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Initial Impressions from the SEC Championship Game

The Tide prevailed in another shootout and now await their playoff destiny.

NCAA Football: SEC Championship-Alabama at Florida Adam Hagy-USA TODAY Sports

People around the country were expecting a shootout when Alabama and Florida squads, each led by a QB who spent time as the Heisman frontrunner this season, got together, and in that regard the game didn’t disappoint. In the end, Alabama stood 11-0, as SEC Champions and the obvious top seed in the College Football Playoff.

After the game there was much consternation over the defense. Dan Mullen has always been a great offensive schemer, and he did a masterful job of getting star players Kadarius Toney and Kyle Pitts into single coverage matchups. As we see on a weekly basis with our offense, when you have elite receiving talents who execute well and a QB who gets the ball out on time and accurately, any defense in the country can and will get torched. In fact, while Trask had a very big night, last night was his fourth lowest passer rating of the season and third lowest completion percentage. The only real answer to slow these modern passing attacks is to get pressure on the passer without blitzing, and Alabama did that at times. Will Anderson once again showed flashes of a very bright future in that regard.

The weirdest play of the night had to have been a long 3rd quarter touchdown pass to Trevon Grimes down the right sideline that got Florida back into the game. Patrick Surtain II was in single coverage on the play, and was seemingly in perfect position with his head turned looking for the football. I don’t know if he lost it in the lights or misjudged it thinking it was headed out of bounds, but he strangely let it sail over his head and into the hands of Grimes. Surtain was then out of position to make the tackle and the Gators drew within 11 points. Give Trask and Grimes credit as it was a perfect throw and catch, but the play was pretty bizarre.

One player who did himself no favors last night was Dylan Moses. Maybe he is still worried about his knee, but it’s tough to play the run as a middle linebacker if you’re unwilling to blow up a lead blocker. Check out this contrast of two players taking on Kyle Pitts. Unfortunately we don’t have the end zone replay view of the first one as it shows up much better, but Surtain does his job turning Jones inside and Dylan is supposed to be filling.

That is actually one of the most fun plays for a linebacker. All he has to do is run right through Pitts and knock him into Jones’ path so that others can join the party. Instead, he dances with him.

Now watch Will Anderson taking on Pitts in goal line, and Moses dancing in the end zone on this TD run from Trask.

As you can see, Anderson nearly uses Pitts to fill the hole, and Dylan is a spectator as Trask falls into the end zone. There is no way to sugarcoat it, those two plays are flat out poor linebacker play and frankly appear to be a lack of effort. If Dylan’s knee is causing too much NFL Draft on the brain, perhaps Jaylen Moody needs to get a look in his stead. Barring that, let’s hope that Dylan is ready to play with his hair on fire in the playoffs because he undoubtedly cost himself money in the spotlight last night.

So, about that offense.

What more can you say about them? The one Mac Jones interception, that wasn’t totally his fault, was the only thing holding his passer rating under 200 again. He currently sits at 203.9, which would beat the record set just last year by Joe Burrow. Najee Harris may have thrust himself into the Heisman conversation with a record five total TDs and 245 scrimmage yards, but DeVonta Smith did nothing to squander the lead he seems to hold in that race. All Smith did was carry the passing game again with an absurd 15 catches for 184 yards and two scores. John Metchie III had a solid receiving night as well, but he made a name for himself after the interception.

That had to have been the hit of the year.

Of course, the offensive numbers wouldn’t be possible without typically stellar line play. The injury to Landon Dickerson is concerning, to say the least. Of all the great Alabama centers under Saban, Dickerson is physically the strongest. He routinely takes on nose tackles solo and wins, allowing the guards to climb to the second level, and his attitude is infectious as well. If he is gone as he appears to be, that is going to be a massive hole to be filled. But hey, we’re used to that, right?

In the end, Alabama is right where they wanted to be. This team will be favored to bring home another national title, but will of course have to go through some great competition to get there. The offense is going to have to carry the day, and thus far they have without fail. They now have 11 days to prepare for the semifinals. Hope for the best.

Roll Tide.