With week three of the college football season in the books, a few thoughts:
Alabama: 'Bama probably faced more daunting competition during the week from its scout team. A.J. McCarron probably solidified his hold on the starting job further, but the running game continued to struggle early despite the eye-popping raw numbers in the final stat line, and the offensive line woes continue to baffle. Those struggles mixed with the constant personnel changes up front shows the UA coaching staff still does not have what it wants on the offensive line.
Arkansas: Preseason football finally comes to an end in Fayetteville with an ugly performance against Troy, but more to the point do three straight snoozers to open the season really help this team prepare mentally and physically for a tough road trip to Tuscaloosa? Obviously Bobby Petrino thinks there is a competitive advantage to be found there, but it's a debatable point. We'll find out soon enough.
Auburn: Well I'll be damned, a bad football team plays poorly and this time they actually lose. Thanks a lot Football Gods, that only took three years. The defense was its usual terrible self, but the real issue here was the offensive swoon in the second half. With only three second half points, Auburn only had a solid showing offensively on the day, and given the defensive struggles only on rare occasions will 24 points be enough for this team to beat anyone, and that applies even to teams like Clemson. Florida Atlantic will provide relief, but the four-game stretch after FAU looks brutal.
Florida: Still somewhat of a middling offense with little size outside and no interior running game, but at least the snap woes have been rectified and John Brantley has been competent. Put that with a very strong defense and special teams unit, and the Gators took down the Vols with relative ease in the Swamp. South Carolina will continue to get the hype, but Florida may be the favorite in the East.
Georgia: Can't beat South Carolina? Give Coastal Carolina a try. It worked for Mark Richt, anyway, though he did receive a couple of kisses of death mid-week. The real question: What is the over / under on the number of wins Richt needs from here on out to return for 2012? I'd put the over-under at 8.5.
Kentucky: With both Kentucky and Auburn going down, perhaps this was the weekend that bad teams met their reckoning. UK fell at the hands of lowly Louisville as Morgan Newton continued to struggle and the defense wilted against an otherwise inept offense. This team is probably lucky to be 2-1, but in any event let's welcome back the Kentucky football we all know and love from days gone by.
LSU: Fire Crowton! Oh, wait... Not an impressive offensive performance for the Bayou Bengals, and clearly at this point the coaching staff is trying to turn Jarrett Lee into the stereotypical game manager who is asked to do little, if anything, through the air. I'm still not certain why Zach Mettenberger is not the starter, but the Hat seems content with Lee despite having to handle him so gingerly. Offensive struggles notwithstanding, SEC teams with strong defenses, solid special teams, and effective power running games generally go a long way in this conference, and LSU looks primed to do just that this season.
Ole Miss: What happened to the road map to Atlanta you supposedly had, Houston? It's rare to find any team this amazingly bad in every facet of the game, just nothing whatsoever positive to say about anything. Few legitimately believed Nutt would return in 2012, but the question now is can he even make it through the week? At this point, Ole Miss is just cashing the SEC checks and taking the obligatory beatings that come with them. SEC in name only in Oxford.
Mississippi State: Make that 0-10 for Dan Mullen against SEC West teams not named Ole Miss. In all fairness, though, his Bullies were respectable in defeat against a good LSU team, which may be the most they can realistically expect given the current strength of the SEC West. In any event, for obvious reasons, Mullen ought to immediately end any talk of bringing a national championship to Starkville at some point in the future.
South Carolina: Navy's triple-option gave the Gamecocks fits just like many expected. That said, this South Carolina team really isn't good enough to just overwhelm most respectable opponents, and if they are going to win a lot of games many of those wins will have to come in close, nail-biter type victories. Marcus Lattimore is the workhorse, by which I mean he'll probably leave college football with less tread on the tires than any SEC tailback since Herschel Walker. 41 touches against Navy? Lattimore will go down as a Gamecock legend, but in due time he may rue the day he signed on with Steve Spurrier.
Tennessee: The Vols are the anti-LSU, the team that cannot run the ball or play defense and instead hopes a quarterback can save them from the inevitable. Tyler Bray had a solid performance, but he looked fairly normal against a solid defense and not surprisingly the irrational Peyton Manning comparisons turned out to be laughable (well, except that Manning couldn't beat Florida either). The ACL injury to Justin Hunter may be the biggest impact injury in the conference to date. On the amusing side, Dooley is now dressing as ugly as his team plays.
Vanderbilt: The most dominating Vanderbilt win since... well, I wasn't alive for the last dominating win by Vandy. You probably weren't either. James Franklin is off to the best start in Nashville in 75 years and with Army, Kentucky, and Wake Forest still on the schedule, a bottom-tier bowl is not out of the question.