This weekend, the Big Ten stumbled to a 6-7 record as a conference, and they have been supplanted once again by the SEC as the best conference in the nation. Arkansas is the only team in the conference with a sub-.500 record so far this season, and there are four Southeastern Conference teams ranked in this week’s AP Top 25.
Big wins don’t come without big performances. Last week, it was the Kentucky Wildcats who ended a 31-year drought and a pair of Bulldogs racking up 370 rushing yards who stole the show. After the third college football weekend, the SEC is starting to take shape as serious conference play has finally arrived.
STUD: Joe Burrow and Cole Tracy, LSU
When he transferred from Ohio State to LSU, Joe Burrow was expected to compete for the starting quarterback job. What’s happened since then has far exceeded the expectations of folks in Baton Rouge.
Burrow and the Tigers went into Auburn and left with a 22-21 walk-off win on Saturday. The graduate transfer quarterback out-dueled Auburn’s Jarrett Stidham and led a game-winning drive to send LSU home winners. Facing a 3rd-and-7, followed one series later by a 4th-and-7, Burrow managed to complete passes on both occasions and extend the drive.
Then, it was graduate transfer kicker Cole Tracy who knocked through the 42-yard, game-winning field goal. Winning an SEC game on the road when you were kicking at Assumption College the last three years is easily the coolest turnaround you could possibly imagine.
On the afternoon, Burrow threw for 249 yards and a touchdown against Auburn’s NFL-caliber defense, and now, his team is in position to make a serious run at the College Football Playoff.
DUD: Arkansas’ Special Teams
Bad plays, blown assignments and missed tackles aren’t anything new to the game of football, especially at the college level. But, forgetting the rules and getting totally duped by the returner?
North Texas’ Keegan Brewer fielded a punt at the his own 10-yard line, took a second to soak in the fact that no Arkansas Razorback felt the need to tackle him, and took off for a 90-yard touchdown.
Arkansas is now 1-2 on the year, and they have to play Auburn, Texas A&M, Alabama and Ole Miss in four-straight games. Good luck…
STUD: Nick Fitzgerald, Mississippi State
For the second week in a row, the Bulldogs quarterback has earned the Stud designation, and he’s slowly but surely moving himself into Heisman Trophy consideration.
Fitzgerald led Mississippi State to 56-10 thrashing of the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns, and he did it grand style. The senior quarterback threw for 243 yards, rushed for 107 more, and totaled SIX total touchdowns on the afternoon.
The all-time SEC quarterback continues to extend some his own conference records, and his Bulldogs are now a Top 15 team with a spotless 3-0 record.
DUD: Missouri’s Defense
The Missouri Tigers were supposed to be an offensively-powered team in 2018 led by quarterback Drew Lock. That’s certainly been the case so far this season, but the team’s defense might want to start showing up on Saturdays.
The Purdue offense shredded Missouri on Saturday. Quarterback David Blough threw for 572 yards and three touchdowns, and three Boilermakers wide receivers went for over 100 yards. Blough and Purdue nearly had the lead late, but a touchdown was overturned after further review. In addition, the Tigers defense allowed plays of 72, 50, 49 and 42 yards.
Drew Lock managed to lead the Tigers to a game-winning field goal to cap the 40-37 shootout, but this defense is in big trouble if they don’t button up when they host the No. 2 Georgia Bulldogs next week.
STUD: Kyle Shurmur, Vanderbilt
Down 16-0 in the second quarter, the No. 8 Notre Dame Fighting Irish were in complete control of their game against the Commodores. Then, quarterback Kyle Shurmur and the Vanderbilt offense came to life.
On the road in South Bend, Indiana, Shurmur brought Vanderbilt all the way back and tossed an 18-yard touchdown in the middle of the fourth quarter to bring the game within five points. The Fighting Irish offense ultimately stood tall and managed to stop the Commodores on downs with two minutes to go, and a last-ditch lateral effort fell short as time expired.
Shurmur threw for 326 yards on the afternoon, and upset-minded Vanderbilt almost pulled off a miracle. Kudos to the senior from Philadelphia for this gutsy performance in a loss.
DUD: Jordan Ta’amu, Ole Miss
Ole Miss started HOT. Ta’amu threw a 75-yard touchdown on the first play of the game, and the Rebels were rolling.
Then, Alabama woke up. After that first play, the high-powered Ole Miss offense sputtered to 173 total yards, turned the ball over three times and only converted nine first downs on the day.
Ta’amu, who had 784 passing yards and seven touchdowns coming into the game, flopped. Take away that first play, and the senior went 6-for-21 for 58 yards and tossed two interceptions.
Yeah, Alabama is pretty good, but this was the last thing Hugh Freeze’s offense was expected to do.