Welcome to the eighth edition of the sophomore season of The Hangover, where I recap the previous weekend in college football. This week, The Hangover comes from Jacksonville, Florida, where Georgia returned to looking like a title contender after a takedown against the Florida Gators. Jake Fromm showed a lot of moxie, although I still have some questions about the run defense. Those questions will surely be answered this upcoming weekend at Kentucky. This past weekend of college football was wild despite the seemingly light slate, so let’s break everything down.
On November 3rd, there will essentially be two title games in the SEC. The first takes place in Lexington at 2:30 p.m. CT on CBS, when Georgia and Kentucky battle for a spot in the SEC Championship. The second happens a few hours later on the same network in Baton Rouge, when top-ranked Alabama takes on LSU in Death Valley at 7 p.m. CT. If the Crimson Tide wins, they’re headed to Atlanta. An LSU win would require a little bit more work, but the Tigers would be headed in the right direction.
What a weekend for the SEC on CBS.
Let’s start with the game that nobody expected to carry as much weight as it does. In the preseason, I predicted Georgia to win the National Championship and Kentucky to finish the year 4-8. Instead, the battle between the Dawgs and Cats will send one team to Atlanta for the SEC Championship. While Kentucky does sit at 7-1 this season, it hasn’t always been pretty. The passing game has been an issue the last few weeks, and the offense has looked inept when the running game isn’t working consistently. Georgia has shown flashes on the team that we all thought they’d be, particularly last weekend against Florida. Jake Fromm was superb, throwing for 240 yards and three touchdowns on 17/24 passing. The Bulldogs also ran for 189 yards on 41 carries, with D’Andre Swift especially blowing out for 104 yards on the ground, his season-high.
Still, this game is intriguing for so many reasons. It’s the biggest game in Kentucky football history, and possibly the biggest sporting event to occur on campus in the history of the University of Kentucky. Kroger Field will be intense for sure, and fans will have a spectacular defense to get behind. The Wildcats are ranked 10th in the country in total defense, are tied for first in America in scoring defense, and are 12th in defensive passing efficiency. Linebacker Josh Allen is a grown man who will wreak havoc in the Georgia backfield all afternoon.
With all of that considered, I’ll take Kentucky. Call it a gut feeling. I think Benny Snell will go off for his most impressive game of the year, and I think Terry Wilson will make some plays down the stretch. Mark Stoops has built a program that has that winning DNA for which so many programs strive. Why should that trend end in the program’s biggest moment in the spotlight?
After the action in Lexington, all eyes will shift to Baton Rouge and Alabama-LSU. LSU linebacker Devin White is out in the first half (sorry, LSU fans, your ridiculous attempt to copy the play of Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri didn’t work), and Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa appears fully healthy once again.
Three things will determine this game. First, LSU has to control the clock. The Tigers are 27th in the country in time of possession, and they have to find a way to keep the potent Alabama offense off the field. That means running the football and getting productive outings from Nick Brosette and Clyde Edwards-Helaire. If LSU can do that, they’ll have a chance.
LSU also has to force turnovers. Tagovailoa hasn’t thrown an interception yet this season, and the Tigers will have to change that if they want a chance. Making Tua uncomfortable and forcing poor decisions is a must. The LSU secondary is good enough to take advantage of risky throws, but they have to convert every opportunity they get. Alabama has only given away the football six teams this year. I think LSU will need two or three takeaways to stay in the football game.
Finally, Tiger Stadium must be as loud as possible. As I said in The Student Section last week (https://soundcloud.com/grayrobertson15/the-student-section-on-907-fm-tuscaloosa-10242018), the atmosphere in Death Valley is electric, especially at night. The noise around you when you’re on the field can be suffocating. The LSU faithful must be full-throat in a way that causes some unrest with the Alabama offense and Tagovailoa. If they can get inside Tua’s head, who knows what will happen.
That’s the recipe. LSU has to be almost perfect, and they’ll need Alabama to make mistakes. I doubt that will happen because, as I’ve said for the last few weeks, I don’t see anybody beating this Alabama team. I fully expect the Crimson Tide to win Saturday night.
That’s the layout, and that’s what I’m expecting. Either way, it’ll be a marvelous day of SEC football. On November 3rd, all eyes will be on CBS for what should be two spectacular games.
Gray’s Top 10
- Notre Dame
- Washington State
A few adjustments this week. Alabama stays at number one after a bye week. Clemson holds firm at number two after blowing out Florida State. Trevor Lawrence continues to improve week after week. Notre Dame sits at number three after beating up on Army, and LSU remains at four ahead of the big game this weekend against Alabama. Michigan got a bye week and stays at five, although the schedule doesn’t get easier this weekend. Penn State at home will be a challenge. With Texas losing, Oklahoma takes over at six. Kyler Murray continues to put up superstar numbers, albeit against poor defenses. The next four weeks are at Texas Tech, Oklahoma State and Kansas at home, and at West Virginia. Get through that, and the Sooners will be sitting pretty heading into the Big 12 Championship game. Georgia moves up to seven after beating up on Florida. The improvements since LSU, particularly on third down, cannot be overstated. Suddenly, this looks like a team that could (maybe?) compete with Alabama. There’s UCF at eight, still waiting for chaos to break out. I don’t believe they’ll make the playoff, and I don’t think they should (their opponents have a combined record of 20-35 this season). Still, they wait for a chance. Side note: I don’t think UCF finishes undefeated this year. I think they’ll lose to Houston in the AAC Championship Game. Kentucky moves in to the nine spot after a miraculous win over Missouri. I don’t know how Mark Stoops does it, but his team keeps winning. Finally, Washington State rounds out the top ten. After an emotional win over Oregon two weeks ago, I thought Stanford would beat up on the Cougars. That wasn’t the case as Gardner Minshew continues to make a case for Heisman consideration.
Coach of the Week
Let’s all give a round of applause to Bronco Mendenhall, the head coach at Virginia. At ACC Media Days, the Cavaliers were predicted to finish seventh in the Coastal Division. They were one of two teams that did not receive a first place vote. Fast-forward to today, when Virginia is at the top of the division standings and ranked in the Top 25 after three straight wins, including two against Coastal opponents Miami and Duke. Bryce Perkins has been a revelation at quarterback, and the defense is salty (the Cavaliers are 18th in scoring defense, allowing a measly 18.8 PPG). The schedule ahead is slightly tricky, with conference games against Pittsburgh at home and Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech on the road. Still, Virginia is in a position to make the ACC Championship Game, something nobody expected before the season. Kudos to Bronco Mendenhall for getting the Wahoos in this position.
Idiot of the Week
On the flip side, this week’s IOTW is two-fold for Virginia Tech head coach Justin Fuente and defensive coordinator Bud Foster. Both are excellent coaches with successful track records, but this season has just been mind-boggling. The Hokies are 93rd in the country in total defense and have been virtually nonexistent in a few games this year. Take this past Thursday as one example of many; against Georgia Tech, the Hokies didn’t allow a completed pass. That didn’t matter, though, because the Yellow Jackets totaled up 465 rushing yards on 78 carries on the way to a 49-28 victory. A once-proud Bud Foster defense now has Virginia Tech fans searching for answers. The Hokies aren’t dead yet in the Coastal division, but things need to turn around if they want any shot…starting this weekend against Boston College.
We here at Random Rankings HQ have been on the hunt for the best since we started this little column. We’ve talked about foods, movies and TV, and little bit about sports. Curiously, we’ve never covered music. Perhaps it’s because most of us in the office don’t listen to rap, and that’s what the “kids of today” are jammin’ out to in their cars (how old are we?). So, we’ll do something music-related. These are the best theme songs in sports; the ones that stir something deep inside you when the tune begins. *Disclaimer*: per usual, once Random Rankings are posted, they aren’t changing. If you have issues with any of the choices, comment or reach out on Twitter. They still won’t change, though. No explanation this week.
1-The SEC on CBS
2. The Masters
3. March Madness
4. Monday Night Football
5. College Gameday
SEC Power Rankings
I’m an SEC guy through and through, so I have to include my SEC Power Rankings. Florida falls and Kentucky moves up on an otherwise quiet day of SEC action with so many teams on a bye. Also, Vanderbilt fully solidifies itself as not the worst team in the conference after beating Arkansas 45-31.
- Alabama (1)
- LSU (2)
- Georgia (4)
- Kentucky (5)
- Florida (3)
- Mississippi State (7)
- Texas A&M (6)
- Auburn (9)
- South Carolina (8)
- Missouri (10)
- Ole Miss (11)
- Vanderbilt (13)
- Tennessee (12)
- Arkansas (14)
So Who’s Ready for Week Ten?
The first weekend of November is consistently one of the best and most important Saturdays of the season. This year is no different. Here’s what’s on the docket:
Temple at #9 UCF (Thursday)
Pittsburgh at #23 Virginia (Friday)
#22 Syracuse at Wake Forest
#25 Texas A&M at Auburn
South Carolina at Ole Miss
#6 Georgia at #11 Kentucky
#12 West Virginia at #15 Texas
#19 Iowa at Purdue
#14 Penn State at #5 Michigan
#24 Boston College at Virginia Tech
Missouri at #13 Florida
#16 Utah at Arizona State
#3 Notre Dame at Northwestern
#1 Alabama at #4 LSU
#7 Oklahoma at Texas Tech
Stanford at Washington
California at #10 Washington State
That’s it from your friends at The Hangover! I’ll be in Baton Rouge working Alabama-LSU this weekend, and I couldn’t be more excited. It should be a fantastic game and a very exciting Saturday. See you next week!