Alabama and Texas A&M gave us everything you could want from an offensive showdown on Saturday in College Station. The fact that the game was in the Southeastern Conference made you wonder if the league is losing its grip on its identity.
The seven consecutive championships have been built at the line of scrimmage and with great defense. But this day was an aberration; it was a special football player doing things we have never seen done against the champions.
I think Bama's defense will finish in the top 10 by the end of the season, maybe by midseason. The unit made mental mistakes in the secondary and showed little pass rush at times. The biggest issue with defending Johnny Manziel is his ability to scramble to throw which puts a lot of pressure on the defensive backs. The Tide showed championship grit proving they can win with any style of play.
Texas A&M and Alabama each had 31 first downs in the game. While the Aggie defense is two year’s away from being what Kevin Sumlin wants, the Tide defense made some mental mistakes. Guys had to cover longer than normal because of the mobility and creativity of Johnny Manziel. This is something I am sure Saban will get fixed, and it’s highly unlikely they will face someone like that again, or ever to be honest with you. Vinnie Sunseri became the first Alabama defensive back to have consecutive games with a pick-six since Antonio Langham did it in 1992.
One team that is quickly ascending is LSU with its new look offense. The Tigers finally have an identity built around strong-arm quarterback Zach Mettenberger. He has thrown nine touchdowns in his first three starts of the season, the most by any Tiger quarterback in any season in history. LSU’s 561 yards of total offense against Kent St. is the most since 2007. Zach Mettenberger is currently the top-rated passer in the SEC. Also don’t look now, but that young Tiger defense is 10th in the country in total defense already, and getting better each week.
South Carolina’s Connor Shaw is playing as well as any quarterback in the SEC as the Gamecocks won their 13th home game in a row over Vanderbilt. He was 21-for-29 and had three touchdowns giving him six touchdowns without an interception in three games. The Gamecock defense had five sacks, but took the foot off the gas in the second half and looks like it still needs some work.
Vanderbilt scored its most points ever against South Carolina in defeat, including 15 in the fourth quarter. Two key turnovers by quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels did in the Dores as they finished just 2-of-12 on third down. Jordan Matthews had his third consecutive 100-yard game, once again proving he is the best receiver in the country.
Arkansas lost its quarterback Brandon Allen to a shoulder injury, but the offense still ran for 258 yards in a win over Southern Miss. The Hogs lead the SEC in rushing at 294 yards per game behind Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins. With three straight 100-yard games, Collins became the first back in SEC history to begin his career in such a way, and the first true freshman to do it since Adrian Peterson in 2004.
Auburn got a great win on the plains over Mississippi State after Nick Marshall drove them 88 yards in the final minutes to win. Marshall accounted for 85 of the 88 yards and was 6-for-8 in the final drive. His 23 completions and 339 yards were more than the first two games combined in each category. With the passing game coming around to compliment a strong rushing attack, the Tigers could be a dangerous team in the West.
Mississippi State forced three turnovers and Dak Prescott had 328 total yards and two touchdowns, but the Bulldogs could not hang on in Auburn. I thought they coached hard, played hard and could have easily won this game. I think Dan Mullen is a great fit at Mississippi State and it would be a shame if the seat starts getting warm because of a heartbreaking road loss.
Kentucky battled Louisville for four quarters and if nothing else showed they are an improving team. The Wildcats could not overcome three turnovers despite moving the ball well against the Cardinals. A red zone turnover late in the first half was the undoing for Mark Stoops’ team. Maxwell Smith and Jaylen Whitlow both played, but the receivers dropped several key passes.
Ole Miss got payback in Texas by thumping the Longhorns 44-23 behind 272 yards on the ground. The Rebels have rushed for more than 200 yards in all three games this season and five consecutive games overall. Jeff Scott had a career high 164 yards and also had a punt return for a touchdown. Bo Wallace has not thrown an interception in three games so far this season.
Tennessee got shell shocked at Oregon, 59-14, and likely just needs to burn that tape and move on. The Vols started well and did not look intimidated. But once Oregon got rolling on the young Vol secondary it was over. It was the worst margin of victory loss for the Volunteers since 1937.
This and That
Auburn travels to LSU this week and while the LSU Tigers will be heavily favored, keep an eye on Ellis Johnson and the Auburn Tiger defense. They will have to come up with a way to put pressure on Zach Mettenberger. LSU’s offensive line has played well allowing just two sacks in three games. Nick Marshall’s legs will be his biggest asset this week at Baton Rouge in the first road start of his career.
Tennessee and Florida look to wash away bad losses in the Swamp on Saturday. The Gators have had a week off to get healthy and fix the red-zone woes from the Miami game. The Volunteers will see a much different pace on offense this week after facing Oregon last week. The team who runs the ball better in the game will win.
Arkansas goes to Rutgers in a game where both starting quarterbacks are questionable. This is also a chance for Bret Bielema to get his team a quality road win and start 4-0 heading into a tough part of their schedule. Arkansas leads the SEC in yards gained on first down by the run, and that keeps them on schedule and ahead of the chains.