What did we learn in week three of the all-SEC 2020 season?
Nothing. Absolutely nothing.
Nothing has made sense in this all-conference season, and that was evident on Saturday.
Just think, if I told you that Arkansas would get hosed out of a win against Auburn, Alabama would escape a shootout with Ole Miss, Florida loses to Texas A&M, and LSU would be sitting at 1-2 with a loss to Missouri and Missippi State, would you believe me?
NOTHING. MAKES. SENSE.
Looking at Kentucky’s body of work through three weeks, the trend continues: During the first two weeks, Kentucky was one of the top teams in the country in third-down conversions and time of possession, with three skill positions guys being graded as a top-two player nationally by Pro Football Focus. However, this same team would be DEAD LAST in pass defense and sitting at 0-2 on the year.
Here’s the plot twist. In week three, Kentucky’s offense only musters 14 points, seven of which came with great field position after a Josh Paschal interception. However, the same defense that was dead last in pass defense pitches a shutout against a team that set single-game-SEC pass records in week one.
Let’s check in on the rest of the SEC, surely everything else makes sense, right? Nope.
Let’s check in on the defending National Champion LSU Tigers. I don’t think anyone had them winning the national championship this year, but NO ONE had the Tigers starting out 1-2 against a schedule that included Mississippi State, Vanderbilt, and Missouri. Sure enough, here we are.
LSU’s defense wasn’t unstoppable last year, but man are they TERRIBLE this year. Sure, they held Vandy to seven and most teams probably will, but Mississippi State and Missouri hanging up over 40 on the Tigers is just bad. Not to mention, the Tigers prolific offense had four downs to punch it in the endzone on their last possession, but Missouri made a goalline stand for the ages to give Eli Drinkwitz his first win in the SEC. Who had that on their 2020 bingo card?
GOAL. LINE. STAND.
MISSOURI UPSETS LSU!
— PFF College (@PFF_College) October 10, 2020
So does this mean Missouri is good? Or is LSU bad? I’m leaning towards the latter since Mississippi State throttled them in Death Valley, only to turn around and score 16 combined points in their next to games to drop to 1-2. We thought Mississippi State was going to light up the SEC just two weeks ago, now they’ve lost to a bottom feeder in Arkansas and their offense was shutout last night.
Speaking of Arkansas, I think we all pinned an 0-3 start to Sam Pittman’s career at Arkansas; opening up at Georgia, hosting Mississippi State, then traveling to Auburn is no easy stretch. Now, they look like a team to contend with through three weeks. They kept it tight with Georgia for a considerable amount of time, they beat Mississippi State, and they honestly should’ve beaten Auburn last night, had Gus Malzahn not signed a gentlemen’s agreement with the SEC officials before the season started.
This is 100% a fumble
Bo Nix spikes the ball backwards, behind him, whatever. It’s a backwards pass. pic.twitter.com/hoTOdVFTcz
— i Reporter Liam ? (@Blutman27) October 10, 2020
Keeping things over on the western side of the conference, the ‘Cats loss to Ole Miss isn’t looking as bad right now. Lighting up Florida and Kentucky is one thing, but the fact that Lane Kiffin had his Rebels in the game against Alabama with under two minutes to go is insane. Ole Miss has always been a problem for Nick Saban, but the Tide escaping a shootout upset in Oxford? Who could’ve guessed that? Maybe the Kentucky defense is just better than what we thought after two weeks; they weren’t necessarily abysmal against Auburn–Seth Williams is just gonna Seth Williams–then the same Ole Miss offense that Kentucky struggled against hangs 48 on Alabama?
NOTHING. MAKES. SENSE.
Now let’s circle back around to the teams Kentucky would have to contend with in the SEC East: Flordia, Georgia, and yes, even Tennesee.
Let’s start with Florida. There was a lot of talking college football heads who had Florida as the trendy dark horse pick to make the College Football Playoff. Well, just three weeks in they’ve already got their first lost handed to them by Texas A&M. Now, Texas A&M is good, and the Kyle connection in Florida will continue to be a problem, but that Gator defense under Todd Grantham looks particularly bad. Now, Florida’s playoff hopes will ride on possibly finishing out the season undefeated, and having to topple Georgia in the process. It can be done, but the Florida defense makes them susceptible to losses, and that game in the swamp might just look a little different for Kentucky in more ways than one. More on that later today on KSR.
Georgia looked like the most overrated team in America through three quarters in week one, now they just look like world-beaters. They pulled away from Arkansas in week one, and haven’t looked back, dismantling Auburn in week two and pulling away from Tennesee yesterday. A fluky start had the Dawgs down at halftime, but they turned it around quickly to beat the Vols by three scores to set up for the game of the season next week against Alabama. We will learn a lot more about both of these teams a week from now.
To wrap it all up, let’s look at Tennesse, Kentucky’s next opponent on the schedule. In true Volunteer fashion–when the rest of the league looks wildly unpredictable–they kind of are who we thought they were: a 2-1 start with wins over South Carolina and Missouri while contending with Georgia for three quarters. I’m not quite sure what the book is on Tennesse yet though. Will I pick the Cats the beat them? Absolutely not, we’re cursed against those guys, but it is worth noting that Tennesee has one of the best offensive lines in the country and ran for *-1* rushing yards against Georgia. Sure, Georgia is Georgia, but Kentucky’s defense is ranked sixth-best in the country. The run defense has been a staple for Mark Stoops, so this will make for an interesting matchup this week.
This game against Tennesee is huge. Despite not being able to beat them but once in the Mark Stoops era, it feels like Kentucky’s trajectory has been better than Tennesee’s over the last few years. That can all change on Saturday. No one plays for consolation prizes, but this matchup will determine who is really going to contend with Florida and Georgia for the SEC East crown going forward. The Cats have been third on that totem pole for about four years now, and you don’t want to give it up next week.
At the end of the day, nothing makes sense in this all-SEC schedule. Take your lumps, win close games against bad opponents, have a chance to knock off teams you shouldn’t, and let’s buckle up for a wild ride. If the first three weeks have taught us anything, it’s that any team can win any week, and don’t put too much stock into a team’s performance from the previous week.
God bless college football.