Welcome to the fifth edition of the sophomore season of The Hangover, where I recap the previous weekend in college football. This week, The Hangover comes from Athens, Georgia, home to a fantastic bar scene and a pretty good football team too. The Bulldogs looked a little sluggish against Tennessee, but Kirby Smart’s squad kept rolling along. We’ll see how things look in two weeks at LSU. A LOT happened that cleared up some questions, so let’s dive in to the college football landscape.
I have written a good bit about Kentucky the last few weeks, but I haven’t really done the deep dive that I feel this squad deserves. To this point, I think we’re all waiting for the Wildcats to come back to Earth after a fantastic first month of the season. However, after watching games against Florida, Mississippi State, and South Carolina, I’m of the belief that this team is for real. Why? Let’s get into it.
Kentucky is third in the nation in points allowed per game.
This Wildcat defense is SALTY. Led by the SEC leader in sacks Josh Allen, Kentucky has shut down each and every team it’s faced so far this season. Mark Stoops’ squad held Mississippi State to 56 rushing yards on 28 carries, and then followed that up by limiting South Carolina quarterback Jake Bentley to 145 passing yards and forcing three interceptions. This team is also 25th in rushing yards allowed per game, 29th in passing yards allowed per game, and 21st in interceptions. Not rankings that will blow you away, but they’re better than any we’ve seen out of Lexington in a long time. And when you watch this defense, the energy is palpable. They play with so much effort it’s hard to imagine them getting blown out by anybody. This defense is holding opponents to 12.6 points per outing, and their abilities will be put to the test this upcoming weekend against a solid Texas A&M offense.
Benny Snell is a legitimate Heisman candidate.
Kentucky is a good team, but it’s tough to imagine this squad being ranked in the top fifteen without Benny Snell. The #SnellYeah Heisman campaign is in full effect, and for good reason. Currently, Snell ranks fourth in the country in total rushing yards and, in a conference with great backs like Damien Harris, Deandre Swift, and Trayveon Williams, he leads the SEC in the same statistic. He’s also first in the country in carries, which shows just how important he is to his team’s success. His eight rushing touchdowns are also good for fourth in America. As Benny Snell goes, so goes Kentucky. If teams can’t figure out how to stop him, this offense will keep rolling. Plus, his Heisman campaign video is absolutely fantastic.
Terry Wilson is growing up.
Sophomore quarterback Touchdown Terry Wilson is starting to make better decisions. He still has a bit of an interception problem, but his choices in the pocket have improved with each passing game. Wilson’s ability as a runner is what makes him difficult to stop. Take all of that out, though, because I’ll tell you why I’m not worried about him. A few weeks ago, Wilson rolled into the Swamp and ended the 31-year curse by beating Florida. Gainesville can be a very hostile environment, and the young signal-caller wasn’t phased. That’s moxie and poise from the most important position on the field, and that tells me Wilson will be ready for the upcoming game at Kyle Field against Texas A&M.
I’ll say the same thing I said a few articles ago–Kentucky isn’t winning the SEC East. Georgia is simply too good. Still, I think it’s important to realize that this team is for real. Kentucky isn’t a flash in the pan; this is a legitimate football team that could pose a real threat to Georgia if it keeps things going. Circle November 3rd, folks. That’s when Georgia travels to Lexington for the game that I think will decide the SEC East.
Gray’s Top Ten
- Ohio State
- Notre Dame
- West Virginia
A little bit more movement than usual in my top ten this week. Alabama and Georgia stay at the top because they’ve looked consistently dominant since the beginning of the season. Ohio State stays at number three after coming from behind to beat Penn State thanks to the utter stupidity of James Franklin (more on that below). LSU jumps Clemson after Joe Burrow’s impressive performance against Ole Miss. We’ll see how he does against Florida this weekend. Clemson is an enigma to me because I just can’t gauge the talent level of this team. I argued on “The Student Section” (https://soundcloud.com/grayrobertson15/the-student-section-on-907-fm-tuscaloosa-9262018) last Wednesday that I needed to see more from Trevor Lawrence before I said Dabo Swinney made the right decision starting the freshman. Lawrence didn’t impress me in the one tough road game he’s played in at Texas A&M, and I don’t see any other rowdy environments paired with stiff competition going ahead (except, maybe, Boston College). The point is, I’m not sold on Clemson quite yet. The defense is solid and the offense can run the football, but I haven’t watched Clemson and thought to myself, “Yeah, this team will win the national championship.” I’ve done that for Alabama, Georgia, Ohio State, and even Oklahoma once. Notre Dame moves up to six after crushing Stanford and, with the schedule left for the Irish, I think there’s a good chance Brian Kelly’s team finishes the season 12-0. Oklahoma and Auburn are seven and eight after ho-hum wins, although Auburn looked decidedly unimpressive against Southern Miss, especially on the offensive line. We’ll see how good the Tigers are this weekend in Starkville against a good Mississippi State front seven. West Virginia moves up to nine after winning at Texas Tech, and Washington rounds out the poll at ten Fair warning: if Kentucky wins in College Station, I’ll be moving the Wildcats into my top ten next week.
Coach of the Week
It wasn’t pretty, but Dan Mullen led his Florida Gators into Starkville on Saturday and shut down a Mississippi State team that I thought was really good. While it’s clear that the Bulldogs have some major offensive issues, Mullen still created a pitch-perfect game plan for this contest. Mullen didn’t make any calls that brought into play the weaknesses of his team, taking all pressure off of Feleipe Franks. The Gator defense was excellent as well, constantly bringing pressure and keeping Mississippi State quarterback Nick Fitzgerald uncomfortable in the pocket. (On a side note, it’s time for Joe Moorhead to pull Fitzgerald; Nicky Fitz has seemingly regressed as a passer, and back-up Keytoan Thompson has shown his capabilities. If Mississippi State loses to Auburn or struggles moving the ball in the first half, I think a move must be made.) In what I’m sure was an emotional game for Mullen, the Gator head coach kept his cool and called an extraordinary game. That’s worth highlighting.
Idiot of the Week
This may be the easiest IOTW ever. It’s James Franklin. On Saturday night, I stood in a bar with various co-workers as Penn State and Ohio State played on a TV. During the various timeouts before Penn State’s final offensive play on 4th and 5, I turned to a few of my friends and asked about what play Franklin should dial up. One said a play action, another said just a straight pass play with quarterback Trace McSorley having the green light to run if necessary; I agreed with the second friend. Nobody said a handoff or zone read of any kind, and yet that’s what the Nittany Lions decided to run. Seriously.
Nothing about this play call makes sense, and I feel like my subsequent reaction on Twitter was completely warranted and totally correct.
The thing is, I can’t even find a way to rationalize the play call. Prior to the decision, Myles Sanders had run for 45 yards on 15 carries. That’s not terrible, but there was nothing in that stat line to suggest giving him the ball made more sense than keeping it with McSorley, who had thrown for 286 and ran for 175. The explanation from Penn State seemed to center around a defensive alignment they were expecting, but that seems like too big a risk. Allowing the Ohio State defense to dictate the decision you make on a play that will effect your entire season is just too much of a gamble. All in all, nothing about Franklin’s 4th and 5 call seems logical. As I wrote last week, Ohio State-Penn State felt like a CFP play-in game. Penn State certainly isn’t out of the race for the playoff, but Saturday night makes the margin of error slim to none.
We here at Random Rankings like to focus on the fun things in life–food, entertainment, sports, etc. For the last few, we’ve talked a lot about sports and entertainment, so it’s time to get back to that thing everybody loves: food. This week, I’ll rank my top five favorite pies. Why? On my way back from Athens, I got into a discussion about pie with some co-workers with whom I was carpooling. This is the list I came up with. *Disclaimer*: per usual, once Random Rankings are posted, they aren’t changing. So if you liked fruit-based pies, you’ll be disappointed because I do not. No explanations this week. If you disagree, you know where to find me.
- Lemon Ice Box
- Key Lime
- Peppermint Pie (shout-out to Ensley Darnall, who makes this for me every Christmas; if you haven’t heard of this, google a recipe and prepare it immediately)
SEC Power Rankings
I’m an SEC guy through and through, so I have to include my SEC Power Rankings. Kentucky moves up again, jumping an Auburn team that struggled with Southern Miss. Mississippi State’s legitimate offensive issues were exposed against Florida Saturday, and now I’m concerned the Bulldogs might not win seven games this season. Here’s how I stack up the Southeastern Conference:
- Alabama (1)
- Georgia (2)
- LSU (3)
- Kentucky (5)
- Auburn (4)
- Texas A&M (7)
- Florida (10)
- South Carolina (8)
- Missouri (9)
- Mississippi State (6)
- Ole Miss (11)
- Tennessee (13)
- Vanderbilt (12)
- Arkansas (14)
So Who’s Ready for Week Six?
Lots of great match-ups coming up. Here’s what we have to look forward to next weekend:
#13 Kentucky at Texas A&M
#19 Texas vs. #7 Oklahoma
Missouri at South Carolina
Boston College at #23 NC State
#4 Clemson at Wake Forest
#5 LSU at #22 Florida
Florida State at #17 Miami
#8 Auburn at Mississippi State
#6 Notre Dame at #24 Virginia Tech
That’s it from Hangover HQ! I’ll be in Gainesville for LSU-Florida this weekend, but I’ll have my eye on other games around the country. See y’all next week!