Winner: Jimbo Fisher & Kellen Mond

Going into this weekend, Jimbo Fisher had a 4-12 record against Top-25 opposition in his short time as the head coach for the Aggies. The Aggies also never knocked off a Top-5 opponent going into this game against the Florida Gators under Fisher. Kellen Mond has gained plenty of doubters throughout his career in College Station, even though at his best he may be the best QB in the SEC. Well, we finally see what the Aggies can be when everything comes together and they play up to their potential.

Kellen Mond (See video above) found his rhythm and started to find the accuracy on his deep ball, which could be a key in making a run this season in the SEC. According to PFF, Mond was elite passing between the numbers; where he completed over 86% of his passes for over 275 yards and 3 TDs. This is the recipe for success for the Aggies, because they will go as far as Mond can take them. Another huge help for Mond was the emergence of Isaiah Spiller, who finally had a breakout performance with his 174 yard & 2 TD performance. 

Jimbo Fisher is the 4th highest paid coach in the country, but the performance has not been at the level many experts predicted when Fisher left Tallahassee. Fisher’s salary is higher than Kirby Smart, Lincoln Riley, & Ryan Day who all have taken their teams to the College Football Playoffs. Fisher is not on the hot seat, but unless he takes the Aggies to the playoffs, then the investment may never be worth it for A&M.

 

Loser: SEC Defenses

SEC fans will be the first to tell you that their conference is the best in the country and that your team would never survive that “SEC Grind” due to the defenses. Well, that may have been true in the mid-2000’s or 2010’s, but right now defensive play can only be found in Athens, GA. 9 SEC teams gave up 30+ points in their matchup this weekend, while 4 of the games featured at least 1 QB that threw for over 300 yards. I am officially putting out a M.I.A. report for old school SEC defensive play.

The best example was down in Oxford, MS where Alabama & Ole Miss combined for 1,370 yards of total offense, 68 first downs, 11 incomplete passes, & 63% third down conversion rate. We expect this from Ole Miss, where defensive play has not been seen since the “Landshark” days in 2013, but Alabama was completely out of character and seemed to have no answer for the Rebels. Both QBs (Mac Jones & Matt Corral) were efficient, accurate, & explosive all game and combined for 782 yards & 4 TDs through the air. Add this with Najee Harris, who dominated the Rebels for over 200 yards rushing & 5 TDs, which has put him squarely in the Heisman race. 

There are other examples, like the abysmal performance by two sets of Tigers (LSU & Missouri) in Columbia; where a combined 1,065 yards and 86 points were racked up. Do I think SEC defenses are less talented now? Absolutely not, but I think offenses have evolved and the defensive schemes have yet to evolve to stop it. We did not see the air attacks in the SEC back in the day that we do now, which is what I think has caused this offensive explosion in the SEC.

 

Winner: The Red River Showdown

If you thought the Red River Showdown would suffer because Oklahoma was 1-2 and Texas was coming off another loss to TCU, then you were sorely mistaken. We had everything you could ask for in a football game:

  1. A classic/historic performance from a QB (Sam Ehlinger)
  2. A 14-point 4th quarter comeback 
  3. Multiple OTs
  4. A QB change, in which the benched QB leads the team to the win (Spencer Rattler)

The Sooners & Longhorns played with desperation knowing their programs would continue to free fall with a loss in this game. Oklahoma was fighting to stay relevant in the BIG-12 title race, while Texas was fighting to keep their outside chance at the College Football Playoff.

I want to start with Sam Ehlinger, because I think this was his best performance for the Longhorns. Ehlinger racked up almost 400 offensive yards and 6 total TDs, while bringing the Longhorns back from a 14-point deficit with less than 5 minutes in the game. The Longhorns RBs combined for 32 total yards and a costly fumble, which offered Ehlinger almost zero help and probably was the difference in the game. My only critique was Ehlinger’s downfield passing numbers, which he was 0/11 on passes traveling 20+ yards downfield. Ehlinger did what he could, but after 4 quarters and 4 OT periods; but the Longhorns needed another answer to win this game other than Ehlinger. 

On the other side, Rattler was benched for Tanner Mordecai, but was given one more opportunity and cashed in on that opportunity. Rattler made all the clutch plays throughout OT, in which he had 3 TDs throughout the 4 OT periods. I think Rattler saved his job with his clutch performance, but he must live up to the pressure of the Oklahoma coaching staff and the fans who have watched 3 straight Heisman contenders come through Norman.

Oklahoma may have saved their season and still have a chance to make a run at the BIG-12 championship, while Texas watched their playoff hopes escape their grasp late in Dallas this past weekend. I think Tom Herman may have placed himself on the hot seat; especially if he does not make it back to Dallas for the BIG-12 championship. Texas & Oklahoma are going through unique seasons, but it will be interesting to see who answers the questions/doubts down the stretch this season.

 

Loser: Mississippi State & Mike Leach’s Excuses 

It seems like centuries since Mississippi State & KJ Costello shocked the College Football world down in Baton Rouge. Since that game, the Bulldogs have gone 0-2 against Arkansas & Kentucky and now KJ Costello was even benched this weekend. There was a narrative that the SEC needed to catch up to Mike Leach’s system and now it looks like it took only 2 games for this to happen. The Bulldogs still have to face teams like Alabama, Georgia, Texas A&M, & Auburn, which does not bode well for the success of this team.

Refer to the post above about how KJ Costello is doing since the game in Baton Rouge ended. The past two weeks Costello has thrown 1 TD and 7 INTs, which have resulted in two straight losses for the Bulldogs. His QBR has been below 30 for both of these games and has graded below 51.0 by PFF over the past two weeks. Costello went from setting the College Football world on fire and setting the SEC record for passing yards in a game; to now being benched and maybe not seeing the field this year in Starkville. 

This all brings me to Mike Leach, who has a history of poor choices with his words and his actions throughout his career. After the loss this weekend, Leach commented that he was going to have to figure out who really wanted to be there and would purge any player who was “malcontent” or not a part of the program. Compare that to Coach Ed Orgeron who told his team to put all the blame on him for the loss to Missouri (More on this later). Leach has nobody to blame but himself, because the best indicator of future behavior is past behavior and Leach’s past is riddled with underperforming teams in the biggest moments. Leach is dedicated to his “Air Raid” system, but what about Kylin Hill, who is one of the best RBs in the SEC? Maybe give him a chance to do what he does best and open up the passing lanes for Costello against defenses scheming against the pass right now. Leach cannot keep placing blame on the players, because his play calling and stubbornness is what is costing the Bulldogs right now.

 

Winner: Michael Carter & JaVonte Williams

Before the season started every expert in the country was raving about Sam Howell and Dazz Newsome. The North Carolina offense was supposed to be one of the most explosive offenses in the country, but nobody saw this running game being one of the best 1-2 duos in the country. JaVonte Williams & Michael Carter have been nothing but spectacular for the Tar Heels and have been the stars of this Tar Heels’ offense. 

Virginia Tech had no answers for either RB and allowed almost 400 yards on the ground, which ultimately cost them the game. Michael Carter racked up over 200 yards rushing and 2 TDs, while averaging over 12 yards per touch on the ground. Carter rushed the ball through the right A-B gap 6 times for over 120 yards and both of his TDs. This shows his ability to run the ball up the middle and find space in an area where it is limited. His explosion, physicality, & toughness makes him one of the best RBs in the country. 

JaVonte Williams had an equally impressive day, in which he totaled over 160 yards rushing for 2 TDs. Williams is the change of pace back and sees a lot more carries outside the tackles and off the edge. When rushing off the tackle or outside; Williams totaled 7 carries for over 110 yards and 1 of his TDs. Williams is lightning in a bottle and has the ability to take any ball to the house on any play. This duo will cause problems for almost any defense in the country and any fan in the country should make time to watch these two outstanding RBs in action.

 

Loser: LSU Defensive Execution (LSU Fans are for it…..) 

The LSU defensive execution has been non-existent since they stepped on the field three weeks ago against the Mississippi State Bulldogs. The LSU defense is currently allowing over 490 yards per game and over 32 points per game for the 2020 season. The biggest problem is that none of the three teams (Missouri, Vanderbilt, & Mississippi State) finished in the top half of the SEC in 2019. 

KJ Costello & Connor Bazelak both looked like Heisman contending QBs against this LSU defense. We covered Costello earlier and we know he has been a complete fraud since facing this LSU defense. The problem is evident in Connor Bazelak, who was a fraud against Alabama & Tennessee, who threw for over 400 yards and 4 TDs this weekend against the Tigers. Bazelak did not throw a TD in the first two games and threw an INT against Tennessee, so Bazelak had a career day against the Bayou Bengals. The recipe for competing in College Football does not include allowing every QB to have career days against your defense, so this LSU team could be in serious trouble in their upcoming SEC matchups.

 

Winner: Clemson

This weekend was the week that the best team in the country established themselves and they did so in dominating fashion. The Clemson Tigers demolished the Miami Hurricanes in brutal fashion with explosive offensive play and relentless defensive pressure. The Clemson defense looks like it may be the best defense in all of College Football, while the offense is home to the best QB & RB in the country. 

Let’s start on the offensive side of the ball with Trevor Lawrence & Travis Etienne. Lawrence continued his record-setting streak of downs played without an INT, while also throwing for almost 300 yards and 4 total TDs. Lawrence is having one of the most efficient seasons in College Football history with his 72.4% completion percentage. Factor in the best RB in College Football, Travis Etienne, and you have the most unstoppable offense in College Football. Etienne racked up 222 all-purpose yards and 2 TDs, while terrorizing the Hurricanes defense all night. Defenses struggle defending Etienne because he is the most versatile, dynamic RB in the country and there is almost nothing he cannot do.

On the other side of the ball, this Clemson defense is suffocating and devastating with their play. This unit held the Miami offense to only 210 total yards, 9 first downs, 26% on 3rd Downs, & forced 3 turnovers. The defensive line is the deepest unit in the country and racked up 5 sacks against a Miami team that has protected the QB well this season. The backend of the defense made potential Heisman contender, D’Eriq King, look average at best this weekend. King only completed 43% of his passes for 121 yards, 1 TD, & had 2 costly INTs. The running game was held to 11 total yards (Outside of King) on 11 carries, which put all the pressure on King’s shoulders and he could not answer the bell. Derion Kendrick, Sheridan Jones, & Andrew Booth Jr. allowed 1 combined catch for -3 yards on 9 targets, which shows the depth and talent of this secondary. 

The SEC may be having a defensive struggle conference-wide, but in Clemson, SC there is no shortage of suffocating defense. Brent Venables is showing why he may be the top defensive mind in all of College Football and it could be the reason Clemson returns to the top of the College Football world. 

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