What you need to know about every SEC East opponent in Week 3
OK, so that was a little better. But not by much.
Tennessee saved some face for the SEC by racing past Virginia Tech at Bristol Motor Speedway, but Georgia nearly stumbled against FCS opponent Nicholls, forcing us to think about that miserable Week 1 all over again.
Here’s what the SEC East teams are up against in Week 3.
No. 23 Florida (2-0) vs. North Texas (1-1)
North Texas PPG: 31.0
North Texas’ strength: The Mean Green sports a multi-headed rushing attack in first-year coach Seth Littrell’s spread offense, with three running backs who have already recorded more than 10 carries and a young quarterback capable of picking up yards with his feet. At 206 rushing yards per game, the C-USA squad ranks No. 51 nationally in that category.
Florida must stop: Senior linebacker Cortney Finney makes a living in the opponent’s backfield, having already compiled 11 tackles, two tackles for loss and one sack.The Gators will want to keep him away from quarterback Luke Del Rio.
Notable: The Mean Green were called the Eagles before fans and media adopted the moniker for the 1966 team’s bullying defense.
No. 16 Georgia (2-0) at Missouri (1-1)
Missouri PPG: 36.0
Missouri allowed: 23.5
Missouri’s strength: The Bulldogs better be ready to defend the pass. Missouri coach Barry Odom has shown a tendency to air it out during his first two games at the helm. The Tigers are a top-10 passing offense, even if their points per game don’t necessarily show it.
Georgia must stop: Sophomore quarterback Drew Lock is the SEC’s leading passer — and No. 6 nationally — at 365 yards per game. The 6-foot-4, 220-pounder tied a program single-game record with five touchdown passes last Saturday as Mizzou dominated Eastern Michigan 61-21.
Notable: Missouri’s lone win against Georgia came in 2013, when the Tigers went 12-2 and made a surprise run to an SEC East championship, a Cotton Bowl victory and a No. 5 final ranking.
Georgia PPG: 29.5
Georgia allowed: 24.0
Georgia’s strength: The Bulldogs are built around running the football, especially with freshman quarterback Jacob Eason still getting acclimated to the college game. After getting stuffed in the ground game by lowly Nicholls last weekend, coach Kirby Smart’s squad has a little something to prove about its physicality.
Missouri must stop: It’s no secret that Georgia’s offense runs through Nick Chubb. Even after his 80-yard outing against the Colonels, the junior running back is still fifth nationally with 151 yards per game and has the Heisman Trophy in his sights.
Notable: Georgia is 4-1 against Missouri and 3-1 since the Tigers joined the SEC in 2012.
Kentucky (0-2) vs. New Mexico State (1-1)
New Mexico State PPG: 27.0
New Mexico State’s strength: The Aggies (Sun Belt) like to spread it out in their up-tempo offense engineered by dual-threat quarterback Tyler Rogers.
Kentucky must stop: Rogers has amassed 495 yards and three total touchdowns through three games, making for a stiff challenge for the Wildcats’ defense. Kentucky will also have to account for senior linebacker Rodney Butler, who leads the country in tackles with 39.
Notable: Too bad this game is in Lexington. A New Mexico State tradition is to have a “Wonder Dog” retrieve the kicking tee after every kickoff at home games. There have been two “Wonder Dogs” in program history: Smoki and Striking.
South Carolina (1-1) vs. East Carolina (2-0)
East Carolina PPG: 42.5
ECU’s strength: After starting the season with two SEC games, South Carolina finally gets a respite from the rigors of the conference. Its reward? Just one of the best offenses in the country. The Pirates, who knocked off N.C. State last week, bring the nation’s 10th best offense (566.5 yards per game) into Columbia.
South Carolina must stop: Senior quarterback Philip Nelson has completed an astounding 81.3 percent of his passes — the best mark in the country — for 695 yards and six touchdowns. Leading his group of talented receivers is senior Zay Jones, who’s averaging 126.5 receiving yards an outing.
Notable: At home games, the Pirates raise two different flags in the style of old pirate ships at sea. The Jolly Roger (skull and crossbones) is hoisted just before kickoff, and the No Quarter flag waves throughout the fourth quarter.
No. 15 Tennessee (2-0) vs Ohio (1-1)
Ohio PPG: 45.5
Ohio’s strength: Just like almost every other school these days, Ohio is all about offense. The Bobcats rank in the top 21 nationally in scoring while maintaining a near-perfect balance between passing yards (560) and rushing yards (566).
Tennessee must stop: With a high-powered offense usually comes a dual-threat quarterback. Senior Greg Windham certainly fits the bill, ranking No. 9 nationally in total offense with 371.5 yards per game. He’s a threat with his feet, and while his 57.3 completion percentage isn’t too sexy, he has thrown five touchdowns to only one interception.
Notable: The school’s bobcat mascot is named Rufus.
Vanderbilt (1-1) at Georgia Tech (2-0)
Georgia Tech PPG: 26.0
Georgia Tech’s strength: Does Paul Johnson still coach this team? If so, the Yellow Jackets are going to do three things: run right, run left and run up the middle. They’ve done so to the tune of 241.5 rushing yards per game, good for 24th in FBS. Georgia Tech’s scoring defense can also be considered a strength, but Boston College and Mercer aren’t exactly setting the world ablaze offensively.
Vanderbilt must stop: Triple option attacks need a smart, experienced quarterback in order to thrive, and the Yellow Jackets have that in Justin Thomas. The three-year starter is a senior now, so making him uncomfortable early and often should be Vanderbilt’s top priority.
Notable: Vanderbilt and Georgia Tech first squared off in 1892, with the Commodores prevailing 20-10.