It didn’t matter that Georgia was without three defensive starters. Jarvis Jones showed up in Missouri ready to introduce the Tigers to Southeastern Conference football on his own, dominating an overmatched Mizzou offensive line that could not handle Jones’ explosive first step even though he was nursing a sore groin and donning a brace on his left knee that appeared to slow his lateral movement a tick.
Missouri held a 10-9 halftime lead thanks to a 41-yard TD grab by Tigers WR Marcus Lucas, a sleek-bodied, highly athletic 6-5, 215-pound junior. Mizzou then opened up a 17-9 lead on its first drive of the third quarter before a resurgent Georgia offense, captained by a settled-down Aaron Murray, led the Bulldogs on a 32-3 run in the second half. However, the 41-20 win was sparked most by the sensational performance of Jones, the nation’s most athletic rush linebacker.
With Missouri’s offense taking the field facing a 27-20 deficit midway through the fourth quarter, Jones dropped back into coverage from the RILB position, showing he is athletic enough to play on his feet in the NFL, and snagged a James Franklin pass that he appeared to return for a TD. It was ruled down inside the one-yard line and Georgia punched it in one play later.
The next possession, Jones feasted on Franklin, strip-sacking the Tigers’ passer from behind after bursting off the right edge untouched. That created another turnover inside the 10-yard-line that soon opened up a 21-point lead.
After the game, Georgia head coach Mark Richt said his playmaking outside ’backer “may be the best defensive player in America.” After sitting out a year as a transfer from USC, Jones burst onto the scene in the 2011 opener against Boise State, when he showed up all over the field and was a disruptive tackling machine.
Had he declared for the draft as a redshirt sophomore, he was widely regarded by NFL scouts as a first-round pick. Having proven capable of dominating his first two weeks this season should cement his status as a top-15 pick in the 2013 draft and position the nation’s returning sack leader in the same class as other pass-rushing dynamos who have been selected highly in recent years, such as Von Miller, Aldon Smith and Bruce Irvin.
Mammoth-bodied DT Jonathan Jenkins needed assistance leaving the game in the fourth quarter after suffering a leg injury. Three Bulldogs defensive starters — hard-hitting senior safety Bacarri Rambo, a second-round talent with exceptional ball skills, speedy junior ILB Alec Ogletree and CB Sanders Commings — also did not make the trip as a result of suspensions.
Rambo and Ogletree reportedly were suspended four games after a second positive test for marijuana in the spring and Commings received a two-game suspension following a January arrest on a domestic violence charge.
• After building a 21-7 lead, Arkansas senior QB Tyler Wilson left the Louisiana-Monroe game before the half with a head injury after repeatedly being drilled by an aggressive array of overloaded pressure packages to which the Razorbacks never were able to adjust. Having his helmet slam off the turf after being forklifted into the ground by ULM LB Ray Stovall appeared to leave Wilson dazed and could affect the QB’s status for next week. ULM’s 34-31 overtime victory marked the first time that the program, led by head coach Todd Berry, had knocked off a ranked opponent. It was the Sun Belt Conference’s first win over a top-10-ranked foe.
• UCLA senior RB Johnathan Franklin leads the nation in rushing with two consecutive efforts of 200-plus yards (15-222-3 vs. Rice and 26-218-0 vs. Nebraska). He showed elite vision against the Cornhuskers in the open field, when he turned what should have been a two-yard loss into a 31-yard gain, making hard cut after cut without losing any steam to avoid five would-be tacklers. He is dangerous catching the ball out of the backfield, and though he lacks bell-cow size at an estimated 5-10, 205 pounds, he plays much bigger. Similar to Boise State’s Doug Martin, who elevated his draft standing with a solid senior season, Franklin has starter-type NFL traits and has jumped out of the gate much faster than any other back, including Wisconsin’s Montee Ball.
• Clemson’s offense has been very explosive despite playing without the nation’s most talented college receiver, true sophomore Sammy Watkins, who sat out the first two games for a suspension related to an offseason drug arrest. It produced more than 525 yards of offense in back-to-back weeks. Senior RB Andre Ellington produced a career-high 228-yard rushing effort in the season-opening 26-19 win over Auburn and WR DeAndre Hopkins, a junior speedster, grabbed three TDs in a 52-27 win over Ball State. Even the Tigers’ kicking game reached new heights, with senior PK Spencer Benton drilling an ACC-record 61-yard field goal against Ball State.
• On his 22nd birthday, USC QB Matt Barkley tied a career-high with six TD passes, with a big assist from sophomore WR Marqise Lee (three TDs) and junior Robert Woods, who contributed 200 all-purpose yards in a 42-29 win over Syracuse. The lean, 6-1, 185-pound Woods finished with 10 catches and two TDs, including a 29-yard grab that he plucked over the top of a defender despite nursing a sore right shoulder. He also set up two scores on a punt return and a 76-yard run, where he reversed field and outraced the competition. Trojans head coach Lane Kiffin said Lee will be the best receiver in the history of the program following his 10-197-1 performance in the Trojans’ 49-10 victory over Hawaii, but Woods possesses the game-breaking speed most coveted by NFL teams.