ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
Alabama photo by Kent Gidley / Alabama football coach Nick Saban talks to an official during Saturday night's 41-38 loss at Texas A&M, which ended the Crimson Tide's 19-game winning streak.

For this week's Southeastern Conference football discussion, we will debate the better football coach between Nick Saban and Terry Bowden.

Bowden won 20 consecutive games at Auburn during the 1993-94 seasons, while Saban seems to get stuck on 19.

OK, OK, enough of that silliness.

Saban's bid to guide Alabama to a 20th consecutive win and a 101st straight victory over an unranked opponent while attaining a personal 25-0 record against his former assistants were all denied late Saturday night when the Crimson Tide dropped a 41-38 thriller to Texas A&M in College Station. Alabama used a 28-7 surge in the second half to turn a 24-10 halftime deficit into a 38-31 lead only to falter offensively and defensively in the closing minutes.

"This is a very disappointing loss for us," Saban said on his Zoom call. "The players are very disappointed, but I think everybody needs to remember how they feel and not forget it. When I talk about respect for winning, that's what I mean.

"Hopefully we can learn a lot from this, because we still can accomplish everything we want to accomplish, but we've got to do things better than we did tonight."

Alabama amassed 522 yards to Texas A&M's 379, but six trips into the red zone of the Aggies yielded two touchdowns, three field goals and a Bryce Young interception in the end zone early in the second quarter.

"You watched the same game I watched," Saban said. "We threw incomplete passes. We had guys open. We ran a bad route, and the guy picked the ball off. We had some drops in critical situations. I don't know if anything went wrong. We just didn't execute."

Said Young: "There is a lot of stuff that we can take from this, and we're going to have to."

Alabama had won 19 straight games since losing 48-45 at Auburn in its 2019 regular-season finale. The Tide also won 19 straight during the 2009-10 seasons, which included the first of Saban's six national titles in Tuscaloosa in 2009 and the first five games of 2010.

"We had won 19 games in a row and went to South Carolina and played about like we played tonight and got beat," Saban said. "I don't know the psychology to all that. It really is not when you get to the game, because when you get to the game, everybody wants to win and play well.

"It's more about what you did to get to the game and how you prepared and practiced. I don't know of anybody in our division that's not a really good team, so if we don't play really well, we'll struggle against anybody we play against."

Alabama set a Football Bowl Subdivision record even in defeat by scoring 30 or more points for a 32nd consecutive contest, breaking the mark of 31 set by UCF during the 2017-19 seasons under Scott Frost and Josh Heupel.

some text
Georgia photo by Tony Walsh / Georgia redshirt freshman Ladd McConkey breaks free for some of his 135 receiving yards during Saturday's 34-10 win at Auburn.

Ladd McConkey is no longer a nice little story for the suddenly unanimous No. 1 Georgia Bulldogs.

The 6-foot, 185-pound redshirt freshman receiver out of North Murray High School has emerged as a chief threat for head coach Kirby Smart and offensive coordinator Todd Monken. In Saturday's 34-10 triumph at Auburn, McConkey racked up five catches for 135 yards and a touchdown.

"I saw the heart of a warrior," Smart said on his Zoom call." I sat in that young man's home, and he didn't have a Power Five offer. He wanted to play big-time football, and all he did was make catches and make plays. I watched him play basketball one night and said, 'I want this guy on my team.'

"His parents are wonderful people and jumped all over the opportunity to play at Georgia, and I think every player on our team would tell you that Ladd McConkey outworks every guy out there."

McConkey racked up 3,051 all-purpose yards as a North Murray senior, when he was used at quarterback, running back, receiver, kickoff returner, punt returner and defensive back. He is the lowest-rated offensive signee of the Smart era but is on pace to receive as much or more praise from Smart than any other Bulldogs player.

His 60-yard touchdown reception midway through the third quarter gave Georgia a 24-3 lead.

"He is everything that's right about college football," Smart said. "This guy wants to win for Georgia."

some text
AP photo by Wade Payne / Tennessee running back Len'Neth Whitehead (27) celebrates after scoring a touchdown during the second half of Saturday's home win against South Carolina.

Tennessee has 14 commitments for the 2022 recruiting cycle but has yet to snag any, at least publicly, since the Heupel era kicked off Sept. 2 against Bowling Green.

Heupel's hiring in late January, when a lengthy NCAA dead period was continuing due to the coronavirus pandemic, relegated the Volunteers to catch-up mode, but their 62-24 and 45-20 whippings of Missouri and South Carolina these past two weeks are surely being viewed in a positive light by the remaining prospects in this cycle as well as younger recruits.

"For a long time, when you take over a program, you talk about what it's going to look like both in the building and on the football field," Heupel said. "We had that dead period, but once June hit, we were able to get them around us. Now you get the opportunity to see what it looks like on the field. We want to be fast and the most aggressive football team on the field every single Saturday.

"That's how we want to be in all three phases, and I know recruits are attracted to that, and I know they can see us growing as a football program. They can see the fun our players are having."

Tennessee's commitments were ranked 32nd in the 247Sports.com team rankings as of Sunday afternoon.

_________

Although Smart and Heupel are in the running for SEC coach of the year at the season's midway mark, my pick at the moment is Kentucky's Mark Stoops.

Sure, the Wildcats were an uninspiring 4-0 in September, but they have defeated Florida and LSU the past two weeks to notch their first 6-0 start since Bear Bryant's 1950 team went 11-1 and upset Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl. Their run of perfection could end this week inside Georgia's Sanford Stadium, but to follow up a 20-13 topping of the Gators with a 42-21 rout of LSU was quite impressive.

"I felt confident that they would just have a great week," Stoops said Saturday night. "When I went in there Monday with the team, they were really locked in."

It may not be long before Ed Orgeron is locked out as LSU's coach. The Tigers fell to 8-8 since winning the 2019 national championship and went from not being able to run the ball against Auburn to not being able to stop the run, as Kentucky rushed for 330 yards.

"I told our guys that we've got to stay together," said Orgeron, whose 3-3 Tigers have Florida, Ole Miss, Alabama and Arkansas next in line. "It's going to be tough, but we've got to stay together.

"I love being the head coach here. Is it tough? Yeah, but I'm not going to feel sorry for myself. I never will."

_________

From the bio on Kentucky's website for quarterback Will Levis: "After football, his dream job is to be a stay-at-home dad with a wife who earns six figures."

_________

Finally, there are six SEC teams that by winning out could claim the two spots at the league championship game in Atlanta: Georgia, Kentucky and Tennessee in the East, and Alabama, Auburn and Mississippi State in the West.

Ole Miss, which opened Sunday as a 4-point favorite for this week's game at Tennessee, has only one SEC loss but would need Alabama to lose.

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524. Follow him on Twitter @DavidSPaschall.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT