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Around the League: The State of the SEC Nation

by | Sep 30, 2019 | Football | 0 comments

OXFORD, Miss. — A month into the season, some things are becoming crystal clear in the Southeastern Conference while others are muddier than the Mississippi River itself.

What we know: Alabama, LSU, Georgia and Auburn have really good offenses.

What we don’t know: Are the defenses at Alabama, LSU, Georgia and Auburn good enough to stop one another’s offenses?

The conference championship will probably be decided by the defense that slows down one of those offenses.

Here is a team-by-team breakdown on what we learned from Week 5 and what lies ahead this week:

No. 1 ALABAMA (5-0, 2-0 in the SEC)

The Tide is one of those teams with a powerful offense. Against Ole Miss, it wasn’t Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs III or even Najee Harris who shined brightest. Receiver DeVonta Smith set school records with five touchdown catches and 274 yards in receptions. QB Tua Tagovailoa tied an SEC record by being responsible for seven touchdowns in the 59-31 win. However, the Bama defense surrendered 31 points to an Ole Miss team that scored just 10 against Memphis.

Next up: an open date.

ARKANSAS (2-3, 0-2)

The poor Razorbacks seem to like to tease themselves. An underdog to Texas A&M in Jerryworld Saturday, the Hogs were driving toward a potential game-winning score over the Aggies. Until fourth down in the red zone when an Arkansas receiver let a pass slip through his fingers – kind of like the season is slipping though the Hogs’ hooves. Arkansas lost 31-27 and with the SEC West gauntlet ahead, a bowl is unlikely.

Next up: an open date.

No. 7 AUBURN (5-0, 2-0)

Don’t look now, but Auburn’s offense can keep pace with any in the country. The Tigers steamrolled Mississippi State 56-23 in Jordan-Hare, but the game was over much sooner than when the clock hit zero, Auburn put up 42 points in the first half, scoring touchdowns on its first five possessions. That will win you ballgames.

Next up: Florida in Gainesville.

No. 10 FLORIDA (5-0, 3-0)

Towson was the cupcake du jour for the Gators and Florida didn’t choke on the pastry, winning 38-0. Again, that was against Towson so one can assume Sarasota High School was already booked and couldn’t make it to the Swamp. Still, the Gators are undefeated and now seem like the biggest threat to Georgia in the eastern division.

Next up: Auburn in Gainesville.

No. 3 GEORGIA (4-0, 1-0)

The Dogs were off this week, so they did not have to worry about a hangover effect from last week’s big win over Notre Dame. Fromm and company control their own destiny and will be favored in every game left on the schedule—and perhaps even in the SEC Championship Game.

Next up: at Tennessee.

KENTUCKY (2-3, 0-3)

No one expected this start to the season for Kentucky, especially Kentucky. But here the Cats sit at 2-3 after losing their third straight, this one 24-7 at South Carolina. The going was expected to be tough once Terry Wilson was lost with a season-ending knee injury, but the way Sawyer Smith came in and played, there was optimism. Three losses later, the glass is half empty. 

Next up: an open date.

No. 5 LSU (4-0, 1-0)

Joe Burrow and LSU’s Flying Circus continues to be the surprise of the conference and the nation. It seems every year the Tigers’ coaches tell us this is the year they will open it up on offense. They said it again this summer except this time they meant it. It looks like the teams in the West will have to outscore one another since the defenses are suspect. That makes LSU dangerous the rest of the way. The Tigers had the week off, so it remains to be seen if they used that time to add even more wrinkles to the offense.

Next up: Utah State in Baton Rouge.

MISSISSIPPI STATE (3-2, 1-1)

After some speculation the Bulldogs might be ready to take the next step and challenge Alabama and LSU for the division title, it seems that talk was, well, bull. Auburn exposed the MSU defense in the big win Saturday and freshman quarterback Garrett Shrader looked like a deer in headlights at times. The next few weeks will show if State will rally or simply fold the tents.

Next up: an open date.

MISSOURI (3-1, 1-0)

Missouri is the schizophrenic team of the league this season. One week the Tigers lose to Wyoming and the next they drill West Virginia—who is better than people thought. Kelly Bryant is getting more comfortable running the offense in Columbia and his teammates seem to be more comfortable with him. With games still to come with Florida and Georgia, Bryant will need to return to his pre-Trevor Lawrence at Clemson form.

Next up: Troy in Columbia.  

OLE MISS (2-3, 1-1)

Despite the loss to Alabama, believe it, the kids are alright. Ole Miss put 31 points up on Alabama and led after one quarter. The Rebels did this with a true freshman making his first start at quarterback after a redshirt freshman missed the game with an injury. Those 31 points Ole Miss scored were all courtesy of freshmen. If the Landsharks get a few tackling issues taken care of, the Rebs will win some down the stretch.

Next up: Vanderbilt in Oxford on Saturday.

SOUTH CAROLINA (2-3, 1-2)

The Gamecocks took some of the load off freshman quarterback Ryan Hilinski by having two backs top the 100-yard mark in the 24-7 win over Kentucky. South Carolina continues to show hope for the season with this win and even in the loss to Alabama in which it put 23 points on the board. Will Muschamp’s team still has some tough games on the slate but can shock a team or two.

Next up: an open date.

TENNESSEE (1-3, 0-1)

The Vols had the week off and its fans are hoping they used that time to get their act together. Physically, Tennessee is okay, but it is the part of the body in that helmet with the big orange “T” that is the concern. As demoralizing as it was to lose to Georgia State earlier this year, the loss to Florida was probably more taxing as the Big Orange simply didn’t show up.

Next up: Georgia in Knoxville.

No. 25 TEXAS A&M (3-2, 1-1)

The Aggies should thank the patron saint of dropped passes that an Arkansas receiver couldn’t hold onto the ball at the end of that game or A&M would have a losing record now—and would have lost to a team that had lost to San Jose State and Ole Miss. They have already lost to Auburn so they can’t afford another defeat if they want to go to Atlanta. That means A&M needs to beat both LSU and Alabama and hope someone knocks off Auburn. That is a lot to ask.

Next up: an open date.

VANDERBILT (1-3, 1-2)

Hey, so what if it was Northern Illinois, it was a win. At this point, Derek Mason’s group needed one even if it had to play a Pop Warner team. But the good news is two of the Vandy losses were at the hands of LSU and Georgia. Not many in the country could beat both in the first four weeks of the season. So, celebrate that 24-18 win over those Huskies! Anchor Down.

Next up: at Ole Miss.

Steve Barnes
Steve Barnes

Steve Barnes joins The Rebel Walk staff as a senior writer and brings a trifecta of journalistic experience. As a writer, he has covered college sports for Rivals.com, Football.com and SaturdayDownSouth.com as well as served as a beat writer for various traditional newspapers.

He has been a broadcaster for arena football and several national tournament events for the National Junior College Athletic Association as well as hosting various shows on radio.

A former sports information director at Albany (Ga.) State University and an assistant at Troy and West Florida, he has helped host many NCAA conference, regional and national events, including serving five years on the media committee of the NCAA Division II World Series.

Barnes, a native of Pensacola, Fla., attended Ole Miss in 1983-84, where his first journalism teacher was David Kellum. The duo has come a long way since that time.

He will bring a proven journalistic track record, along with a knack for finding the out-of-the-ordinary story angles to The Rebel Walk.

Barnes continues to reside in Pensacola a mere ten minutes from the beach because he does have taste and a brain.

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