By: Barrett Sallee
Week number three in the SEC provided fans a little more clarity on the identity of several teams, as well as wrapped up a winter-long saga between two Eastern division rivals. Here are the three most important things to take away from week three:
No Blowout In Gainesville
I, like many people, tuned into the Florida vs. Tennessee game Saturday afternoon partly because of the fact that the number one team in the nation was playing, but mostly to satisfy a sense of morbid curiosity. But a funny thing happened, instead of Tennessee getting taken behind a woodshed for 60 minutes, they actually made a pretty decent game of it, reassuring the college football world that a solid defense will keep you in virtually every ball game – even against Superman's Gators.
Despite a horrific record, the Volunteers ended 2008 with a top five defense. But, with Lane Kiffin coming in, that meant that his father, legendary NFL defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, would be taking over the reigns of the defense formerly led by John Chavis. The elder Kiffin has made his mark on the NFL; but since he hadn't had much experience defending the spread offense, there was some question on whether he could succeed against some of the more prolific spread attacks found in college football. The Vols performance vs. the Gators on Saturday afternoon proves that Monte has the formula for defending the spread in his repertoire; and, if nothing else, the Vols will be semi-competitive in the SEC this year.
The high-flying Gators offense was held relatively in check, managing 323 yards of total offense. Not bad for some teams, but certainly not the norm for the Gators. Considering the fact that Florida was out for revenge following Lane Kiffin's off-season missteps, and it makes the performance by the Vols defense that much more impressive.
There are no moral victories in the SEC. No matter how you slice it, the Vols are still 1-2 and are 0-1 in-conference. But, Saturday's game vs. Florida solidifies that Tennessee will again boast one of the nation's best defenses. If they can find any semblance of offense (which, admittedly, is a BIG "if"), they might be able to scratch and claw their way into a bowl game. If they do, the first year of the Kiffin era should be judged as a success.
No Respect For The Tigers
After the first two games of the season, the Auburn Tigers had put up 500+ yards in wins against both Louisiana Tech and Mississippi State. Despite those performances, pundits weren't buying the Tigers, saying that they hadn't played anyone. Obviously, these so-called experts were ignoring the facts that Louisiana Tech is a senior-laden, eight-win bowl team and Mississippi State is still an SEC defense. Certainly not the best competition in the world, but it's not like either of them are Charleston Southern.
So what's the excuse now?
Despite the win over West Virginia, a likely contender for the Big East title, the 3-0 Tigers still find themselves unranked. That's a traveshamockery.
And who is ranked, you ask? Why, it's the 2-1 Washington Huskies. After their 16-13 win over then-number three USC, the Huskies appear as the 24th best team in the country according to the AP poll, despite a loss already on their resume, and a win against Idaho. Apparently a home win over the mighty Trojans, who were starting a QB who lost the starting job over the summer due to injury, is enough to vault the Huskies from the 0-12 abyss into one of the top 25 teams in the country. No offense Washington, but that's just ridiculous. USC always loses a Pac-10 road game vs. an unranked opponent. That doesn't mean that opponent is one of the top 25 teams in the country. Just ask Stanford.
Auburn has done everything needed to be considered as one of the top 25 teams in the country. They've proven that their offensive problems have been solved; have posted three solid wins, including one out-of-conference over a BCS-caliber team; and have an an opportunistic defense capable of forcing turnovers at any point in the game. How they're not ranked in either of the two major polls is simply dumbfounding.
Governor's Cup Remains In Lexington
One of the more underrated and under-appreciated rivalries in college football is the battle for the Governor's Cup between Kentucky and Louisville. On Saturday, Kentucky took home in-state bragging rights over the Cardinals with a 31-27 win in Lexington.
Derrick Locke returned a kick 100 yards, Mike Hartline posted an efficient 20-for-27 passing performance and Sam Maxwell picked off Louisville QB Justin Burke late in the fourth quarter to take home the trophy for the third straight year.
It's no coincidence that the end of the Bobby Petrino era in Louisville coincides with Kentucky's return to dominance in the Bluegrass State. Rich Brooks has his Wildcat team playing with confidence that Kentucky hasn't seen in a long time. Often overlooked in the SEC East, the Wildcats have won three straight bowl games, and are no longer considered bottom feeders. Now that they've established themselves as the premiere team in the state, which is huge for recruiting for any team, look for the Wildcats to continue their steady rise in the future.
Barrett Sallee covers the SEC for www.CollegeFootballNews.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter at http://twitter.com/BSallee_CFN
Three & Out Archive:
Three & Out: SEC Thoughts, News & Notes - September 21, 2009
Three & Out: SEC Thoughts, News & Notes - September 17, 2009
Three & Out: SEC Thoughts, News & Notes - September 13, 2009
Three & Out: SEC Thoughts, News & Notes - September 10, 2009
Three & Out: SEC Thoughts, News & Notes - September 7, 2009
Three & Out: SEC Thoughts, News & Notes - September 3, 2009
Three & Out: SEC Media Days, Day 3 – July 24, 2009
Three & Out: SEC Media Days, Day 2 – July 23, 2009
Three & Out: SEC Media Days, Day 1 – July 22, 2009
Three & Out: SEC Thoughts, News & Notes – April 16, 2009
Three & Out: SEC Thoughts, News & Notes – April 12, 2009
Three & Out: SEC Thoughts, News & Notes – April 9, 2009
Three & Out: SEC Thoughts, News & Notes – April 3, 2009
Three & Out: SEC Thoughts, News & Notes – March 30, 2009
Three & Out: SEC Thoughts, News & Notes – March 26, 2009
Three & Out: SEC Thoughts, News & Notes – March 18, 2009
Three & Out: SEC Thoughts, News & Notes – March 15, 2009
Three & Out: SEC Thoughts, News & Notes – March 11, 2009
Three & Out: SEC Thoughts, News & Notes – March 7, 2009
Three & Out: SEC Thoughts, News & Notes – March 3, 2009
Three & Out: SEC Thoughts, News & Notes – February 28, 2009
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