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
Florida heads to Rocky Top for crucial SEC West Showdown
College football’s third week of action features a huge showdown in the SEC East, a big matchup with Michigan State and Notre Dame and Thursday night clash between to Big East title hopefuls.
10 Biggest Games of Week 3
Florida(+3) at Tennessee
A few months ago, when CBS was selecting its early season schedule, the network passed on the Tennessee-Florida game (for the first time since 1995) in favor of Alabama’s trip to Arkansas. Now, however, after Tennessee’s hot start, Florida’s win at Texas A&M and Arkansas’ shocking loss to UL Monroe, the Vols vs. Gators showdown in the marquee game of the day in the nation’s premier conference. Tennessee has looked sharp in both games — a win over NC State in Atlanta and a lopsided victory over hapless Georgia State — but Florida is the more battle-tested of the two teams. The Gators’ offense is still an issue, but there were signs of progress in the 20–17 win at Texas A&M on Saturday. The story of the game, though, was the Florida defense. After giving up three drives of more than 70 yards in the first half, UF limited A&M to a total of 65 yards in the second half. Tennessee’s Tyler Bray might be the most physically gifted quarterback in the nation, but he has yet to lead his team to a victory against a quality opponent with an elite defense. Florida 24, Tennessee 21
Alabama (-21) at Arkansas
Arkansas’ loss to UL Monroe last week was a blow to the Razorbacks’ ego, but it’s important to remember that it was not a conference game. However, it’s very difficult to envision a scenario in which a team that lost a 28–7 lead at home (in Little Rock) to UL Monroe is good enough to challenge Alabama and LSU in the SEC West. To make matters worse, All-SEC quarterback Tyler Wilson might not play due to an injury suffered in the Monroe game. Alabama, meanwhile, is rolling right along. The Crimson Tide improved to 2–0 with a 35–0 win over Western Kentucky and looks like the best team in the country after two weeks. This trip to Fayetteville will be Bama’s first true road game, so don’t be surprised if the Tide struggles a bit — even if Wilson doesn’t play for Arkansas. In the end, though, Alabama will prevail. Alabama 31, Arkansas 17
Notre Dame (+4) at Michigan State
For the first time since 2005, both Notre Dame and Michigan State are undefeated for their annual early season showdown. Michigan State moved to 2–0 with a 41–7 win in its first-ever visit to Central Michigan. Le’Veon Bell was “held” to 70 yards on 18 carries after exploding for 210 against Boise State. Notre Dame gutted out a 20–17 win over an underrated Purdue club that features an outstanding defensive front. The Irish had trouble running the ball, but Everett Golson and Tommy Rees combined to throw for 324 yards and one touchdown. The key for Notre Dame, however, will be on defense and its ability to slow down Bell and the Michigan State rushing attack. Andrew Maxwell is a talented quarterback, but the first-year starter made some key mistakes in the win over Boise State. Notre Dame must force Maxwell to make plays down field. Michigan State 27, Notre Dame 21
USC (-9) at Stanford
Matt Barkley has been nearly flawless through two games. The senior quarterback has completed 67.6 percent of his passes for 559 yards with an amazing 10 touchdowns — four more than any other player in the nation. It helps when Marqise Lee and Robert Woods are your primary targets, but Barkley is clearly playing the position at the highest level. USC’s defense, however, was a bit of a disappointment last week. The Trojans surrendered 455 yards to Syracuse in a 42–29 win over the Orange at the Meadowlands. We knew this wasn’t going to be one of the premier defenses in the nation, but those numbers are a bit alarming. Stanford bounced back from a lethargic Week 1 win over San Jose State by dominating Duke 50–13 in Palo Alto. The Cardinal have won three straight in this series. They won’t get to No. 4. USC 38, Stanford 24
Arizona State (+7) at Missouri
Todd Graham might not be the most well-liked coach in America, but he’s done a terrific job early in his first season at Arizona State. The Sun Devils are 2–0 with wins over Northern Arizona (63–6) and Illinois (45–14). Now, Graham and the Devils take their show on the road to face a Missouri team that must bounce back — both physically and emotionally — from a 41–20 loss at home to Georgia in the school’s first-ever SEC game. Missouri played well for much of the game but was overwhelmed by the Bulldogs’ front seven on defense in the fourth quarter. The Tigers won’t face the same type of defensive pressure this week, which is good news for the banged up Mizzou offensive line. If quarterback James Franklin has ample time to operate, the Tigers should get back in the win column this weekend. Missouri 30, Arizona State 24
Wake Forest (+25) at Florida State
This line seems a bit high considering that Wake Forest beat Florida State last season and played well last week in a 28–27 win over a well-regarded North Carolina team. The Deacons had trouble running the ball vs. UNC, but Tanner Price completed 27-of-38 for 327 yards to lead the passing attack. Florida State has won its two games by a combined score of 124–3, but the two wins came against FCS opponents. We think this is a very good FSU team, but we won’t know for sure until the Noles play a few schools that hand out more than 65 scholarships. After Wake, Florida State hosts Clemson and then travels to South Florida and NC State. It’s a crucial stretch for the preseason ACC favorites. Florida State 30, Wake Forest 17
Connecticut (-2.5) at Maryland
It’s the highly anticipated Randy Edsall bowl. The not-so-popular head coach went 74–70 in 12 years at Connecticut before bolting for his “dream job” at Maryland. Things haven’t gone so well in College Park, where Edsall has a 4–10 record through the second week of the 2012 season. The Terps are 2–0 in ’12, but the wins have come against William & Mary (by one) and Temple (by nine). There is some quality young talent on the roster — and the Terps are starting a true freshman quarterback (Perry Hills) — but the program has a long way to go to be relevant in the ACC. UConn has split its first two games, dominating UMass 37–0 in Week 1 before dropping a 10–7 decision to NC State at home last weekend. The sample size is small (and the first opponent was dreadful), but the Huskies have been stout on defense so far in 2012. That, combined with Maryland’s struggles on offense, gives UConn the advantage in this classic Big East vs. ACC showdown. UConn 13, Maryland 10
BYU (-4) at Utah
Utah’s season hasn’t exactly planned. First, the Utes had a 12-game winning streak vs. in-state rival Utah State snapped. Then starting quarterback Jordan Wynn announced that he was retiring from football after suffering another shoulder injury. That leaves senior Jon Hays (12-of-26 vs. Utah State) as the starter with true freshman Travis Wilson being used as a change-of-pace option. BYU, on the other hand, has looked very good in wins at home vs. Washington State (30–6) and Weber State (45–13). The Cougars will be out for some revenge after getting pounded at home, 54–10, last season by their hated rivals from Salt Lake City. BYU 24, Utah 14
North Carolina (+3.5) at Louisville
North Carolina’s hopes of contending in the ACC Coastal took a big hit with a surprising loss at Wake Forest on Saturday. The Tar Heels are ineligible to play in the league’s title game, but there was a belief among many — including Athlon Sports — that they could challenge Virginia Tech in the division. That, however, will be difficult after Saturday’s loss. Louisville remains the favorite in the Big East. The Cardinals are 2–0 after beating Kentucky and Missouri State at home. Sophomore Teddy Bridgewater has been terrific in both games. He’s completed 49-of-60 (81.7 percent) for 576 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. Nobody expects him to continue to operate with that type of efficiency, but Bridgewater is emerging as one of the top young quarterbacks in the game. Louisville 24, North Carolina 20
Rutgers (+9) at South Florida (Thu.)
Once again, South Florida is off to a strong start. The Bulls improved to 2–0 with an impressive come-from-behind win over a solid Nevada team in Reno. Now, the Bulls need to sustain this strong play throughout the course of the season — something they haven’t been able to do in recent years. Rutgers is 2–0, but the Scarlet Knights haven’t been overly impressive in wins over Tulane (a bad FBS team) and Howard (a mediocre FCS team). The Scarlet Knights are only averaging 315 yards per game (ranks 100th in the nation), an alarmingly low number given the level of competition. Jawan Jamison has looked good running the ball (222 yards on 28 carries), but nothing else has really stood out about the RU attack. South Florida 24, Rutgers 16
Last week: 6–4 overall (4–6 against the spread) Season: 15–5 overall (11–9 against the spread)
The Vols have a losing record in his two seasons at the helm.
The Tennessee football program will be watching bowl season from home, and Vols fans are already contemplating if head coach Derek Dooley can lead them back to prominence. Tennessee is historically a top ten football program, but that has been nowhere near the case for the last four years. Phil Fulmer had an amazing run from 1992-2004 before letting the program slip severely, missing the postseason in both 2005 and 2008.
The Vols have to beat the Commodores to remain eligible for the postseason.
Tennessee finds itself in a very unusual situation this weekend — a home underdog to Vanderbilt. Unfortunately for Derek Dooley, his Vols have been setting some programs lows throughout this season on the way to an 0-6 SEC record.
QB position no longer a question mark for the Crimson Tide
By Mitch Light
It was far from the most stressful environment, and his team was favored by more than four touchdowns. But AJ McCarron made a nice statement Saturday night in Tuscaloosa as the Crimson Tide cruised past Vanderbilt, 34–0. Alabama’s sophomore quarterback played the best game of his short career against a Vanderbilt team that entered the game ranked 11th in the nation in total defense and fourth in the nation in passing efficiency defense.
McCarron had season-highs in completions (23), attempts (30), passing yards (237) and touchdowns (four). And most important, he did not throw an interception against a Commodore defense that had picked off 14 passes in its first four games. McCarron, who threw two picks in the first game of the season against Kent State, has now gone
21 quarters without throwing an interception.
“AJ played pretty well,” said Alabama coach Nick Saban, never one to offer effusive praise for his players. “He didn’t turn the ball over which was really important.”
The quarterback position was one of the few question marks for this Alabama team. McCarron beat out Phillip Sims in the preseason for the starting assignment and is trying to prove that he has what it takes — both physically and mentally — to run Alabama’s pro-style offense. He is 6–0 as a starter, with wins at Penn State and at Florida on his resume.
Alabama has already shown that it can run the ball with success. The Crimson Tide will need to prove that it can pass the ball — and do so in big spots — to be a championship team. Saturday night, McCarron and his offense took a step in the right direction.
“I definitely think we are an offense that can run and pass at will when we are clicking on all cylinders,” said tight end Brad Smelley. “I think we showed tonight that if you try to load the box, we can definitely make plays over the top and find the zones and the spaces that are open in there. We are a two phase team so we can run and pass.”
Alabama was particularly effective on third down against Vanderbilt, converting a season-high 70.6 percent (12-of-17). For the season, McCarron has completed 29-of-46 passes (63.0 percent) on third down with 23 of those 29 completions resulting in a first down.
If that type of production in the passing game continues, no one will question McCarron’s ability to be a championship quarterback.
AROUND THE SEC
• Tennessee’s Tyler Bray had thrown at least two touchdown passes in 10 straight games before being shut out by Georgia on Saturday night. Bray will be out of action for 4-6 weeks with a broken thumb.
• In two SEC games, Tennessee’s tailbacks have rushed for only 49 yards on 30 carries.
• In a 38–14 loss to Arkansas, Auburn was held scoreless for three straight quarters in the same game for the first time in the Gus Malzahn era.
• Vanderbilt’s average of 4.4 yards per play against Alabama was the highest of any Crimson Tide opponent this season. The Commodores, however, only had 43 offensive snaps, resulting in 190 total yards.
• Kentucky attempted a total of 26 passes for 17 yards in its 54–3 loss at South Carolina. The Cats averaged 0.65 yards per attempt.
• Arkansas has 109 plays of 10 yards or more this season. Kentucky and Vanderbilt each have only 44 such plays from scrimmage.
• Florida has been outgained 819 to 425 over the last two weeks.
• LSU has only allowed four sacks in six games. The Tigers are the only team in the league that is giving up less than one per game.
• South Carolina tailback Marcus Lattimore broke a two-game stretch of sub-100-yard games. He gained 102 yards on 22 carries against Kentucky, though he was held without a touchdown for the first time this season.
The Florida Gators defeated the Tennessee Volunteers as UF's Chris Rainey amassed 233 all-purpose yards, including this 83-yard reception for a touchdown midway through the third quarter. The final score in "The Swamp" was Florida 33, Tennessee 23.
Photo by Mark Langello for Athlon Sports
Notre Dame's Michael Floyd Catch
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Michael Floyd catches a pass in Notre Dame's victory over Michigan State.
Photo by Layne Murdoch for Athlon Sports
Clemson's Dabo Swinney Celebrates
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Head coach Dabo Swinney celebrates a Clemson touchdown during the Tigers' 38-24 victory over the Auburn Tigers at Memorial Stadium in Clemson, SC.
Photo by Brad Schloss for Athlon Sports
Kansas' Jordan Webb
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University of Kansas quarterback Jordan Webb eludes a Georgia Tech defender in Saturdays game in Atlanta. Webb was 11 for 19 for 148 yards passing and added another 15 yards rushing on three carries. Webb's Jayhawks were beaten by the Yellow Jackets 66-24 at Bobby Dowd Stadium.
Photo by Al Kooistra for Athlon Sports
Maryland's DJ Adams Flies
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Maryland running back DJ Adams returned from a one-game suspension, and rushed 12 times for 59 yards and two touchdowns against West Virginia. The Mountaineers prevailed in the end, however, beating the Terrapins 37-31.
Photo by Bruce Schwartzman for Athlon Sports
North Carolina's Gio Bernard Runs
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North Carolina's Giovanni Bernard had 102 yards rushing on 12 carries Saturday to help his Tar Heels defeat the Virginia Cavaliers 28-17.
Photo by Margaret Bowles for Athlon Sports
Ole Miss's Brandon Bolden Leaps
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Ole Miss RB Brandon Bolden hurdles Vanderbilt CB Trey Wilson. Vanderbilt beat Ole Miss 30-7 for it's third straight win in head coach James Franklin's debut season.
Photo by Danny Murphy for Athlon Sports
Washington Huskies' Chris Polk
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Washington RB Chris Polk eludes the Nebraska defense for a short gain. The Huskies couldn't stop the Cornhuskers in the end, however, as Nebraska beat Washington 51-38.
Photo by Jay Biggerstaff for Athlon Sports
Tennessee's Tyle Bray Gets Sacked
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Florida defensive end Lerentee McCray made Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray's day a little worse with this fourth-quarter sack. Bray and his Vols were only able to muster 279 total yards of offense for the game and he also was sacked three times by the Gators' defense.
Photo by Mark Langello for Athlon Sports
Texas Longhorns' Fozzy Whittaker
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Texas's Fozzy Whittaker tries to break from a UCLA defender. Whittaker scored two touchdowns to help his Longhorns to a 49-20 road victory over the Bruins.