By JD Yonke
Winner – Najee Harris
Najee Harris is a bad man. I’d imagine trying to tackle the star Alabama running back feels like halfway in between hopeless and suicidal. Unless getting run over by a train is something that you’re into, then I’d suggest steering clear of him. Ole Miss’s defense both steered clear (clip #1) of and got run over (clip #2) by Najee on Saturday.
Overall, Ole Miss allowed Najee to amass a whopping 206 yards and 5 TDs on the ground. Yes, that’s in one single game. He added 42 more yards through the air to boot. He already has 10 TDs in only three games. The defense may have struggled for Bama, which will be touched on later, but the offense is humming on all cylinders. They currently lead the nation in both points per game (51) and yards per play (8.7). Averaging damn near a first down per play is mighty impressive, and while there have been a lot of impressive pieces on this team, Najee has been the standout thus far.
Loser – Alabama’s Defense
Is it just me, or are some of these SEC matchups starting to look more and more like BIG 12 games? The offensive revolution in the SEC is now in full effect. Over the last few years, the fellas down south have finally figured out how to spread out the offense and get these phenomenal athletes in space. It’s led to some of the most devastating offenses that we’ve ever seen, and defenses are struggling just to keep up. It’s going to require a lot of rapid adjustments from a defensive gameplan standpoint, or else there will be a lot of teams on upset alert because they’re failing to get stops.
Alabama was one of those teams on upset alert this Saturday. The Lane Train mowed down this Bama defense all night long, leading to 647 yards — the most allowed in Alabama school history, and the most ever allowed by a Nick Saban defense to an unranked team. The defense looked lost at times and repeatedly gave up plays of 10+ yards. They had no answers during the game, but Saban did have some curious answers for the media afterward:
“It seemed like everything we did, though, they had an answer for. I don’t know if they had our signals or what, but that’s anything unusual. But it seemed like every time we called something, they had the best play that they could have against it.”
While he’s since backtracked those remarks, it’s still not a good look after getting torched. Yes, Alabama still won the game, but it’s a game that they should win — they were favored by 24 points, afterall. The defense will need to improve going forward if they wish to go undefeated. A more well-rounded team than Ole Miss could have easily completed the upset.
Winner – Travis Etienne
I love Travis Etienne. He’s quickly approaching “without a doubt my favorite running back of all-time to watch with the ball in his hands” territory. It truly was a joy to simultaneously watch both him and Najee work their magic on two separate screens. Here are some of his best runs this weekend:
The combination of explosiveness and physicality is something special. He runs like he wants to embarrass you — he knows he’s a different specimen than his defender, and he wants you to know it, too. His game is also evolving at a rapid rate. Remember when his main weakness was that he was a “zero” in the passing game? Well, he’s caught 13 passes for 187 yards and a TD over his last two games alone. If he keeps improving and evolving his game, I can’t wait to see what he becomes in the NFL. The sky is the limit for Etienne, but the present is pretty damn sweet as well.
He has over 2,500 career yards after contact in his career — a mindblowing stat that only seems realistic once you’ve watched him run. He’s been on some very good Clemson teams and doesn’t always get his due recognition, but I’m doing my part to honor him. On Saturday, Etienne passed Tim Tebow and Kenneth Dixon for most career games with a touchdown (39), breaking an FBS record en route to a dominating victory. Take a bow, Travis.
Loser – Miami
Losing to Clemson is no great shame. Getting blown out by Clemson is usually no great shame, either. But wow, Miami got embarrassed out there on Saturday. On the offensive side of the ball, almost nobody looked worthy to be sharing the field with Clemson other than QB D’Eriq King and TE Brevin Jordan. A blocked FG returned for a TD as time expired in the first half kept the 42-17 final score from being truly indicative of how much of a beatdown the Tigers put on the Hurricanes. They lost the total yardage battle 210-550 and lost the first down battle 9-34. They turned the ball over three times, and had 15 penalties for 135 yards. That’s ugly stuff. Again, losing to Clemson is to be expected, but losing in this bad of fashion is reason to pump the brakes on the “Miami is back” hype that we were all subject to after a hot start to the season.
Winner – Fans Who Like Points
If you’re a “life’s too short to bet the under” kind of guy, then this weekend was for you.
The week got started in thrilling fashion, with Houston beating Tulane 49-31 on Thursday and Georgia Tech upsetting Louisville 46-27 on Friday. That momentum carried over into the weekend’s action, as plenty of games provided fireworks for the viewer on the couch. Oklahoma beat Texas 53-45 in four overtimes in one of the craziest games you’ll ever see. It nearly caused Gus Johnson to spontaneously combust in the booth:
UNC beat Virginia Tech 56-45 in one of the more anticipated games of the week. Texas A&M walked all over Florida’s lackluster defense to the tune of a 41-38 upset. Missouri dropped 45 on LSU’s decrowned head in yet another upset. Life’s too short to bet the under, and the offseason’s too short to practice tackling.
Loser – Bo Pelini
If, like me, laughing at Bo Pelini is one of your favorite past times, then 2020 has much more of that in store for you. Fresh off signing a three-year contract in the offseason that will pay around $2.3mil per season, Pelini’s defense allowed Mississippi State QB K.J. Costello and company to put up an SEC record 623 passing yards on 10.4 yards per attempt in his very first game with the team. That would be excusable if the Leach Air Raid was going to lay waste to the SEC this year, but they’re not: Costello has a 1/7 TD:INT ratio and only 4.8 yards per attempt in his next two games.
On Saturday, Pelini once again demonstrated that he may be the worst coordinator in the SEC, as LSU allowed a mediocre Missouri team to put up 45 points, 586 total yards, and 406 passing yards on 11.6 yards per attempt. That’s inexcusable. A drop off was expected for this LSU team after losing so much talent, production, and coaching, but they’re still far too talented to be getting outgained by Missouri by over 100 yards. Pelini has been nothing short of an unmitigated disaster for LSU. When your conference is undergoing an offensive revolution, teams are scoring more points at an unprecedented rate, and the main guy in charge of slowing them down is Bo Pelini … well, then you’re in trouble.
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