The college football season gets another week older, and many eyes will be focused on the SEC. Here is a rundown of the key storylines to watch for around the conference as Kentucky travels to Nashville to take on Vanderbilt.
1. Georgia on Upset Alert?
Simply put, no other team in college football is having a better season than Georgia. The Bulldogs are currently undefeated in the SEC and their win over Notre Dame is the best win in the FBS.
But this week the Bulldogs get their toughest test in one of the most critical SEC games of this season when they face off with Auburn in Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Georgia has already secured their place in the SEC Championship Game, and Auburn still has a chance to get there as well if they can defeat Georgia and Alabama. If the Tigers lose this week, the Iron Bowl would lose a lot of its meaning as the entire country will be looking ahead towards a Georgia-Alabama showdown.
However, nothing is quite that simple. Auburn has scored a combined 92 points the past two weeks and Georgia is coming off a 14-point victory against an average South Carolina team.
While Georgia does have the better overall defense, I think that Auburn has the more experienced quarterback who will be playing comfortably at home. This will be the most hostile environment Georgia’s freshman quarterback Jake Fromm has ever played in.
If Fromm gets rattled early and if Auburn’s defense can get enough stops in the red zone, I think that that the Tigers can pull off the upset. After all, Georgia is currently just a slight 2.5-point favorite.
Strap in folks. This game should be a classic.
2. Can Nick Fitzgerald Make Some Magic?
The easy answer is no because he is going up against the immovable Alabama defense this week. However, the only predictable thing about college football is that it is unpredictable.
The Crimson Tide have had some problems in the past with athletic quarterbacks who can run the ball. Plus, playing on the road in the state of Mississippi hasn’t been the easiest task for Alabama.
I don’t think an upset is as likely to happen in this ranked matchup, but this game is a bit more curious to me. Mississippi St. will either come in and give the Crimson Tide one awesome game, or they will just flat out get embarrassed.
That’s the kind of team the Bulldogs have been this year. One week they blowout Texas A&M by three touchdowns, but then other weeks they lose by more than 30 points against Auburn and Georgia.
If Mississippi St. shows up ready to play as a team, then I think one of the best running quarterbacks in SEC history can give the Bulldogs a chance in the fourth quarter.
Most 100-Yard Rushing Games by SEC QBs:
1) Nick Fitzgerald – 13
2) Johnny Manziel – 9
3) Matt Jones – 8
4) Josh Dobbs – 7
5) Tim Tebow – 5
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) November 4, 2017
3. Will Florida Make a Bowl Game?
People are not talking enough about how this is a real possibility. Currently the Gators are just 3-5 with three games left in the season. They will only play 11 regular season games due to their matchup with Northern Colorado being cancelled earlier in the season.
That means to be bowl eligible the Gators will have to win their remaining three games. That will be no easy task as they travel to South Carolina this week, play a bowl eligible UAB squad next week, and then they finish the regular season with Florida State.
While they still could make a bowl game with five wins, that means they still must win two out of those three games and that just isn’t a guarantee. That makes their game against South Carolina a must-win.
The bad news is that the Gators just aren’t playing good football right now. After firing their head coach and losing to Missouri 45-16, there doesn’t seem to be much light at the end of the tunnel. Prepare for a bowless Florida team.
4. Drew Lock is the Best Quarterback in the SEC
Yup. That’s a statement that is both completely true and surprising.
Right now, Lock leads the SEC in touchdown passes and passing yards all while just throwing nine interceptions in nine games. Only Jake Fromm has a higher quarterback rating than Lock, and Fromm has thrown around half as many passes as Lock has.
If you start looking at the stats, there is a sizable gap between him and everyone else. He has over 500 more passing yards and 11 more passing touchdowns than the next closest quarterback has.
Lock has been so good for what has been a bad Missouri team, that the Tigers could make a bowl game this year. Yes, I’m completely serious about that. Their last three opponents (Tennessee, Vanderbilt and Arkansas) have only won one game combined in the SEC this season.
It will be quite the story if this happens, but Lock better get the recognition he deserves if he keeps throwing passes like this:
Oh my goodness, Drew Lock. pic.twitter.com/t3GQYiEnJS
— Brandon Kiley (@BKSportsTalk) November 4, 2017
5. The Heisman Trophy Will Not Return to the SEC
We are now in week 11 of the college football season and not a single SEC player is being seriously considered as a Heisman Trophy candidate.
Baker Mayfield is a 4-7 favorite to win the Heisman Trophy according to @LVSuperBook.
Mayfield was 8-1 last week. pic.twitter.com/kgKPvwqK8g
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) November 9, 2017
It isn’t without reason that an SEC player could possibly catch fire and find their way to New York in December. Players like Nick Chubb, Kerryon Johnson, and Jalen Hurts could do just that. I suspect that an SEC player will at least get invited to the ceremony and it will likely be one of those players.
But even if that happens the current favorites in the Heisman Trophy race have put together consistently awesome seasons on very good football teams. That’s something that no player in the SEC can say.
Unless something amazing happens, the SEC will go two straight seasons without having the best player in football.