SEC powers piling up wins, if not Heisman-worthy stats
By JOHN ZENOR
AP Sports Writer
The Southeastern Conference doesn’t have any football players putting up video game-style numbers.
There’s Jalen Hurts and Jake Fromm but no Baker Mayfield. Nick Chubb, Damien Harris and Kerryon Johnson, but no Bryce Love. And if that keeps up there probably won’t be much Heisman Trophy love either.
No. 1 Alabama and No. 2 Georgia are loaded with talented players, but the teams divvy carries with multiple tailbacks and don’t put up huge passing numbers.
A case could easily be made that the best player on each team plays on defense, Alabama safety Minkah Fitzpatrick and Georgia linebacker Roquan Smith.
The offensive players don’t seem too bothered by the lack of Heisman hype.
For his part, Crimson Tide tailback Bo Scarbrough, who looked like one of the nation’s top runners at the end of last season, said he’s perfectly happy with splitting carries with Harris, Hurts and others.
“We’re not worried about attention,” Scarbrough said. “We’re just trying to win. We’re trying to win the whole thing. We’re trying to be the champions of college football. It doesn’t matter about separate awards. We all want to be rewarded as one.”
There are plenty of big games left for players like Hurts and Chubb to produce Heisman moments. But right now, it’s shaping up to be a repeat of last season, when the SEC’s top vote getter was ‘Bama defensive lineman Jonathan Allen at No. 7.
The league figures to produce a wealth of NFL talent — as usual. There is just not a runner carrying the load like Stanford’s Love, the nation’s top Power 5 rusher, or Alabama’s 2015 Heisman winner Derrick Henry.
And it seems highly unlikely that Tide quarterback Hurts or the Georgia freshman Fromm are going to throw for 598 yards like Oklahoma’s Mayfield did in a 62-52 win over Oklahoma State.
The SEC doesn’t have a runner ranked among the top 20 nationally.
Chubb leads Georgia with 867 yards and nine touchdowns while Sony Michel isn’t far behind with 710 yards and the same number of TDs.
Michel echoed Scarbrough’s win-first sentiment, saying when a team’s winning players are not worried about how many yards they have.
“Me personally, and I think I can speak for the rest of the backs on this team, we’re not really into the personal accolades,” he said. “Those type of things just come.”
Alabama’s Harris is averaging an eye-opening 8.1 yards per carry with nine touchdowns. His 90 carries in nine games is far below the 151 Love has produced in eight outings.
Hurts is a dangerous playmaker and leader of the league’s highest scoring offense but isn’t even among the SEC’s top 10 passers in yards per game. Fromm is — barely, at No. 10.
“The two teams that have the profile to have a Heisman winner on their team have logjams at their glory spots, the running back position,” CBS analyst Rick Neuheisel said. “Both have three or four guys. Georgia, heck they play five guys.
“And the quarterbacks have not been asked to do it because they’ve been so efficient in the running game.”
No. 10 Auburn’s Johnson is the carries the biggest load among the SEC’s top teams, especially with Kamryn Pettway out with a fractured shoulder blade. Johnson has missed two games but still leads the SEC with a 124-yard average per game and 15 touchdowns.
He’s also got high-profile games against the Bulldogs and Tide to perhaps put himself into the Heisman conversation and has averaged 26 carries over the past five games.
“I don’t mind it. Obviously, hit-wise and number-wise, it’s definitely hard,” Johnson said. “But as long as I’m still walking, I’ll keep doing it. Guys at Georgia and Alabama, they split carries and it helps preserve them during the season, but you know, we had a running back go down and things change.”
Alabama plays at No. 18 Mississippi State Saturday night, and Georgia awaits the Western Division winner in the SEC title game.
Tennessee linebacker Quart’e Sapp has faced both the Tide and Bulldogs. He has a pick for who the best player he saw on those teams.
“I would probably say Hurts,” Sapp said. “He really shocked me how he carried himself. He was laidback the whole game, never really seen anybody like that.”
Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen’s team is tasked with trying to stop Hurts and Alabama’s other playmakers, including Harris and Scarbrough.
“You have to stop all of them,” Mullen said. “It’s not one guy — they’re certainly not a one-man show. You’ve got to stop everybody.”
And since there’s no Everybody Heisman award, that’s one conversation the SEC probably won’t be in again this year.