Around the SEC: Mac Jones on fire; 3 SEC teams in the playoff?
It is hard to believe that the SEC’s grip on college football could have gotten any tighter than it has been the past 15 years. But that is exactly what has happened with two power conferences yet to even begin their seasons and lackluster football being played everywhere else.
As Week 3 in the SEC kicks off, there is no shortage of big games and storylines to watch.
Mac Jones putting up historic numbers
ESPN’s Brad Edwards said this week that Jones’ early season numbers compare favorably to those of Joe Burrow and Tua Tagovailoa, with the Bama offense with Jones under center virtually unchanged from previous years.
Jones is currently the top-ranked quarterback in all of college football in the categories of passing efficiency and yards per pass attempt.
Looking at only downfield throws since the start of the 2019 season, Jones has had the most yards after catch, with 5.6 yards per pass attempt. For a comparison, Tua is second with 5.5 yards per pass attempt.
Jones has completed 58% of his passes on attempts of 25 yards or more. That is first in college football since the beginning of 2019. He is second to only Burrow in touchdowns downfield, with six.
Edwards called the Tide’s passing game “uncontainable.”
Ahead of Saturday’s game against Ole Miss, game analyst Todd McShay offered his own praise of Jones on “SEC Now.”
“Watching him through a couple games, he’s getting the ball out quickly, he’s smart, he’s tough, he’s not going to run but he can move inside the pocket and I love his poise,” said McShay. “I think that is what has gotten him to this point, and I think that is why Alabama has a legitimate chance to win a national championship with this guy at quarterback.”
Tennessee vs. Georgia
Georgia is a 12.5-point favorite heading into today’s game against Tennessee. The Bulldogs carry an eight-game win streak, which is tied with Notre Dame for the longest current win streak in FBS.
Kirby Smart’s squad has won each of its last three meetings against the Vols by an average margin of 32 points per game.
Although, one college football analyst is predicting a much tighter game.
The SEC Network’s Jordan Rodgers said, “Neither Georgia nor Tennessee will score more than 20 points.”
Keys to stopping Mississippi State’s offense
Former Auburn head coach Gene Chizik outlined his keys to stopping Mike Leach’s Air Raid offense during an appearance on “SEC Now” on Friday.
Chizik faced off against Leach during the 2005 and 2006 seasons. At the time, Chizik served as Texas’ defensive coordinator while Leach was the head coach at Texas Tech.
“The genius in [Leach’s offense] is that it is so simple, that he lets defensive coordinators think they have to do all these different things and they screw it up,” remarked Chizik.
He credited Arkansas defensive coordinator Barry Odom for his winning game plan last week, saying Odom committed to doing very few things and letting his defense play.
“It’s not about guru-ing everything up,” Chizik concluded. “It’s about letting your players do what they do best. That’s how you defend this offense.”
Three SEC teams in the playoff?
If there was ever a year for the SEC to occupy 75% of the spots in the college football playoff, this would be the year.
The Big 12 and the Pac-12 have essentially eliminated themselves from contention, with the Big 12 having done so on the field and the Pac-12 having done so off the field.
In the ACC, this year’s Clemson team looks to be the least talented version of itself in several years, while Miami and Notre Dame look good, not great. It is easy to imagine each of those teams having a minimum of one loss by season’s end.
Ohio State has yet to take the field but returns talent more on par with that of its SEC counterparts. And then there is the fact that the Big Ten has revamped the conference schedule in a way which would appear to be favorable to a Buckeyes undefeated season.
So, Ohio State occupying one of the playoff spots is reasonable to assume.
That leaves the SEC.
According to ESPN analytics, the SEC has three teams with a 35% or better chance to go at least 9-1 through the regular season: Alabama (58%), Georgia (44%) and Florida (35%).
The same analytics are showing that Georgia’s chance of reaching the playoff has increased from 25% to 45% over the past two weeks.
The key will be for each of those teams to stay clean except for when they play each other. Today, Florida needs to take care of business against a desperate Texas A&M team and Georgia needs to hold off a resurgent Tennessee team.
Undoubtedly a long-shot scenario, but weirder things have happened in 2020.
Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia