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Monday, September 12, 2011
Hot and Not in the SEC: Week 3

By Chris Low

It’s our weekly look at who and what are hot around the SEC and who and what aren’t so hot:

GLOWING EMBERS

Mark Richt’s seat: Yes, I know this is a predictable one, and I don’t necessarily agree with it, but there’s no getting around the fact that Richt is in the deepest hole of his head-coaching career. The one thing the Bulldogs couldn’t do to start this season was go 0-2. At least that was the thinking coming in. Well, they’re 0-2 and banged-up at linebacker. The schedule is really pretty manageable the rest of the way, and what’s going to be critical for Richt is winning some games that count. In other words, he doesn’t need to lose to Florida, doesn’t need to lose to Tennessee and doesn’t need to lose to Auburn. What’s encouraging for the Bulldogs is that they played much better on defense this past Saturday in their 45-42 loss to South Carolina, and freshman tailback Isaiah Crowell is a guy they can ride on offense. Richt has his work cut out, no question, and he’s given the fans who want him out even more ammunition with a 0-2 start. But we’ve only played two games. Can we at least see how the entire season plays out before we start sending moving fans to the guy's house? I think he’s earned that.

HOT

Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray: The concern last season as a freshman was his completion percentage. Well, he’s completing 78.5 percent of his passes in his first two games this season with seven touchdowns and no interceptions. He’s now thrown 22 touchdown passes in his last seven games dating back to a year ago.

NOT

Tennessee coach Derek Dooley’s orange pants: If you get anywhere near them, make sure you have your sunglasses. They rate right up there with some of those outlandish trousers Rodney Dangerfield wore in “Caddyshack.”

HOT

Florida’s defense: In two games, the Gators have allowed just one field goal and are holding opponents to an average of 174.5 total yards. The Gators haven’t had to show much, either, on defense in their first two games, but you can bet Will Muschamp will break out a few new blitzes and such this week when Tennessee comes to town.

NOT

Arkansas receiver Greg Childs: He’s not going to stay this quiet for long. He’s too good of a player. But Childs has caught just two passes for 29 yards and no touchdowns the first two weeks. He’s coming off that torn patellar tendon from a year ago, so it may be a while before we see him all the way back.

HOT

Mississippi State running back Vick Ballard: He’s running like a guy who feels like he has a lot to prove. Ballard was overshadowed by some of the backs in this league last season. But not anymore. He leads the SEC in rushing with 301 yards and has scored four touchdowns.

NOT

NCAA: The NCAA gets a lot of unwarranted heat, but it’s time that some of these punishments it's handing down to players are at least consistent. Don’t suspend a kid like Sharrif Floyd for two games when he’s just trying to find a place to sleep at night and then let others play on just because there’s a loophole in the rules … or a big bowl game coming up.

HOT

Vanderbilt defensive tackle Rob Lohr: He was a one-man wrecking crew in the middle for the Commodores in their 24-21 win over Connecticut. The 6-foot-4, 290-pound junior had four tackles for loss and a pass deflection and was a big reason UConn managed just 193 yards of total offense.

NOT

Auburn’s defense: Auburn has flirted with giving up 1,000 yards on defense in two games. The Tigers are ranked 111th nationally in total defense, giving up an average of 489.5 yards per game. They’re giving up yards in chunks and making critical errors. Yet, somehow, the defending champs have managed to win.

FREEZER BURN

Kentucky’s passing game: It’s been a rocky start for junior quarterback Morgan Newton, but he hasn’t gotten a lot of help, either. The Wildcats are ranked 115th nationally in passing offense through the first two weeks. They’re averaging just 105.5 passing yards per game, and Newton is completing just 44.4 percent of his passes. He’s thrown four interceptions and two touchdowns. The other part of this story is his receivers, who’ve had a serious case of the dropsies. Dropped passes were a problem in the spring. They were a problem in the preseason, and they’ve been a problem the first two games. The Wildcats also haven’t protected as well as they did a year ago and have given up six sacks after giving up just 19 in 13 games in 2010. It’s a fact that Kentucky is 2-0. It’s also a fact that the Wildcats need to get a lot better in the passing game if they’re going to extend their bowl streak.