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Week 13 SEC Recap

By Matt Smith
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Looking back at a wild week 13 in the Southeastern Conference.


Ole Miss 31, (14) Mississippi State 28
Missouri 48, Arkansas 45
(7) Georgia 38, Georgia Tech 7
Louisville 44, Kentucky 17
Florida State 38, Florida 22
(6) Auburn 26, (1) Alabama 14
Vanderbilt 42, Tennessee 24
(3) Clemson 34, South Carolina 10
(18) LSU 45, Texas A&M 21

10 Things I Learned

-Auburn didn’t just have a perfect day against Georgia. Auburn is simply an elite football team. Alabama doesn’t get mauled like the Tigers did to the Crimson Tide on Saturday. It was domination all across the board. The offensive line handled another great defensive front. Jarrett Stidham made the tough throws. The defense again proved to be perhaps the most fundamentally sound in the country. It’s all clicking right now for Auburn. This is a far cry from 2013 when two miracles were needed.

-Where did it go wrong for Alabama? The injury to Shaun Dion Hamilton was massive, as the Crimson Tide have relied on senior inside linebackers for years to be the quarterback of the defense. The defensive line just isn’t what it was a year ago, and the offensive line is just Jonah Williams and just some good, but not great, SEC linemen. Alabama is still obviously a very scary out if it sneaks into the playoff, but this is the most flawed Alabama team of the past 10 years.

-LSU put a bow on a pretty successful 9-3 season with a rout of Texas A&M. The offense played its best game of the season, rolling up 601 yards on the Aggies. Much-maligned quarterback Danny Etling closed his Tiger Stadium career a big winner, finishing 19-of-30 for 347 yards and three touchdowns. Ed Orgeron is still responsible for the Mississippi State and Troy disasters, but he righted to lead the Tigers to a 6-1 close. Overall, a solid B for Coach O in Year 1.

-Missouri became the first team in SEC history to start 0-4 in conference play and finish 4-4, winning a wild shootout with Arkansas on Friday afternoon. Yes, the November schedule featured the four worst teams in the conference, but the Tigers crushed three of them and showed resiliency in fighting back to beat the fourth on the road. Like Ed Orgeron, Barry Odom still was a bad football coach in September. Also, like Orgeron, he kept things together and had his team playing its best football in November. The Tigers should be a fun watch in bowl season.

-Hearts everywhere broke on Thursday night for Nick Fitzgerald, as the Mississippi State quarterback suffered a gruesome ankle injury in the first quarter of the Egg Bowl. The good news is that it was a fairly routine dislocation, and Friday’s surgery was deemed successful. Fitzgerald had a fantastic junior season, but now faces some uncertainty about his future with head coach Dan Mullen having left for Florida.

-Beating Tennessee isn’t anything special, but Derek Mason had to feel good about his Vanderbilt team crushing the Volunteers in Knoxville to avoid a second winless SEC campaign in four seasons. 5-7 wasn’t what Commodores fans were hoping for this year, but they can at least head into the offseason with good feelings. Schematic reboots on both sides of the ball are still probably necessary, but for one day at least, it was nothing but positive for the black and gold.

-Florida hasn’t had effective quarterback play since Tim Tebow, and it now has the gold standard for quarterback development with the hiring of Dan Mullen. In the past 15 years at Utah, Florida and Mississippi State, Mullen coached Alex Smith, Tebow, Dak Prescott and Nick Fitzgerald. Tebow won the Heisman Trophy and a national championship, and the other three weren’t highly-regarded recruits who turned into national stars. If Mullen can’t fix Florida’s decade-long problem, nobody can.

-Oh, Tennessee. You just can’t get out of your own way. This unprecedented Greg Schiano story deserves more than a paragraph, so I won’t even bother here. It was a failure in due diligence, self-awareness, and public relations. Tennessee still has to hire a football coach, and the job is now less attractive than it was Sunday morning. Predicting how this will end is impossible.

-Click here for a more detailed analysis of what’s next at Arkansas, but I’d focus on Matt Campbell and Mike Norvell, and perhaps Kevin Sumlin. Campbell has a gigantic buyout, but money isn’t an issue in northwest Arkansas. Norvell went to college in the state, and would jump at an SEC job after just two years in Memphis. Sumlin could be the next Mark Richt – leaving a toxic situation at Texas A&M and getting a fresh start somewhere else.

-Texas A&M, as it always does, will swing for the fences. Aggies alumnus Chad Morris is the easy choice after guiding SMU to a 7-5 season, but that should be the floor. Texas A&M is a job that the right sitting Power Five head coach would definitely take. It’s on the school to find who that is, and it might be Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher.

Bowl Projections

The bowl picture is finally coming into focus, with three teams all but locked into New Year’s Six bowls. Here are my current projections for the nine SEC teams who will participate in the postseason:

Rose (CFP Semifinal) – Alabama vs. Clemson
Sugar (CFP Semifinal) – Georgia vs. Oklahoma
Orange – Auburn vs. Miami (FL)
Citrus – LSU vs. Michigan State
Outback – Texas A&M vs. Michigan
Belk – South Carolina vs. Louisville
Music City – Kentucky vs. Iowa
Texas – Mississippi State vs. West Virginia
Liberty – Missouri vs. Iowa State

Around The Nation

The five non-SEC results that shocked me the most:

1. Pittsburgh 24, Miami (FL) 14
2. San Jose State 20, Wyoming 17
3. Iowa 56, Nebraska 14
4. Duke 31, Wake Forest 23
5. Georgia Southern 34, Louisiana-Lafayette 24

My Heisman Trophy top five:

1.     Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield
2.     Stanford RB Bryce Love
3.     Louisville QB Lamar Jackson
4.     Penn State RB Saquon Barkley
5.     Wisconsin RB Jonathan Taylor

No changes this week, although Auburn’s Kerryon Johnson, if healthy, could end up being a finalist with a big SEC Championship Game. Mayfield will win the award in a runaway.

-Six teams control their own playoff destiny: Auburn, Clemson, Georgia, Miami (FL), Oklahoma and Wisconsin. Should the Sooners or Badgers lose, Alabama is there to back in to the No. 4 slot. If Clemson loses to Miami, it would have a case, even with two losses, over an 11-1 Alabama team with a pretty weak resume. Ohio State is in big trouble, as it would be hard for them to jump either Alabama or an 11-2 Oklahoma, given the Sooners have that 15-point win in Columbus in September.

-Bowl Eligibility Update: 79 teams have six or more wins, meaning at least one 6-6 team will be left out of the 78 available slots. Three 5-6 teams have one game remaining: Florida State, Louisiana-Lafayette and New Mexico State. The Seminoles will crush Louisiana-Monroe to get to six. New Mexico State hosts 4-7 South Alabama, so their chances are pretty good. Louisiana-Lafayette has to go to Appalachian State, where it will be an underdog. The Sun Belt has five tie-ins and four teams currently bowl-eligible, so if the Aggies win and the Ragin’ Cajuns lose, New Mexico State should see its 57-year bowl drought come to an end. My best guesses for the 6-6 teams that are left out? Buffalo, Louisiana Tech and Middle Tennessee.

-UCLA announced the hiring of Chip Kelly on Saturday, a match that made perfect sense even back in the spring and summer. Kelly won’t be the big story on any day in Los Angeles, which suits him well. Recruiting isn’t quite as easy as it is down the road at USC, but the Bruins can fill up most of their roster from within the state. There’s no guarantee that this works, but USC fans can’t wake up feeling great this morning

-Arizona State is now open, as the Sun Devils surprisingly somewhat cut ties with Todd Graham after a 7-5 season in which they defeated Oregon, Washington and Utah, and won the Territorial Cup over rival Arizona. Graham isn’t the easiest personality to deal with, so that likely played a factor in his dismissal. Tempe seems like an ideal fit for Kevin Sumlin, while Memphis’ Mike Norvell was Graham’s offensive coordinator there before leaving after the 2015 season.

-With Dan Mullen going to Florida, that leaves Scott Frost available for Nebraska. Would Frost definitely leave UCF to return to his alma mater? Probably, but UCF has a lot going for it. Of course, if he didn’t want Florida, what job would he leave for? He’s not going to be in Orlando forever, so it’s hard to see him not returning home to Lincoln. In terms of the quality of hire exceeding the attractiveness of the job, this would be the biggest outkicking of coverage of the hiring season.

Top 25

1. Clemson
2. Oklahoma
3. Auburn
4. Wisconsin
5. Alabama
6. Georgia
7. Miami
8. Ohio State
9. TCU
10. UCF
11. Penn State
12. USC
13. LSU
14. Stanford
15. Notre Dame
16. Michigan State
17. Washington
18. Oklahoma State
19. Memphis
20. Northwestern
21. Washington State
22. Mississippi State
23. Virginia Tech
24. Louisville
25. Fresno State

Matt Smith - Matt is a 2007 graduate of Notre Dame and has spent most of his life pondering why most people in the Mid-Atlantic actually think there are more important things than college football. He has blogged for College Football News, covering both national news as well as Notre Dame and the service academies. He credits Steve Spurrier and Danny Wuerffel for his love of college football and tailgating at Florida, Tennessee, and Auburn for his love of sundresses. Matt covers the ACC as well as the national scene.