Week 3 has come and gone, but it seems like there are more questions now than before it started.
Kentucky QB Stephen Johnson and LSU QB Danny Etling produced enough to warrant additional playing time, while a pair of SEC East contenders still struggle to produce consistently on offense.
Here are a few of the top studs and duds from Week 3 of SEC play:
Stud: QB Stephen Johnson, Kentucky
Kentucky QB Drew Barker went out after the first drive of the game with a back injury, but Johnson made sure there was no drop-off. The Grambling State transfer completed 17 of his 22 passes for 310 yards and three touchdowns, and added another 51 yards on the ground.
The Wildcats defense was disastrous on Saturday and allowed New Mexico State to score 35 points in the first half, but Johnson luckily helped Kentucky keep pace. Now, Mark Stoops will have to think about whether starting Johnson is the right move to try and save his job. It’s possible Stoops may need Johnson anyway, given Barker’s uncertain status.
Singling out one dud on this roster would be unfair, as the Commodores failed in every phase of the game in a 38-7 loss to Georgia Tech. Vanderbilt was just a 6-point underdog coming into the game, but the Yellow Jackets outschemed, outmatched and outplayed the Commodores across the board.
Quarterback Kyle Shurmur averaged just 5.7 yards per attempt, while star running back Ralph Webb ran for just 69 yards on 18 attempts a week after exploding for 211 vs. Middle Tennessee. The defense surrendered 511 yards and a ghastly 8.1 yards per play. Coach Derek Mason’s seat just got a little warmer.
Stud: QB Danny Etling, LSU
They say happiness is reality minus expectations, so LSU fans have to be practically giddy with Etling’s performance. Etling threw for 215 yards and a score in his first start since Sept. 27, 2014, while at Purdue. More importantly, Etling led the Tigers to a 23-20 win over Mississippi State that wasn’t as close as the final score.
Incumbent starter Brandon Harris matched that yardage in only five of his 14 starts the past two seasons, including a 71-yard performance against the Bulldogs in 2015. Leonard Fournette is still the engine of this offense, but Etling proved that he can manage games and spread the ball around well enough to give the Tigers new life in the SEC West. Second-half ineffectiveness is a concern, but that’ll be remedied with experience.
Dud: Tennessee’s offense
Another week, another underwhelming performance from Tennessee. The Volunteers came into the year with expectations of competing for a national championship, but that team has yet to emerge from Rocky Top.
The Volunteers averaged 5.9 yards per play against a mediocre Ohio defense and let the Bobcats win the time-of-possession battle despite rushing on two-thirds of their 69 offensive plays. Josh Dobbs is a nice player, but he hasn’t developed into the passer many hoped. The offense needs to become more dynamic or it will get exposed against Florida and Alabama.
Stud: QB Jacob Eason, Georgia
The legend of Jacob Eason is officially born. In his first road start playing at Mizzou, the true freshman led a fourth-quarter comeback to beat the Tigers 28-27. Eason threw for 308 yards and three touchdowns, including a 20-yard laser to Isaiah McKenzie for the win.
Eason still has freshman miscues, but he is quickly emerging as one of the best quarterbacks in the conference. Standing tall as an 18-year-old kid in a hostile environment is no joke, and Eason handled it like a pro. It will be fascinating to watch as his career develops.
Dud: Georgia running game
Nick Chubb exploded for 222 yards and two touchdowns in his first game, but that performance is starting to look more like the exception. In two games since against Nicholls State and Missouri, Chubb has rushed for a combined 143 yards on just 3.7 yards per carry.
There is some inexperience on the offensive line and moving into a new system is difficult, but these numbers are concerning. Running the ball has been a staple at Georgia for years, and Chubb has been one of the best in his young career. In the prior two seasons, he averaged 7.4 yards per rush.