So what did we learn about SEC football in Week 3?
Actually, a lot:
1—Florida lost to No. 1 Alabama 31-29 Saturday in The Swamp, but it has to be a huge confidence builder for the Gators.
For the second straight meeting (the last being in the SEC Championship Game) Florida has hung with the No. 1 team in the nation and been in position to win. So, moving forward this tells the Gators that they can play with anybody, including No. 2 Georgia on Oct. 30 in Jacksonville.
Florida gets Tennessee in Gainesville this week and then goes to Kentucky on Oct. 2. Then there is Vanderbilt at home and LSU on the road and then a week off.
Also we learned—or were reminded—that Dan Mullen remains one of the best play callers in the business. In Florida’s past two games against Alabama the Gators have rolled up 898 yards and 65 points.
2—Nick Saban appeared to be in a good mood after the game. There is a reason for that.
The Crimson Tide won the game but Saban now has a bunch of stuff (mistakes) he can use to coach his team hard in the coming weeks. Alabama jumped out to a 21-3 lead and looked like it was going to blow the Gators out of their own stadium. But then the game came down to an unsuccessful two-point conversion by Florida.
Saban’s biggest concern is always complacency. He doesn’t have to worry about that now. Ole Miss comes to Tuscaloosa on Oct. 2 and on Oct. 9 the Tide goes to Texas A&M.
3—Georgia is a totally different team when JT Daniels is in the game.
Daniels sat out last week’s 56-7 win over UAB because, frankly, the Bulldogs didn’t need him. Stetson Bennett IV, the backup, threw five touchdown passes in the first half.
But when Daniels returned for Saturday night’s game with South Carolina it felt like Georgia turned on a switch. Daniels completed 23 of 31 passes for 303 yards and three touchdown passes. He led Georgia to touchdown drives of 75 yards on his first two possessions. The receivers ran crisper routes. The offensive line blocked better and the backs ran harder.
“He’s playing with a lot of confidence now,” said Head Coach Kirby Smart of Daniels. “He knows what he is doing.”
Georgia gets Vanderbilt this week, hosts Arkansas on Oct. 2, plays at Auburn on Oct. 9 and then hosts Kentucky on Oct. 16.
4—There was good and bad for Auburn in a 28-20 loss at Penn State Saturday night.
First, the good:
Auburn’s ability to go on the road and play to the wire in such an environment is worthy of praise. Penn State (3-0) is a good team that had already beaten Wisconsin on the road (16-10) this season. Auburn had a legitimate chance to win the game and will draw on that in future games.
Now, the bad: Auburn was in position to tie the game when it faced a fourth-and-goal at the Penn State two-yard line, trailing 28-20. Quarterback Bo Nix threw a fade route to Kobe Hudson that never had a chance. The call is open for second guessing because Tank Bigsby was on the field with 102 rushing yards on 23 carries.
Things only get tougher for Auburn. After hosting Georgia State this week, the Tigers go to LSU, host Georgia, and then go to Arkansas.
5—Don’t look now but Ole Miss and Matt Corral are getting better every week.
I know you’re not supposed to compare scores but this one jumps off the page. On Sept. 4 Tulane, which had been staying in Birmingham because of Hurricane Ida, went to Oklahoma and lost by only five points, 40-35.
On Saturday Tulane went to Ole Miss and lost 61-21 as quarterback Matt Corral ran for four touchdowns and passed for three more. He threw for 355 yards and ran for 68 more.
He left the game early in the third quarter.
The Rebels finished with 707 yards. They set a school record for most first downs in a game with 41. The defense held Tulane to 21 points.
Ole Miss takes this week off and then goes to No. 1 Alabama on Oct. 2. Remember that Ole Miss posted 647 yards in losing to Alabama (which had 723 yards) by the score of 63-48 last season.
It is going to be an interesting two weeks in Oxford.