than I was last week.
Yes, the Bulldog offense was rolling last week, but it looks more and more like that was because Bo Pelini was totally incompetent on defense for LSU.
On the other side of the ball, the last time Arkansas won a game in the SEC prior to last night was October 28th, 2017, a 38-37 win at Ole Miss. How long ago was that? Bret Bielema was still the Arkansas coach.
Since that time Arkansas had lost 20 straight conference games.
Congrats to Sam Pittman and all the Razorback fans who have watched all these losses and continued to do the Razorback chant. It’s nice to see the Arkansas back in the win column.
Much of the credit for this win should go to Arkansas defensive coordinator Barry Odom, for refusing to allow Mississippi State to beat him deep. He kept everything in front of his defense and gambled K.J. Costello would make enough mistakes to keep his team in the game if he forced the underneath throws.
And the gamble worked.
As a result Arkansas, which figured to be an underdog in every game this season given that they are playing the most difficult schedule in college football history, doesn’t have to worry about another winless season.
3. Georgia owns Auburn.
Georgia is 13-3 in the past 16 games against Auburn.
We don’t talk enough about this domination in the South’s oldest rivalry.
Indeed, Gus Malzahn has had far more success against Nick Saban and Alabama than he has against Georgia.
So what’s the big impact of this game? Auburn looks like a mid-tier SEC team once again. The Auburn offense was dominated by Georgia, running the ball 22 times for just 39 yards and while he’s still young, Bo Nix doesn’t look like much of a difference maker on offense.
While Auburn’s schedule isn’t particularly difficult over the next three weeks: Arkansas, at South Carolina, and at Ole Miss — do you feel confident Auburn wins all three of those games after this performance? I don’t. At best, the Tigers are likely to play the role of spoiler against Alabama again, posting a 5-5 or 6-4 record in the process.
Meanwhile Georgia, particularly the defense, looked elite and Stetson Bennett made enough plays to keep his team in firm control throughout.
How good are these Bulldogs? We’ll find out in the next four games as Georgia plays Tennessee, at Alabama, and their neutral site game against Florida. (A game at Kentucky is also dropped in there as the ultimate trap game). But if the Bulldogs can make it through that gauntlet at 2-1, an SEC title game trip as well as a playoff spot would be well within their grasp because the Bulldogs close at Missouri, Mississippi State, at South Carolina, and Vanderbilt.
All four of those games look hard for the Bulldogs to lose.
4. Texas A&M is not getting their money’s worth with Jimbo Fisher as Alabama scorched them yet again.
Alabama has won eight straight games against the Aggies since Johnny Manziel pulled off the upset and launched himself into the Heisman trophy picture.
Worse than that, the Aggies are now 10-8 in Jimbo Fisher’s first 18 SEC games.
Putting that into context, Kevin Sumlin was 25-23 in six years in College Station.
That’s nowhere near $75 million worth of production for the Aggies.
Alabama threw the ball for 435 yards, which is an eyepopping stat, but the most amazing thing about this yardage total is it came on only 27 pass attempts, meaning Alabama averaged an extraordinary 16.1 yards per pass attempt. That’s off the charts explosiveness.
That’s what happens when you drop in 87 and 63 yard touchdown passes.
This game was effectively over at halftime with the Tide rolling into intermission up 35-14.
So where do we go from here? Well, Alabama looks poised to win the SEC West again — the Tide is the only undefeated team left in the SEC West after just two weeks of play — and Texas A&M looks like a 5-5 or 6-4 football team.
Florida, honestly, kind of feels like a must win game for the Aggies this upcoming weekend. I know that’s a tall order, but is A&M really paying Jimbo Fisher this kind of money to be .500 after three years in the conference?
Of course not.
Right now it feels like Jimbo’s team is going to be 1-2 headed to Starkville for the Mike Leach experience.
5. The SEC has just four undefeated teams remaining: Alabama, Georgia, Florida and, wait for it, Tennessee.
And three of those teams play in the next two weeks, meaning it will be impossible for there to be any more than two undefeated SEC teams by the time mid-October is here.
So what’s the wildest scenario that could transpire out of this mix of undefeated teams?
What if Georgia beats Tennessee and Alabama, but loses to Florida, which then runs the table the rest of the way.
Then you’d have 9-1 Alabama and 10-0 Florida playing in Atlanta for the SEC title. Let’s say Alabama wins, leaving the Tide 10-1, Florida 10-1 and Georgia 9-1.
Who gets in the playoff?
Alabama, clearly, but couldn’t there be an argument for Florida and Georgia as well?
My point is this, with the Big Ten and the Pac 12 playing dramatically shorter schedules than the SEC, the ACC, and the Big 12, would the college football playoff committee really knock SEC teams playing brutal schedules this fall in favor of teams playing much fewer games against much less grueling competition in other conferences?
This is going to be a situation that’s really worth paying attention to in the weeks ahead.
6. Florida’s Kyle Trask should be the Heisman favorite.
I just mentioned the unbalanced schedules in the major conferences this fall and how much of a challenge that may be for the college football playoff committee.
Well, aren’t Heisman voters going to have to favor the players who play more games too?
By the time the Big Ten schools play their first game of the season Kyle Trask will have already played four games. At the rate he’s going right now — Trask has ten touchdowns in two games — Trask might have 20 touchdown passes before anyone takes a snap in the Big Ten.
Given that this Gator defense appears to be fairly mediocre, Trask is going to have to post some big time performances for his team to win in the weeks ahead.
Finally, let’s keep in mind how many big games Trask will have, unlike, for instance, Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence, who has just two top 25 games on his schedule, Trask has games against Texas A&M, LSU, Georgia and Tennessee, that all feature to be prominent battles featured on CBS or on ESPN primetime.
Not to mention a potential SEC title game against Alabama.
The ultimate result?
Trask is likely to post quarterback stats that no one else can match in college football.
7. Tennessee has won eight games in a row, the longest active winning streak in a power five conference.
This is the longest SEC winning streak for Tennessee football — at six games — in twenty years. Yes, those six wins feature South Carolina twice, Missouri twice, Vanderbilt and Kentucky, but the first thing Jeremy Pruitt had to do was establish the Vols are able to consistently beat the lower half of the SEC East.
That’s what he’s done.
Now the question is, has Tennessee put itself in a position to be able to compete with the Georgia, Florida and Alabama’s of the SEC?
We’ll find out starting very soon as the Vols play Georgia and Alabama in two of their next three weeks. (Florida is the final week of the season).
Given that Kentucky, Vanderbilt and Arkansas are still on the schedule, I think it’s fair to expect Tennessee to beat these three teams. A split with Texas A&M and Auburn seems like a reasonable goal too based on what we’ve seen from the Aggies and the Tigers. Do that and six wins this season is a viable goal.
But can the season be truly special? That would require Tennessee beating at least one of Georgia, Alabama or Florida.
I still think the Vols may be a year away from that happening, but would anyone have expected to have this conversation last season when Tennessee was 0-2 with home losses to Georgia State and BYU? Of course not. The fact that Tennessee has even put itself squarely in the top half of the SEC is a testament to Pruitt and his staff.
Furthermore, remember all the national media that ridiculed Tennessee fans for torpedoing the Greg Schiano hire? Boy, they are awfully quiet now, aren’t they?
8. Lane Kiffin got his first SEC win on the road at Kentucky.
And Mark Stoops lost his mind after the game, chasing down the officials and appearing to make contact with them.
Mark Stoops chases down officials after Kentucky loses to Ole Miss pic.twitter.com/tcSnIKZARC
— OutKick (@Outkick) October 3, 2020
Kentucky was a trendy upset pick in the SEC entering the season, but they now sit at 0-2 with Mike Leach coming back to Lexington, where he was offensive coordinator under Hal Mumme back in the 1990’s, next week. Who knows what in the world will happen there. But it’s an absolute must win for Kentucky because they then play at Tennessee and Georgia. Meaning if the Wildcats lose to State they are staring squarely at an 0-5 start to the year.
Meanwhile for Lane Kiffin this was a huge comeback win because the schedule actually sets up fairly well for Ole Miss coming off what feels like a sure Alabama loss.
Then Kiffin gets at Arkansas, Auburn, at Vanderbilt and South Carolina, which feels like 2-2 at worse, and potentially 3-1.
9. Clemson was just okay against Virginia.
Most will just look at the final score, but Clemson gave up 417 yards of offense to Virginia and was outgained in first downs.
What’s more, the Cavaliers matched Clemson on the offensive and defensive lines of scrimmage when it came to rushing yards.
Will Clemson have a challenge from Miami next week or are the Hurricanes still a mirage?
We’ll know soon.
But there were at least some signs from the Virginia game that the Tigers might not be as dominant in the ACC as we anticipated.
10. Outkick’s National Top Ten
(Remember that I only rank teams based on games actually played on the field. That is, if you haven’t played, you aren’t ranked. And I’m not ranking based on what I’ve expected to see, I’m ranking based on what we’ve actually seen.)
5. Notre Dame
9. Oklahoma State
11. SEC power rankings 1-14
6. Ole Miss
7. Texas A&M
9. Mississippi State
11. South Carolina