SEC Football: Winners and Losers from Week 3

Jonathan McDanal@@jdmcdanalContributor IIISeptember 16, 2012

SEC Football: Winners and Losers from Week 3

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    The SEC is still dominating the Top 10 with four teams listed. The number of teams didn't change, but some of their rankings did.

    After the dust settled in Week 3, who progressed, who digressed and who dropped off the face of the earth completely?

    Read on to find out what happened in this, the nation's strongest conference.

Winner: Mississippi State Bulldogs

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    One of this week's biggest winners was Mississippi State, who made an appearance in the Top 25 for the first time this season.

    Mississippi State is one of the better defensive teams in the SEC. Last year, after LSU had manhandled No. 3 Oregon by 13 points, Mississippi State held strong against the Tigers, only allowing them a 19-6 win.

    Heaven help the SEC if the Bulldogs ever get an offense to match the defense. Who knows what the gurus would do if the Bulldogs took down Alabama. (Which they have a decent shot at doing this year, since 'Bama could be looking toward the LSU game at the time.)

    Of course, this privilege comes with one major concern: Is Mississippi State actually a Top-25 team? The 30-24 victory over Troy suggests that it isn't. Then again, Alabama's 12-10 victory over Tennessee in 2009 suggested that it wasn't national championship material.

    Winning the close games shows a certain strength. The close game with Troy could fire up the Bulldogs and keep them from letting other games get so close.

Loser: Ole Miss Rebels

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    Hugh Freeze worked wonders over at Arkansas State, and he is expected to turn the Ole Miss program around.

    Though it was clearly too soon to expect a win over a highly-ranked team, Ole Miss showed that it still has a long way to go.

    Freeze just got to Mississippi, and he'll need a couple of recruiting classes under his belt before contending in the SEC. Texas showed the Rebels that there is a wall between them and BCS bowl contention.

    There's plenty of time before Freeze is in the hot seat, but a win here would have gone a long way to helping Ole Miss in the recruiting aspect.

Winner: Will Muschamp

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    In Week 3, Florida went into Knoxville as the underdog in a battle that would begin determining the pecking order in the SEC East.

    Derek Dooley and Will Muschamp have both been fighting for success since they arrived at their respective schools—schools that are no strangers to success, by the way.

    Muschamp walked into the Volunteers' home stadium and trounced the Vols by 17 points. Florida extended its winning streak over Tennessee to eight games.

    The Gators showed resilience against the Vols, coming from behind late in the second half to overthrow what was previously a one-sided match in favor of the orange and white.

    That is a statement that will make Gators fans smile for quite a while.

Loser: Derek Dooley

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    Derek Dooley is expecting a breakout year at any minute, and Tennessee was favored by a few points at home this past weekend.

    Tennessee is heading in an upward direction, and its win over NC State in Week 1 proves that. However, getting dominated by Florida 37-20 showed that Tennessee still has some issues that need to be addressed.

    Since Dooley took over a program that was in tatters, he should be given more time to succeed than usually allowed.

    Tennessee fans don't want to hear that, but Dooley isn't going to go from zero to hero in a matter of two years. He had to earn the trust of the players after the Kiffin incident, and only after he earned that trust did the program really start to build.

    The real success is coming soon, but the Florida game simply reminded folks that this isn't the Tennessee from 1998 yet.

    Small victory: Florida didn't run away with the game until the third quarter. Tennessee is clearly heading in the right direction.

Winner: Georgia Bulldogs

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    It's not often that a team gets to move into the Top Five off a win over a Sun Belt opponent, no matter how large the margin of victory is.

    However, Georgia moved into the fifth spot simply by not losing. The USC Trojans opened the gate for the Bulldogs by losing to the Stanford Cardinal on Sept. 15.

    Georgia's epic game against the South Carolina Gamecocks is scheduled for Oct. 6, and it will likely decide the SEC East.

Loser: South Carolina Gamecocks

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    While the Gamecocks rose in the rankings in the wake of USC's fall from grace, fans all watched as Connor Shaw was pulled from the game after re-injuring his throwing shoulder against the UAB Blazers.

    While it is unlikely to be a season-ending injury, any injury stands between South Carolina and an SEC title. Shaw can make it to the conference championship with an injured shoulder, but would not beat a healthy LSU or Alabama at any less than 100 percent.

Loser: Kentucky Wildcats

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    After Western Kentucky got handed a 35-0 shutout by SEC power Alabama, the Hilltoppers went to Kentucky to play another SEC foe.

    The difference this time was that Kentucky lost in overtime to the Hilltoppers. While not necessarily making Kentucky the worst team in the SEC, it certainly does set up the Wildcats as underdogs against Tennessee on rivalry weekend.

Winner: Alabama Crimson Tide

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    Though Alabama couldn't move up in the rankings from No. 1, the Crimson Tide definitely won in Week 3.

    After USC fell to Stanford, the debate as to who the best in the country has died down considerably. Alabama walked into Fayetteville, Arkansas and handed the Razorbacks their first shutout at home since 1966.

    Alabama proved that it didn't just belong at the top of the rankings, but there may be a gap between No. 1 and No. 2.

    We will all find out on Nov. 3, when the Alabama takes on LSU in Baton Rouge.

Loser: Arkansas Razorbacks, John L. Smith and Tyler Wilson

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    Not only did Arkansas get hammered at home by the Crimson Tide, but Arkansas also has to deal with some serious fallout from the ordeal.

    While John L. Smith's halftime interview sounded lighthearted and a little frustrated, it's already garnering some negative attention from folks around the web with video titles such as "Another Embarrassing John L. Smith interview." (That's the title of the featured video here via

    Making the assumption that he was being lighthearted, there's still a problem there. Smith sounded like he was going to go into the locker room and say, "Come on, guys! We got this!"

    That's not the attitude you need from the head coach of a team that has just successfully imploded. You need the "If you won't do your job, there are recruits lined up who will" approach. Of course, if this continues, the recruits may not be lined up at all.

    On top of those two things, Tyler Wilson separated himself from the rest of the team by accusing the members on the field of giving up.

    While Wilson believed everything he said and wants to take responsibility as a leader of the team, the bottom line is that he wasn't out there. He doesn't know how good the 'Bama defense was. He doesn't know how frustrating it was to have nothing work for you on the field that day.

    This may actually get worse for the Hogs before it gets better. My sympathy is with him for having to watch that happen to his team and not be able to do anything about it.

    This may be the moment in his life that he learns you need to leave emotion at the door when there are cameras in your face.

Winner: SEC

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    After all the events of Week 3 were organized, the SEC was the conference that benefited the most.

    Now that USC has fallen and Virginia Tech has slipped, the SEC has three teams in the Top Five: Alabama, LSU and Georgia.

    The SEC also has four teams in the Top 10, adding South Carolina to the mix. The SEC also has six teams in both the AP and Coaches' polls.

    The SEC is making a huge case for its seventh straight national title, and as every week passes, the contenders are falling away.