Sep 15, 2012; Knoxville, TN, USA; Tennessee Volunteers quarterback Tyler Bray (8) walks to the sideline after failing to make the first down against the Florida Gators during the second half at Neyland Stadium. Florida defeated Tennessee 37-20. Mandatory Credit: Jim Brown-US PRESSWIRE
With week three of the college football season in the books, a few thoughts:
Alabama: 'Bama opens with big games against Michigan and Arkansas, and after three weeks has outscored opponents 128-14 without being meaningfully tested. Special teams has been surprisingly good, and Eddie Lacy looks healthy for the first time in a while. Defense pitched back-to-back shutouts, which is the first time that has happened since the Bryant era. Don't tell Nick Saban, but now the Tide gets a couple of easier weeks to prepare for what is going to be a difficult run in October. Pass defense could still be a big concern, and at some point in October this team will be seriously tested deep into the second half. Through three games, Alabama is +11 in turnover margin. No one on the schedule outside of LSU can take down 'Bama if that trend continues.
Arkansas: Existential crisis in Fayetteville after the loss to Louisiana-Monroe and one of the most embarrassing margins of defeat in program history. Bottom line: this team absolutely quit in the second half. Tyler Wilson must be the savior if they are to rebound, but it would be no surprise if this program just folded entirely and finished up 4-8. Chris Gragg has the body to play a long time in the NFL. If Darius Winston gets any worse at cornerback, Auburn will try to poach him away.
Auburn: After a hail mary touchdown pass and a quarterback-throwback touchdown on a trick play, you get two missed field goals to beat Louisiana-Monroe, at home, in overtime, and according to your head coach it's a "great" win? Not exactly sure how dramatic improvement via self-congratulation and back-patting works. Kiehl Frazier looked better, not that he could play much worse. Defense gave up 400+ yards, 30+ points, and 25+ first downs. Again. If Arkansas weren't such a raging dumpster fire, there would be a legitimate question if this team could get to 6-6. Judging by their fan base reaction, it's easier to find skyscrapers down on the Plains these days than orange and blue Kool-Aid. Just going to throw this out there: Two years after his undefeated season, Terry Bowden was still 8-4 with wins over Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi State.
Florida: Jeff Driskell may be the single most improved player in the conference in the first three weeks, he made several key plays last night in Knoxville. Ugly defensive performance for a while, but finished out strong in the fourth and the running game eventually gashed the Tennessee defense. Best this offense has played since the height of the Tebow era. Mike Gillislee looks like a legitimate weapon as an interior back. Probably not on the level of 'Bama, LSU, and Georgia just yet, but this team now looks a lot better in year two.
Georgia: Sluggish start in Athens gives way to a snooze fest against one of the worst teams in all of college football. 713 yards of total offense despite only throwing 19 passes? That will usually get the job done. Be interesting to see what this team does against Tennessee in two weeks. In the meantime, wonder if they will play down to the competition this weekend against Vandy?
Kentucky: Western Kentucky isn't that bad, but the same doesn't hold true for Kentucky. How can you be an SEC member in basketball country and yet still have only the third best football program in your own state? Low expectations and indifference might command otherwise, but there is no real reason why Joker Phillips should return next season.
LSU: Somewhat sleepy first half in Baton Rouge, but 35 unanswered second half points turns this into a laugher. Idaho is obviously terrible, but this LSU team has looked really good in the first three weeks. With the implosion of Arkansas, there isn't a team on this schedule outside of Alabama that can legitimately play with this team unless LSU has numerous self-inflicted wounds. Ought to be crimes against nature in Jordan-Hare this weekend.
Ole Miss: Gave up 66 points and 676 yards of offense to the Longhorns, and the biggest surprise is that they somehow convinced Texas to make the trip to Oxford. Bo Wallace alternated between impressive and stupefying, but this team has some decent playmakers at the skill positions and can score some points. Defense exists in uniform only, but if Wallace can avoid the turnovers would it be a big surprise to see this team gather a conference win or two? Perhaps not. That is about all Colonel Reb can hope for at this point.
Mississippi State: One week after taking Auburn to the woodshed, MSU narrowly escapes Troy, 30-24, after giving up almost 600 yards of total offense. Big nights from Chad Bumphis and Ladarius Perkins saved the day, but Tyler Russell was badly inconsistent, throwing for 244 yards and three touchdowns but completing only 11 passes on 27 attempts. And the defense ... well, what defense? Be interesting to see what this team can do once they actually play a semi-legitimate opponent. Mullen has been exceedingly pompous about the whole first-place-in-the-SEC-West thing, but this team has shown us nothing to indicate they can compete with the top third of the conference.
Missouri: James Franklin was a surprising scratch due to an apparent shoulder injury, but Corbin Berkstresser picked up the reins and did just well enough to squeak by Arizona State. This team had a bit of a fourth quarter implosion for a second week in a row, but did just enough to hold on for the win. Really surprising how much of a non-factor Dorial Green-Beckham has been in such a receiver friendly offense. Big opportunity for this program this weekend against South Carolina.
South Carolina: Blowout win over UAB, but Connor Shaw took another beating and he apparently has a fracture somewhere in his throwing shoulder. Marcus Lattimore continues to get the light workload, which is likely good news for the stretch run. Spurrier talked in the postgame as if there could be some changes made on the offensive line, which has struggled the past two weeks. Gamecocks face Missouri this weekend on CBS, and that could be a big problem for them if the offense sputters.
Tennessee: Passing game can be almost unstoppable when everything is working, but when it slows the rest of the team just falls apart. The Vols will go as far as Bray and company can take them, because the defense, the running game, and special teams just aren't very good. Hot seat is back on Dooley after the NC State win, though a lot of that is perhaps misplaced and overreaction for the time being. This team won't compete for the SEC East title, but the passing game alone probably puts it in the middle of the league, and a big upset somewhere wouldn't be surprising. 2012 won't be the problem for Dooley, 2013 will.
Texas A&M: Easy blowout of SMU, as Johnny Manziel was a one-man show with 294 yards through the air and another 124 on the ground. Problem is, one-man shows work really well against overwhelmed teams like SMU, but you can't do that against the better teams in the conference and expect to win. Defense was good against a bad offense, and given how good the Florida offense looked against Tennessee this unit may be better than expected. Tailback Christine Michael was suspended for a violation of team rules. With South Carolina State, Arkansas, Ole Miss, and Louisiana Tech in the next month, this team could be 5-1 and ranked with LSU coming to College Station.
Vanderbilt: Turns out that Presbyterian has a football team. Well, sort of.