Here are this week’s Chicken-Fried SEC Questions:
1. We all know that Alabama is destroying opponents, but are there any crazy stats out there that show ‘Bama’s dominance? When we hear Alabama fans “Roll Damn Tide,” isn’t it a statement on their way of life?
You mean, other than the fact that they’ve won their first two SEC games over Vanderbilt and Ole Miss by a combined score of 125 to 3?
Here’s one: Alabama scored 17 touchdowns against Vanderbilt and Ole Miss — and allowed Ole Miss and Vandy to make only 14 first downs. When your touchdown count against your opponents’ defense is higher than your opponent’s first-down total against your defense … pretty good.
I like this one too: the Alabama offense hasn’t turned the ball over one time in the last eight games. The streak of mistake-free offense has lasted 589 offensive plays. No interceptions. No lost fumbles.
With new offensive coordinator Brian Dabol in place, Alabama is jumping opponents early. In their first five games the Crimson Tide outscored opponents 76 to 6 in the first quarter. The Tide’s average of 15.3 points in the first quarter leads the nation. Last season under former offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin, Alabama averaged 8.6 points in the first quarter — and averaged only 4.1 points in the first quarter in 2015.
Alabama has trailed in a game for only 2 minutes and 13 seconds this season, and that happened in the opener against (then) No. 3 Florida State.
“Yeah, well, I think you got to give a lot of credit to those guys,” said Ole Miss coach Matt Luke, who lost to Alabama by 63 points last Saturday. “I think the biggest thing when you play a team like Alabama they don’t leave you any room for error.”
You could say that.
2. How about an update on the SEC hot seats?
A whole lotta shaking (and squirming) going on. I hope some of these fellas have some extra cushion, because we’re talking hell-fire hot.
— Days after getting blasted out of Knoxville in a 41-0 home loss to Georgia, Tennessee coach Butch Jones traveled to Memphis to speak with Vols’ fans there.
Here’s how Memphis Commercial Appeal columnist Geoff Calkins described the scene:
Butch Jones walked into the Marriott ballroom and took his seat at the head table and it felt vaguely sad.
“Any other time, when the Tennessee coach would be here, there would be hundreds of people,’ said Jim Reedy, a Tennessee fan. “And when he walked into the room, everyone would stand to applaud.”
There were not hundreds of people.
Nobody stood to applaud.
The plates of chicken, mashed potatoes and green beans may as well have been a last meal.
“I needed a little love so I thought I’d come to West Tennessee,” said Jones.
He was shut out, again.
— Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin has won four in a row with a young team that’s improving each week. But when A&M university president was recently asked if he supported Sumlin to stay on as coach in 2018 he responded by saying, “I’m not the athletic director. “
— LSU fans were guzzling Louisiana hot sauce after coach Ed Orgeron somehow lost a home game to Troy. Problem is, to dump Orgeron LSU would have to pay off his $12 million buyout. (He ain’t going nowhere.) The fact that LSU would even give Coach O a buyout worth more than a bowl of gumbo is one of dumbest things I’ve ever seen. I mean, who the heck was going to try Coach O away from Baton Rouge?
Orgeron does a weekly radio show in a local bar-and-grill and takes calls. It was a little testy this week. At one point, Orgeron responded to an angry called by saying, “I earned the job, was given the interim job and I earned it, whether you like it or not.”
— Arkansas fans are getting fed up with Bret Bielema, but he too has a monstrous buyout … which means he’s back in 2018.
It doesn’t get any easier for these fellas in the coming weeks.
In the SEC, loony alums and administrators are obsessed with beating Alabama and coach Nick Saban. So when you lose to Saban, it turns up the temperature on that seat.
How is this for rotten timing?
In their next four games, Saban and Alabama will play, in order, this list of coaches:
Kevin Sumlin, Bret Bielema, Butch Jones and Ed Orgeron.
3. Head coaches get most of the attention, but assistant coaches can make a big difference. Who is the most underrated assistant coach in the SEC?
With Auburn fans obsessing over the team’s offense, there isn’t enough acclaim for Kevin Steele’s defense. Auburn’s astute defensive coordinator does a tremendous job.
So far this season Auburn has held all five opponents to 14 points or less; no other FBS team in the has done that. The Men of Steele defense held Clemson to 14 points (at Clemson) to open the season, but lost the game because the Auburn offense stumbled.
Last season Auburn ranked 7th among FBS teams in fewest points allowed, at 17.1 per game.
This year, despite losing four starters that were drafted into the NFL, Steele’s defense is giving up 11 points per game to rank 6th nationally.
And with new quarterback Jarrett Stidham getting comfortable and starting to make big plays, No. 12 Auburn looms as a dangerous team.
4. Here we are in the first week in October, and it seems like just about everybody outside of Gainesville already has handed the SEC East title to Georgia. Does Florida have a shot to win the East for the third straight year?
In theory, yes.
No. 5 Georgia, however, has superior overall talent, two good quarterbacks, more experience, more depth. Coach Kirby Smart’s Bulldogs have played at a much higher performance level than No. 21 Florida.
Still, the question is worth a look.
First of all, let’s respect what Jim McElwain has done in his first two-plus seasons as the Gators head coach: a 16-3 record in conference play. I don’t care that the SEC East is weak; that record is impressive under any circumstances. And the Gators are off to a 3-0 start in the SEC this season.
Second, a young Florida squad seems to be getting better by the week. The offense is progressing, but it remains to be seen whether redshirt freshman quarterback Feleipe Franks can establish consistency. He’s the clear No. 1 now that Luke Del Rio was lost for the season with a broken collarbone.
Third, the Gators have pushed through plenty of early adversity including Hurricane Irma. The Florida roster was thinned by the suspension of nine players including top running back Jordan Scarlett and the best receiver, Antonio Calloway. The Gators also lost a terrific safety in Marcell Harris, who ruptured an Achilles tendon. This is a tough-minded group coaches and players; Florida is 9-1 in one-score games under McElwain.
Finally, the Gators appear to have an easier schedule than Georgia the rest of the way. I’ll spare you the boredom of going through every game and keep it to this: Georgia has to play at Auburn on Nov. 11, and that’s a toughie. But Florida can’t pull this off if it gets hit with a loss or two before playing Georgia on Oct. 28 in the annual rivalry game in Jacksonville.
Florida’s depth continues to erode, so the Gators may not be at full capacity when they get their chance at the Dawgs. The Gators won’t be able to do it all on the ground; Feleipe Franks will have to make some plays through the air. And as of now Georgia has allowed opposing quarterbacks an average of only 4.71 yards per passing attempt, and that’s No. 1 among Power 5 conference defenses. Georgia’s defense has limited opponents to a low 95.8 passer rating; that ranks 5th among Power 5 teams.
5. Finally, does Missouri have any hope going into Saturday night’s game at Kentucky?
After a bye week off to regroup, you’d think we’d see the Tigers come out with renewed purpose and energy for this game in Lexington. You’d think the MU coaching staff would have the players lined up correctly. You’d think that maybe the Tigers would have used the down time to come up with something new and unexpected to surprise Kentucky. Or here’s another way of putting it: after having a chance to reset, you would hope that Barry Odom will show that he can coach.
Mizzou is the only SEC team that hasn’t won a road game since Odom became HC before the 2016 season. And Mizzou is 0-4 in SEC road games under Odom with an average loss of 24 points.
And then there’s Mizzou quarterback Drew Lock. He’s 3-14 as starter in SEC games, with more interceptions (19) than touchdown (15) and a lousy 50.2 completion percentage. As a starter, Lock is 0-7 in SEC road games — completing only 44.3 percent of his throws, with eight interceptions and two TD passes.
All of that said, it’s a potentially interesting game for one reason: Kentucky plays down to the level of the opponent. The Wildcats beat Southern Miss 24-17 and it was a four-point game in the third quarter. There was a 27-16 win over Eastern Kentucky; the Wildcats trailed by six in the third quarter. Last week Kentucky was tied with Eastern Michigan at the half, and survived to win 24-20. Maybe Kentucky will continue this pattern and give MU a chance to make it close.
Do the Tigers have hope?
I don’t know.
First I have to see if the Tigers have heart.
Thanks for reading …