There was a big shakeup in the SEC on Saturday. South Carolina climbed to No. 2 in the league power rankings (and No. 3 in the nation) with their impressive win over Georgia, and Florida moved up to No. 3 after beating LSU 14–6 in Gainesville. Also, Vanderbilt jumped from 12th to ninth after beating Missouri in Columbia.
Two huge SEC showdowns highlight the weekend slate
College football's Week 6 action is highlighted by two huge games in the SEC. Georgia and South Carolina meet in Columbia in a game that could decide the SEC East, and LSU travels to Florida in a key game for both programs.
1. Todd Grantham vs. the Vanderbilt coaching staff
This is not a creation of the media: There is legitimately bad blood between the Vanderbilt coaching staff and Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham. Last year’s game, won by Georgia 33–28 in Nashville, ended with Grantham and Commodore head coach James Franklin jawing near midfield before being separated by a Vanderbilt police officer. The Vanderbilt staff thought that some Georgia players, specifically safety Shawn Williams, were a bit too chippy during and immediately following the game. Grantham didn’t appreciate Franklin talking to his players on the field. Fortunately, no punches were thrown, but there is no denying this was a heated exchange.
Both parties are saying all the right things — Franklin recently joked that his family vacationed with the Granthams during the offseason — but there is no doubt there is some lingering animosity.
2. Austyn Carta-Samuels vs. the Georgia defense
Grantham’s defense will be facing a quarterback, junior Austyn Carta-Samuels, making his first start against an SEC opponent. Carta-Samuels has played against quality competition — he faced Texas and BYU twice as well as Boise State, Colorado, Utah and TCU once during his two years at Wyoming — but this Georgia defense will present an enormous challenge. Last year, the Commodores threw for 149 yards vs. Georgia, but 78 of those yards (and the only passing TD) came via trick plays — a 43-yard throw by running back Zac Stacy and a 35-yard toss by punter Ryan Fowler on a fake. Vanderbilt’s two quarterbacks, Larry Smith and Jordan Rodgers, combined to complete only 9-of-29 passes for 71 yards with three interceptions. Carta-Samuels will have to play extremely well to give Vanderbilt a chance for the upset.
3. Can Arkansas beat an FBS opponent?
Arkansas was touted by some as a legitimate national championship contender during the offseason. Now, the Hogs are simply hoping to win a game. The Razorbacks are 0–2 vs. FBS competition, with a loss to UL Monroe in overtime and a 52–0 debacle against Alabama last Saturday. The good news is that Tyler Wilson likely will be back at quarterback after missing the Bama game with a concussion. The bad news is that Wilson can’t help a defense that is allowing 436.7 yards per game. The Hogs’ issues on defense will put pressure on the offense to score a bunch of points in virtually every game. And that could be a problem on Saturday. Rutgers isn’t Alabama, but the Scarlet Knights are pretty nasty on defense. They ranked eighth in the nation in scoring defense and 14th in total defense in 2011 and have continued their strong play early in the ’12 season. Kyle Flood’s team has also experienced success on the road with wins at Tulane (24–12) and South Florida (23–13). This will be a significant test for Arkansas.
4. The Battle of Columbia
South Carolina and Missouri meet for the first time ever as members of the SEC. All things equal, you probably have to give South Carolina the edge due to the location of the game (Columbia, S.C.) and the Gamecocks’ advantage on defense. But all things might not be equal. Both quarterbacks are nursing injuries. South Carolina’s Connor Shaw returned to the starting lineup after sitting out last week’s game vs. East Carolina, but he had to leave the game in the second quarter after taking a big hit to his shoulder. Shaw will get the start on Saturday, but he has yet to complete a game this season. Missouri’s James Franklin is also nursing an injured shoulder. He did not play in the Tigers’ win vs. Arizona State but is expected back on Saturday. South Carolina is better suited at this point to win with its No. 2 quarterback in the game. After struggling in a brief appearance in the opener against Vanderbilt, Dylan Thompson has been solid in relief of Shaw — albeit against inferior competition. Missouri’s backup, Corbin Berkstresser, played relatively well in the Tigers’ 24–20 win over Arizona State, but he is a redshirt freshman who has yet to take a snap on the road.
5. Can Auburn be competitive?
Even the most ardent Auburn fan realizes it will be a tall order for the Tigers to beat mighty LSU this Saturday — even at Jordan-Hare Stadium. But it’s not too much for the Auburn faithful to expect their team to be more competitive against the elite programs in the league. The Tigers are 2–5 in their last seven SEC games, and the five losses have come by an average of 28.6 points. That’s a startling regression for a program that won a national championship just two years ago. Through three games, Auburn ranks 102nd in the nation in total offense and 104th in scoring offense. In the two games vs. AQ conference opponents (Clemson and Mississippi State), the Tigers have scored a total of one touchdown.
6. How ugly will get it in Gainesville?
Kentucky has lost 25 straight overall to Florida and 16 straight in Gainesville. The Wildcats’ last four trips to the Swamp have been especially gruesome, with the Gators winning by an average score of 39–7. And barring a major reversal from both teams, Saturday’s game at Florida Field figures to be just as one-sided. Florida returns home with a ton of swagger after winning two tough SEC road games. The Gators played the finest game of the Will Muschamp era on Saturday night, surging past Tennessee 37–20 in Neyland Stadium. Kentucky, meanwhile, is fresh off a humbling overtime loss at home to Western Kentucky. UK has now lost to the other two FBS programs in the state of Kentucky. This is a tough spot for Joker Phillips and the wounded Wildcats.
7. Can Ole Miss get more touches for Jeff Scott?
Jeff Scott is averaging 10.3 yards per carry in the two games he has played this season. The problem? He has only had 20 rushing attempts. Hugh Freeze acknowledged on Monday that he would like to get Scott, one of the few proven playmakers on the Ole Miss offense, more touches. But Scott is only 5-7 and 170 pounds, which can cause some problems when he is asked to get involved in protecting the quarterback. “If he’s in there for a consistent amount of time, we’re going to have to ask him to (pass protect) also,” Freeze said. “I don’t question Jeff’s or (tailback) Jaylen (Walton)’s heart at all with that. (But) we had defensive ends the other night (vs. Texas) that are 6-5 and 280 pounds.”
8. Can the Alabama defense pitch another shutout?
Alabama’s defensive numbers are staggering, especially when you consider the Crimson Tide have faced two preseason top 25 teams away from home — Michigan in Texas and Arkansas in Fayetteville. Bama has recorded two straight shutouts and has only allowed points in two of 12 quarters this season. This Saturday, the Tide will seeking their third straight shutout — something that hasn’t happened since 1966 — against a Florida Atlantic team that ranks 116th in the nation in scoring (14.7 ppg).
9. Bowden returns to the SEC … sort of
Terry Bowden will make his first appearance as head coach in an SEC venue since Oct. 17, 1998, when his Auburn Tigers lost at Florida 24–3. Bowden, who went 47–17–1 in five-plus seasons at Auburn, is in his first season as the boss at Akron. The Zips, 1–2 in ’12, visit Neyland Stadium on Saturday to a face a Tennessee team eager to get back on track after losing to Florida. “I’ve had the fortune of coaching in all the SEC venues,” Bowden said earlier this week. “And this is one of the most electric.” Bowden only played Tennessee twice during his time at Auburn, losing 30–29 in the 1997 SEC Championship Game and 17–9 in Knoxville in 1998.
10. Will Johnny Manziel ever throw a pick?
We don’t expect Manziel to navigate Texas A&M’s brutal SEC slate without making his share of mistakes, but the Aggies’ redshirt freshman quarterback is off to a great start. Manziel is completing 65.2 percent of his passes and has yet to throw an interception in 66 attempts. He is also a threat on the ground, with 184 yards rushing on 30 carries. “He’s a very talented guy,” A&M coach Kevin Sumlin said earlier this week. “He has to continue to work on moving from an athlete that’s playing quarterback to a quarterback that’s an athlete. And there’s a big difference.”
It was an interesting week in the SEC. Alabama made another huge statement with a convincing win at Arkansas, but the most noteworthy game took place in Knoxville. Florida was sensational in the second half of a 37-20 win over Tennessee. The Gators are already 2-0 in the SEC with both wins coming on the road.
Post-Week 3 Offensive Player of the Year Standings
1. Aaron Murray, Georgia — The junior quarterback is completing 63.8 percent of his passes for 842 yards with eight touchdowns and two interceptions. He threw for a career-high 342 yards in the Bulldogs’ win over FAU last weekend.
2. Mike Gillislee, Florida — The Gators’ rejuvenated offense has leaned on Gillislee in key road wins over Texas A&M and Tennessee. Saturday night in Knoxville, he ran for 115 yards on 18 carries, and he leads the SEC after three games with 346 yards.
3. Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M — The Texas high school legend has been terrific through two games for the Aggies. He has thrown for 467 yards and four touchdowns (with no INTs) and has added 184 yards and three scores on the ground.
Post-Week 3 Defensive Player of the Year Standings
1. Jarvis Jones, Georgia — Jones remains on top of the this list despite sitting out the FAU game with an injury. The junior outside linebacker has emerged as one of the most disruptive forces in the nation.
2. Johnthan Banks, Mississippi State — Banks is one of the nation’s premier cornerbacks. He has two interceptions and 12 total tackles for the 3–0 Bulldogs.
3. C.J. Mosley, Alabama — The junior linebacker has been a consistent force on the dominant Alabama defense. He had five tackles in the Tide’s 52–0 win over Arkansas on Saturday.
Post-Week 3 Coach of the Year Standings
1. Nick Saban, Alabama — He is the coach of the nearly unanimous No. 1 team in the nation. His offense is brutally efficient, and his defense is dominant.
2. Will Muschamp, Florida — Two weeks ago, many were wondering if Muschamp was the right fit in Gainesville. Now, after two come-from-behind wins on the road in league play, he is being mentioned as a possible SEC Coach of the Year.
3. Mark Richt, Georgia — The Bulldogs survived a Week 2 scare at Missouri and then returned home and pounded Florida Atlantic. This team remains the favorite to win the SEC East.
Post-Week 3 SEC Power Rankings
1. Alabama (3-0, 1-0 SEC) Last week’s rank: 1 Week 3 result: Beat Arkansas 52-0
In one of the most impressive performances of the Nick Saban era, Alabama routed the Tyler Wilson-less Razorbacks with surprising ease. Bama outgained Arkansas 438-to-137 with a balanced offense (200-plus yards passing and rushing) and a dominating defense that allowed an average of only 2.2 yards per play. The Crimson Tide has recorded two straight shutouts and has only allowed points in two of 12 quarters this season. Next Game: FAU
2. LSU (3-0, 0-0 SEC) Last week’s rank: 2 Week 3 result: Beat Idaho 63-14
LSU completed its season-opening three-game homestand with its third straight blowout victory. The Tigers blew open a relatively close game — they only led 21–14 late in the second quarter vs. the winless Vandals — by scoring the final six touchdowns of the game. Zach Mettenberger, making his third career start, completed 17-of-22 passes for 22 yards and two touchdowns. LSU has now won an NCAA FBS record 40 straight regular-season non-conference games. Next Game: Auburn
3. Georgia (3-0, 1-0 SEC) Last week’s rank: 3 Week 3 result: Beat Florida Atlantic 56-20
Georgia averaged a staggering 11.3 yards per play on the way to setting a single-game school record with 713 total yards in the easy win over Florida Atlantic. Junior quarterback Aaron Murray threw for a career-high 342 yards (on only 19 attempts) and two running backs, true freshmen Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall, topped the 100-yard mark despite each getting only 10 carries. Georgia has scored more than 40 points in its first three games for the first time in school history. Next Game: Vanderbilt
4. Florida (3-0, 2-0 SEC) Last week’s rank: 6 Week 3 result: Beat Tennessee 37-20
Since struggling to beat Bowling Green in Week 1, Florida has been one of the most impressive teams in the nation. First the Gators won at Texas A&M in the Aggies’ first-ever SEC game. Then, on Saturday night, Florida dominated Tennessee in the second half on its way to an eighth straight victory over the Volunteers. Sophomore quarterback Jeff Driskel was sharp (he threw 219 yards on 20 attempts), but the Gators did most of their work on the ground. Mike Gillislee gained 115 yards on 18 carries to lead a running attack that gained 336 yards on 43 attempts. The Gators are the only team in the nation with two conference wins. Next Game: Kentucky
5. South Carolina (3-0, 1-0 SEC) Last week’s rank: 4 Week 3 result: Beat UAB 49-6
The Gamecocks cruised to their second straight lopsided win at home, pulling away in the second half to defeat UAB 49-6. After struggling on offense in the season-opening win over Vanderbilt, South Carolina has topped the 500-yard mark in consecutive games. Connor Shaw returned to the starting lineup after sitting out last week’s game vs. East Carolina, but he had to leave the game in the second quarter after taking a big hit to his shoulder. South Carolina has only given up two touchdowns in 12 quarters this season. Next Game: Missouri
6. Mississippi State (3-0, 1-0 SEC) Last week’s rank: 7 Week 3 result: Beat Troy 30-24
Mississippi State is 3–0 for the first time since 1999 after holding on to beat Troy on the road. It was a big night for two Bulldog skill players: Tailback LaDarius Perkins rushed for 179 yards on 23 carries, and wide receiver Chad Bumphis became the first MSU player with three touchdown catches since 1969. Bumphis caught six passes for 180 yards. The Bulldogs gave up 572 total yards but won the turnover battle 4-to-0. Next Game: South Alabama
7. Missouri (2-1, 0-1 SEC) Last week’s rank: 8 Week 3 result: Beat Arizona State 24-20
Playing with a backup quarterback in front of a patchwork offensive line, Missouri gutted out a four-point win over a solid Arizona State team Saturday night. Corbin Berkstresser made his first career start in place of the injured James Franklin, and the redshirt freshman from Lee’s Summit, Mo., completed 26-of-46 passes for 258 yards and one touchdown. This game, however, was won on defense. The Tigers forced four turnovers and held an Arizona State offense that topped 500 yards in its first two games to 296 yards. Next Game: at South Carolina
8. Texas A&M (1-1, 0-1 SEC) Last week’s rank: 9 Week 3 result: Beat SMU 48-3
The Aggies bounced back from the emotional loss at home to Florida in the school’s SEC debut by rolling past SMU in Dallas with ease. Redshirt freshman Johny Manziel was sensational for Texas A&M, throwing for 294 yards and four touchdowns and adding 124 yards and two scores on the ground. The Aggies struggled a bit in the first quarter, but scored touchdowns on seven of eight drives during one stretch — four of which that went for 70 yards or longer. Next Game: South Carolina State
9. Tennessee (2-1, 0-1 SEC) Last week’s rank: 5 Week 3 result: Lost to Florida 37-20
The Volunteers weren’t quite ready for the national stage. In the most anticipated game of the Derek Dooley era, Tennessee watched Florida score the game’s final 24 points — including two on touchdowns that covered at least 75 yards — of a disheartening 37–20 loss. Tennessee struggled to run the ball, averaging only 3.0 yards on 28 rushing attempts. Conversely, Florida ran for 336 yards and averaged 7.8 yards per rush. Next Game: Akron
10. Auburn (1-2, 0-1 SEC) Last week’s rank: 11 Week 3 result: Beat UL Monroe 31-28 in OT
Auburn averted disaster — and its first 0–3 start since 1950 — by edging giant killer UL Monroe in overtime. The biggest positive for the Tigers was a running game that picked up 255 yards on 42 carries. Onterio McCalebb led the way with 128 yards on 11 carries, and Tre Mason added 90 yards on 22 carries. Kiehl Frazier continued to struggle at quarterback. The sophomore completed 10-of-18 passes for 130 yards with one touchdown and one pick. Those aren’t bad numbers, but the Tigers would like see more production against a Sun Belt foe. Next Game: at LSU
11. Arkansas (1-2, 0-1 SEC) Last week’s rank: 10 Week 3 result: Lost to Alabama 52-0
In one of the low points in Arkansas football history, the Razorbacks put up little fight in a 52–0 loss to Alabama on national television. The Hogs, playing without quarterback Tyler Wilson, managed only 137 yards of offense and averaged a paltry 2.2 yards per snap. Brandon Allen went 10-of-18 for 60 yards and two interceptions, and Brandon Mitchell, last year’s backup quarterback who had moved to receiver, completed 1-of-7 for 19 yards. Next Game: Rutgers
12. Vanderbilt (1-2, 0-1 SEC) Last week’s rank: 12 Week 3 result: Beat Presbyterian 58-0
The Commodores broke into the win column with an easy victory over FCS foe Presbyterian. The Commodores scored on their first nine possessions and rolled up over 600 yards of offense en route to their most decisive win since blanking The Citadel 58–0 in 1999. In a surprising move, second-year coach James Franklin went with junior Austyn Carta-Samuels at quarterback in favor of senior Jordan Rodgers. Carta-Samuels, a transfer from Wyoming, completed 13-of-20 for 195 yards and one touchdown. Next Game: at Georgia
13. Ole Miss (2-1, 0-0 SEC) Last week’s rank: 13 Week 3 result: Lost to Texas 66-31
After starting the Hugh Freeze era with two wins over inferior competition, Ole Miss was ambushed at home by a Texas offense that totaled 676 yards. The Rebels had success of their own on offense — they had nearly 400 yards and 31 points against one of the nation’s top defenses — but had no answer for the balanced Longhorn attack. Texas rushed 350 yards and threw for 326 more. Next Game: at Tulane
14. Kentucky (1-3, 0-0 SEC) Last week’s rank: 14 Week 4 result: Lost to Western Kentucky 32-31 in OT
Joker Phillips' worst fears became a reality: His team lost at home to Western Kentucky. The Hilltoppers were in control for most of the night — they held leads of 17–0 and 24–10 — but Kentucky forced overtime by scoring on a 22-yard touchdown strike from Maxwell Smith to DeMarcus Sweat in the final minute. That, however, just delayed the agony for UK fans, who watched in horror as WKU converted a 2-point conversion for the win after scoring a touchdown in the first overtime session. Kentucky has now lost to the other two FBS schools in the state. Not good for Joker. Next Game: at Florida
This heated rivalry will decide Palmetto State supremacy.
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