In & around SEC football: Week 3

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By Cole Frederick/Sports Correspondent 

Alabama Week 2 Recap
For the first time in Nick Saban’s tenure at Alabama, the Crimson Tide lost by double digits at home. Texas emerged from Bryant-Denny Stadium last Saturday with a 34-24 win over Saban’s squad, and the Longhorns were clearly the better team all night. Alabama (1-1) was outgained 454-362 and lost the turnover battle at 2-0. UT quarterback Quinn Ewers threw for 349 yards and three touchdowns, while Ja’Tavion Sanders caught five passes for 114 yards and a touchdown for the Longhorns. Jalen Milroe threw for 255 yards for the Tide but was also intercepted twice and missed a few open receivers. This loss does not end Alabama’s championship aspirations, but it does remove the margin for error over the next 10 weeks. Alabama travels to Tampa on Saturday, Sept. 16 to take on South Florida.
Auburn Week 2 Recap
Last Saturday’s road game at Cal was one of the ugliest games in Auburn football history, but the Tigers eventually emerged with a 14-10 win over a Power 5 opponent. The Tigers turned the ball over four times and gained only 230 yards, but they also forced three Cal turnovers and held the Golden Bears to 273 yards. Cal started possessions in Auburn territory multiple times, but the Tigers’ defense held strong and forced field goal attempts, where the Golden Bears went 1-4. Cal QB Payton Thorne threw for only 94 yards and two touchdowns along with an interception. Jarquez Hunter led Auburn (2-0) in rushing with 53 yards. It certainly was not aesthetically pleasing, but Hugh Freeze will take any win he can get in Year 1. The Tigers host Samford this Saturday.
Week 3 SEC rankings
1. Georgia (2-0)
2. Alabama (1-1)
3. LSU (1-1)
4. Ole Miss (2-0)
5. Kentucky (2-0)
6. Tennessee (2-0)
7. Arkansas (2-0)
8. Texas A&M (1-1)
9. Auburn (2-0)
10. Mississippi State (2-0)
11. South Carolina (1-1)
12. Florida (1-1)
13. Missouri (2-0)
14. Vanderbilt (2-1)
Week 3 Previews and Predictions
Last week: 10-3; season: 21-3
Game of the Week: Tennessee at Florida (+6.5). Josh Heupel has the Volunteers as close to “back” as they’ve been since 2007 after last year’s 11-2 campaign. Now he’s looking to prove 2022 was no fluke. Florida, on the other hand, struggled in Year 1 under Billy Napier and started off this year poorly in a road loss to Utah. On paper, it looks as if Tennessee should cruise Saturday afternoon in the Swamp, but UT has not been challenged yet, and Florida is good enough to compete with the Vols at home. Prediction: Tennessee 27, Florida 23.
LSU at Mississippi State (+9.5). The Bulldogs needed overtime to knock off Arizona last weekend, but it’s been a positive start to Zach Arnett’s first season in Starkville. Mississippi State welcomes in an LSU team that has national championship aspirations. The Tigers were handled by Florida State in Week 1, but they’re talented enough to run the table. Prediction: LSU 34, Mississippi State 24.
Kansas State at Missouri (+5). It’s been a sluggish start through two games for Missouri. The Tigers are 2-0 but they have not looked sharp in wins over South Dakota and Middle Tennessee State. Eli Drinkwitz’s team must take a big step forward this week as they welcome last year’s Big 12 champion in Kansas State, which has one of the most underrated coaches in the country in Chris Klieman. Prediction: Kansas State 27, Missouri 20.
South Carolina at Georgia (-27.5). Georgia has coasted through its first two opponents, but the Bulldogs must raise their level of play on Saturday when an upset-minded South Carolina visits Athens. The Gamecocks upset Tennessee and Clemson last season, and while it is a four-touchdown underdog, USC is capable of hanging around if the Bulldogs do not bring their best. Prediction: Georgia 34, South Carolina 10.
Alabama at South Florida (+32). The Crimson Tide had glaring issues on both sides of the ball against Texas, none more noticeable than on offense. The offensive line was inconsistent in the running game and did not pass protect well, while quarterback Jalen Milroe struggled to make the correct reads on the rare occasions when he had time to throw. Alabama should cruise on Saturday in Tampa, but the Tide need the above issues fixed before SEC play begins. Prediction: Alabama 41, South Florida 3.
UL-Monroe at Texas A&M (-36.5). The hypothetical new and improved version of the Aggies looked eerily similar to last year’s Texas A&M team in a loss to Miami. Jimbo Fisher’s squad made a plethora of errors, and while the offense was better, the defense regressed. The talent is there in College Station, but there seems to be a disconnect between the players and the coaching staff. Prediction: Texas A&M 48, UL-Monroe, 6.
Vanderbilt at UNLV (+4). Vanderbilt was competitive in a loss at Wake Forest, but the offense was not consistent enough to keep up with the Demon Deacons for four quarters. The talent level has increased in Nashville, but the Commodores remain far behind the rest of the SEC. Saturday’s road game in Las Vegas is a game that Vandy should win, but it won’t be an easy victory. Prediction: Vanderbilt 31, UNLV 30.
Samford at Auburn. Hugh Freeze will certainly take a 2-0 record, but he knows that his Tigers must improve drastically if they’re going to compete with the best of the best in the SEC. AU has a week to figure things out offensively before the first conference game next week at Texas A&M. Prediction: Auburn 45, Samford 9.
Georgia Tech at Ole Miss (-19). For most of last Saturday’s road game in New Orleans, it appeared as if Tulane was going to upset a sleepwalking Ole Miss team despite the Green Wave playing a backup quarterback. The Rebels pulled away late for a 37-20 win, however, and they should handle an overmatched Georgia Tech team in Oxford this weekend. However, Ole Miss will need to be much better up front if the Rebels going to have a chance to beat Alabama next weekend. Prediction: Ole Miss 45, Georgia Tech 24.
BYU at Arkansas (-8). Arkansas has not been challenged through two weeks, and they will face the first difficult test of the season this Saturday as BYU visits Fayetteville. The Razorbacks should be able to control the line of scrimmage and pull away from the Cougars. It’s a win they must have, because the Hogs play five straight SEC games without a bye week after Saturday’s game. Prediction: Arkansas 31, BYU 20.
Akron at Kentucky (-25). The Wildcats have not exactly looked sharp through two weeks against inferior opponents. UK gets one final tune-up against an overmatched Zips team before the SEC portion of the schedule begin at Vanderbilt next week. Prediction: Kentucky 45, Akron 13.

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