Georgia and LSU put up 85 combined points on Saturday, perhaps putting to rest the notion that the SEC is college football’s incubator of defensive innovation.
Instead, the nation got to see what happens when two very talented teams attempt to throw the ball down the field rather than pound it up the gut every play.
The result was a very entertaining game. And, in the end, the team with the slightly better quarterback won.
Georgia’s Aaron Murray threw for 298 yards and four touchdowns (and rushed for another) as the No. 9 Bulldogs beat No. 6 LSU in a wild one, 44-41. He carried his team despite the loss of star tailback Todd Gurley to an ankle injury. And he was clutch when it counted, leading Georgia on a game-winning 75-yard drive that culminated in a 25-yard touchdown pass to Justin Scott-Wesley with 1:48 left.
As a result, the Bulldogs are now 3-1 and sitting pretty in the SEC East after vanquishing two ranked teams. UGA will be favored against the rest of its schedule and it will take a major upset to keep it out of the SEC title game.
It almost didn’t happen. LSU put up quite a fight and almost pulled off the win. Quarterback Zach Mettenberger threw for a career high 372 yards and three touchdowns and Jeremy Hill rushed for 86 yards, but the vaunted Tigers defense couldn’t stop the Georgia offense when it truly counted.
Is Georgia a national title contender? You bet, especially with a resume that already includes two wins over ranked teams. Could Murray make it to New York as a Heisman finalist? Absolutely. The senior is on pace for another spectacular season and has finally shed his reputation for coming up short in big games.
Don’t count LSU out, either. The Tigers could conceivably win the SEC West and meet Georgia again in a rematch in the conference title game. With Mettenberger playing at such a high level this team can beat anybody.
But this day belonged to Georgia. And for the first time in the Mark Richt era, all the pieces seem to be in place for a serious run at the national title.
As was the case a few years ago, Maryland might want to consider bubble-wrapping their quarterbacks.
In the second half of Maryland’s season-opening 51-41 upset of Texas Saturday, Tyrrell Pigrome went down with what was later diagnosed as a torn ACL, ending his 2017 season. Quarterback No. 2, Kasim Hill, took over for the starter and guided the Terrapins to an easy 46-point win over FCS Towson the following weekend.
Coming off a bye, Hill started the Week 4 game against UCF, and promptly went down with what looked to be a very serious-looking injury to his right leg. Hill put no weight on the leg as he left the field with assistance from the team’s training staff, and was ultimately taken via cart into the locker room for further evaluation.
The true freshman has been ruled out of returning to the non-conference contest.
Hill was replaced by No. 3 quarterback Max Bortenschlager, who started one game last season for the Terps. Trailing the Knights 21-10 late in the third quarter, Bortenschlager has completed 9-of-16 passes for 83 yards, one touchdown and one interception in relief.
Imagine telling somebody before the season that No. 5 USC would dominate Stanford in the trenches during a blowout, but struggle against the other Bay Area team in a nail-bitter. Up is down, down is up in the Pac-12 apparently.
The Trojans came out flat to start their annual weekend trip to the Bay Area and needed a few defensive stands to keep the score locked at 13-all on a warm California day between the two in-state rivals.
Quarterback Sam Darnold (157 yards, one touchdown) did his Heisman campaign no favors, tossing his seventh interception of the season (after just nine in all of 2016). Things could have been worse for the signal-caller and his inexperienced receiving corps too as the Golden Bears nearly grabbed two others. Part of the issue could be that his terrific tailback Ronald Jones II failed to make the trip up for the game with an injury and true freshman Stephen Carr (36 yards) was forced to carry much of the load.
Cal’s offense had its own moments but was just 2-of-8 on third down conversions to help stall some early momentum. QB Ross Bowers threw for 124 yards but it was big running back Vic Enwere who was the star of the show with 42 yards on the ground and a touchdown he punched in on 4th and goal. The real story for the home team was the continued play of their defense however, pressuring Darnold on a number of snaps, forcing two turnovers and covering exceptionally well downfield to limit big plays.
The performance through two quarters will lead many to question whether USC really should be ranked in the top five and considered the Pac-12 favorite but the cardinal and gold could turn things around with a trip to the locker room and some adjustments. Still, it’s hard not to be impressed with Justin Wilcox’s squad giving everything they can to another big name opponent in Berkeley this month.
Vanderbilt came into the afternoon with the SEC’s top-ranked scoring defense. Yeah, about that…
No. 1 Alabama scored touchdowns on three straight offensive possessions to build a 21-0 lead in the first quarter and the Crimson Tide lead the Commodores 31-0 at halftime in Nashville. Bo Scarbrough was responsible for two of the Alabama touchdowns, and Damien Harris has take credit for the other two. Jalen Hurts has even gotten in on the running game a little bit while not having the pressure to perform through the air in this one.
On defense, Alabama has held Vanderbilt down quite well too. The Commodores converted just one of six third down situations and the Vandy offense has lost the football twice by way of a fumble.
If you had hoped Vanderbilt could maybe keep this one interesting for at least a half, you were out of luck. Alabama is about to cruise its way to a 4-0 record.
Given the offensive struggles through three weeks of the season, there were a growing number of fans and media calling for Michigan to make a change at quarterback. Unintentionally, that wish was granted Saturday afternoon.
In the first quarter of UM’s Big Ten opener against Purdue, Wilton Speight was sacked by Markus Bailey for an 11-yard loss on a third-and-five play. Speight left the game and, ultimately, the stadium entirely as he was taken to a local West Lafayette hospital for further evaluation.
At least for the moment, it appears doubtful he’ll return to the game.
Prior to the injury, Speight was 2-4 passing for 10 yards. His replacement, backup John O’Korn, is currently 5-5 for 61 yards. O’Korn has the game’s lone score as well, a 12-yard pass to Zach Gentry early in the second quarter.
Entering the game, Speight had led the Wolverines to just one touchdown on 10 drives into the red zone. That was O’Korn’s first red-zone trip of the season.
Through the first 19 minutes of game time, the two teams have combined for 154 yards of offense. The Boilermakers have been held to just a pair of first downs with 11 minutes left in the second quarter.
UPDATED 5:22 p.m. ET: Of course, almost as soon as I hit publish, the Boilermakers tied the score at seven-all.