February 27, 2024

Week nine SEC football reactions

While Auburn continues to solidify itself as a legitimate threat in the SEC West, Tennessee proved the opposite for themselves in the SEC East race. Are they done? With a win over Georgia on Saturday, is Florida now the clear-cut favorite in the East?

COLUMBIA, SC - OCTOBER 29, 2016 - wide receiver Jauan Jennings #15 of the Tennessee Volunteers during the game between the South Carolina Gamecocks and the Tennessee Volunteers at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia, SC. Photo By Hayley Pennesi/Tennessee Athletics

Tennessee continues to shatter the dreams of their fans

To put it simply, losing on the road to a porous South Carolina team is a very bad look. Tennessee was supposed to come out and roll through the second half of the schedule, right? Maybe the gauntlet stretch took a toll on this team, or maybe this is just another example of Butch Jones’ inability to get his team ready to play and put together an adequate game plan. What an inexcusable performance coming off the bye week, which vastly decreases the chances of Tennessee winning the SEC East.

Josh Dobbs had a game to forget, completing under 50 percent of his passes and committing a few costly turnovers. Jalen Hurd’s struggles continued (16 yards on eight carries), although he did record a touchdown. Over his last three games, Hurd has only ran for 86 yards on 31 attempts, to put his struggles in better perspective. With Alvin Kamara nursing a knee injury, the Vols need a lot more production from the Dobbs/Hurd duo going forward, especially if they want to avoid another bad loss. Otherwise, results similar to Saturday will continue.

This is now consecutive underwhelming performances from an offense which came into the season with high expectations. Blame Dobbs, blame Hurd, blame the offensive line, blame DeBord, but the offensives struggles played a major role in Saturday’s disappointing loss. At the end of the day, each holds their share of the blame and collectively must get on track to save a potentially failed season.

A lone positive to take from Saturday, star defensive end Derek Barnett enjoyed another big day finishing with three sacks. That puts Barnett’s career sack total at 29, making him the active FBS leader in career sacks. Outside of Barnett, this is a team filled with concerns, which is worrisome this late into the season. In what’s been a major down year for the SEC East, Tennessee now finds themselves two games out of first place. And this was supposed to be the year…

Florida takes care of business, now in great position to win the SEC East

Credit another dominant defensive performance, Florida’s win over Georgia puts them in great position to win the SEC East. They own the tiebreaker over second place Kentucky and hold a two game lead over Tennessee. But, the offense remains a question mark, and Saturday was no different.

Quarterback Luke Del Rio struggled and the Gators’ run game didn’t provide much production either. Luckily, the defense is good enough to carry Florida to a victory, as was the case Saturday. Holding Georgia to under 175 total yards, they limited Nick Chubb to just 20 yards on his nine carries and pressured freshman quarterback Jacob Eason on nearly 50 percent of his drop backs (16 hurries on 33 pass attempts). With the front seven dominating in this manner, and the secondary providing lockdown coverage, good luck scoring on this team.

Florida is loaded with talent at all three levels. Even with an underwhelming offense, the defensive unit is performing at such a high level where it can easily carry the Gators to Atlanta.

Auburn impresses again and Kamryn Pettway is the best running back no one talks about

With a 40-29 win over Ole Miss, Auburn has now won five straight since starting the season 1-2. After holding a high-powered Arkansas offense to only three points a week ago, the defense failed to duplicate that type of dominant performance as they allowed Chad Kelly to throw for over 450 yards. Fortunately, with a crucial goal line stand in the second half and a fourth quarter interception on a potential go-ahead drive for the Rebels, the Auburn defense still managed to make enough plays.

On the other side of the ball, the running game is something special and sophomore running back Kamryn Pettway is having a remarkable 2016 campaign. Pettway recorded his career-high in rushing yards on Saturday (236 yards), which marked the third consecutive game he’s rushed over 150 yards. His 933 rushing yards leads the SEC, and keep in mind Pettway has only recorded carries in just six of the team’s eight games. With Pettway running like a mad man, this team is tough to beat. And when the defense is performing at the level it’s capable of, the Tigers are even more tough to overcome. Put both together, could this team upset Alabama? They may have as good of odds as any team in the conference.

 Kentucky sits alone at second place in the East as the calendar turns to November

What a weird year. After beating a struggling Missouri team 28-14 on Saturday, Kentucky now sits at 4-2 in the conference and are currently second in the SEC East. The Wildcats have a great rushing attack and Saturday was a similar story. The duo of freshman Benjamin Snell Jr. and sophomore Stanley Williams combined for 374 yards and three scores. Between the two, they’ve ran for just under 1,500 yards on the season. Without a doubt, the production from these two are a huge reason Kentucky is currently 4-2 in conference play.

Is this team actually good?

They may be 5-3, but their point differential currently sits at -25. In addition, the four teams they’ve beaten in SEC play (Vanderbilt, South Carolina, Mississippi State and Missouri) have combined for an underwhelming four conference wins. Credit Kentucky for taking care of business against the cellar of the conference, but Kentucky being second in the East speaks more to how bad the division is this year than anything the Wildcats have done.

Edited by Dalton King 

Featured image by Hayley Pennesi, courtesy of Tennessee Athletics

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