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 in week nine as Kentucky travels to Missouri to take on the Tigers in a huge SEC East matchup.
1. Can Georgia Bounce Back After A Huge Loss?
In the biggest showdown of the weekend, Georgia will take on Florida in Jacksonville in their yearly rivalry showdown. If Georgia wins, they will be in the driver’s seat in the SEC East heading into their huge contest with Kentucky next weekend.
However, if Florida wins it would just about eliminate the Bulldogs from SEC Title game contention and possibly even the playoff as the Gators would have the important head-to-head victory over Georgia.
So, who has the advantage in this showdown for SEC East supremacy? Usually, the reliable answer would be the Bulldogs, but I am not so sure here. I really, really did not like what I saw from Georgia in their blowout loss against LSU.
Feleipe Franks vs Jake Fromm
— PFF College (@PFF_College) October 25, 2018
Quarterback Jake Fromm looked lost in that matchup and the running game never got going. Plus, their somewhat inexperienced defense did not seem up to par for the big moment.
On the other hand, Florida has been on absolute fire since their one loss to Kentucky. They have won five straight including two victories over then-ranked opponents. This is not the same Gator team that lost to the Wildcats.
In close matchups on neutral fields, I usually always take the team with the best quarterback. I just don’t have a lot of trust in Fromm against this very good Florida defense. Of course, I don’t have any trust in Feleipe Franks but he has a better matchup against a beatable Bulldog defense.
I believe that to win this game, it may be time for Kirby Smart to give the keys of the offense to freshman quarterback Justin Fields. I think Jake Fromm is talented, but he has regressed this season and Fields has a much higher ceiling already. Unleash the freshman Georgia and regain the momentum in your season.
Jake Fromm's good, but he isn't winning games with his arm.
Justin Fields *might* and even if not, he's a way better runner.
Time for Kirby Smart to give the all-world freshman a shot https://t.co/IQbPVNjT5R
— Alex Kirshner (@alex_kirshner) October 17, 2018
2. Will Kentucky Evolve?
The Kentucky Wildcats are having a season that any UK fan would take. Heading into Week 9 Kentucky controls their own destiny in the SEC East and they are ranked as the 12th best team in the nation.
However, all is not perfect in Lexington at the moment. The Wildcats have played their worst games of the season the last two weeks as the offense only scored 14 points in both contests.
While it is true that UK has a great running attack and an even better defense, the passing game has literally been the worst in the conference at 127 passing yards per game. That number is so poor that is also puts the Wildcats at 123rd of 129 teams in FBS collegiate football.
To put this bluntly, I don’t see Kentucky having too much more success if the passing game does not evolve somehow. Sure, they will beat the opponents they are supposed to beat (Louisville, MTSU) but I’m very worried about Missouri, Georgia, and even Tennessee on the road.
Terry Wilson's downfield passing struggles have led to a quarterback controversy at Kentucky pic.twitter.com/wdHqRJX3F6
— CFB Film Room (@CFBFilmRoom) October 24, 2018
This week’s contest at Missouri will judge if this Kentucky team truly is special, or if they will flame out quietly in the second half of the season and finish with something like an 8-5 record.
This all starts with quarterback Terry Wilson. Look, I like his personality just as much as the next guy. Also, he played positively great in a huge win at Florida which did so much for this program.
But it’s time to tell the full truth here. Wilson must be benched if he can’t give at least a decent performance this weekend. In seven starts this season he has passed for just 721 yards, and he has the second lowest quarterback rating in the conference out of starting quarterbacks. The guy behind him is Nick Fitzgerald who is getting benched this week (more on that in a second).
Terry Wilson has 18 yards today. His QBR in his last game was a whopping 9.2 out of 138. His average QBR in UK’s 3 full SEC games, is 45. That’s not a winning QB and it isn’t even close. At this point, you have to give someone else on your roster a chance. pic.twitter.com/xScEf1tkJZ
— George Herbig (@villecards) October 21, 2018
If Kentucky can’t evolve their painfully one-dimensional offense against the Tigers, then Drew Lock will eventually start hitting receivers at some point in the game. Time’s up for UK’s quarterback group. Someone must truly step up now.
3. Keytaon Thompson Time
Speaking of bad passing quarterbacks, Mississippi State is finally ready to give someone else a chance after last week’s embarrassing defeat at the hands of LSU. In this defeat Bulldog quarterback Fitzgerald threw for just 59 total passing yards and 4 interceptions.
Terry Wilson would neverrrrrr.
In all seriousness, Mississippi State’s season has already played itself out of contention for an SEC title, so the Bulldogs are finally giving talented backup quarterback Keytaon Thompson a shot to prove himself.
Thompson is also a dual threat like Fitzgerald who started Miss. State’s first game of the season due to Fitzgerald being suspended. In that game Thompson threw more passing touchdowns then Fitzgerald has thrown so far this season (seriously).
Thompson is much more of a natural passer of the football as his throwing motion is much quicker than Fitzgerald’s. Honestly, I have no idea how Fitzgerald wasn’t benched earlier for this kid.
Texas A&M should win this week’s matchup, but I would not be surprised at all if the Bulldogs came out on top due to a big spark Thompson. I guarantee this kid will be better than Fitzgerald. It’s almost impossible to be worse.
4. Gamecocks at the Crossroads
South Carolina has been one of the weirdest teams in the SEC so far this season. They have some decent victories over Missouri and Vanderbilt, but they got destroyed by Kentucky and Georgia, so we know they aren’t a “good” football team.
Wait. Hold on a second. Are we still for sure this team will even make a bowl game this season???
I’m being completely serious here. Right now the Gamecocks are 3-3 on the year. They end the year with terrible Chattanooga and awesome Clemson to end their nonconference schedule. That will put them at 4-4 on the year. In between lies three straight games against SEC opponents: Tennessee at home this week, then road games against Ole Miss and Florida.
This week SHOULD be their easiest game of those three as they are a better team than the Volunteers. However, playing at Florida seems like a loss and at Ole Miss won’t be very easy as well.
That’s why this week is so important for the Gamecocks. If they lose this game, I don’t see them finishing the season with a winning record.
It’s time for Jake Bentley to step up. Right now, his quarterback rating is ninth out of the 14 starting quarterbacks in the SEC. If that does not improve, his time as the starter could be numbered.
5. Let’s Talk About the Devin White Situation
Well folks, we have ourselves the very first big controversy of SEC play.
Last week star linebacker and future first round pick Devin White was ejected for targeting in the second half against Mississippi State for the following hit:
— Garrett Walvoord (@Mr_Playbyplay) October 21, 2018
I’m going to cut to the chase here. This is a load of crap. White obviously is trying to pull up at the very end of this play as he literally tackles Fitzgerald with his hands. His helmet accidentally touches Fitzgerald’s and the rest is history.
Since this happened in the second half, White will be suspended for the first half of LSU’s next game which just so happens to be……. Alabama. Yupp.
As you can imagine, the reaction has been incredible to this situation. Just take a look below.
— First Take (@FirstTake) October 26, 2018
— James Carville (@JamesCarville) October 22, 2018
So Devin White gets suspended for the first half of the biggest game of the year and this was just a penalty?! ?.com https://t.co/hOgyPGlB86
— Justin Vincent (@JVincent25) October 21, 2018
— RedditCFB (@RedditCFB) October 26, 2018
Whewwwww boy. We got Tebow screaming at Stephen A. Smith, people flying banners in the sky, and grown men throwing around the word “collusion” with college football. What a truly beautiful disaster this is.
If there is any way possible, I personally hope the NCAA does act on this. I want to see the best linebacker go up against Tua in what might be the game of the year.
Plus, it’s always a good idea to side with Tim Tebow, right?