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Three & Out returns in 2011 to give you three SEC thoughts, news and notes. In our Week 4 wrap-up, we take a look at LSU cornerback Tyrann Mathieu, South Carolina's quarterback issues and Alabama's defense.
IF YOU'RE GOING BY DEFINITION...
The Heisman Trophy mission statement states that the award recognizes the outstanding college football player whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity. Four games into the season, that player is LSU defensive back Tyrann Mathieu, and there isn't a close second.
Mathieu showed what he is capable of on Saturday night in LSU's 47-21 romp of West Virginia in Morgantown. The sophomore forced and recovered a fumble, tipped and intercepted a pass and threw in 34 punt return yards for good measure. Yes, West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith threw for 463 yards, but despite that, Mathieu and his mates in the defensive backfield controlled that game from the opening gun.
I know the Heisman won't go to Mathieu because he doesn't play offense. These days, the award typically goes to the best offensive player on the best team. Maybe Mathieu can play some wide receiver? He is LSU's best player, and LSU deserves to be the No. 1 team in the country at this point. Mathieu deserves consideration.
The LSU defense has handled the departure of former defensive back Patrick Peterson in stride, and hasn't really missed a beat. Think about it.
SAME OLD SONG AND DANCE
If there's one thing you can count on in Columbia, it's that quarterback Stephen Garcia will constantly provide head coach Steve Spurrier with as much heartburn as any man on the planet can take. Spurrier needed a double-dose of Prilosec after Saturday night's win over Vanderbilt.
Garcia threw four interceptions - three in the first quarter - in the 21-3 win over Vanderbilt. Yes, the win was still rather convincing thanks to a stifling Gamecock defense that allowed only 77 yards of offense, but the game shouldn't have been that close. Garcia played like he hosted a hotel party in Atlanta on Friday night.
What should concern Gamecock fans is that it was apparent that Spurrier was fed up with Garcia early on, and backup Connor Shaw didn't see the field until late in the game. This is Steve Spurrier - he of musical quarterback fame. The fact that Shaw wasn't even seriously considered until it was time for mop up duty says that this is Garcia's team for better or for worse - and worse has been happening a lot lately.
Florida was 60 minutes away from winning the SEC East last year, despite its season-long comedy of errors on offense. Now that Charlie Weis has turned that offense around and Garcia has proven to be more inconsistent than he ever has been for the Gamecocks, is it time to call Florida the SEC East favorite?
Yes it is.
DEATH BY 1,000 CUTS
The cornerstone of Alabama's 2011 football team is defense, and that was apparent on Saturday. Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson probably needed the hot tub, cold tub and every other type of tub to recover from the constant barrage of pressure that head coach Nick Saban and defensive coordinator Kirby Smart dialed up.
But it's not just defense. When Alabama needed a big play on Saturday afternoon, Marquis Maze provided a punt return for a touchdown that will probably make ESPN's Top 10 list. When the Tide needed a home run to keep Arkansas at arm's length, a 61-yard touchdown by Trent Richardson on a screen pass will get the job done.
Alabama can win in many different ways; it just doesn't have to.
Get used to this, because this is how Alabama is going to do it all year. The Tide probably won't ever look great on offense, but they will always be in control and have the capability to crank it up if needed.
With a defense like that, it won't be needed much.
Barrett Sallee covers the SEC for www.CollegeFootballNews.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter at @BarrettSallee
2011 Three & Out Archive
Three & Out – September 25, 2011
Three & Out – September 18, 2011
Three & Out – September 11, 2011
Three & Out – September 5, 2011
Three & Out – August 29, 2011
Three & Out – August 22, 2011
Three & Out – August 15, 2011
Three & Out – August 8, 2011
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