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Texas A&M Football

SEC Round-Up: Quarterback questions quickly growing around the league

October 22, 2020

It wasn't too long ago that Joe Burrow, Tua Tagovailoa, Jalen Hurts and even Jake Fromm were spinning the pigskin on Saturdays in the Southeast. All four are now in the NFL, with three of the four seeing the field quite a bit.

This year, Mac Jones, Kyle Trask and even Kellen Mond have emerged as the top three signal-callers in the SEC. Even Feleipe Franks has been a reliable player in Fayetteville as he and that Razorback defense are currently sitting at 2-2 (and should be 3-1).

However, beyond those three, there is a crowded middle ground of subpar quarterback play in the league.

A lot of guys are hot and cold. Take Ole Miss' Matt Corral for example. Two weeks ago, he completed 21 of 28 passing attempts for 365 yards and two scores against Alabama in a game that was much tighter than many thought it would be. How did he follow that up? By throwing SIX interceptions in a loss to Arkansas.

Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports
Corral followed up an impressive showing against Alabama with six picks against Arkansas.

Rebels' head coach Lane Kiffin said he's not one to make a quarterback switch during a game, but one could be coming in the near future, perhaps following Ole Miss' bye week, which falls on November 7.

Still, whether it's Corral or John Rhys Plumlee leading the Rebels' offense, the issues in Oxford aren't even the worst in the league as far as quarterback play is concerned.

There is major uncertainty surrounding Jarrett Guarantano at Tennessee, K.J. Costello at Mississippi State and former five-star Bo Nix at Auburn. But who is feeling the most pressure?

Costello (a graduate transfer from Stanford) passed for an SEC-record 623 yards in his Mississippi State debut against LSU. However, he has thrown for just 644 yards and one touchdown in three games since. Costello has also thrown eight interceptions in his last three games. True freshman Will Rogers is likely the future quarterback of Mike Leach's Air Raid, but the youngster has already seen some playing time due to Costello's turnover-prone decision making.

Tennessee head coach Jeremy Pruitt benched Guarantano after back-to-back pick-sixes last weekend against Kentucky. Backup J.T. Shrout promptly threw an interception of his own on his first (and only) attempt. The Vols even turned to true freshman Harrison Bailey in what was an ugly 34-7 loss at home. A change from Guarantano might be imminent.

Still, despite all of the subpar play listed above, no SEC program might be in a worse spot regarding quarterback play than Auburn.

Bo Nix was thought to be the answer. He's a legacy. He was a five-star recruit. He shined in his first game as a true freshman against Oregon in 2019. But thus far in 2020, he's been bad.

The Tigers are 2-2, but they should be 1-3 had it not been for an officiating blunder that gifted Auburn a win following a Nix "spike" that he threw backward. In last week's 33-20 loss to South Carolina, Nix threw three picks. Through four games, Nix has thrown for 869 yards with five touchdowns and four interceptions.

John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports
Malzahn could be fired if the Tigers don’t turn it around.

To make matters worse, Gus Malzahn and Chad Morris don't really have another option to turn to as last year's backup, Joey Gatewood, transferred to Kentucky where he's currently backing up Terry Wilson.

The reason for Nix's struggles are unknown. Perhaps it's the pressure that comes with being a five-star prospect, or maybe it's the pressure of living up to his name. One thing is certain though: As the Tigers continue to struggle, the pressure is only going to build and build as Malzahn's seat gets warmer and warmer.

Around the SEC

This week's games: Auburn at Ole Miss; No. 2 Alabama at Tennessee; Kentucky at Missouri; South Carolina at LSU

Who's hot: Alabama's passing game has been unreal thus far. In last week's 41-24 drubbing of then-No. 3 Georgia, Mac Jones threw for 417 yards and four touchdowns. Both DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle topped 160 yards receiving. Slowing the Tide's passing attack seems to be an impossible task.

Who's not: Mississippi State's offense was the toast of the league in a week-one upset of the defending national champions. Since that record-breaking performance, the Bulldogs have scored on just 21 points on 39 offensive possessions.

Keep an eye on: Last week's contest between LSU and Florida got canceled following the Gators' issues with COVID-19, allowing Tigers' defensive coordinator Bo Pelini an extra week to possibly iron out many of LSU's many defensive issues. Will we see a slightly improved unit against South Carolina or will we see more of the same uninspiring defensive performances?

The pressure is on: Auburn lost to South Carolina for the first time since 1933. Gus Malzahn could very well be on the hot seat already, and if the Tigers fall to the Rebels in Oxford, the temperature could be turned way up on the plains even with that $21.45 million buyout.

Best matchup: Auburn at Ole Miss. The Rebels proved two weeks ago that they can score points, but Arkansas shut them down pretty well last week. Auburn's defense is better than the Razorbacks' (418.8 yards allowed per game), but this will be the first time the Tigers face an offense that isn't afraid to air it out.

Discussion from...

SEC Round-Up: Quarterback questions quickly growing around the league

5,267 Views | 5 Replies | Last: 2 yr ago by Traveler
How long do you want to ignore this user?
When is Gus not on the hot seat ?
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AgOutsideAustin said:

When is Gus not on the hot seat ?

No doubt it should just be called the Gus seat moving forward.
How long do you want to ignore this user?
Or maybe the Auburn seat. When is the Auburn coach ever Not on the hot seat (other than the week after beating Bama)?
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- I'm a KM supporter and think the criticism of him is generally way over the top, but on what planet is he a "top 3" SEC QB?
- I mean, his QBR is 9/14 in the SEC. Bennet, Bazelak, even Nix and Corral are all ahead of him.
- You trash Corral after one terrible game, but ignore the multiple T/O game KM had against Vandy.
- Geez man, do a little research! It would have taken less than 15s to google actual objective data.
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