Rocky Top exploded on a Tennessee Saturday night to shock Alabama and end 15 years of misery. As a Rebel fan I understand the cathartic moment accompanied with slaying the Crimson Dragon. It’s akin to the moment Ralphie took down Scott Vargas in a Christmas Story. Did the Vols victory over Alabama create the yearly loss that galvanizes the Tide or is it now ‘game on’ in the once certain SEC?

Is This Parity Real?

For several years the outcome of the SEC football season has been a foregone conclusion. Alabama and Georgia meet in the SEC Championship – and some years the National Championship – it is known. The rest of the league has been window dressing – playing to fill the bowl obligations that seem to lose more value each year.

Enter Tennessee. The Vols didn’t just beat Alabama, they put the rest of the SEC and more importantly Georgia on notice. Moreover, they opened the door for Ole Miss in the SEC West. Now for the million-dollar question. Can the Rebels and Vols take advantage of this rarest of opportunities?

Tennessee showed this weekend they have the weapons to kick in the SEC East door. Hendon Hooker is running Josh Heupel’s offense to perfection, scoring 52 on mighty Bama. The last time Alabama gave up that many points Oklahoma wasn’t a state – seriously. The defense is still a concern, but I question who can outscore them? They have two tough tests remaining to reach Atlanta and make this writer look like Nostradamus – oh yeah, check our second podcast this year. They get Kentucky at home and Georgia in Athens. It goes without saying that Georgia is the monster sized monkey wrench in this equation, but I wouldn’t bet against the Vols currently. Fun fact, when Tennessee and Georgia play, the starting QB’s will be older than when the Miami Dolphins and New England Patriots play.

The Ole Miss Factor

Now for the other and less likely side of this equation – Ole Miss. The Vols also opened the door for my Rebels. I’m not going to give you a history lesson here, but just know it is not on the side of the Rebels – enter Civil War joke here. If Ole Miss could also slay the Crimson Dragon, Alabama’s loss to Tennessee would give the Rebels wiggle room to trip somewhere and still make Atlanta. A man can dream.

However, after watching the Rebel defense struggle to get off the field on 3rd down, against what was statistically the worst 3rd down offense in the SEC, I have my concerns. Auburn’s offense is abysmal, and Ole Miss struggled greatly to get key third down stops. Credit Robbie Ashford for making plays with his feet and extending plays. I can only imagine Auburn fans are questioning why they haven’t been riding Tank Bigsby – however Bryan Harsin isn’t on the hotseat for being good.

Later that night we witnessed LSU’s offense come to life in the Swamp. LSU QB Jayden Daniels is a better version of Auburn’s Ashford. He struggled through the first few games, then put up PlayStation numbers in the Swamp. Now, it could be argued that this was due to facing a bad Florida defense. But to that point, Auburn wasn’t good and the Rebs struggled to stop them at times. Now Ole Miss heads to the friendly confines of Death Valley to try and stop the upstart Daniels. This game screams trap for Ole Miss, so the whole “rock the boat” scenario could go off the rails before it truly gets started. If you don’t believe me, look at the Vegas point spread.

ole miss vs lsu point spread

Again, we see Alabama do this every year. They lose a game. They galvanize. Then they steam roll everyone on their way back to Atlanta. It’s what they do, or maybe, Lane Kiffin has really changed the culture at Ole Miss. Let’s say they take care of business in Red Stick beating LSU, and then Texas A&M the following week in College Station. I can’t wait for those yell practice clips. It would set the stage for a monster game in November with the aforementioned Crimson Tide. Will all of this happen? Unlikely, but thanks to good Ol’ Rocky Top, it’s a legitimate discussion.

One last thing. Say the unthinkable happens and Tennessee pops Georgia and Ole Miss finds their way to Atlanta for the first time – I could hear my Mississippi State buddies snicker as I typed that line. Can we get Peyton and Eli to call the SEC Championship like they do for Monday Night football? Now that would be epic theatre.

Now back to reality.

What a Difference a QB Makes

Just last week I wrote about injury roulette and how it how much it affected Arkansas, Kentucky, and Alabama. Arkansas got hammered on the road in Starkville without KJ Jefferson and Kentucky took it on the chin from some Cocks. Alabama’s offense was pedestrian at home versus Texas A&M. Fast forward a week and a healthy Levis and Jefferson and the Hogs hammered BYU on Provo and Kentucky beat a hot Mississippi State club. The world saw the difference Bryce Young made for Alabama. It will get lost in the loss over time but the performance from that kid in Knoxville was nothing short of brilliant and showed last year’s Heisman wasn’t won in vain. That kid is a baller and may be the best Alabama QB yet under Saban.

Last week was a great illustration of just how fine the line between winning and losing can be in this league. It also shows how you need a lottery winners’ luck in the injury department to survive.

Scattered Thoughts From Around the League

Mississippi State – A pirate’s life isn’t always glamorous. For every Arkansas village plundered there is a Kentucky sized hangover. This has been Leech’s MO since becoming a head coach. There are nights when his offense works and is an unstoppable thing of beauty. Then you have the Kentucky and LSU games. The question remains: what is Starkville’s tolerance level for inconsistency?

I owe State an apology. I joked about them calling the miracles department from SEC shorts last week. I was wrong, they screwed you guys. They apparently granted two wishes against you and I’m not sure which was worse. Kentucky getting Levis back or granting Tennessee victory. The second providing you with the unenviable “pissed off after a loss” Bama game – IN TUSCALOOSA! State may be a victim of being a good team in an insanely good conference.

LSU – I am debating whether their offense turned a corner in Gainesville or if Dan Mullen really recruited that horribly in Florida. I’m hoping the latter, but I have a feeling it’s the former. Now, LSU is about to become a pain in the ass for several teams. Kayshon Boutte has looked like he would rather be playing pickle ball for the first half of the season. This week he and Daniels decided to become sympatico. Again, maybe Florida is a lame duck, and we can all laugh at this breakdown in a few weeks.

Alabama – Of all the complaints Tide fans had about their loss, the main one should have been the play calling as time was running out. They could have killed Tennessee’s chance to win in regulation by running the ball and forcing them to use their timeouts. It was a shocking lack of clock management from one of the more fundamentally sound programs in sports.

Pettey’s Super Scientific SEC Rankings

Hope you didn’t spend a great deal of time etching last week’s Rankings in stone as I requested. Apparently, I was off a little.

  1. Georgia – Can’t drop them after a 55-0 win but watch out Dawgs.
  2. Tennessee – You seriously charged your fans for the goal post? After that win?
  3. Alabama – A missed FG is the difference in 2 and 3. Tide fans already pining for a repeat in Atlanta.
  4. Ole Miss – Can’t put them at 3 with that D. I got rhymes.
  5. Kentucky – Apparently Levis means everything to Kentucky. They are here if he is healthy.
  6. LSU – After 4 it’s topsy-turvy, But LSU is looking to rock the boat.
  7. Arkansas – See Kentucky but add Jefferson.
  8. Mississippi State – Added another what if this week.
  9. A&M – Hanky Panky
  10. Florida – I like Napier but he needs to recruit fast.
  11. Missouri – Not good but seriously not horrible. Drink isn’t a bad coach but has a huge hill to climb.
  12. Auburn – You tried in Oxford. You failed
  13. South Carolina – The Cocks need some Viagra.
  14. Vanderbilt – They probably should have just stayed in Hawaii

Thanks for reading, if you did, and enjoy your college football weekend! Oh, and subscribe to our Podcast and YouTube Channel. You may not regret it.