There were really no big surprises in SEC football in Week 8 but we still learned a lot. Here are five things for your consideration:
1—Even though Georgia is No. 1 in the land, Alabama remains a scary, scary team moving forward. Here’s why:
Alabama (7-1, 4-1 SEC) made enough mistakes to get beat twice by Tennessee on Saturday night. The Tide had a roughing the kicker penalty. They had a defensive back looking everywhere except the receiver in front of him and that turned into a long touchdown. Alabama had a punt blocked. They fumbled inside the Tennessee 10-yard line. They did stuff Alabama does not normally do.
And Tennessee was playing well enough to have some real hope of breaking a 14-game losing streak to Alabama.
None of it mattered.
Because when it mattered, Alabama turned on the jets, outscoring Tennessee 28-7 in the fourth quarter to win 52-24 win. Quarterback Bryce Young threw for 371 yards. Running back Brian Robinson ran for 107 yards and three touchdowns.
The point is this: Somewhere along the way Alabama is going to correct its mistakes. When it does, the Crimson Tide is going to be very hard to beat.
Alabama is off this week and finishes with three home games with LSU, New Mexico State and Arkansas followed by a Nov. 27 trip to Auburn. Win them all and the Crimson Tide goes to the SEC championship game to play (most certainly) Georgia.
2—Ole Miss is playing a monster game at Auburn this Saturday.
Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin catches a lot of flak for his “unique” personality. But you have to give him credit on this:
After Saturday’s 31-17 win over LSU in Oxford, Kiffin was asked point blank if this team (6-1, 3-1 SEC) is elite. Kiffin did not duck the question or lean on coach speak.
“We’re good but not great,” he told reporters after the game. “But we’re close.”
I expected LSU to give Ole Miss a hard time as the players try to give Coach Ed Orgeron a successful sendoff. But after trailing 7-0 the Rebels scored 31 unanswered points. And it could have been worse as quarterback Matt Corral was still hurting from last week’s win over Tennessee, where he carried it 30 times.
If Ole Miss can win at Auburn and then run the table against Texas A&M, Vanderbilt, and Mississippi State, the Rebels can get to a New Year’s Six bowl. If they run the table and Alabama loses again, Ole Miss will advance to the SEC championship game for the first time.
3—It’s time for Coach O to go. Now.
When LSU announced last week it would be parting ways with head Coach Ed Orgeron but that he would not leave until after the season, it just felt weird. Maybe part of it was the uncertainty of who would serve as an interim coach if Orgeron left right away. But asking a lame duck coach to stick around for five more games just didn’t seem like the prudent thing to do.
After watching LSU play Saturday at Ole Miss, I would suggest that it would be in everyone’s best interest for Coach O to take his $17 million and head to the lake.
This team is not going to rally behind Orgeron. In fact, the Tigers (4-4) will likely finish no better than 6-6. Everybody needs to be put out of their misery.
4—Tennessee now has the strongest of commodities: Hope.
I said this summer that 6-6 would be a good season for Tennessee’s first-year coach, Josh Heupel. Even though the Volunteers could not match Alabama’s overall athleticism and talent fourth quarter, there were enough big, positive plays to give the fan base some hope that things will be better moving forward.
Tennessee, which has this week off, has games remaining at Kentucky followed by three straight home games with Georgia, South Alabama, and Vanderbilt. So 6-6 and a bowl game looks pretty good right now.
The Tennessee fans I talked to knew this would be a difficult season. The roster has taken too many hits. But for a while Saturday night in Tuscaloosa the Volunteers competed and competed hard with one of the best teams in college football.
5—Texas A&M can still get to Atlanta, but the Aggies need some help.
The Aggies (6-2, 3-2) easily took care of South Carolina 44-14 Saturday night. After taking this Saturday off, they have three SEC games left with Auburn at home plus Ole Miss and LSU on the road.
The Aggies need to win them all and Alabama needs to lose another conference game with LSU, Arkansas and at Auburn. If that happens then the Aggies will go to the SEC championship game for the first time since the game was founded in 1992.