Week three is in the books, and as we head towards a full blown SEC schedule, we’re beginning to learn more about each team’s identity. Tennessee finds themselves ranked 11th, their highest ranking since 2016, after a dominant win over Akron, and they more than covered the -47.5 point spread. Elsewhere, it wasn’t quite smooth sailing as both Florida and Arkansas survived scares against inferior opponents while Auburn got embarrassed at home.
1 Georgia | 3-0 (1-0) | +120 PD (130 F, 10 A)
8 Kentucky | 3-0 (1-0) | +65 PD (94 F, 29 A)
11 Tennessee | 3-0 (0-0) | +113 PD (156 F, 43 A)
Vanderbilt | 3-1 (0-0) | +54 PD (168 F, 114 A)
Missouri | 2-1 (0-0) | +17 PD (98 F, 81 A)
20 Florida | 2-1 (0-1) | -4 PD (76 F, 80 A)
South Carolina | 1-2 (0-2) | -34 PD (72 F, 106 A)
10 Arkansas | 3-0 (1-0) | +32 PD (113 F, 81 A)
LSU | 2-1 (1-0) | +62 PD (119 F, 57 A)
16 Ole Miss | +116 PD (129 F, 13 A)
2 Alabama | 3-0 (0-0) | +112 PD (138 F, 26 A)
Auburn | 2-1 (0-0) | +5 PD (78 F, 73 A)
23 Texas A&M | 2-1 (0-0) | +36 PD (62 F, 26 A)
Mississippi State | 2-1 (0-1) | +33 PD (104 F, 71 A)
Tennessee: Vols def. Akron via TKO, 63-6
It was a track meet on Saturday, and not one that Akron ever had any hope of winning. Jalin Hyatt, welcome to the show. The junior wideout whom everyone pegged as the breakout candidate on this offense officially broke out. Following a knee injury to Cedric Tillman early on, Hyatt and Hooker took the game over. Hyatt caught all five of his targets for 166 yards and a pair of long, 40-plus yard touchdowns.
Jaylen Wright ran for 96 yards on 23 attempts and a couple scores after taking the lead back duties following Jabari Small’s shoulder injury on the second play of the game. Coach Josh Heupel gave his best political answer on the outlook of Small and Tillman going into next week against Florida. Both are obviously huge contributors, and their health is paramount ahead of the Florida game.
Defensively, this game served as a solid tuner for what they’re set to see this coming week at the quarterback position. DJ Irons was far and away the best player on the field for Akron, and he is a lesser version of the kind of dynamic challenge Anthony Richardson will present. The Vols did a great job against the run, and seeing Jeremy Banks step up at the point of attack aggressively and under control was nice to see after struggling mightily against Pitt the week prior.
College Gameday is coming to Knoxville on Saturday. It’s time to get off the schneid against the Gators.
Georgia: Bennett and co. dominate South Carolina in SEC opener
Best team in America doing best team in America things. I mean, it’s getting comical at this point. Georgia’s defense surrendered their first touchdown of the season in their 12th quarter of football. The big talk all offseason was whether or not the offense could do more with the multitude of NFL Draft departures on the defense. It sure looks like it.
Stetson Bennett looks like a legit difference maker this year, attacking down the field while maintaining the efficiency he’s been known for while Brock Bowers has ascended as the premier tight end in the country. Sophomore, by the way.
Defensively, we all know what they’re about. Whether it’s scheme, development, or effort, they’re second to none. With a breezy schedule over the next month, don’t expect that (1) next to their name to go away any time soon.
Kentucky: ‘Cats blank Youngstown State, 31-0
Defensively, Kentucky continues to impress. Following an outstanding showing against Florida in the Swamp, Kentucky’s defense shut out an inferior YSU team, holding the Penguins under 200 total yards of offense on the day.
Offensively, however, this team is quite the enigma. It feels like they’ve become big play dependent as their struggles to run the ball become more pronounced. In the absence of Chris Rodriguez Jr. and a noticeably worse offensive line from a year ago have put a lot of pressure onto Will Levis and the passing attack.
Levis embodies that boom or bust style as shown by his turnover numbers a season ago and early this season, as well as his big play numbers. He and freshman wide receiver Dane Key have really found a groove this season, hooking up for multiple big plays.
Kentucky gets their second dose of MACtion this year as they welcome Northern Illinois to town this week. After that, it’s SEC schedule the rest of the way. If they want to capitalize on Levis’ final year with the program, they’re going to have to win in the trenches on offense. It’s their biggest glaring weakness that has to improve.
Vanderbilt: Vandy overcomes early deficit vs. NIU, win 38-28
Don’t look now, but Vandy has an offense. Clark Lea benched Mike Wright last week, and AJ Swann has made that a positive decision thus far. Swann looked great a week ago in relief of Wright, and in his first start of his career, I think it’s safe to say things went swimmingly. The freshman QB completed 18 of 28 passes for 255 yards and four touchdowns.
Wide receiver Will Sheppard had a great game, catching 10 of his 15 targets for 171 yards and two touchdowns. Sheppard had four games of 80-plus yards a season ago in one of the worst passing attacks in the country. He’s going to benefit greatly from Swann should he remain the starter.
Vandy *might* flirt with a bowl game berth. Their biggest obstacle is obviously conference play as six of their eight conference games are currently against ranked opponents, but Missouri and South Carolina are very much in play.
Missouri: Mizzou rebounds against Abilene Christian, 34-17
Brady Cook played well in a much needed cupcake game for Missouri, throwing for three touchdowns and no interceptions. Cook was coming off a big-time clunker against Kansas State a week ago, so it was good for Eli Drinkwitz’s squad to see signs of life in the passing attack with the weapons they have on the outside.
From the outside looking in, it would make a lot of sense for Mizzou to get more touches for Luther Burden, albeit the drops have been concerning. Burden both athletically and as a playmaker is probably this team’s best player, even as a freshman. His ascension as WR1 alongside Dominic Lovett will do wonders for this team.
Fun stat: Including the win over ACU, Missouri is unbeaten since 2020 in games where they allow fewer than 150 yards and two or fewer touchdowns on the ground. They’re 8-0.
Florida: Gators survive late against USF, 31-28
Where Tennessee exploded against Akron this week heading into their top-25 showdown, Florida stumbled and nearly fell flat on their face.
Anthony Richardson had another poor performance, this time against a team he flat out dominated a year ago. Richardson defines high variance as an overall playmaker, but through the air, it’s been a rough go the past two weeks. He threw another two interceptions here. He isn’t reading the field well, and he just isn’t in sync with his receivers.
Defensively, it wasn’t pretty either. The Gators defense gave up 286 rushing yards to USF. A pair of Gerry Bohanon INT’s and a hilarious sequence of events that led to USF’s holder essentially laying the ball down sideways for the kicker to try and tie the game late were the big difference makers here.
This isn’t your recent typical Vols squad that Florida will see in Neyland this coming Saturday. If Richardson can’t figure it out on offense, Tennessee will light the scoreboard up.
South Carolina: Meh, it’s Georgia
I mean, what are you really going to do, right?
There isn’t really a script for beating this current era Georgia team unless you’re Alabama and you have the dudes to match up across the board. South Carolina doesn’t, and it was painfully evident.
Another thing worth touching on here. I understand the hype he had going into Oklahoma, but it’s time to stop expecting Spencer Rattler to become something he’s not. Big arm? Definitely. Good decision maker? Definitely not. Does he protect the ball? Nope.
I said it last week. This team will upset someone this year, it was just never going to be Georgia. On to the next one for Beamer and company.
Arkansas: How do you almost lose the Petrino Bowl?
Yeesh. Arkansas pulled away late in this one to win 38-27, but it was a 27-17 deficit for the Hogs a few minutes into the fourth quarter as Bobby Petrino sought revenge.
Arkansas’ secondary is more than just concerning, and if that specific group’s struggles really all season aren’t addressed very soon, it will become this team’s achilles heel. Jason Shelley threw for 357 yards and a touchdown as Missouri State capitalized on Arkansas’ sloppy offensive play early to the tune of 10 points off of turnovers.
Offensively, this team is great. Rocket Sanders is breaking out, and KJ Jefferson is finding his pair of new weapons to be very fun to throw to. Jefferson was not good in the first half, but after his interception to start the second half, he figured it out.
The defense is a real concern, there’s no way to sugarcoat it. It’ll be interesting to watch them against A&M this coming Saturday as A&M’s offense is as woeful as any team in the SEC.
LSU: Bayou Bengals silence doubters
How often do you see LSU as the underdog in Death Valley? Wild enough, that was the case heading into this game as people continue to buy the never ending stock of Mike Leach’s Mississippi State Bulldogs.
LSU ran the ball at will, racking up 206 yards on over five yards per carry, while the LSU defense suffocated the Mississippi State offense. Jayden Daniels had a very good game overall, throwing for 210 yards and a score while rushing for 93 yards and another touchdown.
The LSU pass rush is what won this game. It was 16-10 heading into the fourth quarter with LSU driving. They scored just seconds into the final frame, and then the LSU defense completely dominated from there.
Totaling 17 pressures and five sacks, Will Rogers barely had time to come up for air as BJ Ojulari pinned his ears back for 60 minutes and got after it. It was a much needed statement from a unit that was doubted heavily heading into this game. The Tigers have New Mexico this week to round out their early portion non-conference schedule before heading to Jordan-Hare to kick off October.
Ole Miss: The best rushing attack...in the nation?
It’s definitely arguable. The 16th ranked team in the country ran for 316 yards and six touchdowns on 62 attempts against Georgia Tech, blanking the Jackets 42-0.
The formidable duo of TCU transfer Zach Evans and Quinshon Judkins combined for 232 yards on the ground with both rushing for a pair of touchdowns. Ulysses Bentley IV added another two scores as well. By the start of SEC play, it’ll be interesting to see how this type of attack translates while they try and ease Jaxson Dart into a more comfortable role at quarterback.
Alabama: Tide roll UL-Monroe, 63-7
Well this was inevitable. The Alabama offense put up 509 total yards of offense while Will Anderson Jr. added a pick-six.
This offense still looks weird. It’s just not the Alabama offense we’ve become accustomed to, and I know they scored 63 points, but they aren’t invincible like they once looked with Sark calling plays. Young made throws that make your jaw hit the floor routinely, but he also threw a pair of interceptions on a pair of very poor throws.
The Tide will ease into their SEC schedule this Saturday against Vanderbilt before hitting the road to play Arkansas in the game that could potentially decide the West.
Laying an egg is one thing. Getting boat raced at home against Penn State is another. Auburn got dismantled 41-12, and it’s safe to say we won’t be seeing much more of Brian Harsin.
The QB play between TJ Finley and Robby Ashford just isn’t good, and no one else on the offense seems to ever get better from year to year. The program as a whole is stagnant. From a coaching and development standpoint, it directly translates on the field. Gotta be a tough pill to swallow especially with Bo Nix doing what he did this week.
Texas A&M: Aggies get ugly bounce back win vs. Miami, 17-9
Let’s do the blind Team A vs. Team B test, shall we?
Team A: 27 first downs, 392 total yards, 34:20 time of possession, 1 turnover
Team B: 16 first downs, 264 total yards, 25:40 time of possession, 0 turnovers
Who won this game?
Texas A&M is team B here. I don’t really know what to say about this offense that hasn’t already been said. It’s limp, nearing lifeless, regardless of who quarterbacks it. Max Johnson was a marginal improvement over Haynes King, and if not for this outstanding defense, you can imagine where A&M would be right now.
The offensive struggles of A&M vs. the defensive woes of Arkansas makes for an interesting matchup this Saturday in Jerry World.
Mississippi State: The exorcism of Mike Leach is nearing
For the second straight year, Mississippi State drops its SEC opener to LSU, this time as a favorite in Baton Rouge.
Once again, I am asking what the end game of Mike Leach’s game plan is against SEC defenses. The passing attack serves as an extension of the running game that doesn’t exist. 13 of Will Rogers’ 24 completions came behind the line of scrimmage. He has the most attempts behind the LOS among all Power 5 quarterbacks, and it’s not even close. His 39 attempts are 11 more than Stetson Bennett who has the second most, and that 11 attempt difference separates 2 and 28 on the list.
It’s a remarkably confounding scheme. 73.2% of Rogers’ attempts come within 10 yards, far and away the most in the SEC, and his 5.3 ADOT is the fourth lowest in all of the FBS. Will Rogers is not a bad quarterback, but Mike Leach is beginning to reach the end of his rope.
OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE WEEK: BROCK BOWERS - GEORGIA
One quick disclaimer: Barring a historic performance against a bad non-conference team, I will look at these with opponent in mind. So Bowers’ performance vs. South Carolina will hold more merit than, say, Will Sheppard’s great game against Northern Illinois.
Brock Bowers was a one-man wrecking crew against the Gamecocks on Saturday. He hauled in all five of his targets for 121 yards and two touchdowns, creating a mismatch seemingly every snap. The sophomore has already laid claim to best tight end in the country, now he’s just building off of it.
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE WEEK: BJ OJULARI - LSU
Ojulari was terrific in LSU’s SEC opener against Mississippi State. He racked up a pair of sacks and seven total pressures as LSU stymied Mike Leach’s pass-heavy offense. Ojulari’s pass rush win rate of 31.3% was the second-best mark in the conference behind Arkansas’ Drew Sanders.