Winners and losers after SEC Week 3
When did the SEC turn into the varsity version of the Big 12? Defense was a forgotten word for most of the SEC on Saturday … but that might have to do with the massive number of big-time offenses that marched up and down the gridiron. Shootout or not, we’ve got our weekly winners and losers. From surprising receivers to officiating errors (surely not!) to the QB who finally had the game his team waited three years to see, it’s all here.
He has had better passing games, but the Texas A&M quarterback has never seemed more in command of a game than he was Saturday against Florida. He kept A&M in the game, but never was his steady nerve more clear than when the Gators took the lead with 6:14 to play. Not only did Mond have the answer, courtesy of a beautiful deep ball for a touchdown to tie the score with 4:30 left, but once A&M got the ball back, he showed a Tom Brady-like level of cool in guiding the Aggies down the field. But he wasn’t the only winner.
Career stats for the junior Aggies receiver before Saturday: 6 receptions for 52 yards. Stats on Saturday: 9 grabs for 151 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Given that A&M had already found a ton of speedy types to make short-yardage plays, having Chapman and his 6-foot-5 frame as an outside threat could be a game-changer.
A week after I was skeptical of Mizzou’s sudden shift of offensive identity at QB, the freshman passer showed exactly what Coach Eli Drinkwitz was doing. In his first start, Bazelak nearly had more touchdown passes (4) than incomplete passes (5) in his way to a 406-yard passing game. From a 58-yard pass in the game’s first two minutes, Bazelak awakened the Tiger offense throughout the game … and he might do so for the rest of the season.
They trailed Tennessee 21-17 at halftime, but the Bulldogs rose up and delivered a virtuoso second half. To recap UT’s second-half drives: Forced fumble, interception, punt, punt, punt, defensive touchdown, turnover on downs, end of game. No UT second-half drive until the last one, which ate up the dregs of the clock, moved farther than 20 yards. That’ll work.
Yes, it was against Ole Miss. But 723 yards, 6 for 7 on third down conversions, 400 yards passing plus 300 yards rushing, it was all there. To recap the Crimson Tide’s offensive drives, they had 9 touchdowns, 1 punt, 1 lost fumble inside the Ole Miss 10. That includes a 6-for-6 second half run in which every time the Tide had the ball, they reached the end zone.
On a week when offenses shined, defense got the job done in Kentucky. UK held Mississippi State’s passing attack to 296 total yards, 3 for 17 on third down attempts, and a lone safety that came when UK’s long snapper overshot their punter. Kentucky even picked off two passes in their end zone, which explains how the Wildcats won by 22 points despite finishing with 157 total yards of offense.
The Razorbacks made a heck of a hire. No, they did not win Saturday against Auburn. But three games into his first season, Pittman’s team has shown more fight than the previous two Razorback head coaches managed in their entire tenures. It might not mean a ton in win-loss record improvement in 2020, but the future is bright in Arkansas, and that’s something that hasn’t been said in a few years.
Add a defense and his tenure as Ole Miss coach gets really, really interesting.
It is an unfortunate given that the best conference in college football will routinely see games decided by errant and half-competent officiating. Yes, officiating is difficult, and yes, even with instant replay, there are a fair number of bang-bang judgment calls that will sometimes be missed. But the incompetence at the end of the Arkansas/Auburn game was another in a long list of missed calls that really should be inexcusable. It just means more, except in the hiring, supervision, and retention of officials.
We’ve been here before. You’d have to consult a Victorian novel to find someone whose career has had as many up-and-down moves as Grantham, Florida’s defensive coordinator. Fans love him … until they turn on him, and with a second time in three games that his Florida defense was torched by air, Gator Nation may be turning. Kyle Trask has been everything he was expected to be … but he can’t cover opposing receivers. Neither can a few of Grantham’s top DBs.
The memories of 2019 will live on for LSU fans for decades. But it won’t give Coach O a free pass for decades. Memories are long, but coaching tenures aren’t built off memories. It was a given that the Tigers would take a step back in 2020 — how could they not? But this defense is fundamentally broken. And despite that, LSU needed a yard in four plays to win at Missouri and didn’t get it. We’re not talking hot seat territory for a while, but this 2020 season could make 2021 more pressure-filled than it really should be.
The Tennessee ground game
UT was running the football well for the first two weeks of the season. But 27 rushes for minus-1 yards against Georgia simply didn’t get it done. Yes, some of those yards were sacks and other negative plays. But the Vols didn’t pop a run longer than 8 yards all day and Jarett Guarantano simply isn’t the kind of quarterback who can beat top teams on his own. The Vols don’t have to rush for 200 yards like they did last week, but they have to be able to keep defenses honest. They couldn’t on Saturday and the results were predictable.
James Franklin is not walking through that door. In the SEC-only schedule, it felt certain that a couple teams would fall behind. Well, maybe one. The ‘Dores aren’t just the only winless team in the conference, they feel like the only hopeless team in the conference. Yes, Mizzou and Arkansas might not be world beaters … but three weeks in, both have delivered upsets over top-25 teams and given fans reasons to be hopeful in years to come. Being a Vandy football fan is like shutting your fingers in a door every Saturday.