Final look at South Carolina
A&M held South Carolina to just 279 yards of total offense, but let's look at a couple of things. Take away to very flukish plays -- the 45-yard TD pass and the 34-yard run with multiple missed tackles and the Gamecocks averaged 200 yards exactly on 54 snaps. That's 3.7 yards a play. That's almost nothing. Now, South Carolina's pretty lousy offensively, but they were last year too (worse, statistically) and still had 100 more yards of total offense.
Minus the 34-yard run, they had -8 yards on 22 carries. You can do your own math on that one. I know sacks count, but that's crazy.
A&M's "Big 4" of Zaycoven Henderson, Kingsley Keke, Daylon Mack and Justin Madubuike were absolutely dominant. Henderson, especially, just physically abused South Carolina's guard-center-guard combo. It was a manhandling from the opening snap. Really, they have held up well all season, a big difference from 2016.
A&M played a much, much more conservative offensive game this week when compared to Arkansas. Maybe the tenor of the game allowed that; maybe they were playing things closer to the vest with Alabama next. Either way, conservative, field position football isn't going to get it done next week.
Arkansas likes to play physical. Keith Ford lit them up. South Carolina tries to be physical. Ford beat them up too. Any question as to who should get the majority of the carries next week? I love Tray Williams and Kendall Bussey may not have a bigger backer than yours truly, but Alabama = Keith Ford. Period.
A&M needs to stop screwing around with its line splits. If I can sit in the press box and tell where a play is going before the snap due to the gap between linemen, Alabama knows it too. Time to make rapid adjustments.
This may seem odd, but Shane Tripucka needs to step up his game. He had two touchbacks against South Carolina after having none in 69 attempts last year. If A&M is going to have a chance this week, special teams (and that means Christian Kirk to0) need to be on point. They were not Saturday.
Otaro Alaka has become a beast at WILL, and Tyrel Dodson is a major reason why.
Charles Oliver can't come off the field.
Armani Watts needs to stop trying so hard and let the game come to him. I think he's pressing because he's trying to help the young corners, and he's getting burned on his own assignments as a result.
Landis Durham may go from 3rd string on his own team to 2nd team All-SEC. He sure deserves mention at this point. He plays very intelligent football and his motor doesn't stop. His sack/fumble saved the game.
On the 4th down snap, I don't think Jake Bentley knew where he was. He was woozy from the beating he'd taken on the last play and all night.
The 12th Man really did make a difference. That was the first time I felt the new press box shake from crowd noise alone. That'll be needed in a big way Saturday.
The Aggies' MVP right now is..
Kellen Mond may have saved the season, Landis Durham has been the biggest surprise and Otaro Alaka may be playing at a high level, but for me, this one is easy: it's Tyrel Dodson.
His numbers alone are excellent: 30 tackles, 5 TFL, 3 sacks, 2 INT, 4 passes broken up and 1 TD. But his impact goes well beyond that. He's one of the major reasons Alaka has been able to have the kind of season he has, because Dodson's presence allows him to be turned loose. The defensive tackles can be more aggressive because they know Dodson will be there to make plays if they can't.
Dodson has done an excellent job calling defenses and being in the right place at the right time. He also doesn't miss tackles. He's probably the most fundamentally sound linebacker the Aggies have had since Sumlin took over.
Right now, the Aggies are giving up 95.6 yards a game on the ground. Only Arkansas has gone over 100, and the 26 yards on 23 carries South Carolina had was the lowest A&M has given up in eight years. At this point last year, the Aggies had given up 135.4 yards per ground on the game and we thought that wasn't bad (they'd end up giving up 181.9, which IS bad). Four of the five opponents still went over 100 yards, with only Prairie View being kept below.
The Aggies are +8 in turnover margin and have 20 sacks on the season. Their pass defense is still way below par, but in other areas it's actually surpassing expectations. Dodson is a major part of that.
Some positive news
I noticed Nick Starkel was out of his boot Saturday night, which means he's probably on schedule for a return after the bye week. He's not going to get his job back, but it would still be a huge boost for the Aggies to have a reliable option at backup quarterback.
Yes, I'm saying I'm not sure that we'll see Jake Hubenak before Starkel returns.
SEC Power Rankings
1) Alabama: no questions about this.
2) Georgia: very good, but not in Bama's league.
3) Auburn: improving rapidly.
And then the dropoff...
4) Texas A&M: They ARE 4-1.
5) Florida: Also 4-1, but their starting QB is gone and their defense is giving up better than 5 yards a play.
6) Kentucky: Also 4-1, but unimpressive.
7) Mississippi State: Slipping rapidly.
8) South Carolina: Amazing that they can be 3-2, as bad as they are and still be this high.
9) Vandy: Gets spanked 59-0 and still isn't in the bottom quadrant. That shows how weak the SEC is this year.
10) Arkansas: At least they compete.
11) LSU: They don't.
12) Tennessee: Makes LSU look like they compete.
13) Ole Miss: It's going to get worse.
14) Missouri: But not this bad.
Back by demand -- the bottom 10!
10) UMass (0-6): Gave Tennessee a run for their money. In Knoxville.
9) North Carolina (1-4): 0-3 in conference and outscored 107-59. Larry Fedora is going looking at bigger jobs to trying to keep the one he has.
8) Rutgers (1-4): Has given up 83 points in two conference games.
7) UTEP (0-5): giving up an average of 45 points a game.
6) Missouri (1-3): May not win another game all year and what's worse, nobody cares.
5) Oregon State (1-4): Giving up more than six touchdowns a game. On average.
4) San Jose State (1-5): Getting beaten on average by a score of 48-16.
3) Bowling Green (0-5): Sure fell off in a hurry.
2) Charlotte (0-5): Beaten by decent teams, spanked by bad ones.
1) Baylor (0-5): The only Power 5 team without a win. Justice.