Biggest takeaways from the SEC's wild Week 3
Week 3 in the SEC is already over. You’ll be wondering where the season went in just two months.
RELATED: Projecting today’s AP Top 25
Let’s get down to business for Week 3:
SEC West is nasty: How much better is the West than the East? Holy chasm. Either Arkansas or Mississippi State is the West’s No. 7 team right now, and either one would compete for the SEC East division. The reality is MSU or Arkansas can be very good football teams and still be less than mediocre in their own division. Think about it: Alabama, Auburn, LSU, Ole Miss and Texas A&M are considered the premier contenders, while MSU and Arkansas are making their opponents look silly. The West is 18-0 against all competition with a 34.8-point margin of victory, and against FBS teams the West is 15-0 with a 29-point average margin of victory.
SEC East is wide open: Four teams — South Carolina, Georgia, Florida and Missouri — are the main contenders for the SEC East. Tennessee is a borderline contender, but the Vols are still a couple years away. Thanks to South Carolina’s upset against Georgia, the SEC East race just got nastier and messier. This should be the most thrilling storyline of the entire season.
Missouri is a real contender: Is Mizzou the SEC East favorite? Nobody gave the East’s defending champs credit prior to the start of the season, but the Tigers are a real contender. Maty Mauk is on pace for 52 touchdowns this season after throwing for four more scores against UCF. Mauk is a weapon, but defensive end Shane Ray played out of his mind. Furthermore, with Mauk and an elite defensive line playing lights out, Missouri is right in the mix of a wide open SEC East…and you could argue the Tigers are the favorite.
Best of the year: The Georgia-South Carolina game was the best game of the year so far. Sports usually come down to a game of inches, and it came down to inches. Why Mike Bobo and Mark Richt didn’t give it to the big man Todd Gurley in the red zone after Dylan Thompson’s INT I’ll never know. Gurley finished with 20 carries for 131 yards and one touchdown, while South Carolina running back Brandon Wilds — not Mike Davis — put the football game away for the Gamecocks in the second half. Wilds finished with 14 carries for 93 yards and one touchdown. As bad as UGA’s defense played, they still gave the Bulldogs a chance to win it by picking off Thompson. And the offense still couldn’t deliver a touchdown when it needed it most…not even a game-tying field goal.
Arkansas is a much better football team: Wasn’t that fun to watch? The Hogs are twice as tough and twice as good as last season and still have a ways to go. Texas Tech wasn’t built to stop Arkansas’ power football, and they simply couldn’t. The Hogs ran for 438 yards and seven touchdowns. That’s the good news. The bad news is the schedule, as the Hogs have Northern Illinois, Texas A&M, Alabama and Georgia over the next few weeks. But yesterday’s win over the Red Raiders puts Arkansas in bowl contention.
Mississippi State’s defense tightened up: After getting torched by UAB last week, MSU’s defense tightened down the screws against South Alabama. The Jaguars only mounted 2.1 yards per carry and three points, and Dak Prescott totaled 340 yards and three touchdowns. Things get real next week with a trip to Baton Rouge, and we’ll know whether the Bulldogs are a contender or a pretender.
Any way you can: That was Vanderbilt’s motto in the fourth quarter, and things looked, uh, very dim throughout the game. Derek Mason started freshman Wade Freebeck, burned his redshirt, only to replace him with game one starter Patton Robinette. Ralph Webb was the offensive player of the game, rushing for 116 yards on 26 carries with one touchdown, and linebacker Caleb Azubike recorded three tackles for loss, including two sacks. Had Vandy lost to UMass, the Commodores may have finished 0-12.
Ole Miss looks great: Especially with that efficient Bo Wallace, the Rebels will be tough to beat by any opponent. Some were calling for this to be a trap game, but Wallace made sure that didn’t happen. He threw for 316 yards, four touchdowns and one INT, and the INT wasn’t even his fault. Efficiency is the key for the Rebels’ offense, because the SEC’s best defense may live in Oxford. They are nasty and forced four turnovers against ULL.
Alabama looked kind of bored: Everybody knew Southern Miss was going to get hammered, and Alabama did too. It just took them longer to get started. Amari Cooper continued to state his case for the SEC’s player of the year, catching eight passes for 135 yards and one touchdown. Oh, and there’s no quarterback controversy. Sims has put that to bed for the moment. He totaled three touchdowns — two passing and one rushing. Alabama dominated the running game with 333 yards. Things will get interesting when a team or two shuts down the Alabama running game and puts it on the shoulders of Blake Sims.
Quarterback play: You live with him and you die with him: Jeff Driskel. Driskel’s awareness hasn’t improved, but the ice water in his veins is certainly there. Driskel’s fourth down tying touchdown pass to Demarcus Robinson as the play clock expired was clutch. Oh and how about Robinson? It looks like Florida has finally found a wide receiver, as Robinson finished with 15 catches for 216 yards and two touchdowns. But that Will Muschamp secondary needs some serious work — along with quarterback play — if Florida wants to be a real contender in the East. Driskel still stares down his receivers and struggles going through his progressions.
A bowl team? Kentucky will be in bowl contention this season, and they turned heads with their play in The Swamp. Although it came down to a losing effort on the scoreboard, there’s plenty of young talent to build around. Braylon Heard, Jojo Kemp, Ryan Timmons and Garrett Johnson, among others, should excite the hell out of Kentucky fans. I see six wins on UK’s schedule right now, and it should be seven, as the Cats should have beaten the Gators.
What we thought: Tennessee didn’t embarrass themselves on the road at Oklahoma. Besides, the Sooners are no doubt a top four team and may have the best chance of any team in the country to make the College Football Playoff. Despite bad offensive line play, last night was Jalen Hurd’s coming out party. Boy is he special. Two lost turnovers were the biggest difference for Tennessee. The Vols are a year or two away from competing for the division.
Not the “A” game: Texas A&M was outgained by Rice 481 to 477, but the Aggies kept rolling after winning 38-10. Still, last night was the first night we’ve seen the Texas A&M defense look vulnerable against the run. The Owls ran many zone-read plays, and it gashed the Aggies’ defense. Rice rushed for 240 yards, and in games against Auburn, Ole Miss and Missouri, TAMU will get a steady dose of zone-read plays. The offense is electric, and Kenny Hill threw for 300 yards and four touchdowns, but the defense is still a worry.
Les Miles normal: The defense and running game will carry LSU this season, and that’s been a signature trait for the Tigers under Les Miles. The Tigers posted their second straight shutout after thumping ULM 31-0. However, the quarterback and passing game is still a concern. There will come a time this season where the Tigers’ running game gets halted, and the passing game will have to make some plays. ULM brought pressure the entire night, and LSU just out-athleted the Warhawks. But the Tigers’ freshman class is really something special, and this program is loaded for the future.