SEC defenses struggle; Bama, Georgia and Clemson roll

Check out the top 10 things we learned during the college football weekend.

1. Defense took the weekend off in the SEC

The league is known for its top teams playing solid defense, but few SEC teams put up much of a defensive fight Saturday. The average score of the seven conference games played was 41-26. Five of those matchups featured teams gaining at least 700 yards, with two games surpassing 1,000 yards apiece.

2. Mac Jones, Najee Harris key for Alabama

Quarterback Mac Jones and tailback Najee Harris combined for 623 of Alabama’s 723 yards Saturday, accounting for seven of the team’s nine touchdowns during a 63-48 win over Ole Miss. The Rebels exposed some major weaknesses within the Crimson Tide defense, proving a good offense could be the best defense against Nick Saban’s team this year.

3. Travis Etienne could be Clemson’s MVP

The talented Clemson running back Travis Etienne recorded 222 yards and two touchdowns as the Tigers earned a 42-17 win over Miami. Etienne moved into third place on the league’s career rushing list with 4,430 yards and his performance solidified his status as a key part of a potential national championship run by Dabo Swinney’s team.

4. Defensive woes continue to haunt Gators

There’s little doubt Florida has a playoff-caliber offense, but the Gators’ defense could thwart an SEC title. Florida gave up 500-plus yards for the second time this season while allowing Texas A&M to go 12 of 15 on third down as the Aggies gave Jimbo Fisher his first win over a top-five program since arriving in College Station.

5. Bulldogs clamp down on run game

Georgia’s defense out-played, out-tackled and outmanned an opponent, this time holding Tennessee to -1 yards rushing. It’s the lowest output by a Volunteers team on the ground since 2014. The Bulldogs have held teams to 115 yards of rushing offense through three games with a 1.49 yards per carry average, which is the best in the nation.

6. LSU not quite up to title defense

LSU dropped its second game of the season after allowing 45 points and 586 yards against Missouri. LSU has looked nothing like the defending national champs through the first three games of the season, with a secondary that’s allowed an SEC-worst six passing plays of 40-plus yards, including a 41-, 69- and 58-yard passing plays during the loss to Mizzou.

7. Sooners show grit in OT against Texas

Despite losing back-to-back games for the first time since 1999, the Sooners weren’t ready to write off this season and held on for a 53-45 win in four overtimes. A much-maligned defense sacked Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger six times and intercepted two of his passes, including one in the end zone to seal the OU win during a fourth overtime period. The Longhorns, meanwhile, enter their bye week with more questions than answers after losing back-to-back games. Outside of Ehlinger, the Longhorns offense was nonexistent and the defense has allowed 400-plus yards in four consecutive games.

8. Hogs have plenty to be upset about

You could understand why Arkansas coach Sam Pittman might not be a big fan of officials after his Razorbacks lost on a controversial call at the end of their game against Auburn. Bo Nix fumbled the snap and tried to spike the ball as Arkansas players jumped on the ball, but officials whistled the play dead and after a review called it intentional grounding. The call allowed the Tigers to kick the game-winning field goal.

9. Kentucky deflated the Air Raid offense

After exploding for 632 yards in a season-opening win over then-No. 8 LSU, Mississippi State’s vaunted Air Raid offense has suddenly deflated. The Bulldogs managed two points and 295 yards during a loss to Kentucky. After tossing five touchdowns in the win over the Tigers, Mississippi State quarterback KJ Costello has thrown one touchdown and seven interceptions during back-to-back losses.

10. Tar Heels hit the gas

North Carolina accounted for close to 400 yards on the ground, helping the Tar Heels offense put up a season-high 656 yards of total offense during a 56-45 win over Virginia Tech. Mack Brown’s team is among the best in the ACC, but does North Carolina have enough offensive firepower to overcome the bruising Notre Dame and Clemson defenses?

This article first appeared on Email Matt Murschel at [email protected]


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