Another wild college football Saturday is in the books and there were no shortage of head-turning moments in the nation's top conference, the SEC.
Stroll around the league for instant reactions on all 14 programs following Week 3 of action.
No. 1 Alabama 31, No. 11 Florida 29
Plenty has been taken away from this game and loads more are on the way this week. Alabama survived the Swamp and Florida's rushing onslaught with an early-game run, the luck of a missed extra point and a convenient stopping of UF's late two-point attempt to tie the game in which quarterback Emory Jones' indecisiveness gave the Crimson Tide defensive line time to make the stop of the game. A win is a win, as they say...until it isn't. Florida impressed about as much as possible in a losing effort.
The Gators came into the game at No. 11 but should come out of it as a top 10-ranked program. Yes, you read that correctly. The offensive line all but dominated Alabama's vaunted front seven for 245 rushing yards and the defense shut down the Tide's rushing attack to the tune of 3.3 yards per carry. Quarterback Bryce Young's maturity and composure kept the chains moving when it mattered most, but the second half felt more like Florida giving the game up than Alabama seizing it. Missed tackles, a bevy of (sometimes questionable) penalties and a key dropped interception all lifted No. 1 up enough to get out of Gainesville with the win.
The eyes of college football will be on an all-of-a-sudden vulnerable Alabama against perhaps the best offense in America in two weeks when Ole Miss travels to Tuscaloosa.
No. 2 Georgia 40, South Carolina 13
What more can be said of the Georgia defense? This may be the best unit in college football this fall and it starts with one of America's top defensive lines, led by Jordan Davis, near impossible to run against. South Carolina managed a mere 2.8 yards per carry as Georgia's offense, with JT Daniels back, built up a steady lead. As the Bulldog offense blossoms into a balanced attack, the rest of college football should be on notice.
Daniels spread the ball around to nearly double-digit receivers and the Bulldog rushing attack, also by committee, was sharp. The combination of Kendall Milton, Zamir White, and James Cook averaged 7.6 yards per carry (22 carries for 168 yards) and found the end zone twice behind an improving offensive line. South Carolina came out with a strong game plan relative to the game's expectation, especially one set in Athens, but could not adjust to the Bulldog defense beyond the first quarter.
No. 7 Texas A&M 34, New Mexico 0
If Georgia's defense is the best in the land, the Aggies are just behind it, but only because of their schedule through three weeks. It's not the players' fault, but the program has been dominant on the dark side, allowing just 17 points through a trio of games. The more critical news for Jimbo Fisher following Saturday is that there is some optimism around the quarterback position for the first time this year as backup Zach Calzada pushed the ball down the field on some samples, including a 70-yard shot to Demond Demas. It was also a good showing for Isaiah Spiller and the rushing attack, the element of the offense expected to carry A&M when it counts most.
No. 10 Penn State 28, No. 22 Auburn 20
The expectation of Auburn's trek up to Happy Valley was met with a physical reality during the evening's 'white out' affair. The game was never out of reach for either side and the Tigers had their chance, despite suffering more mistakes than the home team, but squandered a play call and the execution thereafter en route to the first L of the Bryan Harsin era on the Plains.
Auburn was balanced on an otherwise strong drive from their own 25 to the Penn State 10 yard-line with 4 minutes to play. Star Tank Bigsby was held to 1 yard on first down, Bo Nix could not connect with Shedrick Jackson on the next play before hooking up with John Samuel Shenker down to the 2. Harsin called time out and the Tigers came out of it with a slot fade ball, against Penn State's lengthy and experienced cornerbacks, to Kobe Hudson -- and it landed several yards out of bounds. The Tigers got one more shot but Nix fired a football short of the goal line and it was broken up.
On the flip side, Penn State doesn't mistake who it is. The Nittany Lions tried to run the ball despite a stout Auburn front but countered with electric wide receiver Jahan Dotson (10 catches for 78 yards and one touchdown) and a combination of tight ends(130 yards on six catches) to move the ball fairly consistently while protecting the football.
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No. 17 Ole Miss 61, Tulane 21
Ole Miss is better than Oklahoma -- well at least that's what the common opponent property tells us against Tulane. Both programs jumped out on the Green Wave, but OU allowed for a true comeback while the Rebel offense just wouldn't be stopped. Lane Kiffin could have easily made it worse, maybe threatening some scoring records, but he somewhat held off. Quarterback Matt Corral is hotter than any offensive player in the country after a seven-touchdown performance and Ole Miss is truly balanced, with seldom a go-to wide receiver or running back as multiple options contribute well.
Of course, Ole Miss scored in bunches in 2020, but the difference through three games in 2021 is the balance, protection of the football, and a defense that limits big plays and gets off the field on third downs, a far cry from last year. Now the Rebels head into a bye week healthy and with expectations before the Alabama game in Week 5. The hype train will only build from here, much to the joking chagrin of Kiffin.
No. 20 Arkansas 45, Georgia Southern 10
Arkansas didn't have a letdown following its 'welcome to the SEC' win over Texas last weekend. It's not surprising to see the Razorbacks beat up on an FBS opponent at home, but the explosive passing game and dominant defense have optimism trending stronger in Fayetteville. KJ Jefferson's confidence is growing at quarterback as he looks to shed a run-first label, and his first 300-yard game won't hurt. Is it too early to get plenty excited to dig into Texas A&M coming to town next weekend? Hog fans should focus on that before realizing the gauntlet the program is about to go through in the next month, with A&M, Georgia, Ole Miss, and Auburn on the schedule in consecutive weeks.
Kentucky 28, Chattanooga 23
UK has been the passing surprise of the SEC to date relative to recent years but Saturday was about escaping the type of let-down loss that zaps the sudden optimism around the Wildcats in 2021. This game was 16-13 Mocs in the fourth quarter and breakout passer Will Levis was somewhat reeling, before two plays locked in the win. Levis threw a touchdown having tossed a pair of interceptions prior. It would turn to the UK defense, with the lead again, and UTC driving until Tyrell Allen came up with an interception at his own 5. He cut against the grain, got some key blocks to complete the pick-six, and put the game out of reach.
Missouri 59, Southeast Missouri State 28
Mizzou played the type of angry football after a close loss that one would expect against an FCS opponent. It was up 38-0 at the half and got some run for younger players across the board in putting up nearly 700 yards of offense. Connor Bazelak was sharp in completing 21 of 30 passes for 346 yards and three touchdowns, without an interception. Only Kentucky, in last week's thriller, has been able to turn the Tiger passer over to date in 2021.
Tennessee 56, Tennessee Tech 0
UT rolled its in-state opponent to bounce back ideally after the funky loss to Pitt the weekend prior. Hendon Hooker made easy work of the Golden Eagles in a four-touchdown performance and the Vol rushing attack was rock solid in the process. Defensively, it was nothing but pure dominance in holding Tech under 200 total yards and forcing four turnovers, including a pick-six from Solon Page III.
Memphis 31, Mississippi State 29
It was weird at the Liberty Bowl on Saturday night, plain and simple. State and Memphis were largely trading blows before two of the more uncommon special teams plays helping to shape the score in the game's final six minutes. First, the one you've probably seen on a highlight show, as Calvin Austin's heads-up play will have MSU's punt team reading the rule book and repping how to actually down the ball all week long. Of course, the officiating crew signaled to stop the clock, but that's a story for another day.
The second won't be as talked about but it was just as rare. On the surface, MSU kicked one of those running onside kickoffs where the kicker taps the ball and runs it down himself. Nolan McCord executed well and recovered. The officials called illegal touching on the kicker, but the replay showed the ball was recovered beyond 10 yards, signaling MSU ball. But amid the review, a penalty not called on the field was called. It was an illegal block by State, forcing a re-kick in which Memphis recovered to run the clock out. State AD John Cohen wasn't too happy with it.
LSU 49, Central Michigan 21
LSU has taken care of business against lesser opponents over the last two weeks and Saturday looked more like what was expected of the Tigers, playing good defense, forcing turnovers, and getting pass-catchers the football in space. Four different Tigers caught a touchdown pass in Max Johnson's five-score night, including two to true freshman Deion Smith in a breakout performance. Mississippi State is up next and revenge from last season's shocking opener will surely be on Ed Orgeron's mind. State needs the win to open SEC play just as bad, so count us in on what should be a fun one in Starkville.
Stanford 41, Vanderbilt 23
The Pac-12 had an awful Saturday, going 0-3 versus the Mountain West and suffering yet another FCS loss in addition to Colorado getting blasted by Minnesota -- but it sprinkled an SEC win in against Vanderbilt. Quarterback Tanner McKee threw for two scores and ran in another, executing a two-minute drill to get the Cardinal up for good just before halftime. Vanderbilt was strong out of the gates, unlike the first two games of the season, perhaps showing more signs of progress under Clark Lea. Georgia is next up, so take any moral victories you can, Commodore fans.
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