Sports, Thrill of Victory

SEC football storylines to watch in Week Two

It was a fun opening weekend in the Southeastern Conference. Now the attention turns to Week 2 and the storylines to watch only get more interesting.


New Texas A&M defensive coordinator John Chavis. PHOTO COURTESY TEXAS A&M LETICS

New Texas A&M defensive coordinator John Chavis. PHOTO COURTESY TEXAS A&M LETICS

The Texas A&M defense! That hire of defensive coordinator John Chavis paid off huge in Week 1. The Aggies gave up just 302 yards and 17 points to a good Arizona State offense. Defensive end Myles Garrett may be turning into a superstar and opposite him, junior Daeshon Hall busted out for an SEC-leading four sacks, part of the incredible nine that A&M had on Saturday evening.

Let’s wait for more games before we anoint the Aggies as national title contenders, but after Week 1, maybe no team in college football has a more improved outlook than A&M.

Should we pump the brakes on Auburn as a national title contender? We should also not judge Auburn too harshly for a 31-24 win that, to some Tiger fans, felt like a loss. First off, Louisville’s still a good team—maybe even a Top 25 squad—and second of all, it’s just one week. Also, Auburn led 24-0 at one point, and perhaps let off the gas a bit.

But, there were some things to make one pause here.

First is quarterback Jeremy Johnson. At one point, some Las Vegas bookmakers had Johnson as one of the top five Heisman Trophy contenders. An 11-for-21, 137-yard, three-interception, one-TD game was a horrible start to his year.

Second, the Auburn defense gave up 405 yards. Yes, there was that playing-with-a-lead thing, but the Louisville offense should just be an okay one and not a great one this year. (On the other hand, it is a Bobby Petrino team, so who knows?)

We’ll have a much better read on Auburn in two weeks following a road trip to LSU.

Quarterback shuffles

Many teams came into the season with uncertainty at quarterback, and a week later, I’m unsure what’s been settled.

Chad Kelly led a rout of FCS UT Martin in Ole Miss' opener. PHOTO COURTESY OLE MISS ATHLETICS

Chad Kelly led a rout of FCS UT Martin in Ole Miss’ opener. PHOTO COURTESY OLE MISS ATHLETICS

Alabama started Jake Coker in its 35-17 win over Wisconsin. He played well, but so did Cooper Bateman, who spelled him in the second half. Bateman doesn’t have Coker’s arm, but no doubt, the former receiver is more mobile.

Georgia started Virginia transfer Greyson Lambert, who played well. But Brice Ramsey still probably has more upside and threw a couple of passes also.

Ole Miss played each of Chad Kelly, Ryan Buchanan and DeVante Kicaide significant snaps in that 76-3 demolition of UT Martin.

Florida surprised me and started Treon Harris over Will Grier. Both played quite well, though New Mexico State isn’t much of a benchmark.

South Carolina’s Connor Mitch didn’t play well in the win over North Carolina and has sat out some practice this week with a hip pointer. Perry Orth could wind up with the job at some point.

And who knows what would have happened between LSU’s Brandon Harris and Anthony Jennings had LSU gotten in its game with McNeese State?

Much was up in the air coming into the opening week, and much is still in question heading to Week 2.

Tennessee’s leaky secondary

The best help for the Tennessee defense could be its offense. PHOTO BY MATTHEW MAXEY

The best help for the Tennessee defense could be its offense. PHOTO BY MATTHEW MAXEY

I went against that voice in the back of my head that screams, “Never underestimate Missouri!” and picked the Vols second in the East behind Georgia. That voice is screaming a bit louder after the Vols gave up 557 yards to Bowling Green in a 59-30 victory. Granted, Bowling Green has one of the Mid-American Conference’s best offenses, but the MAC is hardly the SEC.

Here’s the problem for UT: starting nickel back Rashaan Gaulden is done for the year. Starting free safety LaDarrell McNeil is out indefinitely with what could be a serious neck issue. Subsequently, the Vols’ less-experienced fill-ins got torched for 433 yards.

Tennessee has some talented players in its secondary, but teams are going to continue to pick on the weak links until the Vols get some answers. That could be a considerable cramp on UT’s upside.

Power rankings (record, last week rank)

UF's Vernon Hargreaves had a 43-yard interception return in UF's season-opening win. PHOTO COURTESY FLORIDA ATHLETICS

UF’s Vernon Hargreaves had a 43-yard interception return in UF’s season-opening win. PHOTO COURTESY FLORIDA ATHLETICS

  1. Alabama (1-0, 1)
  2. Auburn (1-0, 2)
  3. Georgia (1-0, 3)
  4. Ole Miss (1-0, 4): The most fun moment of the weekend may have been watching defensive end Robert Nkemdiche catch a TD pass—and look like a mobile tight end doing it.
  5. Texas A&M (1-0, 8)
  6. Arkansas (1-0, 5): Razorback quarterback Brandon Allen (14-18, 308, 4 TD/0 INT) could be the league’s most underrated player.
  7. LSU (0-0, 6)
  8. Tennessee (1-0, 7)
  9. Missouri (1-0, 9): A 34-3 thumping of Southeast Missouri State told us next to nothing.
  10. Mississippi State (1-0, 10): A yellow flag here as MSU out-gained Southern Miss just 442-413.
  11. South Carolina (1-0, 11)
  12. Florida (1-0, 12)
  13. Kentucky (1-0, 13): Wildcats nearly blew a 21-point lead over Louisiana-Lafayette, and gave up almost 500 yards in doing so.
  14. Vanderbilt (0-1, 14): Commodore defense (246 yards) played great, but three offensive turnovers did VU in.

This week’s picks

Season record: 11-2 overall, 5-4 vs. the spread

auburn_tigers   Auburn 55, Jacksonville State, 10 (no line): Yawn.


PrintGeorgia 31, Vanderbilt 10 (Georgia -20.5): Defense could keep the ‘Dores in it for a while, but a lack of offense does them in.


Ole Miss logoOle Miss 52, Fresno State 10 (Ole Miss -29): FSU’s had some strong teams before, but that was with the Carr brothers, who are long gone.


2000px-Alabama_Crimson_Tide_Logo.svgAlabama 44, MTSU 14 (Alabama -34): This one’s a mis-match, but the Blue Raiders can move the ball a bit, and it’s never been coach Nick Saban’s style to run up the score in games like this.


RightHogArkansas 47, Toledo 20 (Arkansas -21.5): It’s opening day for the Rockets, who despite going 9-4 a year ago, lost their only SEC game to Missouri by 25.


logo-ouOklahoma 34, Tennessee 27 (pick ‘em): OU’s Baker Mayfield led a passing offense that amassed 439 yards last week, and you already know how the Vols defended that last Saturday.


Mizzou logoMissouri 31, Arkansas St. 17 (Missouri -10.5): Yes, Arkansas State did get whipped 55-6 by potential national title contender Southern Cal last week. But some food for thought: they managed to gain 401 yards of offense.


South_Carolina_Gamecocks_Block_C_logo.svgSouth Carolina 30, Kentucky 24 (Carolina -7.5): I’ve got no good read on this game, but after a nice defensive showing vs. North Carolina, I trust South Carolina to get more stops than UK right now.


lsu-logoLSU 34, Mississippi State 24 (LSU -4.5): The Tigers remain a mystery until we see them play, but MSU’s defense showing (remember, MSU yielded 424 yards a game last year) is cause for concern here.


florida gators logoFlorida 38, East Carolina 14 (Florida -20.5) We saw this movie last December, when UF beat a much-better-last-year ECU squad by a 28-20 count in the Birmingham Bowl.


TAMU logoTexas A&M 58, Ball State 17 (TAMU -29): If the Cardinals gave up 36 to VMU last week, then what will the Aggies do?