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SEC Recap: Week Three

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Georgia’s clearly is the toast of the East, the Tide (I guess) are the ones to beat in the West, and how about ‘dem Tigers, eh?!

NCAA Football: Louisiana State at Missouri
Thank you, Joshuah Bledsoe, for this beautiful moment! Thank you a thousand times over, kind sir!

Georgia 44 vs. Tennessee 21

Big brother showed little brother what’s up.

Tennessee impressed for 30 minutes Saturday in Athens, leading the third-ranked Bulldogs 21-17 going into the locker room at half. And, for a moment, fresh off a dominant win over Missouri the week prior, it seemed as if that long-awaited resurrection of the UT glory days could have finally arrived.

Let’s hold off on all that until at least 2021.

When the teams came back out for the third quarter, the tease ended and harsh reality took over.

Georgia, the preeminent favorite to win the SEC East, played with a purpose the final two quarters, forcing No. 14 Tennessee and QB Jarrett Guarantano into three second-half turnovers — two of which occurred on the Vols’ first two possessions — to boldly affirm its status.

NCAA Football: Tennessee at Georgia
Capped by Monty Rice’s scoop-and-score, the Bulldogs erased all doubt about who the favorite should be in the SEC East with a convincing 44-21 win over Tennessee.

The coup de gras came via Bulldog linebacker Monty Rice, who ran back his own strip-sack of Guarantano late in the fourth to put a fitting cap on Georgia’s statement win.

An even bigger statement now awaits the Bulldogs next week.

Texas A&M 41 vs. Florida 38

Florida is still well-equipped to handle Georgia in the East, but the Gators will go only as far as that suspect defense will take them.

If things don’t change on that side of the ball, that may not be far.

Don’t fault QB Kyle Trask for the loss in College Station Saturday, though. He’s played nearly mistake-free football this season, and his 14 TD passes are second in the nation.

Instead, let’s talk about that D, which has allowed at least 24 points in each of the Gators’ first three games and now ranks 53rd and 71st in scoring defense and passing defense, respectively, after getting torched by A&M QB Kellen Mond and Jimbo Fisher’s offense, which controlled the ball for nearly 35 minutes.

Missouri 45 vs. LSU 41

Well, I’ll be damned if that isn’t just the most anti-Mizzou win ever…

I mean, let’s admit that, as a fan base, we’ve learned to deal with the pain of more than a few gut punches over the years, and as Saturday wore on, I couldn’t have been the only one who was bracing for the next blow. (Editor’s note: I was as well)

Missouri just doesn’t win games like this. And it certainly doesn’t do it while missing key pieces all over the field.

Goal line stands to win the game is something Alabama does. Holding the offense of a ranked opponent to zero third-down conversions and overcoming three turnovers — four, if you choose to include that horrible fake punt call — to win a game that seemed destined to end in a win for whomever had the ball last, just doesn’t happen around here often.

Hell, in recent memory, it hasn’t happened at all. The previous regime certainly would’ve orchestrated a trainwreck-like collapse about midway through the third quarter in game like this.

It’s a signature win in game number three for Eli Drinkwitz, and that’s impressive in and of itself. Connor Bazelak, thus far as poised as any quarterback Missouri has ever had outside of Chase Daniel, appears to be something special. The offensive scheme, when executed properly, should give a lot of teams on the remaining schedule fits, and the defense — though short on depth, especially on Saturday — should improve nicely as some youngsters emerge from the fire.

I certainly am still on-guard in the wake of the win over LSU; as a Mizzou fan, that’s my duty.

But, man, let’s enjoy this one!

Alabama 63 vs. Ole Miss 48

A total of 1,370 yards. A combined 111 points.

Both SEC records.

One running back with 200-plus yards. Another with more than 120. Four receivers who collectively caught 37 balls for more than 600 yards.

Welcome to modern-college football, where even Alabama is not immune to getting whipped defensively. It just seems like Ole Miss, though winless against Alabama since 2015, makes that more evident than anyone else, having scored 30 or more points against the Tide four times in the last six meetings.

A week ago, I gushed about the Tide’s offensive riches, and I didn’t even mention running back Najee Harris, who ran for 216 yards against the Rebels. In the same breath, I nearly mentioned the defense, which, at the time, appeared to have rounded back into form after taking off last season, at least in terms of ‘Bama standards.

Perhaps that was a good call.

Alabama vs Ole Miss
Following his team’s historic win over Ole Miss Saturday, Alabama head coach Nick Saban questioned whether his former offensive coordinator, Lane Kiffin, and the Rebel staff new the Tide’s defensive signals.

To be frank, I am not sure whether Saturday’s historic display of offensive prowess (or defensive ineptitude) is indicative of how the rest of Alabama’s season will play out. And I definitely cannot comment on the suggestion made by Nick Saban after the game that Lane Kiffin and Ole Miss had somehow decoded the Tide’s defensive signals.

The Tide still have to be considered the division favorite in a down year for the SEC West, but there’s definitely a chink in the armor that could well cost Saban’s team a national championship — if they fail to score less than 50 points in a game.

Auburn 30 vs. Arkansas 28

Looking for consecutive SEC wins for the first time since 2015, Arkansas put a fight at No. 13 Auburn, but was beaten in the waning seconds by a 39-yard field goal that may not have been good from 40.

And so the Razorbacks look to avoid another historic conference losing streak, and the Tigers will try to shed the label of the nation’s most enigmatic team thus far this season.

Auburn, arguably outplayed in the opener versus Kentucky, got smoked by Georgia last week and narrowly escaped defeat Saturday, yet a 2-1 record could still land the Tigers in the latest polls, thanks largely in part to a chaotic weekend that saw six ranked teams fall.

Kentucky 24 vs. Mississippi State 2

If Auburn is the nation’s hardest team to figure out, Mississippi State takes the cake for falling hardest on its face.

There’s really no other way to describe what we’ve seen from Mike Leach’s team so far.

The Bulldogs, as documented here, were the toast of college football after beating the defending champs in a game that wasn’t all that close. Since then, Mississippi State has flopped (historically) against Arkansas at home and, on Saturday, lost by three scores to a Kentucky team that gained less than 160 yards on offense.

I guess that’s what six turnovers will do to ya, including four picks from senior quarterback K.J. Costello, who has now thrown one touchdown and seven interceptions since the LSU win.

More damage could be forthcoming for Mississippi State and Leach, who after the loss to the Wildcats told reporters it may be time to evaluate the current roster and “purge” those players who don’t fit his system.

South Carolina 41 vs. Vanderbilt 7

Apparently, it rained a lot Saturday in Nashville, and apparently, the conditions favored South Carolina, who rushed for 289 yards and held Vandy under 250 of total offense in the blowout win, its 12th straight win the series.

Given all of the action that took place in the rest of the SEC, this game was easily overlooked, but that doesn’t detract from its statically significance when it comes to the crowd.

South Carolina v Vanderbilt
Vandy roll call to fans: Bueller ... Bueller ... Bueller

OK, sure, we can attribute some of this to the rain drops and the lingering COVID stuff — which relegated the Commodores’ roster to just 56 players — but according to Vanderbilt’s official athletics website, a total of 1,288 people attended the game.

That’s 82 fewer people than yards gained by Alabama and Ole Miss.