With one third of the season in the books, it appears that those predictions of a meltdown between Nick Saban and his new offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin might be just a tad off the mark. Through four games, Alabama is averaging 587.5 yards and 42 points per game. Against Florida, which supposedly has the best defense not named Alabama in the SEC, Kiffin dialed up the plays that netted the most yards – 645 – ever given up by a Florida defense and six offensive touchdowns, Bama’s fourth straight game with more than 500 yards of offensive production.
And that was with four turnovers. The numbers would have been even more mind boggling if Alabama had held onto the ball (three fumbles, one interception). Even with the giveaways -- Alabama held the ball for 39:16 and ground out 28 first downs – and the penalties (11-81) Alabama still had the look of an offensive freight train, particularly in the second half when there was only one turnover.
This is not the Alabama offense of the previous seven years, which is scary. From 2007-13, Bama was a downhill running team that threw deep off play action and ran a pro-style attack. This one mixes pro-style with an up-tempo, no-huddle spread. The running game is still powerful, but Kiffin uses more of the field with the passing game and when you have weapons like Amari Cooper to throw it to and a 1-2-3 punch in the running game of T.J. Yeldon, Derrick Henry and Kenyan Drake, it’s a frightening combination.
Add to that the development of quarterback Blake Sims and you have an Alabama offense that looks to be easily the best of the Nick Saban era. The defense, which held Florida to 200 total yards, has made strides in every game. Those guys are a work in progress and are nowhere as good as they will be later in the season.
What Saturday told us is that Alabama is still the class of the Southeastern Conference and the SEC West is light years ahead of the SEC East. Alabama has the most complete team in the league and the most accommodating schedule. The Tide gets Texas A&M, Mississippi State and Auburn at home and the only real road test appear to be Ole Miss (October 4) and LSU (November 8).
Steve Spurrier, Head Ball Coach, South Carolina: Stevie Wonder picked up his 202nd win as an SEC coach, moving past Vince Dooley into the #2 spot on the all-time list behind Bear Bryant, who won 292 games at Alabama.
Blake Sims, QB, Alabama: All he did against Florida was 23-33 for 445 yards and four touchdowns. He made all the throws and consistently got the Tide in the right plays when he checked down.
Landon Collins, S, Alabama: He had an interception, two pass breakups and four hits that might result in future dental work against the Florida Gators.
Josh Robinson, TB, Mississippi State: Robinson gashed LSU’s defense for 197 yards and a touchdown as Mississippi State got its first win over LSU since 1999 and its first at Tiger Stadium since 1991.
Mississippi State O-line: The Mississippi State offensive line blew open big holes in the LSU front, allowing the Bulldogs to run for 302 yards.
Florida secondary: The Gators might have the best cover corner in the country in Vernon Hargreaves III, but they have a bunch of guys who are lost balls in the tall grass when it comes to coverage. Alabama threw for 449 yards and five touchdowns. In the last two games the Gators have given up 818 passing yards and eight touchdowns.
SEC zebras: Not that throwing a few flags would have changed the outcome of the game, but you still have to wonder if these guys have ever heard of holding. Watch the replays and you’ll see an Alabama offensive line that has handfuls of jersey on nearly every play but the Crimson Tide miraculously (sarcasm) avoided a penalty flag.
Missouri defense: The Tigers gave up 493 yards, but more important, gave up a 75-play scoring drive in the final 2:20 of the game in a most embarrassing loss to a Big Ten bottom feeder. It’s tough to run wide on Missouri but the Tigers have real trouble stopping teams that take it straight up the gut.
South Carolina defense: Unless these guys improve drastically, the Gamecocks are going to have to win shootouts. They gave up 373 yards of offense including 223 through the air to a Vandy team that has the worst looking offense there has been in the SEC since 2010 when Robbie Caldwell was the coach.
Anthony Jennings, QB, LSU: If Les Miles has a clue, then Jennings won’t be starting in the future. Brandon Harris showed in the game’s final four minutes that he’s the guy. But, with Les you never know. It’s hard to imagine the Tigers winning big the rest of the way with Jennings at QB.
Arkansas: The Razorbacks have won three games in a row, but let’s put that in perspective. They won their first three last year then lost their last nine. They seem to be improved but they haven’t played anyone. The Aggies come to town next Saturday.
Mississippi State pass defense: There aren’t many teams that can stop Dak Prescott and the Bulldogs offense. Dan Mullen wishes he could say the same thing about his pass defense, which gave up 341 yards including 140 in the last four minutes of the game against LSU.
Florida offense: Are the Gators as bad as they looked against Alabama or is the Alabama defense just that good. We’ll know in two weeks when UF goes to Tennessee to face a UT defense that is vastly improved from last year.
ARKANSAS (3-1, 0-1 SEC) 52, Northern Illinois 14: When the Razorbacks were unable to simply line up and impose their will in the running game as they had the previous three weeks, they turned to quarterback Brandon Allen, who loosened up the Northern Illinois defense by throwing for 199 yards and two touchdowns. This was the first game of the season that the Razorbacks didn’t produce a 100-yard rusher. Alex Collins led Arkansas’ 212-yard rushing effort with 79 yards on 15 carries.Arkansas game four grade:
Next week: vs. Texas A&M
#13 Georgia (2-1, 0-1 SEC) 66, Troy 0: They could have called this one after the first quarter. Georgia led, 21-0, and from that point on the Bulldogs were on cruise control. Although they did as much as they could to hold the score down – after all you don’t want to piss off a future homecoming opponent that needs a paycheck – the Bulldogs still scored practically at will. Todd Gurley carried the ball six times for 73 yards and quarterback Hutson Mason was 8-12 for 97 yards and two touchdowns, both to Michael Bennett. Freshman tailback Sony Michel ran for 155 yards on 10 carries for three touchdowns to pace a Georgia offense that put up 547 offensive yards. Georgia’s defense forced two turnovers, sacked the Troy QBs three times for 22 yards in losses and held the Trojans to 216 total yards, only 47 on the ground.Georgia game three grade: A
Next week: Tennessee
MISSISSIPPI STATE 34 (4-0, 1-0 SEC), #8 LSU (3-1, 0-1 SEC) 29: The Bulldogs were cruising along to a blowout win at Tiger Stadium when Les Miles changed quarterbacks and turned this into a white knuckler. In the final four minutes, freshman Brandon Harris completed 6-9 passes for 140 yards and touchdowns of 31 and 30 yards to fellow freshman Malachi Dupre. The game was in doubt until the final play when Will Redmond picked off a hail Mary throw from Harris at the goal line. That LSU was able to come back and make it close took a little luster off the performance of Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott, who threw his hat into the SEC Player of the Year ring by throwing for 268 yards and two touchdowns and rushing for 105 and another score. Josh Robinson ran for 197 yards and a touchdown. The LSU defense, which hadn’t allowed a score in nine quarters, gave up 570 yards and five offensive touchdowns.Mississippi State game four grade: A-
Next week: Open. LSU game four grade: D-
Next week: New Mexico State
Indiana 31, #18 MISSOURI (3-1, 0-0 SEC) 27: The Tigers will certainly drop out of the top 25 after an embarrassing loss – for both Mizzou and the SEC – to Big Ten bottom feeder Indiana. Indiana regularly gashed Missouri’s defensive front seven in the run game and the O-line gave quarterback Nate Sudfeld (19-33, 252 yards and one touchdown) time to throw. Maty Mauk threw for 336 yards and two touchdowns for Missouri and Bud Sasser caught 12 balls for 153 yards but it wasn’t enough because the Mizzou defense was unable to get critical stops.Missouri game four grade: F
Next week: At South Carolina
#14 SOUTH CAROLINA (3-1, 2-1 SEC) 48, VANDERBILT 34: Once the Gamecocks woke from their coma, they played very well but Steve Spurrier can’t be happy with falling behind by two touchdowns in the first quarter, his defense giving up 223 passing yards to an inept Vandy offense or his special teams allowing a 100 yard kickoff return for a touchdown. The Gamecocks got another good game out of quarterback Dylan Thompson, who was 22-34 for 234 yards and three touchdowns. Vanderbilt might have found its quarterback in freshman Wade Freebeck, who was 11-20 for 168 yards and a touchdown.South Carolina game four grade: C+
Next week: Missouri Vanderbilt game four grade: C
Next week: At Kentucky
#6 TEXAS A&M 58 (4-0, 1-0 SEC), SMU 6: Kenny Hill only played two quarters and the Aggies spent the second half working on their running game against the hapless Mustangs, who have scored 14 points total in their three games so far. Hill was 16-22 for 265 yards and two touchdowns and had 57 yards running the ball in his half of play. The Aggie defense came up with eight sacks and 11 tackles for loss while holding SMU to 241 total yards (3.4 yards per play) and no offensive touchdowns. The Aggies averaged 8.6 per running play and 10.7 yards per pass attempt.Texas A&M game four grade:
Next week: At Arkansas.
Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon: In Oregon’s 38-31 win over Washington State, Mariota threw for 329 yards and five touchdowns and ran for 58 yards. Through four games he has thrown for 1,135 yards and 13 touchdowns and rushed for 214 and three more scores.
Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin: Gordon got himself back in the Heisman equation with a 13 carry, 253-yard performance against Bowling Green that was good for five touchdowns that included scoring runs of 50 and 69 yards.
Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama: Florida keyed its defense on him. He still caught 10 passes for 201 yards and three touchdowns. His season stats are 43 catches, 655 yards and five touchdowns.
Dak Prescott, QB, Mississippi State: Prescott was brilliant, throwing for 268 yards and two touchdowns and running for 105 in Mississippi State’s upset win over #8 LSU. For the season, Prescott has 964 yards and 11 touchdowns passing and 378 yards and three touchdowns rushing.
Kenny Hill, QB, Texas A&M: Hill is 4-0 as a starting quarterback. Against SMU he only played half, but threw for 265 yards and two touchdowns while running for 57 yards. For the season he has thrown for 1,359 yards and 13 touchdowns with only one pick.
Ameer Abdullah, RB, Nebraska: Abdullah carried the ball 35 times for 229 yards and two touchdowns in Nebraska’s 41-30 win over Miami. In four games, Abdullah has run for 625 yards and five touchdowns.
Not only did Jameis Winston embarrass himself, his team and his school by getting suspended for yet another imbecilic act, he dressed out in pads and warmed up with the Seminoles Saturday night. Once again, Winston shows that it’s all about him by doing exactly what he wants to do and saying to hell with everything and everyone else. FSU coach Jimbo Fisher didn’t look all that happy when he noticed Winston on the field. He did order Winston back to the locker room but allowed him on the sidelines wearing his FSU jersey during the game. Said FSU alum Lee Corso, part of the ESPN GameDay crew, “Winston shouldn’t be allowed in the stadium tonight. Get him out of here.”
The Florida Times-Union reports that there was a fan wearing a crab suit at the game, holding a sign that read, “Jameis apologizes for ‘SELFISH ACT’ not to be confused with ‘SHELLFISH ACT.’”
Former Gator assistant Doc Holliday is now 4-0 after Marshall stomped Little Terry Bowden and the Arkon Zips, 48-17. Miami-native Rakeen Cato threw for 210 yards and a touchdown and ran for 23 yards and two more TDs. He’s thrown for 101 touchdowns and 11,349 yards in his career … Former Gator quarterback Tyler Murphy threw for 130 yards and one touchdown and ran for 99 yards and two more as Boston College improved to 3-1 with an 40-10 win over Maine … Former Gator quarterback Jacoby Brissett was 14-21 for 195 yards and three touchdowns and ran for 22 yards and another score as North Carolina State blanked Presbyterian, 42-0 … Washington (4-0) remained unbeaten by scoring 45 unanswered points in the second half for a 45-14 win over Georgia State … In moving to 4-0 on the season, #4 Oklahoma withstood 376 passing yards and two touchdowns by West Virginia’s Clint Trickett. Oklahoma tailback Samaje Perine ran for 242 yards and four touchdowns ... Taysom Hill ran for 72 yards and a touchdown and threw for 187 and two scores as BYU (4-0) remained unbeaten with a 41-33 win over Virginia … Ohio State’s loss to Virginia Tech looks all the more embarrassing after the Hokies lost for the second straight week at home on a 24-yard Harrison Butner Field goal as time expired that gave Georgia Tech a 27-24 win … East Carolina passed for 446 yards and ran for 343 (789 total) in its 70-41 torching of North Carolina … Kansas and Charlie Weis are 2-1 after a 24-10 win over Central Michigan … The Big Ten went 12-1 against non-conference opponents with the only loss, 26-10, by Michigan to Utah … Arizona remained unbeaten, scoring on the final play of the game to take a 49-45 win over previously unbeaten California.