This is a weird season for the SEC thus far. Only one team appears worthy of the playoff, and Georgia didn’t exactly look like world beaters against South Carolina on Saturday either. Tennessee lost to Florida (who already lost to Utah), LSU lost to Florida State, and Alabama lost to Texas. Those three teams were the most likely to challenge for a spot, and after three weeks, can’t lose another game the rest of the way.
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Only LSU has a quarterback, but they got smacked against the Seminoles, and that defense has to improve. For the Volunteers and Crimson Tide, the answers aren’t as easy, because there isn’t a solution for bad quarterback play.
The rumors of Alabama’s demise last season seemed premature. They missed the playoff after two losses on the final plays of the game, but still won 11 games, and, well, that argument hasn’t aged great. The Tide exhausted all options Saturday as Tyler Buchner and Ty Simpson combined to go 10 for 23 for 1057 yards in a 17-3 win over South Florida.
Jalen Milroe won the job, then lost it against Texas last week, and after this week, should get the gig back. It was almost as if Nick Saban was cycling through a subpar new album looking for a track to justify his purchase, and finally just chucked the CD out the window. Yes, that’s an extremely dated reference, but those of you who can relate, know exactly what I’m talking about.
New offensive coordinator Tommy Rees is persona non grata in Tuscaloosa after three weeks of uninspired play calling, and this is what happens when all of your assistants get poached for head coaching and NFL jobs. Rees is arguably the least accomplished mind to head up the Tide offense in almost a decade.
The list of Bama play callers since 2014 — Lane Kiffin, Brian Daboll, Mike Locksley, Steve Sarkisian, Bill O’Brien — is ridiculous for a college program. Every one of those guys is a current head coach of a Power Five school, or the New York Giants, except for O’Brien, who is calling plays for the Patriots. That’s the act that Rees is following, and the dropoff is glaring so far.
While Milroe, Buchner, and Simpson might not be NFL quarterbacks, the issue might be bigger than them.
The idea of Joe Milton has always been better than the on-field product. ESPN had a story about the legend of Milton’s arm strength on its landing page most of this week, and it was a lot of hype for a guy who was run out of Ann Arbor, and then lost the UT starting job to Hendon Hooker two years ago. Every flaw was on display in Gainesville on Saturday, and it led to a 29-16 romp that wasn’t nearly as close as the final indicated.
Tennessee scored on its opening possession and then didn’t get in the end zone again until the fourth quarter, and by that time the Gators were in control. Those two TDs bookended three punts, two turnovers on downs, an interception, and a field goal for the Vol offense. Milton couldn’t convert third downs or fourth downs, and even more concerning was how little Josh Heupel seems to trust him.
When it’s clicking, the Vols dictate to the defense, and that hasn’t really happened all year, because the execution hasn’t been crisp. Tennessee has had 10 penalties in consecutive outings, and that absolutely kills any team, especially one that likes to go fast.
These up-tempo schemes are dreamy when they’re on schedule and on time, but when it’s not working, it’s choppy, and the running game can’t get going. The thing I’ve noticed about college QBs: If he’s in control of his domain, most systems work.
Don’t believe me? Watch the Army-UTSA game from Friday when Black Knight QB Bryson Daily dominated the game to the tune of 44 minutes of possession and a 39-27 win. (Army was a 7-point dog by the way.) Milton might have a howitzer for an arm, but he’s not a quarterback.
The SEC better hope LSU’s Jayden Daniels continues to operate at an 11, because how can you trust TikToking, accent-faking Brian Kelly? The level of skill and line play in the conference remains 1A, yet we’ve seen time and again how poor quarterback play and QB coaching can offset even the best supporting cast.
Gotta love college football.