Sports, Thrill of Victory

SEC football storylines to watch in Week Three

Week 2 of Southeastern Conference football was more exciting that just about anyone expected. Chris Lee wraps up what happened, and looks ahead.

This week’s storylines

A bad day at the office.

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Joshua Dobbs and Tennessee missed a golden opportunity when they let a 17 point lead over No. 19 Oklahoma slip away. PHOTO BY MATTHEW MAXEY

First, the league missed a golden opportunity when Tennessee blew a 17-0 lead against then-No. 19 Oklahoma. The Vols allowed a last-minute score, then quarterback Joshua Dobbs threw an interception in the second overtime that cost Vol fans the “we’re back!” brag that they’ve been sitting on for years.

Next, Arkansas suffered an embarrassing 16-12 upset to Toledo. While it may not be as bad a loss as some think—the Rockets are probably the Mid-American Conference’s best team and Arkansas out-gained Toledo by almost 200 yards, which suggests it was a bit of a fluke, try using those facts to console any SEC or Razorback fans. The bottom line, a loss to a non-Power Five conference team is unacceptable in the SEC West, and may be indicative that UA isn’t quite as good as we thought.

Worse than the above games, at least in my mind, is the fact that Auburn, out-gained 438-401, needed late-game heroics just to get to overtime with FCS opponent Jacksonville State, plus the fact that the Gamecocks failed to even try to move the ball in the last 39 seconds of regulation to win it there. Roughly 40-point favorites, Auburn should have never been in that position. The good news: Auburn’s still undefeated. The bad news: the Tigers look nothing like the national title contenders I thought they’d be.

Florida, a 31-24 winner over East Carolina, and Missouri, a 27-20 victor over Arkansas State, were also tested beyond what was expected.

A bad performance in Week 2 isn’t the worst thing that can happen; ask Ohio State, which lost to Virginia Tech (which went 7-6 in 2014) last season and then ran the table to win the national title. That said, there’s no denying that Week 2 wasn’t a good week for the SEC.

Big injuries

South Carolina’s starting quarterback, Connor Mitch, is out 4-to-6 weeks with a separated shoulder. Walk-on Perry Orth, who played well in USC’s loss to Kentucky, takes his place.

Tennessee defensive end Curt Maggitt, a preseason First Team All-SEC selection. has a hip injury that coach Butch Jones says will keep him out “an extended period of time.” The Vols are thin on the defensive line and this won’t help.

Missouri running back Russell Hansbrough is out for this week’s Connecticut game. The Tigers are 2-0 and winning with defense, but the Tiger offense, already suspect with Hansbrough, is now without the guy who’s probably Missouri’s most talented offensive player.

Auburn’s Carl Lawson, a potential All-SEC defensive end, missed all last year with an ACL injury. This weekend, he was on crutches with a hip flexor issue suffered in the Louisville game.

Quarterback clarity?

Ole Miss's Chad Kelly leads the Rebels into a huge game with Alabama this week. PHOTO COURTESY OLE MISS ATHLETICS

Chad Kelly leads Ole Miss into a huge game with Alabama this week. PHOTO COURTESY OLE MISS ATHLETICS

It looks like Will Grier (10-of-17, 151 yards, two TDs, one interception) is emerging as the guy in Gainesville and starting Saturday’s game, though Treon Harris (5-for-8, 54 yards) also played.

The same can be said for Alabama’s Jacob Coker (15-of-26, 214 yards, one touchdown, one interception) even though Cooper Bateman (11-of-17, 98, 1/1) also played.

In LSU’s first game, Brandon Harris  went the distance in a road win over Mississippi State, although nothing in his stat line (9-of-14, 71 yards, no touchdowns or interceptions) suggests greatness.

The same can be said at Georgia, where Greyson Lambert missed his first seven tosses and came out for a series or two in favor of Brice Ramsey, but finished UGA’s 31-14 victory at Vandy.

In College Station, Texas A&M’s Kyle Allen and Kyler Murray split time, thought that was after the Aggies rode Allen’s three TD strikes to a big lead before yielding way just before the break.

 

Power rankings

Alabama WR Robert Foster scoring a touchdown against Middle Tennessee. PHOTO COURTESY ALABAMA ATHLETICS

Alabama WR Robert Foster scoring a touchdown against Middle Tennessee. PHOTO COURTESY ALABAMA ATHLETICS

  1. Alabama (2-0): The Crimson Tide took their foot off the gas in a 37-10 win over MTSU.
  2. Ole Miss (2-0): Rebels averaging 74.5 points and 635 yards through two games.
  3. Georgia (2-0): Bulldogs’ superior strength and athleticism was on full display in Nashville this weekend.
  4. Texas A&M (2-0): Aggies rank seventh in the SEC in total defense (326 yards per game); if that holds, it could be a special season.
  5. Auburn (2-0): Here’s betting that things go better for the Tigers going forward.
  6. LSU (1-0): A road win over MSU was good, but the QB issues must be answered.
  7. Missouri (2-0): Tigers lead the lead in total (209 yards) and scoring (11.5 points per game) defense.
  8. Arkansas (1-1): Adjusting to life without Jonathan Williams has been tougher than anticipated.
  9. Tennessee (1-1): At least the UT defense improved significantly in Week 2.
  10. Mississippi State (1-1):
  11. Florida (2-0): Gators unexpectedly averaging 46 points and 490 yards a game, though the competition has been suspect.
  12. Kentucky (2-0): Wildcats snapped a five-year road skid with win at South Carolina.
  13. South Carolina (1-1): Are we seeing the beginning of the end for coach Steve Spurrier?
  14. Vanderbilt (0-2): Commodores are much better but a a nation-worst minus-5 in turnovers has been a killer.
Georgia's Nick Chubb is the next great Bulldog runner in a long line of legends and is an early season Heisman Trophy favorite. PHOTO COURTESY GEORGIA ATHLETICS

Georgia’s Nick Chubb is the next great Bulldog runner in a long line of legends and is an early season Heisman Trophy favorite. PHOTO COURTESY GEORGIA ATHLETICS

Player of the Year

Offense:

  1. Nick Chubb, RB, Georgia, (305 yards, 8.8 per carry, 2 TDs)
  2. Derrick Henry, RB, Alabama (243 yards, 7.8 per carry, 6 TDs)
  3. Dak Prescott, QB, Miss. St. (56-of-90, 572 yds, 3 TD, 0 INT, 53 rushing yards)
  4. Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU (159 yards, 5.7 per carry, 3 TDs)
  5. Brandon Allen, QB, Arkansas (46-of-71, 720 yards, 4 TDs, 0 INT, 22 rushing yards)

Defense:

  1. Kentrail Brothers, LB, Missouri (16 tackles per game, 5 tackles for loss, 2 interceptions)
  2. Jordan Jenkins, OLB, Georgia (9 TPG, 7 TFL)
  3. Skai Moore, LB, South Carolina (9.5 TPG, 3 interceptions, 4 pass break-up)
  4. Jalen Reeves-Maybin, LB, Tennessee (15 TPG, 5 TFL)
  5. Daeshon Hall, DE, Texas A&M (4.5 TPG, 4 TFL)

 

This week’s picks: (Overall: 20-4, and 10-9 against the point spread)

2000px-Alabama_Crimson_Tide_Logo.svgAlabama 30, Ole Miss 23 (Alabama by 6.5): Alabama wins because of a superior running game and the fact that the Rebels won’t sneak up on ‘Bama this year. But an Ole Miss win wouldn’t stun me. This should be a classic.

 

lsu-logoLSU 24, Auburn 20 (LSU by 7.5): As much as I’m tempted to pick Auburn, defense wins games and LSU got the edge there, as well as home-field advantage.

 

PrintGeorgia 30, South Carolina 20 (Georgia by 16.5): Be wary of this one—as superior as Georgia looks, Carolina has been the Bulldogs four of the last five years. That included last year, when Georgia was clearly the better team.

 

Kentucky_Wildcats_new_logoKentucky 27, Florida 24 (Florida by 3): The Wildcats finally get that upset they feel they were robbed of a year ago.

 

RightHogArkansas 40, Texas Tech 30 (Arkansas by 11.5): Razorbacks will have their hands full with a Tech offense that averages 643 yards per game, but like last year, a vastly-superior defense will prevail.

 

TAMU logoTexas A&M 55, Nevada 17 (A&M by 34): This will be just a glorified practice for coach Kevin Sumlin to split reps between all his talented offensive players.

 

Mizzou logoMissouri 24, Connecticut 10 (Missouri by 21): Tigers win a matchup between two teams with good defenses, but not much offense.

 

Tennessee Power TTennessee 51, Western Carolina 10 (No line): The only question is, how seriously does UT take a game sandwiched between Oklahoma and Florida?

 

Miss State logoMississippi State 55, Northwestern State 14 (NL): It’s the first meeting between these two schools; sorry, that’s all I’ve got.

 

vanderbilt-starVanderbilt 42, Austin Peay 3 (NL): The Commodores get to take out two years of frustrations on someone else.