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Fourteen thoughts after Week Four of SEC football

 Chris Lee   in Football

Fourteen thoughts on the SEC after four weekends of college football. 

Photo courtesy of Arkansas athletics. 

Arkansas’s win over Texas A&M was no fluke. The Aggies were 5.5-point favorites but if you’d watched each team play then you had questions whether the right team was favored. The Razobacks not only won by a 20-10 margin and it was fairly decisive from start to finish, Arkansas averaged 6.5 yards per play vs. A&M’s 4.6 and there was nothing as you watched that suggested it was a fluke. Congrats to the Hawgs—if there had been any doubt they were for real after the Texas upset, this should have settled that.

Razorback quarterback KJ Jefferson’s an emerging star. Jefferson banged up his knee early in the third quarter and missed some of the second half as a result. Even so, Jefferson ran for 50 yards on eight carries (6.3 per), threw for 212 on 15 throws (14.3) and accounted for two touchdowns and no turnovers. Jefferson thrown for 844 yards, rushed for 230 and accounted for eight scores, and really makes one of the country’s more balanced offenses go.

Arkansas’s experience is really paying off, and especially at linebacker. The Razorbacks have 11 “super seniors” on this year’s team, two of whom are linebacker starters Hayden Henry and Grant Morgan, and another is fourth-year player Bumper Pool. On Saturday, that trio combined for 14 solo stops, six assists four stops for loss and a pair of pass break-ups. Those guys have seen the worst of times—they were all on those 2018 and 2019 teams that went 0-for-the-league, and hats off to each for persisting to lead the Razorbacks to better things. 

None of A&M’s offensive questions got answered on Saturday. Quarterback Zach Calzada averaged 4.2 yards per throw, and the Aggies still can’t seem to know whether Kenyon Green fits best at tackle or guard given the team’s offensive line struggles. The Aggies have now scored 20 points—total—in their two games against FBS teams, one of which is Colorado. 

Auburn was fortunate to escape an upset against 1-3 Georgia State…  That 34-24 final score wasn’t indicative of the game; Auburn trailed 24-19 until TJ Finely threw a touchdown with 45 seconds left, then, Smoke Monday added a pick six. 

… and heads rolled for it. The Tigers fired their receivers coach Cornelius Williams n the aftermath of this. Also, Finley replaced Bo Nix, who had an uninspiring, 130-for-27, 156-yard day.  

Has everyone just forgotten about LSU? The Tigers were shut out of both major polls released on Sunday. The AP poll has seven one-loss teams in it and a two-loss Clemson, and LSU wasn’t even one of the next five out. It’s not as LSU’s season-opening loss at now-ranked UCLA is awful, and the Tigers’ road win at Mississippi State’s a better one than a lot of ranked teams have. The may have top-five talent, won a national title two years ago and entered the season ranked 16 by the AP and 13th by ESPN. It’s unusual to see a team with that profile not ranked under those circumstances. 

Florida quarterback Emory Jones seems to have solidified his job. A couple of weeks ago, when Anthony Richardson was out-playing Jones by a mile, coach Dan Mullen’s defense of Jones sounded suspect. But Jones played well last week against Alabama and followed it up with 209 passing yards and 144 rushing yards in the Gators’ 38-14 defeat of Tennessee. He’s the first Gator QB to surpass 100 rushing yards and 200 passing in the same game since Tim Tebow. 

The Vols didn’t play as badly as a 38-14 score indicated. It was a 17-14 game at half, and on a per-play basis, the Gators edged Tennessee by a 7.4-to-6.2 margin. Among other things, the Vols left Gainesville kicking themselves for a 10-penalty night, something especially galling after a 13-penalty loss to Pitt two weeks ago. Florida’s a better team and the Vols aren’t taking any moral victories out of this one, but as I watch the Vols, my eyes tell me they’re an improved football team. That wasn’t an easy task for coach Josh Heupel given the mess Jeremy Pruitt left behind. 

Tennessee’s got to roll with Hendon Hooker going forward, if he’s healthy. Hooker looked like the better quarterback coming in, and the difference between he (13-of-23, 221 yards, two touchdowns) and Joe Milton (2-of-8, 54) was glaring again. Heupel said he didn’t want to play Milton unless he had a choice, which is a clear signal as to where this is headed presuming Hooker’s healthy. 

Mississippi State’s Will Rogers could break the NCAA’s single-season completions record. Through four games, Rogers has hit on 169 of his 225 throws. Harrell played in 13 games, and presuming the Bulldogs do the same, Rogers’ pace puts him at 549. Of course, Rodgers is coached by Mike Leach, the same guy who coached Harrell.

Missouri’s defense is bad. The Tigers lost in overtime at Boston College, giving up 41 points to a BC offense playing without starting quarterback Phil Jurkovec. Despite that, Missouri allowed 450 yards to a team that’s averaging just 421 per game against a schedule that also includes Colgate, UMass and Temple. The Tigers, who haven’t exactly played world-beaters, either, are now allowing 6.1 yards per rush and 6.7 per throw. 

Shane Beamer’s carving out a defensive identity for South Carolina. The Gamecocks gave up just 16 points and 332 yards to Kentucky in a 16-10 loss, and also forced three turnovers, which included a fourth interception this year by cornerback Jaylan Foster. The Gamecocks were dreadful on defense last year, and 18.3 points per game (albeit against a much easier schedule) allowed this season are respectable, given that includes a game against Georgia and that Carolina allowed 36 a game last year. 

Vanderbilt’s a disaster. Here’s how bad Saturday was for Vandy: The Commodores got the opening kickoff and yet trailed 35-0 Georgia with 3:08 left in the first quarter. The only question from that point on was whether the Commodores would have more total yards of offense than they gave up points, which they barely managed (77 vs. 62). Vandy played at home, but one estimate placed the number of Vandy fans in the stadium at 6,000. The school let football rot on the vine from the moment James Franklin left and is now paying the price. Given the state of the league already and with Texas and Oklahoma now on the way, coach Clark Lea’s rebuild might be tougher than it would be to start an FCS program from scratch.