SEC Football: What We Learned in Week 3

Jeremy Hillman@@SECpigskinContributor ISeptember 19, 2011

SEC Football: What We Learned in Week 3

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    We are three full weeks into the 2011 college football season and each week we learn a little more about each team in the SEC.

    In week three we had road challenges, out of conference match-ups and head to head conference battles. It was a fun day of football and a day of both big performances and big letdowns.

    What did we learn about each Southeastern Conference team this week?

    Click through the following slide show and see what knowledge we picked up.

    The teams are listed in power ranking order from worst to first...


Kentucky Wildcats

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    This week in a sentence: A disappointing loss to an in-state rival that is rebuilding, in a game Kentucky was favored to win.

    Three things we learned:

    1.  The running game is anemic. Kentucky averaged just 1.1 yards per rush in the loss to the Louisville Cardinals. The offensive line is struggling to run block and give the backs a chance to get free. Problems are compounded by the Kentucky runners, who are failing to break tackles and provide an adequate balance for the passing game.

    2. Morgan Newton looked much better throwing the ball, piling up 255 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions. This is a positive improvement from the previous two games this season. Kentucky will need Morgan to be effective when they begin SEC play.

    3. The rush defense was lacking on Saturday. The Wildcat defense gave up 181 rushing yards to a marginal Louisville running attack. With the dangerous runners in the SEC, this will have to improve for Kentucky to win enough games to have any chance of going bowling this season.

    Updated bowl projection: No Bowl

Ole Miss Rebels

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    This week in a sentence: One of the worst performances and conference losses in Ole Miss history.

    Three things we learned:

    1.  Too many turnovers. Quarterback Zack Stout threw five interceptions in the loss. The quarterback play for Ole Miss this season has been very poor, to say the least.

    2. The running game was limited, as Vanderbilt held the Rebels to just 85 yards on the ground. Top gainer, Sophomore Jeff Scott went for just 43 yards on 15 carries. 

    3. The rush defense was also poor. The Rebels defense allowed Vanderbilt to rack up 281 rushing yards. Allowing 5.6 yards per carry to the Commodores could mean huge trouble in future games against the top running teams in the SEC.

    Updated bowl projection: No Bowl

Vanderbilt Commodores

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    This week in a sentence: A huge win, and nice 3-0 start, for a new coach and a rebuilding Commodore program on Saturday.

    Three things we learned:

    1.  The running game was solid. Vanderbilt running back Zac Stacey rushed for 169 yards and a touchdown and the Commodores racked up 281 rushing yards as a team.

    2. The passing game still needs work. Quarterback Larry Smith only threw for 106 yards on Saturday. Against quality opponents coming up on the schedule, Vanderbilt will need to find a way to develop a vertical passing game.

    3. The rush defense was excellent, as Vandy held Ole Miss to just 85 yards rushing, after the Rebels had run for 179 yards against Southern Illinois the week before.

    Updated bowl projection: Liberty Bowl (Vanderbilt Vs Houston)

Auburn Tigers

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    This week in a sentence: A tough out of conference loss, ending a 17 game winning streak.

    Three things we learned:

    1.  The running game is strong. Tiger back Michael Dyer rushed for an impressive 152 yards and 2 touchdowns in the loss. Auburn should hand the sophomore more carries, as he surprisingly ran the ball only 15 times Saturday.

    2. Auburn has one of the worst defenses in the country. As a matter of fact, the Tigers rank 117th in the nation in total defense, allowing over 530 yards per game. To assure a bowl game invite, the Tigers must find a way to tighten up on the defensive side of the ball.

    3. Special teams have been special. Kicker Cody Parkey has been a bright spot with booming kickoffs and being a perfect 3 for 3 on field goals in 2011, including a 35 yard field goal on Saturday. 

    Updated bowl projection:  Music City Bowl (Auburn Vs Georgia Tech)

Georgia Bulldogs

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    This week in a sentence: Georgia wins their first game of the season, blowing out an FCS foe.

    Three things we learned:

    1. Aaron Murray is far-and-away the best quarterback in the SEC. In limited action, Murray threw for 188 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions. He is accurate and smart with the football, and will dice up some SEC defenses this season, despite the dearth of experienced playmakers around him.

    2. Pass defense is improving. Although against a poor opponent, the secondary looked sharp and held Coastal Carolina to just 49 yards through the air.

    3. Tavarress King is stepping up. Georgia—and especially Murray—certainly misses departed star receiver A.J. Green, but King is becoming a top target for Murray and racked up six catches for 65 yards and two touchdowns on Saturday.

    Updated bowl projection:  Chic-fil-a Bowl (Georgia Vs Virginia Tech)

Mississippi State Bulldogs

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    This week in a sentence: The dominating LSU defense was too much for the Bulldogs on Thursday night.

    Three things we learned:

    1. The run defense is struggling. State gave up 148 rushing yards to LSU, and have consistently struggled to slow down opposing runners this season.

    2. Passing game has been anemic. Quarterback Chris Relf has had some nice runs but he is struggling when throwing the football. In the Thursday night defeat, he threw for just 96 yards and an interception and no touchdowns. That isn't going to cut it against top SEC teams.

    3. Where was Vick Ballard? With just 38 yards on only 10 carries, no one could tell Ballard was the leading rusher in the SEC. Coaches will need to give Ballard more carries in big games.

    Updated bowl projection: Compass Bowl (Mississippi State Vs Pitt)

Tennessee Volunteers

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    This week in a sentence: Too many big plays by the Gators for Tennessee to win in the Swamp.

    Three things we learned:

    1. Horrible rushing performance. Tennessee struggled mightily running the ball on Saturday and ended up with -9 rushing yards in the loss. Running back Taureen Poole, a 1,000 yard back last year, has been a disappointment so far this season.

    2. Turnover troubles. Quarterback Tyler Bray threw 2 costly interceptions and the Volunteers had a punt blocked. You can't make those errors on the road in the SEC.

    3. Bad injury news. Star wide receiver Justin Hunter, 16 catches for 302 yards and 2 touchdowns already this season, is out for the season after being hurt in the Florida loss.

    Updated bowl projection: Gator Bowl (Tennessee Vs Penn State)

Florida Gators

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    This week in a sentence: Important home win for the impressive looking Gators.

    Three things we learned:

    1.  The running backs are dangerous. Dynamic running backs Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey rushed for over 150 yards and made big plays as receivers as well.

    2. QB John Brantley looks much improved. New offensive coordinator Charlie Weiss has improved Brantley's game immensely. In the win over the Vols, he threw for 213 yards and had 2 touchdown passes and no interceptions.

    3. The rush defense was stellar. It is impressive to hold an SEC team to -9 rushing yards. This Gator defensive front seven is aggressive and impactful.

    Updated bowl projection:  Cap One Bowl Bowl (Florida Vs Michigan)


South Carolina Gamecocks

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    This week in a sentence: A close call against a solid Navy squad.

    Three things we learned:

    1.  Marcus Lattimore is the MVP of the SEC so far. Lattimore is almost the entire Gamecock offense as he touched the ball on 41 of their 62 offensive snaps. The star sophomore ran for a ridiculous 246 yards and 3 touchdowns.

    2. What about Alshon Jeffery? The ultra-talented wide out only caught 2 balls for just 35 yards on Saturday. Why wouldn't the Gamecock coaches throw his way more when he clearly has a size advantage against smaller corners?

    3. Rush defense looked shaky all game long. The Gamecock defense gave up 274 rushing yards to the Midshipmen. With games coming up against power running teams in the SEC, the rush defense must improve if Carolina wants to win the East.

    Updated bowl projection:  Outback Bowl (South Carolina Vs Michigan State)

Arkansas Razorbacks

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    This week in a sentence: Got more of a challenge than they wanted in the victory over fiesty Troy.

    Three things we learned:

    1.  The running game showed promise. After a couple disappointing games rushing the ball, Ronnie Wingo stepped up this Saturday and ran for 109 yards and 2 touchdowns. This will need to continue for Arkansas to challenge Alabama next weekend.

    2. The pass defense was horrendous. The Razorbacks gave up a disappointing 373 yards to Troy in the win on Saturday.

    3. The Arkansas passing game is dangerous. Once again this week, the Razorback offense went for over 300 yards through the air. These big passing stats could continue all season.

    Updated bowl projection:  Cotton Bowl (Arkansas Vs Oklahoma State)

Alabama Crimson Tide

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    This week in a sentence: Rout of a Sun Belt team.

    Three things we learned:

    1.  The run game is clicking. The Tide racked up 347 rushing yards against outmatched North Texas and scored five rushing touchdowns as a team. Three of those came from star running back Trent Richardson.

    2. The run defense is clicking too. North Texas, including talented running back Lance Dunbar, ran for just yards on Saturday. Alabama has one of the best defenses in the SEC and will be tough to score against in 2011.

    3.  Missed field goals. Junior kicker Jeremy Shelley missed two field goals in the game. This doen't hurt during a blow-out, but could be important in close SEC matchups down the road.

    Updated bowl projection:  BCS Fiesta Bowl (Alabama Vs Boise State)

LSU Tigers

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    This week in a sentence: The dominating LSU defense was too much for Mississippi State on Thursday night.

    Three things we learned:

    1.  The running game is effective. Spencer Ware and Michael Ford combined for 157 yards rushing against Mississippi State and have shown they can bang out needed yards.

    2. The rush defense is dominate. LSU defenders were all over the Bulldog backs. The Tigers ended up with 4 sacks and allowing just 52 rushing yards on Saturday.

    3. Too many penalties. LSU was flagged for 9 penalties (83 penalty yards) in the victory. These mental errors could cost them in closer games this season.

    Updated bowl projection:  BCS Sugar Bowl (LSU Vs Nebraska)