1 thing I learned about every SEC team in Week 3
The beauty of Week 3 matchups is simple — they can push a thought one way or the other.
Like, maybe we see a certain player look good one week and disappear the next. How he performs in Week 3 can push that thought to a majority, and thus, somewhat of a conclusion as to what’s real and what’s not.
I’m not sure how many conclusions we got to in Week 3. Not everyone has even played a conference game yet.
But we still learned plenty of things in the third week of 2018 (even for a certain team that didn’t play):
Alabama — The secondary can do the heavy lifting
When Saivion Smith got burned by D.K. Metcalf on that first play from scrimmage, I had the same thought that probably every Alabama fan had.
“Oh man. This could get ugly for this inexperienced secondary.”
Then Trevon Diggs broke up Ole Miss’ first deep pass play on that second possession and the Tide didn’t allow another point. Holding a prolific quarterback like Jordan Ta’amu to 7-of-22 passing for 133 passing yards (6-of-21 for 58 yards after that opening play) was downright impressive. That was perhaps the most encouraging thing for Alabama on a night that looked like it was going to be a back-and-forth shootout.
Arkansas — This is going to be rougher than we thought
Man. I didn’t see that coming. I thought North Texas had a shot to make it a full 60-minute game, but to boat race the Razorbacks in Fayetteville like that was a tough thing to stomach. Losing a second game to a Group of 5 team is one thing. Getting blown out and having 3 quarterbacks throw an interception is a different level of embarrassment. And here’s something to put that all in perspective:
Not sure what to make of this stat: Chad Morris was 3-0 against North Texas while coaching SMU, outscored Mean Green 119-66. Morris takes over at Arkansas, drops North Texas game 44-17
— SEC Mike (@MichaelWBratton) September 16, 2018
The SEC West is not going to be kind to an Arkansas team that clearly doesn’t have an offensive identity.
Auburn — Jordan-Hare isn’t an automatic win
The home winning streak is over. I didn’t think it would happen, but from the jump, we got the vibe that LSU wasn’t intimated by playing at Jordan-Hare. Considering that Auburn beat not 1 but 2 No. 1 teams there last year, what LSU did on Saturday was downright impressive. In my book, it’s the most impressive win in college football thus far.
Credit LSU for taking the punch after Jarrett Stidham led the Tigers back in the second quarter. And pass interference penalty or not, what Joe Burrow did to rally LSU down the stretch was admirable (compared to Gus Malzahn deviating from the up-tempo style that was working). Go figure that Auburn has actually been better away from home thus far.
Florida — Dan Mullen isn’t pleased with Feleipe Franks … but the leash is long
Needless to say, Mullen was not pleased that his quarterback drew an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty in the second consecutive week. Mullen should be upset. He wants Franks to have thicker skin because operating the way he has isn’t going to dig Florida out of this hole.
Mullen wasn’t pleased with Franks’ slow start in his third game in the new system, and added that his efficiency must improve. But the good news for Franks is that Mullen said there’s not a short leash and that he won’t be pulled if he throws a few interceptions. We’ll see if that’s the case throughout 2018.
Georgia — There’s no such thing as a sleeper matchup
It would have made sense if the Dawgs showed up a bit sleepy. Coming off last week’s statement win against South Carolina, Middle Tennessee bumped up to noon wasn’t exactly the Rose Bowl. Still, the Dawgs got a 42-7 halftime lead and didn’t look like it was asleep in its first true sleeper game of 2018. That’s a good sign for a young team that’s still trying to show that it’s every bit as disciplined as the 2017 squad.
Kentucky — Benny Snell can throw, too … sort of
My favorite stat of the year is going to be Snell’s 43-yard passing touchdown. Why? On paper, one would assume that it was some sort of halfback pass. Technically, it was. It was just a little pop pass on a reverse out of the wildcat that Snell shoveled to Terry Wilson, who then pitched it to Zy’Aire Hughes. It’ll make Snell’s September Heisman campaign look a touch more impressive. What can’t Snell do?
LSU — The Tigers are for real
I know there was some skepticism once the dust settled on the Miami win that perhaps the Tigers just took advantage of an overrated team that made too many costly mistakes. That’s why LSU was a 10-point underdog at Auburn. By game’s end, that felt foolish.
If this was any other coach besides Ed Orgeron, I would try to read his lips to see what he was saying.
Alas, that is of no use with Coach O… pic.twitter.com/qzJ7TUZB4V
— Jim Weber (@JimMWeber) September 15, 2018
We’re all a bit guilty of underestimating LSU. Forget the over-under season win total. That’s gone. The Tigers, in my opinion, are worthy of being a top 3-4 team based on the fact that they beat 2 top-10 teams away from home. If that’s not for real, I don’t know what is.
Mississippi State — Don’t bury Aeris Williams just yet
I declared Kylin Hill the next great Joe Moorhead back last week. I still believe he will be, but Williams isn’t going down without a fight. We saw that play out Saturday when Hill struggled early and left with a lower body injury in the second half. That opened the door for Williams, who didn’t play a snap at Kansas State last week, to rip off 101 yards on 11 carries.
Moorhead and Williams said they had a meeting to talk about Williams’ on-field and off-field approach, which wasn’t up to the MSU coach’s standard. With Hill expected to return to the lineup, Moorhead at least knows that he can turn to Williams if needed.
Missouri — The defense is one massive question mark
You know what’s good? A 3-0 start. You know what’s not good? Allowing nearly 600 passing yards to a team that’s now 0-3. Mizzou struggled to stop David Blough, which doesn’t bode well for Saturday’s matchup against Jake Fromm. Mizzou actually came into Saturday allowing just 171.5 passing yards per contest. The problem was the Tigers struggled to generate any pressure on Purdue — they only sacked Blough once — and Purdue’s receivers ran wild.
Well, I won’t put this one on Mizzou.
Purdue with some pinball catch action! pic.twitter.com/uMmXwsbw2j
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) September 16, 2018
Ole Miss — The offense ain’t on that level yet
I was curious just how well Ole Miss’ high-powered offense would match up with Alabama’s defense. If you want to take the first play from scrimmage — a 75-yard touchdown pass to D.K. Metcalf — it was exactly what Ole Miss hoped for. If you want to take the rest of the game, it was exactly what Ole Miss was hoping to move on from after a dismal 2017 showing. Nobody is doubting the talent of N.W.O. or Jordan Ta’amu. But perhaps suggesting that they’d be able to have legitimate success against Nick Saban’s defense was a bit ambitious.
South Carolina — That Vandy matchup suddenly looks a little tougher
Vanderbilt losing at No. 8 Notre Dame by just 5 points created this fascinating SEC East dynamic that we’re going to see play out this Saturday. South Carolina was the preseason No. 2 team in the East while Vanderbilt was No. 7. Yes, the game is in Nashville, but the Gamecocks only opened as 2.5-point favorites. That says a ton about the expected parity in the division right now. Given what Vandy just did at Notre Dame and how far below Georgia that South Carolina looked, this game will do a lot in shaping perception in the battle for second.
Tennessee — There is a such thing as a bad 24-0 shutout
If there were ever a 24-0 shutout that made a fan base feel worse about a season outlook, it was Saturday in Knoxville. To only beat winless UTEP by 3 scores said a lot about the progress that the Tennessee offense still needs to make. And the odd thing is that it’s not like Jarrett Guarantano or Ty Chandler played poorly. This run by Chandler was the big-play ability that Tennessee’s been lacking in recent memory:
But not having the ability to sustain scoring drives and dominate a team with inferior talent doesn’t seem like a good sign heading into SEC play.
Texas A&M — Kellen Mond’s rushing ability can also be a weapon in Jimbo Fisher’s system
In a perfect world, Mond doesn’t have to carry the ball once in a game against a Group of 5 team. But Saturday, he flashed the wheels more so than he did against Clemson.
Mond’s 67 rushing yards and 2 scores — the first multi-rushing score game of his career — were a nice sight to see before he faces an Alabama defense that is plenty capable of stymying indecisive quarterbacks. I’m curious how Fisher uses Mond’s legs to keep Alabama honest. Will we see designed runs? Will Fisher be willing to run quarterback draws with Mond? That’ll say a lot about how much trust he has in Mond to make plays in any way possible.
Vanderbilt — The ‘Dores ain’t scared
Hand up. I made fun of Derek Mason for saying that he wasn’t scared of playing at Notre Dame. After seeing his squad nearly pull off a late comeback to stun the Irish, I stand corrected. That defense did a nice job making sure Notre Dame quarterback Brandon Wimbush wasn’t a passing threat. If not for a fumble on the goal line, that game could’ve followed a different script. It was indeed a moral victory for a Vandy team that was exposed in its first true test last year. Let’s see if the Commodores can have a better SEC opener than they did last year, too.