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That commotion that could be heard to the west at about 10 p.m. Saturday was a celebration in Bryan-College Station, Texas. While Florida laid an egg against a 23-point underdog in LSU, it hatched a chance for Texas A&M to get into the college football playoff.
If not for the biggest upset in the SEC this season, the focus of the weekend would have been Vanderbilt’s Sarah Fuller who became the first woman to ever score in a Power Five football game. Congrats, young lady.
Oh yeah, for three quarters Auburn and Mississippi State played a pretty high-scoring soccer match.
Other than that, this is what happened around the league:
Alabama was looking for three things in its regular-season finale: no severe injuries, no stupid second-half penalties to get a player suspended for the first half of the SEC Championship game and a win would be nice.
The win was no problem, the starters were able to watch the second half in Fayetteville from the safety of the sidelines and the Tide should be relatively healthy against Florida, with the possible exception of linebacker Christian Harris who was injured on a kickoff. But the Bama defense did not miss him as it recorded eight sacks in the game.
Bama’s offense did not miss a beat despite Mac Jones not throwing a touchdown pass, but with the rushing attack clicking, he did not need to throw one. Jones might have moved into the lead for the Heisman Trophy Saturday which is strange. He is probably the fourth-most talented player in his offensive huddle behind DeVonta Smith, Najee Harris and lineman Alex Leatherwood.
WHAT CAN’T DEVONTA SMITH DO
— PFF College (@PFF_College) December 12, 2020
Not the best way to end Sam Pittman’s first year at the helm of the Razorbacks, but with a schedule sandwich featuring Georgia to start things and Alabama to finish them, all in all, not as bad of a season as it could have been. Still, Pittman has laid the foundation for a solid program that will begin to make some noise in the SEC West soon.
LSU proved Saturday that all SEC teams have talented players even if they happened to be listed in the middle of the depth chart. A patchwork defense forced Florida into three first-half turnovers including an interception that was returned for a touchdown and a late second-quarter fumble that produced a field goal.
Freshman quarterback Max Johnson showed composure beyond his years in his first collegiate start, displaying something LSU had been lacking this season – calm leadership. Perhaps 2020 is just a bump in the road for the Tigers’ future.
Is it too late for jokes in Gainesville about throwing horseshoes? Florida showed a lack of composure that caused a drive-extending penalty to lead LSU to the winning points Saturday. But for as much as they have been successful this season, the Gators are far from disciplined.
ICYMI: Tied late in the fourth, Florida successfully defended a third down. Which would have forced a punt. But then Marco Wilson tossed Kole Taylor’s shoe, extending the drive. LSU would kick a 57-yarder and go on to win the game. pic.twitter.com/qEqla5yt5i
— Tim Williams (@iTim314) December 13, 2020
Not only did Florida throw away its chance for the college football playoff, but Kyle Trask might have given the Heisman Trophy away. The senior did throw for 474 yards, but he turned the ball over more than he threw touchdowns. At times it seemed he was trying to do too much to impress Heisman voters. He continually made questionable throws and wanted to display a Tebow-esque running style he does not possess.
It is safe to say Georgia has found its quarterback for 2021. J.T. Daniels threw for 299 yards and three touchdowns leading Bulldog fans to wonder how the season may have turned out if he had been healthy from the beginning. Daniels was not alone. Georgia had 615 total yards in the game and only surrendered 200 defensively. The Dawgs might end up the second-best team in the SEC by the end of the bowl season.
Despite the loss, there is little doubt Eli Drinkwitz will be the SEC Coach of the Year. He might also have the best freshman quarterback in the league in Connor Bazelak. Unfortunately, the rookie had no help on offense as the Tigers only managed 22 yards on the ground Saturday. Mizzou will try to rebound next week in the season-finale at Mississippi State.
This game was a perfect illustration of the 2020 season – ugly and everyone wanted to see it end as quickly as it could. The only bright spot for Auburn was freshman Tank Bigsby who ran for 192 yards, and it is a good thing he did as Bo Nix could only muster 125 through the air against a bad State defense. Somehow in the shoddy offensive display, the Tigers were able to not commit any turnovers and that is the one stat that stands out in the game.
It is clear Mike Leach’s air-raid offense needs some pilots. Freshman Will Rogers did throw for 221 yards, but he was picked off twice. Jaden Walley did catch eight passes for 100 yards for the Bulldogs, but the running attack was AWOL as State picked up just 19 on the ground. Granted, Mississippi State does not expect much from its rushing game, but this kind of lackluster effort can put too much pressure on a young quarterback in this league.
Tennessee had a solid offensive effort in its finale, throwing for 328 yards and running for another 212. The Vols also shared the wealth. Quarterbacks J.T. Shrout and Harrison Bailey combined to complete 20-of-31 with four touchdowns and one interception. Ty Chandler and Eric Gray also combined for 135 yards rushing.
For Vanderbilt, the season is thankfully over after COVID-19-related problems that turned the Commodores’ roster into the equivalent of an FCS one. Coach Derek Mason lost his job a week before the winless campaign ended, but honestly, Nick Saban nor Bear Bryant could have won in the SEC with the players Vandy had available.
But one player stood out, true freshman quarterback Ken Seals who threw for 239 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the final game of the season. And of course, despite no wins this year, this team was historic. Without a healthy kicker on its roster, Vanderbilt turned to Sarah Fuller a goalkeeper on the Commodores’ SEC champion women’s soccer team. She made history by kicking off against Missouri and again Saturday by becoming the first woman to score in a power-five game when she kicked two extra points. The fact she answered her school’s call to play and the way her teammates accepted he as one of their own made Vandy winners this year despite its record.
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.