Sports, Thrill of Victory

Around the SEC: Week 3 Edition

Here’s a look at what’s happening in and around the Southeastern Conference heading into Week 3’s games.

BIGGEST STORIES

Parity

Georgia's Isaiah McKenzie should be the primary target for whoever's playing quarterback for Georgia. PHOTO COURTESY UNIVERSITY OF GEORGIA

Georgia’s Isaiah McKenzie should be the primary target for whoever’s playing quarterback for Georgia. PHOTO COURTESY UNIVERSITY OF GEORGIA

We know this: Alabama’s the league’s best team, and the pollsters, who again voted the Crimson Tide No. 1, agree.

What we know after that’s uncertain, and the posters seem to agree with that also.

Seven other teams were ranked, and they all landed somewhere between 13 and 24 in each poll. The rankings were: Tennessee (15 AP, 15 Coaches’ Poll), Georgia (16/13), Texas A&M (17/20), Ole Miss (19/17), LSU (20/22), Florida (23/23) and Arkansas (24/24).

Quarterback picture getting clearer… somewhat

I write about quarterback instability within the league each week. The good news is that a few teams seem to have found answer, at least for now.

Auburn is sticking with its starter from its first two games, and that’s Sean White, who was outstanding (244 yards passing on 23 tries, three TDs). White’s the team’s best passer, and has also shown he can run enough (10 carries, 60 yards last week).  

Vanderbilt is doing the same with Kyle Shurmur, who struggled with seven incompletions in his first three tries last week before setting in and leading his team to a 47-24 win over MTSU, even if the passing numbers were subpar.

Mississippi State found something against South Carolina with Nick Fitzgerald, who threw for 178 yards and ran for 195, the latter being a school record for quarterback rushing yards in a game.

Alabama coach Nick Saban may not want to start a true freshman, but Jalen Hurts (456 yards of total offense and six TDs over about 1 1/2 games) isn’t giving him much choice.

LSU started the season with Brandon Harris, but went to Danny Etling early last week. The Purdue transfer has a low ceiling, but the Tigers played well enough with him at the controls for him to get this week’s start. 

Things aren’t as certain other places.

Kamryn Pettway and Auburn had an explosive offensive performance against Arkansas State. PHOTO COURTESY AUBURN UNIVERSITY

Kamryn Pettway and Auburn had an explosive offensive performance against Arkansas State. PHOTO COURTESY AUBURN UNIVERSITY

One week after leading South Carolina to a win at Vandy, Percy Orth found himself benched for the more athletic Brandon Mcilwain after Carolina fell double-digits behind MSU. Coach Will Muschamp wont’ say who’s starting this week. 

Georgia’s Jacob Eason seemed to have won the job, and he’s been more than fine (10.5 yards per attempt, just one interception). But in a game against Nichols State that was way closer than it needed to be, coach Kirby Smart went with Greyson Lambert to sew the game up, and isn’t saying who’s starting this week.

And while Kentucky gave its job to Drew Barker long ago, and while Barker was terrific in Week 1, is the sophomore safe after the worst game by a quarterback in this league (10 attempts, 10 yards, three interceptions vs. Florida) last week?

Stay tuned.

POWER RANKINGS

  1. Alabama (2-0, 0-0): Allows 1.7 yards per rush and 4.6 per pass.
  2. Texas A&M (2-0, 0-0): Aggies lead the league in scoring at 49 ppg
  3. Tennessee (2-0, 0-0): Vols force five turnovers in the Battle of Bristol.
  4. Georgia (2-0, 0-0):  Coach Kirby Smart wants more from his offensive line.
  5. Ole Miss (1-1, 0-0): Rebels play country’s two best teams in first three weeks.
  6. Florida (2-0, 0-0): Can’t ask for more QB Luke Del Rio and the passing game.
  7. LSU (1-1, 0-0): Must get the ball to WRs Travin Dural and Malachi Dupre more. 
  8. Arkansas (2-0, 0-0): As last week reminded us, there’s no shortage of drama when these guys play.
  9. Auburn (1-1, 0-0): An astounding 706 yards of offense last week.
  10. Missouri (1-1, 0-0): Who expected QB Drew Lock to lead the SEC in passing?
  11. Mississippi St. (1-1, 1-0): DL A.J. Jefferson leads SEC with six sacks.  
  12. South Carolina (1-1, 1-1): Gamecocks finally get a home game.
  13. Vanderbilt (1-1, 0-1): RB Ralph Webb leads league in rushing (308). 
  14. Kentucky (0-2, 0-1): Last week’s 3.1 yards per play is league’s worst total this year. 

PLAYER OF THE YEAR

Note: Rankings still somewhat weighted towards preseason picks

OFFENSE

  1. Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU
  2. Nick Chubb, RB, Georgia
  3. Chad Kelly, QB, Ole Miss
  4. Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M
  5. Ralph Webb, RB, Vanderbilt

DEFENSE

  1. Jonathan Allen, DL, Alabama
  2. Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M
  3. Zach Cunningham, LB, Vanderbilt
  4. Justin Evans, CB, Texas A&M
  5. A.J. Jefferson, DE, Mississippi St.

THIS WEEK’S PICKS

All times Central and p.m., unless noted

Season record: 18-7 overall, 8-13 vs. the spread

Alabama at Ole Miss (+11), 2:30, CBS

Coach Hugh Freeze and the Rebels have done what was darn-near impossible: beat Alabama twice in a row. One thing in Ole Miss’s favor in those two games was the turnover margin: plus-5 last year, plus-1 in 2014. That’s quite atypical of a Nick Saban-coached team, and ‘Bama’s coach likely got his team’s attention after the win over Western Kentucky wasn’t quite what he wanted. Ole Miss had trouble with a mobile quarterback in Week 1 (the ‘Tide has that in Jalen Hurts) and Alabama has been excruciatingly tough against the pass, which is the way the Rebels want to win. Mississippi is at home and has the last two years on its side, but everything else goes in Alabama’s favor. Alabama 37, Ole Miss 24

Can Chad Kelly lead Ole Miss past Alabama for a third-straight time? PHOTO COURTESY OLE MISS

Can Chad Kelly lead Ole Miss past Alabama for a third-straight time? PHOTO COURTESY OLE MISS

Texas A&M at Auburn (-3.5), 6, ESPN

The Tiger offense came to life last week, and its defense was stout in both weeks. Meanwhile, A&M is getting balance on both sides of the ball. The Aggies’ run defense has been super-stingy in both its games—3.1 yards per carry vs. UCLA, 1.1 against Prairie View—and run is what Auburn wants to do. Aggies 21, Auburn 20

Georgia at Missouri (+6.5), 6:30, SEC Network

No team in the league has been more opposite that what we thought it would be that Missouri, which has been good on offense and bad on defense. And we’re not sure what Georgia is after looking wonderful in Week 1 and awful in Week 2. It’s anyone’s guess as to what happens, but my guess is talent wins out. Georgia 31, Missouri 24

East Carolina at South Carolina (-3), 3, SEC Network

Averages per play so far for both teams: ECU: 7.7, South Carolina: 4.2. ECU’s defense may be porous, but the Pirates can score and the Gamecocks can’t. Pirates 30, Gamecocks 20

Mississippi St. at LSU (-14), 6, ESPN2

This is nothing more than a gut feeling that LSU has to play better than it has.

LSU 31, MSU 10

Vanderbilt at Georgia Tech (-6.5), 11 a.m., ACC Network

An intriguing chess match between two coaches great at what they do—that’s Vandy’s Derek Mason at defense, and Tech’s Paul Johnson at his triple-option offense. It should be close, but note, Mason hasn’t beaten a Power Five team on the road three years into his career. ‘Jackets 20, ‘Dores 17.

Ohio at Tennessee (-27.5), 11 a.m., SEC Network

The Vols could be looking ahead to Florida, but this Ohio squad also lost to a dreadful Texas State squad last week. Tennessee 51, Ohio 21

Texas St. at Arkansas (-30.5), 6:30, SEC Network

… and yeah, that’s the same Texas State team headed to Fayetteville this week. But sandwiched between TCU and Texas A&M, how serious will Arkansas take the Bobcats, who throw the ball pretty well? Razorbacks 51, Bobcats 27

New Mexico State at Kentucky (-21), 3, SEC Network

Which is the real UK offense, the one that put up 8.2 yards per play vs. Southern Miss—third best in the league this year—or the squad that had an SEC single-game worst 3.1 last weekend? The Aggies can put up points in bunches, but also give them up that way, too… defense lovers, avert your eyes! Kentucky 51, New Mexico State 32

North Texas at Florida (-36.5), 6:30, ESPNU

Star receiver Antonio Callaway probably won’t play, but will it really matter, Eddie? Gators 34, Mean Green 7