People will be talking for weeks about how Steve Spurrier went for it on fourth down at midfield with South Carolina clinging to a precarious three-point lead over #6 Georgia Saturday in Columbia. What they should be talking about is how it is that with first and goal at the South Carolina three late in the fourth quarter that Georgia didn’t simply line up and hand the ball to Gurley three straight times. Spurrier gambled and won, but you expect that out of Spurrier. He would rather go down in flames than punt the ball away in a situation like that. As for Georgia, the Bulldogs ran a quarterback rollout that Hutson Mason turned into an intentional grounding sack good for a 10-yard loss and loss of down. Back at the 13, Georgia then elected to run Gurley twice. South Carolina stopped him cold and the Bulldogs’ Marshall Morgan missed a 28-yard chipshot that could have tied the game.
After the game, Richt said, “If I were to do it again, we would have hammered it.”
That Richt is thinking about a do-over is baffling. Giving the ball to Gurley in that situation is a total no-brainer. Now Georgia (1-1, 0-1 SEC) is playing from behind in the SEC East and will need a lot of help to get back into the national semifinal picture that so many experts at ESPN had painted the Bulldogs into. As for South Carolina (2-1, 1-1 SEC), the Gamecocks not only avoided going 0-2 right out of the chute in the SEC but played themselves back into contention in the SEC East.
Conventional wisdom said that South Carolina would struggle stopping Gurley and that Georgia would use its powerful tailback to pound the Gamecocks into submission. Richt probably needs to explain why Gurley only got 20 carries in the game, too. Gurley had 131 yards and you have to figure if he got the ball another 10 times he might have gone over the 200-yard mark.
Based on what we saw of Georgia’s second half defense against Clemson, conventional wisdom said the Bulldogs would bring the heat early and often against South Carolina quarterback Dylan Thompson. Thompson spent the majority of the game upright and had enough time to throw for 271 yards and three touchdowns. Only an ill-advised throw into double coverage late in the fourth quarter marred a terrific performance by Thompson.
South Carolina’s 38-35 win leaves the SEC East wide open. The Gamecocks and Georgia both have one SEC loss already. Florida is 1-0 in the East but the Gators didn’t exactly look like world beaters in their three overtime, 36-30 win over Kentucky. Tennessee and Kentucky are improved but not good enough to win anything. Vanderbilt is terrible. That leaves Missouri as the team that seems to have everything going but the Tigers (3-0, 0-0 SEC) aren’t without questions.
Dak Prescott, QB, Mississippi State: He threw for a touchdown, ran for a touchdown and caught a touchdown pass in the Bulldogs’ 35-3 win over South Alabama. Prescott was 13-23 for 201 yards and a touchdown throwing the ball, 14-139 and a touchdown running it, and he caught a 24-yard pass for a touchdown. Prescott has produced 12 touchdowns so far, nine passing, two rushing and one receiving.
Demarcus Robinson, WR, Florida: Robinson tied the school record for receptions in a game with 15, good for 216 yards and the touchdown that sent the Gators into the third overtime where they prevailed to extend their winning streak over Kentucky to 28 straight years.
Missouri defensive ends: What is it about Missouri and defensive ends? A season after losing SEC Defensive Player of the Year Michael Sam and second-round draft choice Kony Ealy, Shane Ray and Markus Golden are terrors off the edge. Against UCF, Ray had two sacks for 13 yards of losses and four tackles for loss for 26 yards while Golden had 1.5 sacks for three yards in losses and a tackle for loss for three yards. In three games, the two have combined for nine sacks for 60 yards in losses.
Arkansas running game: Okay, it was Texas Tech, not exactly the second coming of The Steel Curtain but any time you run for 438 yards and seven touchdowns against a Division I defense, it’s impressive. There was no deception. Arkansas just lined up and ran it at will.
Arkansas RB Alex Collins
Georgia secondary: If the Bulldogs can’t get pressure they’re in serious trouble because the guys in the secondary can’t cover anybody.
SEC zebras: How long before these guys have the guts to flag Todd Gurley? He might be college football’s most talented player but he is also a thug. That head butt in the second quarter should have been flagged. It’s not like he hasn’t done it before. He did it last year against Florida and got away with it then, too ... The zebras missed an obvious spear by Kentucky’s Regie Meant who dived on top of Kelvin Taylor well after the play ended … The play clock was at least a second past zero when Driskel threw the touchdown pass to Demarcus Robinson to send the Florida-Kentucky game into the second overtime.
Hutson Mason, QB, Georgia: He was 16-22 for 191 yards and two touchdowns, but he still doesn’t make the big plays when Georgia needs them the most.
#3 Alabama (3-0, 0-0 SEC) 52, Southern Miss 12: Offensively, it was pure vanilla for the Crimson Tide, which was content to grind out a win rather than show anything to the Gators, who travel to Tuscaloosa next week. Alabama outgained the Golden Eagles, 547-263, allowing only four field goals and 56 rushing yards. It was a 2-1 run/pass ratio for Alabama, which threw sparingly while running for 333 yards. Blake Sims threw for two touchdowns in his 17 pass attempts, but most of the time he just turned and handed off. Derrick Henry carried 11 times for 73 yards while Kenyan Drake was 9-59 with three touchdowns.Alabama game three grade: B+
Next week: Florida
Arkansas (2-1, 0-1 SEC) 49, Texas Tech 28: Bret Bielema must think this is the Big Ten all over again. The Hogs just lined up and blasted Texas Tech between the tackles for 438 rushing yards and seven touchdowns with Alex Collins going for 211 yards and two touchdowns and Jonathan Williams getting 146 while scoring four. The Razorbacks threw only 12 passes with Brandon Allen completing six for 61 yards. The Arkansas defense picked off two Texas Tech passes and forced a fumble but did give up four touchdowns.Arkansas game three grade: B+
Next week: Northern Illinois
Mississippi State (3-0, 0-0 SEC) 35, South Alabama 3: With LSU looming next week in Baton Rouge, Mississippi State shut things down in the third quarter with a 35-3 lead. The Bulldogs didn’t give up the big plays like they did last week against UAB and while they kept South Alabama out of the end zone, they didn’t do a great job of getting the Jaguars off the field. South Alabama ran 82 plays and 345 yards. The Mississippi State offense was good for 513 yards behind Prescott, who accounted for 364 yards and three touchdowns. Mississippi State held South Alabama to 57 yards on 27 rushing attempts. Jameon Lewis, who caught six passes for 76 yards, threw a 24-yard touchdown pass to Prescott.Mississippi State game three grade: B
Next week: At #10 LSU
MSU QB Dak Prescott
#10 LSU (3-0, 0-0 SEC) 31, Louisiana-Monroe 0: LSU has gone nine quarters without surrendering a point. In registering their second consecutive shutout, the first time that’s happened since 1985, the Tigers gave up only five first downs and 89 total yards, 12 on the ground and 77 through the air. LSU forced 10 punts. Offensively, LSU played bored, gaining only 373 yards with 220 coming on the ground. Freshman Leonard Fournette led LSU with 52 rushing yards including a 24-yard scoring run. He also caught a pass for 20 yards and ran a kickoff back 40 yards.LSU game three grade: B+
Next week: Mississippi State
#18 Missouri 38 (3-0, 0-0 SEC) 38, UCF 10: Defense ruled the day for the Tigers, who forced four turnovers including a fumble that Duron Singleton returned 60 yards for a fourth quarter touchdown. The Tigers also came up with five sacks of UCF quarterback Justin Holman. Maty Mauk threw for four more touchdowns, two each to Bud Sasser and Jimmie Hunt as Mizzou remained unbeaten. Mauk has 12 touchdown passes already.Missouri game three grade: A
Next week: Indiana
#13 Ole Miss (3-0, 1-0 SEC) 56, Louisiana-Lafayette 15: Offensively, Hugh Freeze has to be happy as a clam with the way the Rebels move the football. The passing game has been there all along with Bo Wallace pulling the trigger, but now the running game is showing some explosiveness, too. I’Tavius Mathers had a first quarter touchdown run of 56 yards and Jaylen Walton had a TD run of 71 yards in the third quarter. Freeze can’t be happy with the run defense, however. The Rebels gave up 193 yards and 5.2 yards a carry.Ole Miss game three grade: A-
Next week: Memphis
#24 South Carolina (2-1, 1-1 SEC) 38, Georgia (1-1, 0-1 SEC) 35): The Gamecocks are alive in the SEC East race which comes as quite a surprise after the way they played in game one against Texas A&M. The defense still isn’t very good – gave up 408 total yards and 217 rushing – but it came up with enough stops to eke out the win over sixth-ranked Georgia. Dylan Thompson survived a bad interception in the fourth quarter and finished with 271 passing yards for three touchdowns while Brandon Wilds (93 yards, one touchdown) and Mike Davis (66 yards) gave the Gamecocks a solid running game. Georgia got 131 rushing yards from Todd Gurley. Only Mark Richt and offensive coordinator Mike Bobo can explain why he carried the ball only 20 times.South Carolina game three grade: B+
Next week: at Vanderbilt Georgia game two grade: C-
Next week: Troy
#4 Oklahoma 34, Tennessee (2-1, 0-0 SEC) 10: The Vols could have made a game of it if Justin Worley could have protected the football. Sacked five times for 32 yards in losses, Worley set up one Oklahoma touchdown with a fumble and threw a pick in the fourth quarter that was run back 100 yards for another score. Tennessee did a decent job of controlling the football thanks to a surprising running game that got 97 yards from tailback Jalen Hurd. The Tennessee defense played bend but break, giving up only 16 points even though Oklahoma racked up 454 yards including 308 through the air.Tennessee game three grade: C+
Next game: at Georgia, September 27
#7 Texas A&M (3-0, 1-0 SEC) 38, Rice 10: Maybe the most overrated stat is time of possession. Rice held the ball for 43:16, gained 241 yards passing and 240 rushing yet lost by four touchdowns. Rice ran off 91 plays to 59 for the Aggies and outgained A&M 481-477. What does this tell us about the Aggies? That they are really good offensively and the defense is still not SEC caliber. Kenny Hill threw for 300 yards and four touchdowns in three quarters.Texas A&M game three grade: B
Next week: At SMU
Texas A&M QB Kenny HIll
Vanderbilt (1-2, 0-1 SEC) 34, UMass 32: The Commodores avoided the embarrassment of losing to a MAC team only because UMass choked. The Minutemen had two chances from the Vandy four to score the game winning TD and failed, then blew a chipshot 22-yard field goal that could have sent the game into overtime. After what we’ve seen the first three weeks, it isn’t difficult to imagine Vandy going 0-7 the rest of the way in the SEC. The only two chances to win look to be D1AA Charleston Southern and Old Dominion, which was a D1AA team just a couple of years ago.Vanderbilt game three grade: B
Next week: #24 South Carolina
Remember how embarrassing it was for Ohio State to get hosed by Virginia Tech last week in Columbus? Well, Virginia Tech was beaten at home in Blacksburg by East Carolina, which makes the Ohio State loss even more embarrassing. Ohio State did bounce back to beat Kent State, 66-0, Saturday but there are D1AA and DII teams that would have no problem with the Golden Flashes. As for the rest of the league, easily the worst of the five power conferences, Bowling Green of the MAC beat Indiana, which should hasten the fire Kevin Wilson calls from the alums in Bloomington; Maryland lost to West Virginia; Illinois was hosed by a so-so Washington team; a very average TCU team embarrassed Minnesota; Notre Dame dominated Purdue and Iowa was beaten by a very poor Iowa State team.
Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon: Mariotta’s numbers were 19-23 passing for two touchdowns and 221 yards; 5-71 rushing for another two touchdowns, all in 2-1/2 quarters of work as the Ducks were on cruise control against Wyoming, 48-14. For the season he has 806 passing yards with seven touchdowns (no picks) and 156 rushing yards for three more touchdowns.
Alex Collins, RB, Arkansas: He ran for 211 yards on 27 carries for two touchdowns against Texas Tech including an 84-yarder for a TD. Through three games he has 410 yards and five touchdowns, an average of 8.2 per carry.
Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama: Cooper caught eight passes for 135 yards and a touchdown in Bama’s win over Southern Miss. Through three games he has 35 catches for 454 yards and two touchdowns.
Kenny Hill, QB, Texas A&M: Hill only played threw quarters but he threw for 300 yards and four touchdowns. For the season he has thrown for 1,094 yards, 12 touchdowns and hasn’t thrown an interception.
Everett Golson, QB, Notre Dame: In Notre Dame’s 30-14 win over Purdue, Golson passed for 259 yards and two touchdowns and ran 14 times for 59 yards and another touchdown. Golson has thrown for 780 yards and seven touchdowns plus he has 83 rushing yards and four more touchdowns.
Former Gator assistant Doc Holliday has Marshall off to a 3-0 start after a 44-14 win over Ohio U. Marshall QB and Miami native Rakeem Cato threw for four touchdown passes. His fourth TDP was the 100th of his career … A week after an embarrassing performance against Virginia Tech, J.T. Barrett threw for six touchdowns in Ohio State’s 66-0 win over Kent State … UCLA rallied behind Jerry Neuheisel, son of former coach Rick Neuheisel, to beat Texas, 20-17. Neuheisel threw for 178 yards and two touchdowns … #16 Arizona State moved to 3-0 with a 38-24 win over Colorado. Taylor Kelly passed for 195 yards and three touchdowns and ran for 70 yards and another score for the Sun Devils … #21 Louisville turned the ball over four times, which is why the Cardinals were beaten by ACC bottom feeder Virginia, 23-21 … Shaun Wilson ran for 245 yards and three touchdowns in Duke’s 41-3 win over Kansas … Josh Lambert’s 47-yard field goal on the game’s last play gave West Virginia a 40-37 win over Maryland. Clint Trickett threw for 511 yards and four touchdowns for West Virginia … Brad Kaaya threw for 342 yards and four touchdowns and Phillip Dorsett caught four passes for 201 yards and two touchdowns as Miami beat Arkansas State, 41-20.