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Lang's World: Kentucky among those atop SEC standings – in football – is just so, uh, weird

by Lang Whitaker | Grizz Gaming GM

MEMPHIS – The SEC is not supposed to be this way.

A school from Alabama is supposed to be at the top of one division, and then either Georgia or Florida atop the other. Maybe an LSU gets frisky and involved for a year or two, or South Carolina puts together a few competitive years.

But for the most part, things are generally status quo around the SEC.

Until now. The Kentucky Wildcats enter Week 6 undefeated, at 5-0. They’ve won all five games by double digits, are 3-0 in the SEC (including wins over Florida and South Carolina) and haven’t really shown any signs of looking troubled. In a land of high-speed spread offenses, the ’Cats are running the ball down opponents’ throats like it’s the ’80s, and they’ve given up the third-fewest point per game in the country.

Kentucky is for real. And it’s weird.

For as long as I can remember, there has been a procession of coaches at Kentucky, mostly memorable for having funky names: Guy Morriss, Joker Phillips, Hal Mumme. And it’s not like things were bereft on the athletic front, as the men’s basketball team returned to powerhouse status.

Look at Kentucky’s all-time records against historically good SEC schools:

  • Alabama 2-37
  • Auburn 6-26
  • Florida 18-51
  • Georgia 12-56
  • LSU 16-40
  • Ole Miss 14-28
  • Tennessee 25-79

They’ve been down so long, being down didn’t really seem to bother them. But with Mark Stoops in his sixth season as head coach, they finally have some continuity. They’re getting better recruits and building a strong base that should give them something they’ve lacked forever: stability.

We don’t know if this success is sustainable, obviously. But for now, there appears to be a new world order in the SEC. A few days ago, I sent a text message to my friend Matt, a fellow UGA fan, which a few years ago would have seemed unimaginable:

“UGA at UK on 11/3. Road trip?”

Both schools have a few hurdles to clear before we reach that date – most notably UGA’s game at LSU in two weeks – but if both schools continue on this collision course, we could have an epic battle.

The question is no longer, ‘Is Kentucky real?’ Now the question is, ‘Can they keep it going?

The answer can wait for another day. But for now? Sit back and enjoy the ride, UK fans. Even if it feels weird to be invested this early in the fall.


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And on the other side of the coin is Tennessee football, which seems to be undergoing something of a rebuilding period. The great Spencer Hall put together a helpful emotion map made entirely of the faces of Tennessee fans to help you figure out which type of Vols fan you are. There’s a lot there, which we’ll delve into more deeply in upcoming weeks.


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Related:


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Also related, during Tennessee’s loss to Georgia on Saturday, UGA kicker Rodrigo Blankenship basically had to pump-fake a point-after attempt when the snap was bobbled. He still somehow managed to make the kick.

This got me thinking about how far away I could make a field goal from if I was forced to kick against a rushing defense. I think I could maybe make a 20-yarder, but it would be, at best, like Hot Rod’s wounded duck.


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Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence went down with an injury in the game against Syracuse. Former starter Kelly Bryant had announced his plans to transfer just days earlier after losing the starting job, leaving the Tigers with just a former three-star recruit to step in and take the helm. (That backup, Chase Brice, led Clemson to a come-from-behind win.) It sounds as though Lawrence may not miss significant time, but for a few hours there on Saturday, it sure seemed like Clemson was in trouble.

You know who I’m guessing turned on their Twitter alerts for the situation? Nick Saban and Kirby Smart. Both of them have two top-tier QBs on their rosters, which provides very nice insurance policies in case of injury. In case of transfer? Well, then you’re just one tackle from everything falling apart.


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I know the receiver on Penn State had an awesome catch on national TV, but I thought the catch of the weekend came from Sam Houston State wideout Davion Davis, who went one-handed to pull in this amazing grab...


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Here’s a terrific remembrance of the night Auburn and Mississippi State “set football back 20 years.” Yep, this is a well-reported piece about the tenth anniversary of the epic barnburner that ended with a score of 3-2.

Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that Tommy Tuberville was involved. Also, this made me feel pretty old because I remember it happening.


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Heisman Watch: We all know the usual suspects, but I thought we could take a look at some of the not-so-usual candidates. DID YOU KNOW, for instance, that Arizona State running back Eno Benjamin ran for 300+ yards this weekend against Oregon State? These highlights are pretty incredible…


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The latest addition to the sideline turnover gimmick came from West Virginia, who busted out the turnover miner’s helmet!

Needs a light on the front.


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ESPN has been doing a series of videos featuring the weird talents of various college football players. Most of them have been pretty pedestrian – backflips, etc. – But, Tulane’s Robert Kennedy broke out a skill that I don’t think I’ve ever seen before: He stuffed an entire apple in his mouth and ate it. Whole.


Even more amazing is that he lost the fan vote to the guy who did the backflip on the beach. Really? I feel like if I trained hard I could pull off the backflip. But eating an apple whole is something for which no amount of training could prepare me.

The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Memphis Grizzlies. All opinions expressed by Lang Whitaker are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Memphis Grizzlies or its Basketball Operations staff, owners, parent companies, partners or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Memphis Grizzlies and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.