While Florida and Georgia battle each other in Jacksonville, only one of the remaining three SEC games has national consequences. Texas A&M (#7, 4-1) continues its quest to reach the College Football Playoff when they travel to Williams Brice Stadium.
After the Aggies defeated Florida on October 10, I predicted their place in the College Football Playoff. Like Alabama in 2017, not winning the West benefits them, eliminating the risk of losing in the SEC Championship. While the Tide was exceptionally more dominant than the 2020 Aggies are, the circumstances surrounding College Football this season provide a much different landscape.
PPG, YPG Differential
However, I’m not 100 percent convinced of Jimbo Fisher’s squad’s ability for consistent play. Looking at their remaining games, Tennessee, LSU, and Auburn all can play spoiler.
In previous seasons some questioned QB Kellen Mond’s desire and consistency. This season, Mond is producing career-best in passer rating (154.5), yards per pass attempt (8.9), completion percentage (64.1), and interceptions (2).
On defense, Texas A&M ranks fourth in the SEC in total yards (375.8), including trailing only Georgia in stopping the run (104.8 Rush YPG, 3.4 YPC). If you subtract the 544 total yards allowed against Alabama’s explosive force, that number drops to 333.8.
If the Aggies complete the season with eight straight wins, it says a lot about their growth and undoubtedly worthy of reaching the College Football Playoff.
Best Cross Division Records
SEC, Since 2012
>>Play South Carolina Saturday
Why Would The Aggies Make it Over Florida or Georgia?
Texas A&M holds the tie-breaker over Florida since they defeated them. However, this scenario ASSUMES Alabama runs the table and defeats Florida or Georgia in the SEC Championship.
If Georgia defeats Florida on Saturday, finishes the season with one loss, AND defeats Alabama in the SEC Championship, they would replace A&M as the second team in the SEC.
If Florida defeats Georgia tomorrow, finishes the season with one loss while beating Alabama in the SEC Championship, that presents an interesting equation.
Such a scenario gives Alabama, Florida, and Texas A&M one loss, while all three teams hold advantages. Florida has the head-to-head edge over Alabama, Alabama holds the head-to-head advantage over Texas A&M, and A&M holds the tie-breaker over Florida.
What about the Big Ten, ACC, Pac-12, and Big 12?
Forget the Big 12. The winner of Clemson-Notre Dame represents the ACC, and due to playing fewer games, only Ohio State has the resume to make an argument amongst Big Ten and Pac-12 teams. Before Pac-12 and Big Ten fans send hate mail, this assumes no one other than Ohio State finishes undefeated, giving them the final spot in the Playoff.
If Notre Dame defeats Clemson on Saturday, the Tigers could make a case to advance to the playoff due to Trevor Lawrence’s current health. However, the weakness of the ACC outside of these two teams creates a more challenging case.
Only five more regular-season games remain in the SEC’s COVID-19 Conference-Games only schedule.
Here is my midseason awards for both teams and players.
BEST TEAM – Alabama
Undefeated Tide keeps rolling, defeating opponents by 22 PPG, and outgaining them by 140 yards per game.
SURPRISE TEAM – Arkansas
Hogs ended their 20-game conference losing streak and would be 3-1 if not for a botched call at Auburn.
DISAPPOINTING TEAM – LSU
Losing at home to Mississippi State gets worse every week. Pass defense is awful and couldn’t score on four tries from the one-yard line at Missouri.
MOST FORTUNATE/LUCKIEST TEAM – Auburn
What does it say about a team when the SEC concedes mistakes which would have reversed wins against Arkansas and Ole Miss? Instead, War Eagle is 3-2, which includes their first loss against South Carolina since 1933.
BOY, WERE WE WRONG ABOUT THEM – Tennesee
Since taking an eight-game win streak and leading 21-17 heading into the half at Georgia…POOF!!!!!!
Opponents have outscored the Vols 99-25 since, and whatever hopes existed to join the East’s elite have disappeared.
BEST TEAM OUTSIDE OF ALABAMA – Texas A&M
Jimbo Fisher’s boys caught a lousy break facing Saban’s wrecking crew in Week 2. Kellen Mond and the defense increase in confidence every week. Victory over Florida could vault Aggies to finish 9-1 and a spot in the CFB Playoff.
MOST ENTERTAINING TEAM – Ole Miss
What else do you expect from a Lane Kiffin coached team? Between their offensive firepower and Kiffin fined for sending out a negative Twitter post about the officiating, it’s the most fun a 1-4 team can create.
MVP: RB Najee Harris, Alabama
Harris leads the SEC in rushing yards (595), TD (14), and yards from scrimmage (742). He’s scored a TD in each of his last 12 games, totaling 1,368 rushing yards and 26 TD over that span.
BEST PLAYER: WR DeVonta Smith, Alabama
Smith’s production and ability to consistently make plays – great plays – makes him the best playmaker in College Football today.
BEST FRESHMAN: RB Tank Bigsby, Auburn
Despite rushing for 46 yards in the Tigers’ first two games, Bigsby’s impact over the last three games is phenomenal. The Freshman from Lagrange, Georgia, totaled 386 yards rushing and two TD’s while averaging just under six YPC (5.8) over that span.
First 2 Games
Last 3 Games
BIGGEST SURPRISE/IMPROVEMENT: WR Elijah Moore, Ole Miss
Perhaps it’s a bit of a stretch to call Moore’s production this season a surprise after posting solid numbers his first two seasons at Ole Miss. However, Moore’s improvement this season is noticeable. His 47 receptions and 591 receiving yards both lead the SEC.
MOST UNDERRATED PLAYER: RB Kevin Harris, South Carolina
The Gamecocks Sophomore RB ranks second in the conference in rushing yards (535), TD (9), and yards from scrimmage (634).
BEST DEFENSIVE PLAYER: LB Azeez Ojulari, Georgia
Ojulari’s speed and presence single-handedly defeated Tennesee and has stood out among his peers. His three sacks, two fumble recoveries rank among the best in the conference.
While the Big Ten and Pac-12 start their seasons this weekend, the SEC finds themselves at the halfway point of their 10-game conference-only schedule.
The SEC East is up for grabs as everyone in the division suffered at least one loss. Will Georgia and Florida regain their footing, or will Kentucky and South Carolina rise from the ashes to challenge the division title?
Here are some critical matchups for Week Five in the SEC.
Auburn (2-2) at Ole Miss (1-3), Noon, EST
The Rebels offense was the SEC’s talk after running up 647 yards and 48 points against Alabama. However, Matt Corral’s nosedive against Arkansas (6 INT) in a 33-21 loss put a damper on Oxford’s offensive party.
Auburn has problems of their own, coming off their first loss against South Carolina since 1933 (won 8 previous games Gamecocks). If not for a favorable ruling on a fumble against the Razorbacks, Auburn would be reeling.
What a win would mean for Auburn – with two losses already, the Tigers need to gain momentum hosting LSU next week.
What a win would mean for Ole Miss – some legitimacy to what’s become an offensive circus in the Rebels first four games.
Auburn – ran for over 200 yards against Arkansas (259) and South Carolina (209), after totaling only 130 yards in first two games.
Ole Miss – defense allowing 579.5 total yards per game (2nd to last in nation) and 47.0 PPG (last in the nation).
Series – Auburn’s won four straight and 22 of last 27 overall, including three straight and nine of last 11 at Ole Miss.
1st 3 Games
Ole Miss PPG
Kentucky (2-2) at Missouri (1-2), 4:00 PM EST
Both teams are coming off wins. The Tigers rallied against LSU (stopped the defending champions on four straight plays at the 1-yd line). Kentucky’s defense has straightened up after allowing 783 yards and 71 points in their first two losses. The Wildcats held Mississippi State and Tennessee to under 300 yards each, while allowing just nine total points.
What a Kentucky win would mean: The Wildcats can create a chance for themselves in the East as they prepare to host Georgia next week.
What a Missouri win would mean: A second straight upset at home would put fate in their own hands as they travel to Florida and host Georgia the next two weeks.
Kentucky – lead SEC in rushing (206 Rush YPG)
Missouri – last time hosting Kentucky, the Tigers blew a 14-3 lead in final five minutes with Kentucky connecting on the GW score on the final play of the game
First 2 Games
Last 2 Games
Tennessee (2-2) at #2 Alabama (4-0), 3:30 PM EST
After seeing their eight-game win streak snapped at Georgia, the Vols laid an egg against Kentucky at home, losing 34-7.
Meanwhile, the Tide keep on rolling towards another College Football Playoff appearance. Alabama punished #3 Georgia in the second half, scoring the final 24 points in a 41-24 victory over the Bulldogs on Saturday.
Alabama totaled 325 yards (85 rushing yards) on their final six drives as Nick Saban improved to 22-0 against former assistants and 3-0 against Kirby Smart.
Last Six Quarters
Turnover on Downs
What a Win Would Mean For Tennessee – end their two-game losing streak and shock, everyone.
What a Win Would Mean For Alabama – mark their 29th straight victory over an SEC East opponent and move them closer to another SEC West title.
Tennessee – Since leading Georgia 21-17 at halftime in Week Three, the Vols 19 offensive possessions resulted in eight punts, seven turnovers, two turnovers on downs, three defensive TD, and one offensive TD.
Alabama – John Metchie III and Jaylen Waddle recorded TD receptions of 40 and 91 yards against Georgia. The Crimson Tide registered 47 TD from scrimmage 30-yards or longer since the start of the 2018 season.
Other Alabama offensive streaks
scored 35 or more points in 16 straight games overall (new CFB record) and 14 consecutive SEC games
Najee Harris – Scored at least one TD in 11 straight games, totaling 1,272 rushing yards and 23 rushing TD over that span
Series – Alabama won 13 straight against Tennessee
South Carolina (2-2) at LSU (1-2), 7:00 PM EST
The Gamecocks ended a historic streak against Auburn, defeating them for the first time since joining the SEC in 1992. Carolina forced Bo Nix into three INT (forced 8 TO in their last three games), winning their second straight, 30-22. Kevin Harris ranks fourth in the SEC in yards from scrimmage (495) and second in rushing TD (6).
The defending National Champions will try to get back on track after losing to Missouri. The Tigers failed to tally the winning TD after a penalty placed the ball on the one-yard line, unable to score on their four tries.
What a Win Would Mean For South Carolina – give them three straight wins heading into a showdown against #7 Texas A&M in Columbia.
What a Win Would Mean For LSU – save further embarrassment after bad losses to Mississippi State and Missouri.
South Carolina’s Tough Stretch
2020 Schedule, Games 3-6
Streak Entering Game
10/17/2020 vs Auburn
Lost 8 straight
10/24/2020 at LSU
Lost 6 straight
10/31/2020 vs Texas A&M
Lost 6 straight
South Carolina – looking to win three straight SEC games for the first time since 2017.
LSU – rank last in the SEC and second to last in the nation in Passing YPG allowed (380.7).
Series – LSU has won six straight and are 18-1-1 in their last 20 games against South Carolina. This game marks the first time since the Gamecocks only win against LSU in 1994 that the Tigers are not ranked entering their matchup.
Week Four of SEC Football brings us the most anticipated matchup of the season. Georgia invades Tuscaloosa this Saturday.
Even without the news today of Nick Saban testing positive for COVID-19, this game had everyone’s interest.
While not having the best football coach (college or pro) on the sideline will be a change, Alabama’s accountability system shouldn’t miss a beat. I’m certain knowing his greater access to critiquing their mistakes might help inspire his players.
#3 Georgia (3-0) at #2 Alabama (3-0) 8:00 PM EST
Strength vs. Strength
The highest-scoring offense (51.0 PPG) squares off against the nation’s second-ranked defense (236.0 YPG). Can Mac Jones and his elite group of offensive weapons achieve the same success against Azeez Ojulari, Monte Rice, and Eric Stokes?
Ojulari, who plays the “Jack” position on Georgia’s defense (a combination of OLB and DE), helped key the Bulldogs second-half domination in their victory over #14 Tennessee on Saturday. Ojulari won SEC defensive player of the week, registering two sacks, two forced fumbles, and a fumble recovery. Georgia held the Vols to just 71 total yards in the second half.
Offense vs Defense
>>First in Nation
Alabama erupted for 723 yards of total offense in their win over the Rebels (the most since putting up 833 during a 77-6 win against Virginia Tech on October 27, 1973). Mac Jones leads the nation in passer rating (220.3) and yards per completion (13.3). Equally impressive is his 79.5 completion percentage while registering over 13 yards per completion.
There isn’t enough space to write about all of Alabama’s offensive weapons, so rather than deal with the endless amount of individuals (Najee Harris, DeVonta Smith, Jaylen Waddle, John Metchie III), I’d rather focus on the offense as a whole.
Alabama has won 27 straight games against SEC East opponents (their last loss came at South Carolina on October 9, 2010).
Overall, Alabama is 35-3 against SEC East opponents under Nick Saban (14-1 at home, 14-1 on the road, 7-1 on neutral fields)
Since 2007 (Saban’s first year at Alabama), Alabama and Georgia own the two highest win percentages in SEC play.
SEC Standings Overall
Alabama has won five straight against Georgia (One National Championship, two SEC Championship Games, and two regular-season games).
Nick Saban is 21-0 against former assistants, although he will not be on the sideline this Saturday against former assistant Kirby Smart (0-2 vs. Saban).
Can Georgia finally put Alabama away if they hold a late lead?
In three of their last four meetings, Georgia failed to hold a second half lead. In the 2018 SEC Championship, Alabama closed the game on a 21-0 run. In the 2017 National Championship, the Bulldogs failed to hold a 20-7 second-half lead in a 26-20 loss in OT. In their 2012 regular-season matchup, Alabama outscored Georgia 22-7 after the Bulldogs opened up a 21-10 lead in third quarter.
Georgia Blown Leads
Second Half vs Alabama
2018 SEC Championship
2017 National Championship
L, 26-20 (OT)
2012 Regular Season Meeting
Can Georgia score enough to compete with Alabama?
Georgia ranks 7th in the SEC in total offense (420 YPG) and 5th in PPG (36.0). Their opponents rank 5th (Tennessee), 7th (Arkansas), and 8th (Auburn) in the conference in total defense.
A definite weakness Georgia could attack is Alabama’s run defense, which allows 150 YPG (Georgia averages 172 rushing YPG).
Can Georgia stop Alabama’s offense?
Stop? No. Control by keeping it off the field by dominating the time of possession? Maybe.
I will attempt to explain how good Alabama’s offense is in an easy to understand manner. For those critical of Alabama’s defense, their offense’s success plays a small part in that.
Since the start of 2018 (Tua’s first full year), Alabama has 45 TD of 30-yards or longer on plays from scrimmage. That’s an insane statistic. They score quickly and from anywhere on the field.
Over that same span (since 2018), they average two fewer offensive plays per game and six more defensive plays per game than they did from 2009-17. It’s not the main reason, but it is a small part of why Alabama’s defense is more vulnerable than earlier in Saban’s tenure.
Alabama Offense vs Defense
Average Plays Per Game
Offense Plays – SEC Games
Defensive Plays– SEC Games
Offense – Overall
Defense – Overall
Since 2018, the Crimson Tide totaled 500 yards or higher in 23 of their 31 games. They have scored 35 or more points in 15 consecutive games, tying the longest such streak in major-college football history (Oregon scored at least 35 points in 15 straight games from November 5, 2011, through November 17, 2012).
Can Stetson Bennett raise his game enough to achieve a result Jake Frohm nor Andy Murray (much more accomplished QB) failed to do?
The Junior QB is producing so far this season (229.7 Pass YPG, 5 TD, 0 INT), but playing at Alabama is a different level. If the running game takes some pressure off him, he will fare a lot better.
As we move closer towards winter, this nightmare year is nearing its end. While the NHL, NBA, and MLB will complete their versions of COVID-19 related seasons, college football is next.
While we wait for the Big Ten and Pac-12 to join the football world, here are some SEC matchups to keep an eye on this weekend.
#4 Florida (2-0) at #21 Texas A&M, 12:00 PM EST
Florida: Kyle Trask: leads SEC with 10 TD passes (six belong to TE Kyle Pitts)
Florida: Lost 9 of last 13 games vs SEC West opponents.
Texas A&M: Lost seven straight against top-5 opponents (last win was 11/8/14 at Auburn)
Texas A&M: Won seven of last eight home games against SEC East opponents.
If the Aggies still think they have a chance at the SEC West title, they can’t lose again. Florida’s defense is awful through two games, allowing 471 yards per game. Look for A&M to throw everything they can at Florida, while trying to stop Trask and an explosive offense.
Series History: Teams are 1-1 against each other since Texas A&M joined the SEC in 2012.
#3 Georgia (2-0) at Tennessee (2-0), 3:30 PM EST
Georgia: won three straight against Tennessee
Georgia: lead the SEC in fewest PPG allowed (8.0) and YPG allowed (190.0).
Tennessee: won eight straight since losing to Alabama last year (longest current win streak in the nation
Tennessee: Ty Chandler: leads SEC with 176 rushing yards.
Synopsis: If Tennessee wants to get back into the conversation amongst teams in the East, they need to defeat Georgia. They have everything to play for at home against a top-three opponent.
#2 Alabama (2-0) at Ole Miss (1-1), 7:30 PM EST
Alabama: Ole Miss (twice), Auburn, and LSU are only SEC teams Nick Saban has lost to more than once since coming to Tuscaloosa in 2007.
Alabama: Mac Jones: leads the nation in passer rating (222.1).
Ole Miss: lead SEC in total offense (536 YPG)
Ole Miss: QB Mike Corral leads the SEC and ranks second in the nation, completing 76.7 percent (46-60) of his pass attempts.
Synopsis: Lane Kiffin gets a chance to break Saban’s streak of winning 20 games without a loss against former assistants. However, Ole Miss cannot stop anyone, allowing over 600 yards per game. Rammer Jammer will continue to roll, adding to their impressive offensive totals against Ole Miss in their last three matchups.