Sometimes you get what you wish for.
When Austin Appleby got his undergraduate degree from Purdue, he looked to transfer to a place where he would have a chance to play in meaningful games for a team with a shot at winning. He chose Florida and because starting QB Luke Del Rio will miss at least 2-3 weeks with a sprained knee, Appleby will have a chance to start Saturday in the biggest game of his collegiate football career against 12th-ranked Tennessee (3-0, 0-0 SEC) in Neyland Stadium.
Appleby never got opportunities like this at Purdue, which, after his redshirt freshman year in 2011, went 6-25 and 0-10 against ranked teams. The 16th-ranked Gators (3-0, 1-0 SEC) go into this game with as many wins as Purdue had in any season from 2013-15.
Just because Appleby played for a Big Ten bottom feeder, the time wasn’t totally wasted. He did play in 17 games, started 11 and finished off his Purdue career by throwing for 332 yards and 2 TDs against Indiana while rushing for 2 more TDs. He’s played in front of big crowds including 91,000 at Nebraska so the 102,000 that will fill Neyland Stadium shouldn’t intimidate him. In addition he is a very bright student (Academic All-Big Ten) who knows the offense through and through.
In the Florida offense, HBC Jim McElwain doesn’t ask his quarterbacks to be heroes. He wants a QB who can manage the game, make the right decisions and get the ball to the right playmakers at the right time. At Neyland, Appleby simply has to live in the moment, make the right choices and find the open receivers. If there isn’t anything there, the nation’s top rated defense has his back. Just throw the ball away and let the defense do its thing to get the ball back for another chance.
This is Austin Appleby’s moment for sure and as long as he understands he doesn’t have to do it alone, he will be just fine.
THROUGH THREE GAMES: The Gators lead the nation in scoring defense, having given up just 14 points in three games. In the modern era of Florida football (since Ray Graves came to UF in 1960), that ties the best 3-game start with the 1966 Gators, who gave up 14 in wins over Northwestern, Mississippi State and Vanderbilt. The 1988 Galen Hall-coached Gators gave up only 15 points in their first three games.
The Gators in NCAA stats:
Total defense: #1, 129.7 yards per game (2.59 yards per play)
Rushing defense: #2, 42.3 yards per game (1.31 yards per attempt)
Pass defense: #2, 87.3 yards per game (4.94 yards per attempt)
Scoring defense: #1, 4.7 points per game
Sacks: #1, 16 for -112 yards
Third down defense: #6, opponents are 7-36 on third down (19.4%)
Total offense: #40, 466 yards per game (6.13 yards per play)
Rushing offense: #50, 202 yards per game (4.97 yards per attempt)
Passing offense: #38, 264 yards per game (7.47 yards per attempt)
Scoring: (Tie) #58, 33.7 points per game
Sacks allowed: (Tie) #6, 1 for -6 yards
Third down conversions: #3, 29-50 (58%)
THE COACHES POLL TOP 25
(SEC teams in bold face)
1. Alabama (3-0)
2. Ohio State (3-0)
3. Clemson (3-0)
4. Louisville (3-0)
5. Michigan (3-0)
6. Stanford (2-0)
7. Houston (3-0)
8. Michigan State (2-0)
9. Washington (3-0)
10. Wisconsin (3-0
11. Georgia (3-0)
12. Tennessee (3-0)
13. Texas A&M (3-0)
14. Florida State (2-1)
15. Baylor (3-0)
16. FLORIDA (3-0)
17. LSU (2-1)
18. Arkansas (3-0)
19. Miami (3-0)
20. Nebraska (3-0)
21. TIE: Ole Miss (1-2) and TCU (2-1)
23. Utah (3-0)
24. Texas (2-1)
25. Iowa (2-1)
AROUND THE SEC
#1 Alabama (3-0, 1-0 SEC): To put Saturday’s 48-43 win over Ole Miss in perspective, Alabama needed a defensive touchdown by a lineman and a long punt return to overcome giving up 527 total yards and 421 passing yards to Chad Kelly. It might be wise to put those “best Alabama team ever” predictions on hold for awhile. Alabama is good, but at this moment is vulnerable.
Next Saturday: vs. Kent State (1-2)
#18 Arkansas (3-0, 0-0 SEC): This is a team that’s starting to put it all together. The Hogs have playmakers on an offense that has gotten better each week and now the defense is starting to come around. Against Texas State, Arkansas gave up only 22 rushing yards, 83 through the air and only 3 points. If they can find a way to beat the Aggies this week they’ll have a chance to make a statement in October when they have homers against Alabama, Ole Miss and Florida and a roadie to Auburn.
Next Saturday: vs. #13 Texas A&M (3-0, 1-0 SEC) at Arlington, TX
Auburn (1-2, 0-1 SEC): If the loss to Texas A&M proved one thing it is that Sean White is in no way the catalyst for the Auburn offense against a decent SEC defense. He averaged only 4.7 yards per pass attempts, didn’t throw a TDP and he ran 8 times for -2 yards. If the Tigers are going to avoid going in the tank, they’re going to have to give John Franklin III a chance to run the offense because without a running QB they’re going nowhere.
Next Saturday: vs. #17 LSU (2-1, 1-0 SEC)
#11 Georgia (3-0, 1-0 SEC): Georgia got a win and somehow moved up in the rankings, but there are problems with the O-line. Georgia gained only 95 rushing yards and gave up 4 sacks in the win over Missouri. The running game was so unproductive that the Bulldogs launched 55 passes against Missouri … There are some problems over on the defensive side, too. Mizzou threw for 376 yards on Georgia and was in a position to win until J’Mon Moore fumbled the ball at midfield in the final 1:30.
Next Saturday: at #21 Ole Miss (1-2, 0-1 SEC)
Kentucky (1-2, 0-1 SEC): Maybe it was a blessing in disguise that QB Drew Barker went down with an injury on Kentucky’s second offensive play. Juco transfer QB Stephen Johnson II came off the bench to throw for 310 yards and 3 TDs and run 10 times for another 51 while leading the Wildcats to 692 yards and 62 points … Kentucky better score points in buckets because the defense ranks #122 nationally out of 128 teams, giving up 528 yards and 43.7 points per game.
Next Saturday: vs. South Carolina (2-1, 1-1 SEC)
LSU (2-1, 1-0 SEC): For the first half at least, there was proof of life for the LSU offense. Danny Etling was allowed to throw the football and that opened things up for Leonard Fournette. Then came the second half when the offense went conservative and Fournette complicated things with a couple of fumbles … At one point in Saturday’s win over Mississippi State, center Ethan Pojcic was forced to play LT because of all the injuries. All five of LSU’s starters missed significant time because of injury.
Next Saturday: at Auburn (1-2, 0-1 SEC)
Mississippi State (1-2, 1-1 SEC): All you have to do is look at the third down stats to figure out why Mississippi State lost to LSU. The Bulldogs were a dismal 1-14 on third down. It’s been a problem in all three games. MSU is just 9-37 on third down this season.
Next Saturday: vs. UMass (1-2) at Foxboro, MA
Missouri (1-2, 0-1 SEC): Missouri will look back on three plays that cost a win over Georgia. Drew Lock threw an interception on third-and-5 at the Georgia 18 with less than 8 minutes remaining and Mizzou leading, 27-21. On Missouri’s next drive, the Tigers punted from the Georgia 41 and the ball carried into the end zone instead of pinning the Bulldogs inside the 10. Georgia then moved 80 yards for what proved to be the game winning TD. On Mizzou’s final offensive play of the game, J’Mon Moore was hit with a pass in stride at midfield. He seemingly split the defenders and had clear sailing to the end zone but he put the ball on the ground, Georgia recovered and ran out the clock.
Next Saturday: vs. Delaware State (0-2)
#21 Ole Miss (1-2, 0-1 SEC): Quarterback Chad Kelly took responsibility for two second half turnovers – a fumble and an interception that was returned 75 yards for a TD – that proved costly in the Rebels’ 48-43 loss to Alabama. “I have to throw the ball away more and I didn’t do that today,” Kelly said post game. Kelly did light up Alabama’s defense for 421 passing yards and 3 TDs, however.
Next Saturday: vs. #11 Georgia (3-0, 1-0 SEC)
South Carolina (2-1, 1-1 SEC): Brandon McIlwain is going to make mistakes as every true freshman QB does, but he gives the Gamecocks their best chance to win games. In his first collegiate start against ECU, McIlwain threw for 195 yards without a pick and ran for 34 more yards and 2 TDs as the Gamecocks won, 20-15.
Next Saturday: at Kentucky (1-2, 0-1 SEC)
#12 Tennessee (3-0, 0-0 SEC): There are injuries galore (All-SEC S/KR Cameron Sutton and All-SEC LB Jalen Reeves-Maybin are the latest), the O-line is most inconsistent and the passing game is average at best. All this and the season is pretty much on the line Saturday in Knoxville when the Gators come to town with a win streak over UT that dates back to 2005. The pressure this week is all on the shoulders of the Vols, who have found ways to underperform when expectations are the highest in recent years.
Next Saturday: vs. #16 FLORIDA (3-0, 1-0 SEC)
#13 Texas A&M (3-0, 1-0 SEC): So far Trevor Knight has been an absolute godsend for Kevin Sumlin and the Aggies. In his first SEC road game at Auburn, Knight passed for 247 yards and a TD and ran for another 42. Best of all, he didn’t turn the ball over. He’s accounted for 8 TDs in three games, 5 passing and 3 running.
Next Saturday: vs. #18 Arkansas (3-0, 0-0 SEC) at Arlington, TX
Vanderbilt (1-2, 0-1 SEC): It was expected that Georgia Tech would run the ball on Vandy, but the Yellow Jackets threw for 222 as part of a 511-yard, 38-point effort that has the Commodores looking like a team heading in the wrong direction – again. Back in August there were predictions that Vandy would go into the Florida game 4-0. It’s going to be a struggle for the Dores to finish September 1-3 because Western Kentucky is very capable of winning at home next week.
Next Saturday: at Western Kentucky (2-1)
1. Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville: Against FSU, Jackson was 13-20 passing, 216 yards, 1 TD; 17-146 rushing, 4 TDs. For the season, Jackson is 50-82 passing, 913 yards, 8 TDs; 49-464 rushing, 10 TDs.
2. Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford: In Stanford’s win over Southern Cal, McCaffrey was 30-165 rushing, 1 TD; 4-73 receiving, 1 TD; 1 KO return for 22 yards. In two games, he is 52-291 rushing, 3 TDs; 11-113 receiving, 1 TD; 2-16 punt returns; 2-50 kickoff returns.
3. Donnell Pumphrey, RB, San Diego State: In San Diego State’s win over Northern Illinois, Pumphrey was 23-220 rushing, 3 TDs. For the season he is 73-599 rushing, 7 TDs; 9-67 receiving.
4. J.T. Barrett, QB, Ohio State: Barrett was 14-20 passing, 152 yards, 4 TDs and 17-74 rushing in the Buckeyes’ win over Oklahoma. For the season he is 49-73 passing, 650 yards, 10 TDs; 39-159 rushing, 3 TDs.
1. Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU: Back from an ankle injury that idled him the week before, Fournette carried 28-147 and scored 2 TDs while catching 4 passes for 27 yards against Mississippi State. He’s not rising but he’s not falling either. For the season he is 51-285 rushing, 2 TDs; 7-65 receiving.
2. Greg Ward Jr., QB, Houston: He was 24-36 for 326 yards in the win over Cincinnati but threw 2 picks vs. 1 TD. Rushing the ball he was 26-73 for 2 TDs. For the season he’s 47-76 for 647 passing yards, 3 TDs; 44-74 rushing, 2 TDs.
3. Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson: He played about a quarter and a half against South Carolina State, hitting 12-15 passing for 152 yards, 3 TDs while going 2-8 running the ball. On the season he’s 58-102 passing, 692 yards, 7 TDs; 23-84 running the ball.
Dropping like a rock
1. Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State: He’s played three games and still doesn’t have a 100-yard effort on the ground. FSU’s blowout loss to Louisville doesn’t kill his chances but severely limits them. Cook was 16-54 rushing vs. Louisville and 1-8 receiving. Season numbers are 50-228 rushing, 2 TDs; 9-118 receiving.
2. Nick Chubb, RB, Georgia: For the second straight game against an inferior opponent he got stuffed a lot. He was 19-63 rushing against Missouri. Season numbers – 71-363 rushing, 3 TDs – are obscured by 222 yards and 2 TDs in the season opener.
3. Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma: He’s 0-2 against the only two ranked teams he’s played so he’s already all but out of it. He’s 55-85 passing for 793 yards and 7 TDs; 21-4 rushing.
4. Deondre Francois, QB, Florida State: He was only a candidate as long as FSU was challenging for the national championship. So much for that after FSU got its doors blown off by Louisville, 63-20.
SEC commish Greg Sankey needs to have some serious words with his officiating and replay crews. On the same play where replay showed an illegal block to the back occurred a good 10-15 yards BEFORE an Ole Miss lineman scored after picking up a fumble, Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts somehow avoided injury when Ole Miss DE Marquise Haynes lowered the crown of his helmet and launched himself at Hurts’ head. The SEC officiating crew on the field blew the first call and it wasn’t reviewable. On the second, the folks in the replay HQ said there wasn’t enough evidence to call Haynes for targeting. What a cop out. Both were horrible calls. Besides those two calls, we’ve seen far too many bad or inept zebra/replay moments and we’re only three weeks into the season.
Ditto for the Pac-12 replay crew whose screwup cost Texas a win over California. The replay crew ruled that Texas didn’t recover a Cal fumble fast enough.
Do you think the Big 12 presidents are feeling a teensy bit foolish these days for choosing West Virginia over Louisville back in 2012?
North Dakota State has won five straight Division IAA national championships for a good reason. Iowa is the latest to figure out that the Bison can play with the big boys. The Hawkeyes paid NDSU a cool $500,000 to bus down to Iowa City and score a sixth straight win over a Division I team.
Oregon has a tradition of going for 2 after its first touchdown but HBC Mark Helfrich kept going for 2 against Nebraska. The Ducks were 1-5 on 2-point conversions against Nebraska and they lost the game 35-32. All in the same game Helfrich was both dumb and dumber.
Wasn’t it just a week ago that Jameis Winston was ready to coronated as the next great NFL quarterback?
There were 134 players chosen in the 2016 NFL Draft before the Dallas Cowboys drafted Dak Prescott in the fourth round. Do you think perhaps there are some folks second guessing why they passed on him about now?
Florida International Athletic Director Pete Garcia announced plans to retire in 2018. Garcia should heed the advice of Jeremy Foley, whose motto for years has been what must be done eventually should be done immediately.
QUESTION OF THE DAY
Three weeks into the season, which two SEC teams are poised to exceed expectations and which two teams are poised to crash and burn?
MUSIC FOR TODAY
How’s this for recent? This is Saturday night’s concert in Asheville, North Carolina by Widespread Panic.