Week three is officially in the books, and this season is already flying by. I hope you are soaking in everything every Saturday. It will be week six before you know it.
Here are the main takeaways from week three action:
Related: Alabama-Texas A&M highlights
Best player, best team shined: It’s true; Johnny Manziel was the best player on the field Saturday, but Alabama’s victory made them one step closer to winning another SEC and national championship. Both shined on college football’s biggest stage. The Tide exit the favorite in the West, and they are clearly the team to beat. AJ McCarron hammered the Aggies for 334 yards and four TDs through the air, while his counterpart Johnny Football did nothing but cement himself as college football’s best player. Manziel shredded Alabama’s defense for 562 yards and five TDs. Manziel’s 562 total yards were more than Nick Saban has given up to one team, and the Aggies’ 628 yards was the most given up in Alabama program history. Alabama continues to struggle with dual-threat QBs, but no team remaining on the schedule has that type of player or offense.
The year of offense? Who says the SEC is a defensive league? Offense is taking center stage in 2013. What does it mean? Well, nothing yet. But Ole Miss-Vanderbilt combined for 74 points in week one; Georgia-South Carolina combined for 71 last week; and Alabama-Texas A&M combined for 91 yesterday. It’s a different kind of year, headlined by some of the best quarterback play in SEC history. Are LSU and Florida the only two SEC teams that play defense?
Win one for the Malzahn(er): The Tigers broke their 10-game SEC winless streak. Auburn is sitting right where they expected to be at 3-0. We knew Auburn-Mississippi State would be close, and credit Auburn and QB Nick Marshall with pulling out the victory. Through the first two weeks, the Tigers had been dominating the ground game. Last night they beat Mississippi State through the air, as Nick Marshall completed 23 of 34 for 339 yards, two TDs and two INTs. Marshall threw the game-winning TD to TE CJ Uzomah with 10 seconds left. It hasn’t been pretty, but the Tigers are averaging 31 points per game through three weeks. That’s the Malzahn factor.
Tennessee shredded: Entering this game, we knew Tennessee was a major underdog and there shouldn’t be too much made about an Oregon blowout. But 59-14? That’s Tennessee’s worst loss in 108 years. The offense looked promising early, going up 7-0, but the Ducks scored 59 unanswered points. The defense was gashed for 687 total yards. Oregon is just on another level talent-wise, and the bigger measuring stick will come against Florida Saturday. The Vols’ secondary yielded 471 passing yards, and if there is any good news at all, they play Jeff Driskel and Florida next week. Should Justin Worley even be the starter against Florida? Can the Vols’ offense muster enough against the Gators? There are more questions than answers right now for Butch Jones’ team.
Held on: South Carolina rebounded against Vanderbilt and held on late. Connor Shaw was his normal pesky self, throwing for 284 yards and three TDs, and he even led the rushing attack with 84 yards. Remember, the Gamecocks have the most favorable schedule compared to Florida or Georgia, and they are definitely not even close to being out of the East race. It wasn’t always pretty last night, but they secured the win late, much like Georgia did to them last week.
Related: South Carolina-Vanderbilt highlights
Signature win: Ole Miss took care of business on the road, and regardless of whether or not Texas is mediocre, it was a signature win for Hugh Freeze and the Rebels. If they’re going to take that next step as a program and become a dark horse factor this year, it was a must-win game. QB Bo Wallace is playing great football, and he’s thrown for four TDs and no INTs through three games. That’s marked improvement, and his development continues for Freeze’s offense. Don’t count out Ole Miss just yet in 2013; they have LSU and Texas A&M in Oxford. But up next after the bye week is Alabama.
Thumping lessers: Credit Arkansas and LSU with hammering lesser opponents Saturday, exactly what they needed to do. Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams both recorded 100-yard games, and each has rushed for 100 yards in the first three games. Collins became the first freshman in SEC history to record three straight 100-yard rushing games. However, QB Brandon Allen suffered a right shoulder injury that kept him out for the second half, and credit the defense with holding Southern Miss to three points.
Related: Three takeaways from Arkansas’ win
LSU destroyed Kent State behind another impressive offensive showing. Zach Mettenberger threw for three scores, and RB Jeremy Hill rushed for 117 yards and two TDs. WRs Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry combined for 9 catches for 142 yards and three TDs. The Tigers continue to fly under the radar heading into week four. How good are they?
Squandered opportunities: Kentucky left plays all over the field against Louisville, along with several critical dropped passes. In order to beat top 10 opponents, those plays have to be made. I loved the intensity the Kentucky defense started the game with, but ultimately, that intensity wore down late, and holding Teddy Bridgewater down proved difficult in the second half. Kentucky is on the right track; it’s just going to take a while to get there.
Warming up: This past offseason I predicted that Dan Mullen’s seat would get as warm as the only coach on the actual hot seat in Mizzou’s Gary Pinkel. After an awful showing against Oklahoma State, there were whispers regarding Mullen, his tenure and his future. Last night’s game against Auburn was his most important game as the MSU head coach. And he lost. Mullen was supposed to be the Malzahn before Malzahn, and now he faces a 1-2 start. The Bulldogs will likely be favored in only three remaining games against Troy, Bowling Green and Kentucky. And the one person putting the most pressure on Mullen isn’t anyone in Starkville; it’s Hugh Freeze.
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