No one likes to lose. Not a coin flip, not a hand of poker and especially not a football game.
So it hurts when your favorite team falls short on a Saturday. While it may not be healthy to go around pointing fingers in everyday life, it can be comforting for college football fans.
With that in mind, let’s hand out some blame for each SEC school’s loss in Week 3:
Rush defense (50 percent): Georgia Tech runs the most basic offense in college football. So simple, in fact, that coach Paul Johnson doesn’t even need a play sheet to call the game. Unfortunately, as Vanderbilt discovered, “the flexbone” is also very difficult to stop.
The Yellow Jackets rushed for 289 yards at an average of 6.3 yards per carry. That’s almost always a recipe for defeat.
Coaching (50 percent): Johnson is fifth in the NCAA in active career wins, so Derek Mason isn’t the first opposing coach to be outflanked by him. But from the 81-yard touchdown pass on the game’s opening play until the final whistle, the Commodores were outmaneuvered at every turn.
A lack of consistency (60 percent): If games were 30 minutes long, the Rebels would be 3-0 and ranked inside the top five. Since regulation games last twice that long, the Rebels have now squandered a pair of first-half leads, are 1-2 and on the verge of falling out of the SEC West race. Losing a 24-3 lead at home against Alabama has to be a bitter pill for Ole Miss to swallow.
Punt coverage (20 percent): The Rebels still had a 24-10 advantage with less than 90 seconds left in the first half when they were forced to punt. Eddie Jackson made them pay with an 85-yard return for a touchdown, and the rally was on.
Red zone efficiency (20 percent): Ole Miss had four trips inside the Crimson Tide 20-yard line, but managed only one touchdown. As former East Carolina coach Steve Logan once said, “inside the 20, field goals aren’t plus three, they’re minus four.”
A slow start (50 percent): Winning on the road in the SEC is tough. Doing so while spotting the opponent a 23-3 halftime lead is almost impossible (see above). LSU used a 200-yard edge in total offense to build that lead, and did just enough the rest of the way to hang on.
Pass defense (30 percent): LSU’s quarterback issues are widely documented, but Danny Etling’s first start was far too comfortable. He was 19 of 30 for 215 yards and a score, and wasn’t pressured nearly often enough by the Bulldogs.
Youth/environment (20 percent): Sometimes, there’s no substitute for experience. Coach Dan Mullen said as much after the game.
“I think there are 16 guys now that were on the team last time we came here,” he said. “Of our 70‐man travel squad, it was the first time here for 54 guys on our team. I think they were worried about the wrong things, and not about going harder. There were a lot of plays to be made in the first half. They were making some plays and we weren’t.”
Pass blocking (80 percent): It’s tempting to blame Sean White for the lack of success in the passing game, but no quarterback can play at his best under constant pressure from an opposing defense. He attempted 27 passes and was under duress on ten of those (4 sacks, 6 hurries).
Coaching (20 percent): Kamryn Pettway was a bright spot running the football, with 123 yards and a score. But he only got two carries in the third quarter. Kerryon Johnson had a decent game, but with Pettway averaging two more yards per carry, maybe sticking with the hot hand was the way to go.
The move to the more mobile John Franklin III at quarterback was a nice spark, even if it was a bit late.
Turnovers (50 percent): It’s hard to make a living turning the football over. Missouri dominated much of its game against Georgia, but those five giveaways (3 INT, 2 fumbles) were too much to overcome.
Finishing (30 percent): With a 27-21 lead, the Tigers got the ball with 13:35 left on their own 22-yard line. Fifteen plays and 7:46 on the game clock later, Drew Lock tossed an interception in the end zone (see above).
The 14 plays before that were all runs, with Missouri chewing up clock and yardage. It was third-and-5 on the Georgia 22, so another run was certainly in play. Even a field goal on that possession dramatically changes the final minutes.
Pass defense (20 percent): Isaiah McKenzie ran free throughout the Missouri secondary for most of the night, winding up with 10 catches for 122 yards and a pair of touchdowns, including the eventual game winner. When he had time to throw, Georgia’s Jacob Eason generally had open targets from which to choose.