Road to Atlanta Week Three: A topsy-turvy week in the SEC East

Photo by Ray Li//The Vanderbilt Hustler.

Week Three featured two SEC East divisional games that could not have been more different.

Florida’s Hail Mary pass with no time left on the clock gave the Gators an emotional 26-20 victory over Tennessee. Florida held a 6-3 lead going into the fourth quarter of what had been a game completely devoid of offense.

Then, a barrage of scoring defined the final quarter, as Florida finally scored its first two offensive touchdowns of the year and added a pick-six. Tennessee came alive with 17 points in the fourth, but the scoring came too late.

Florida quarterback Feleipe Franks heaved a 63-yard pass to Tyrie Cleveland, who got free behind a safety and used his speed to create even more space. The game-winning play was actually the same one Florida called to beat Tennessee as time expired two years ago.

While the Florida-Tennessee game ended with offensive fireworks and a highlight to be played for years to come, Kentucky’s 23-13 win at South Carolina was largely uneventful.

South Carolina quarterback Jake Bentley threw for 304 yards and two touchdowns with two interceptions. He may have trouble hitting that 300-yard mark again after wide receiver Deebo Samuel broke his leg and will miss the rest of the season. Samuel had 250 receiving yards and three touchdowns on the year.

Kentucky running back Benny Snell Jr. carried the Wildcats’ workload, rushing 32 times for 102 yards and two touchdowns. Kentucky’s defense held South Carolina to just three third-down conversions on 12 attempts, and their two fourth-down stops helped seal the victory.

Vanderbilt earned a 14-7 win over 18th-ranked Kansas State. The Commodores were led by their tough defense, which only allowed 76 yards through the air. Kyle Shurmur threw for a touchdown and ran for another to lead Vanderbilt to a 3-0 record for the first time since 2011. Vanderbilt’s offensive line problems were apparent throughout the night and will be exploited against faster SEC front sevens.

Georgia running back Nick Chubb took command in the Bulldogs’ 42-10 win over Samford, also named the Bulldogs. Chubb ran for 131 yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries to take pressure off of freshman quarterback Jake Fromm, who made his second straight start in place of the injured Jacob Eason. Georgia’s front seven allowed 22 rushing yards on 23 carries in an impressive performance.

Missouri continued its disappointing start with a 35-3 home loss to Purdue. Purdue held the Tigers’ once-explosive offense to just 203 yards and a single field goal. Missouri fired defensive coordinator DeMontie Cross earlier in the week, and needs to see some changes on offense to save the season.

In Week Four, Florida visits Kentucky in a battle of early division leaders. Georgia hosts Mississippi State in a top-20 matchup of young, talented quarterbacks. Vanderbilt will face an enormous challenge against the top-ranked Crimson Tide. Missouri will try to get its offense running against Auburn.

Outside of SEC play, Tennessee hosts UMass and will try to recover from a devastating loss to Florida. South Carolina will try to find another playmaker to replace Deebo Samuel’s production when the Gamecocks take on Louisiana Tech.

Florida and Kentucky lead the division based on their 1-0 SEC records, but Georgia and Vanderbilt are also contenders. Missouri looks to already be out of the division race based on the last two weeks’ performances. Tennessee and South Carolina still can be competitive in the divison, as each only has one loss.

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