Gene Swindoll, Gene's Page

What should the SEC West be thankful for?

As the holidays approach, the college football regular season continues to dwindle down. Although the season has almost come to an end, one thing has remained constant; the SEC West is still one of the deepest and most dominant conferences in the country. Today we will take a look at what each team in the West should be thankful for this year.

Alabama - Jalen Hurts - The obvious answer here could be Nick Saban, and while that is true, if you focus on this year solely, Jalen Hurts has got to be the choice. Nobody expected the true freshman to step in immediately and take command of the starting position. Hurts has added a dimension to the Tide offense that has not been seen in Tuscaloosa in a while. And that is being a true dual-threat quarterback that can run as well as pass. Although Alabama has always been known for their defense, Hurts has helped the offense play on a different level than years past, which has made Alabama a great offensive and defensive team this year. The true freshman has compiled a 65% completion rate, 2,139 passing yards, 803 rushing yards, and 29 total touchdowns to only 7 interceptions. Good luck SEC for the years to come.

Auburn - Kamryn Pettway - An argument can be made that Auburn should be thankful for Kevin Steele. I'm not denying that at all since Auburn's defense has been much better this season. But in only 8 games this year, Pettway has 1,123 yards rushing and 7 touchdowns. That equals to 140 rushing yards per game and 1 touchdown per game in arguably the toughest division in football. Without Pettway, Auburn's dominant rushing attack suddenly looked lost two weekends ago against Georgia. There has only been two games this year that Pettway played in and did not exceed 100 yards rushing. Auburn doesn't have much of a passing game to lean on, which makes him that much more vital to the offensive production.

Arkansas - Austin Allen - While it has been an up and down season for the Hogs, Allen, when healthy, has been a steady contributor. Younger brother of former razorback quarterback Brandon Allen, Austin has stepped in nicely and given the Hogs a tough, hard-nosed quarterback who will stand in the pocket and deliver the tough throws. Allen has a 61% completion rate, 2,804 passing yards, and 22 touchdowns to 10 interceptions in his first year as the full-time starter. Not to mention that Allen has been doing this with an offensive line that has given up the second most sacks in the conference. With a year of eligibility remaining, the Razorback's gunslinger will return as one of the best passing quarterbacks in the SEC next year, and quite possibly the country.

LSU - Dave Aranda - LSU has always had a solid defense. Aranda, however, has taken the Tigers from solid to elite. LSU is currently seventh in the country in points per game allowed, 16 points per game. The average points per game given up last season was 24. Only one team has exceeded 21 points against the stout defense this whole season. Aranda and the Tigers defense has given LSU a chance to win every game this year. If not for a stagnant offense, LSU could possibly be undefeated.

Mississippi State - Returning Players - Talk about finishing your season on a high note. After a season that included highs and lows, the Bulldogs seemed to put it all together against Ole Miss in perhaps the biggest game of the year for the Bulldogs and Bulldog faithful. Maybe the most encouraging sign is what will be coming back next year. With the exception of three key players, the Bulldogs return most of their team and production on the offensive and defensive side of the ball. With a huge 55-20 win over Ole Miss and an invitation to a bowl game, those two could be hugh momentum builders leading into next year. The extra practices this bowl season will only help the upcoming young team for next year.

Ole Miss - Shae Patterson - Although this season did not go like most envisioned for the Rebels, injuries mounted week after week. After starting quarterback Chad Kelly found out he had torn his ACL, Hugh Freeze decided to make a decision that could help the Rebels mightily next season. Instead of letting Patterson continue his redshirt, Freeze decided to burn it and name him the starter with three games left in the season. Since many think Patterson will not stay all four years anyway, Freeze chose to throw the true freshman out onto the field and get him some valuable experience. Although Patterson had freshman moments, as many expected, he also flashed his abundance of talent several times, drawing comparisons to former Heisman trophy winning quarterback Johnny Manziel. Unfortunately for the Rebels, they did not make a bowl game due to a horrid defense, which, with the extra practices, could have helped the freshman in his development.

Texas A&M - Myles Garrett - Garrett has become known as one of the, if not the best defensive player in the nation. Combining freakish measurements along with elite production has made the projected number one overall pick for next year's draft a legend in Aggie-land. In three seasons, Garrett has combined for 47 tackles for loss, and 31 sacks. Garrett being so dominant the past three seasons has helped many other defenders on the Aggie defense. Texas A&M could not have asked for more out of Garrett during his time at A&M as he will most likely move on to the NFL after the bowl game.


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