The Southeastern Conference completed its first weekend of football action, and other than Vanderbilt, the only losses that league teams took came to other teams within the league. After one week of play, here’s how I size up the SEC’s 14 teams.
1. Alabama (1-0): No, the Crimson Tide didn’t exactly look like a national championship-caliber squad in a defeat of a West Virginia squad that went 4-8 a year ago. No, the Crimson Tide certainly didn’t look like the league’s best team based on that game alone. Yes, the Crimson Tide may have some issues in the secondary, too. However, let’s not forget that ‘Bama struggled in its opener against Virginia Tech a year ago, and that the guys patrolling the sidelines in Tuscaloosa are among the best defensive coaches in the history of the game. For that reason, I’m starting ‘Bama at the top, but be forewarned, there’s a possibility of a tumble from here if those things are anything but Week 1 kinks.
2. Georgia (1-0): Meanwhile, it was either the Bulldogs or Texas A&M that looked like the league’s best team, solely going by Week 1 results. The only thing scarier for opponents than a healthy Todd Gurley at running back is the fact that the ‘Dawgs look as if they have three other really good backs behind him.
3. Auburn (1-0): The defending national runners-up had a phenomenal offensive performance that included a remarkable 13.3 yards per pass attempt, which, given the way Auburn runs the ball, has to scare the socks off SEC defensive coordinators. The question remains, though: Can Auburn defend well enough to defend its SEC title?
4. LSU (1-0): The Tigers, too, had a few issues, but Kenny Hilliard looked fantastic as LSU scored what may have been the league’s best win of the weekend.
5. Texas A&M (1-0): Few games in the couple of years have astonished me more than the way the Aggies boat-raced South Carolina on its home field with a first-year starting quarterback. At this rate, it won’t be long before A&M quarterback Kenny Hill more well-known in the sports world than his namesake father, who won 117 games as a Major League pitcher. If A&M’s defensive performance is legit, the Aggies will be downright scary.
6. Ole Miss (1-0): The Rebels only looked good for one quarter, which perhaps tells you something about how talented this bunch is when that sort of effort was good enough to beat Boise State by 22 on a neutral field.
7. Mississippi State (1-0): The underrated Bulldogs were fantastic on both sides of the ball in a 49-0 opening-day beat-down, but let’s not get carried away yet: it was against a Southern Miss team that’s won one game in its last two years.
8. South Carolina (0-1): The Gamecock defense looked hideous on opening night, but don’t forget that Carolina’s a talented bunch with a Hall of Fame coach in Steve Spurrier, so all hope’s not lost. Still, it was stunning to see a Spurrier-coached team look this bad on its home field.
9. Missouri (1-0): The Tigers limped through a 38-18 win over South Dakota State, which probably didn’t inspire a ton of confidence in Columbia. Then again, don’t forget that the Tigers didn’t look like anything special in four pedestrian games against out-of-conference teams a year ago before they exploded to win the SEC East.
10. Tennessee (1-0): So it wasn’t like beating Missouri or Wisconsin, but the Vols more or less turned in an A-plus performance with a win over Utah State. Now, coach Butch Jones will have to see if his squad, which is perilously thin in some places, could survive a rash of injuries; losing his left tackle for the year was not a good start.
11. Florida (0-0): The Gators got off to a great start by returning the opening kickoff to the Idaho 14. Unfortunately, that’s the only sampling of the 2014 squad that Florida fans got, as the game was postponed due to severe weather and now, won’t be re-scheduled.
12. Vanderbilt (0-1): Okay, Vanderbilt looked awful on opening night… historically awful for a team that’s historically been awful. But to drop the Commodores all the way to the bottom of the league behind a pair of teams that haven’t won a conference game since one beat the other in mid-2012 seems slightly premature. One more outing like that, though, and the Commodores might well earn a seat in the basement.
13. Arkansas (0-1): The way the Razorbacks moved the ball on Auburn in the first half was encouraging. The way its defense gave up nearly 600 yards, however, was too reminiscent of 2013.
14. Kentucky (1-0): The Wildcats are recruiting much better under coach Mark Stoops, and sure, they pounded UT-Martin, but let’s pump the brakes on that performance until we see a bit more out of what’s still a youthful squad. We may have to wait until after this weekend’s game against Ohio to get a better litmus test.