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Three & Out appears every Sunday and Wednesday in 2010 to give you three SEC thoughts, news and notes. In today's edition, we take a look at the meltdown in Oxford, what we learned about LSU and the new-look South Carolina offense.
"That was a heart-breaker. Definitely. It's just tough. We have to learn from it. We can't let it happen again."
That's what Ole Miss quarterback Jeremiah Masoli told reporters following the Rebels' stunning 49-48 loss to Jacksonville State.
Let it happen again? It shouldn't have happened the first time. An FBS team should never, under any circumstances, beat a team from the SEC, especially when said team from the SEC is coming off back-to-back nine-win seasons and Cotton Bowl victories. Yes, Ole Miss is in a rebuilding year and probably won't contend for the SEC West title or even a major bowl, but the talent on the roster alone should be enough to put away Jacksonville State, even in a down year.
It's no secret that the Rebels have had a tumultuous offseason. All the drama appeared to be over with on Friday, when Masoli won his appeal to become eligible in 2010 and defensive end Kentrell Lockett received a good report from doctors regarding his heart condition. As it turns out, a new kind of drama emerged when Coty Blanchard found Calvin Middleton for the two-point conversion, sending Ole Miss to one of the most embarrassing defeats in school history – and it's a kind that can get a head coach fired.
Is Houston Nutt on the hot seat? No. Not right now. Back-to-back nine-win seasons at Ole Miss has built him a cushion. But don't forget that Pete Boone is the same athletics director that ran David Cutcliffe out of town for posting a 4-7 record, one year after posting the Rebels' first 10-win season in 32 years. If the loss to Jacksonville State sends the 2010 season spiraling out of control, it will be something to keep an eye on.
A WHOLE LOT OF SOUND AND FURY, SIGNIFYING...
The Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Game has become one of the most anticipated games of the year during its brief three-year existence. This season was no different, although most of the talk revolved around North Carolina's off-the-field issues. While most of the talk swirled around the Tar Heels, LSU had some question marks to figure out too. So what did we learn about LSU in the Tigers' 30-24 victory over the Tar Heels Saturday night in the Georgia Dome? Not much.
We already knew that Patrick Peterson was the best cornerback in the country. What we didn't know is that he's also one of the best returners in the country. His 257-return yard performance was the difference in the game, and LSU fans should thank their lucky stars that he was back there, because the rest of the team looked average at best.
The Tigers managed only 313 yards of total offense against a depleted North Carolina defense, which was only eight more yards than the Tigers averaged last season – when they finished last in the SEC in total offense. In addition to the anemic offense, the Tigers lost four fumbles and wide receiver Russell Shepard, who was supposed to be additive that kicked the LSU offense into overdrive, only got seven touches.
While the offensive troubles are concerning, they were somewhat expected. What wasn't expected was the porous defense that the Tigers showed, particularly in the second half. There's no reason that North Carolina quarterback T.J. Yates should throw for 412 yards against LSU's defense, even with Peterson cramping up. Yeah, 97 of them came on one play, but number should still frighten defensive coordinator John Chavis.
LSU is very much a work-in-progress. Does that mean that they can't contend for the SEC West? No. But the Tigers' victory over the depleted Tar Heels Saturday night didn't tell us anything new about the Tigers. They're still inconsistent on offense and rely heavily on defense, which almost cost them a victory in the opener.
COMING OF AGE
Hide your kids, hide your wife and hide your husband; because the Gamecocks look good.
Stephen Garcia and true freshman Connor Shaw were jockeying for the starting quarterback position into game week, when Spurrier announced that both will play in the opener. That probably won't be the case anymore. Garcia finished the night 16-23 for 193 yards, and looked poised, comfortable and prepared - three things that have been absent from his game for the majority of his Gamecocks career. If Garcia plays like he did Thursday night, South Carolina will undoubtedly emerge as the primary contender to Florida's SEC East throne, which looks shaky after the Gators' anemic performance vs. Miami (Ohio).
And then there's that Marcus Lattimore guy. The true Freshman came to Columbia as the No. 1 high school running back last year according to Scout.com, and did not disappoint in his debut on the big stage. His stats weren't overly impressive - 14 carries for 54 yards and two touchdowns. But considering he is only three months removed from high school and playing against grown men (yes, college players are men, not "kids"), that's pretty darn impressive. Lattimore showed that he can be the inside threat that the Gamecocks' running game so desperately needs.
Oh yeah, and let's not forget Ace Sanders. He didn't touch the ball that much on Thursday night, but when he did, he shined. One South Carolina coach described Sanders to me as a "baller," and he certainly looked the part on a perfectly-timed 53-yard end around.
Sure, the rebuttal to this will be, "it's Southern Miss." And yeah, that's correct. They are obviously a step or four below South Carolina. But by scoring 41 points, the Gamecocks posted their best output since the 2006 Liberty Bowl. When you have a defense like South Carolina has, a competent offense may be all they need to take the next step.
Barrett Sallee covers the SEC for www.CollegeFootballNews.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter at @BarrettSallee
Don't forget to check out "Y'all Play Nice" from CFN's Russ Mitchell and Brian Harbach every Thursday during the season.
2010 Three & Out Archive
Three & Out – September 5, 2010
Three & Out – September 1, 2010
Three & Out – August 25, 2010
Three & Out – August 18, 2010
Three & Out – August 11, 2010
Three & Out – August 4, 2010
Three & Out – July 28, 2010
Three & Out – July 21, 2010
Three & Out – July 14, 2010
Three & Out – July 7, 2010
Three & Out – June 30, 2010
Three & Out – April 21, 2010
Three & Out – April 14, 2010
Three & Out – April 11, 2010
Three & Out – April 8, 2010
Three & Out – April 5, 2010
Three & Out – March 31, 2010
Three & Out – March 28, 2010
Three & Out – March 24, 2010
Three & Out – March 21, 2010
Three & Out – March 18, 2010
Three & Out – March 15, 2010
Three & Out – March 11, 2010
Three & Out – March 5, 2010
Three & Out – March 2, 2010
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