Southeastern Conference spent all summer debating the order of finish of teams within their favorite conference, and now that we’ve seen each team play one game, we’ve all got a little more substance over that debate going into Week 2. Here’s my take on how the teams stack up one to 14 after last weekend.
1. Alabama (1-0)
There’s two ways to look at Alabama’s opening weekend performance. On one hand, the Crimson Tide was out-gained 212-206 and had just 11 first downs, so ‘Bama may be feeling the loss of all those stud offensive linemen more than we expected. On the other hand… well, A.J. McCarron will probably never go 10-of-23 for 110 yards agin, and even with those paltry offensive numbers, ‘Bama still beat a good Virginia Tech team by a 35-10 count. The truth is still probably somewhere in between, but given ‘Bama’s back-to-back national titles, the ‘Tide deserves the benefit of the doubt.
2. South Carolina (1-0)
The South Carolinians whipped their northern counterparts by a 27-10 count, and while that offense doesn’t blow anybody away, Carolina’s committee approach to offense across the board has been quite effective, and the Gamecocks may be less-susceptible than others when the injuries eventually strike. Defensively, there’s not much here not to like, as Jadeveon Clowney and teammates held what was quite a potent offense from last year to just 293 yards. There’s not much flash to the Gamecocks outside of Clowney, they just get the job done.
3. LSU (1-0)
I might be overrating the Tigers’ opening weekend performance, but since I had an open mind about LSU given all the defensive personnel losses, I’m putting a lot of stock in that 37-27 win over No. 20 TCU. The most impressive thing: LSU out-gained the Horned Frogs 448-259 and held the ball for 36:01. No SEC team had a more impressive opening weekend.
4. Georgia (0-1)
Okay, the Bulldogs did drop their opener, and the defense did give up 467 yards. But Clemson’s going to move the ball against anybody this year and that young UGA defense should only get better with time. And would you like to be the defensive coordinator charged with stopping Aaron Murray, Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall?
5. Florida (1-0)
Despite being racked with injuries and suspensions in Week 1, the Gators looked a lot like last year’s Gators: a boring offense and a suffocating defense, though the special teams have evidently slipped a notch or two. Beating Toledo by a 24-6 count may not be a tremendous resume´builder when it comes to whether the Gators make a big-time bowl or not, but it’s a better win that at least half the league got. The best stat for the Gators: holding Terrance Owens to 4.1 yards per attempt.
6. Texas A&M (1-0)
With all the suspensions and Johnny Football’s antics, it’s a bit difficult to evaluate the College Station Circus… er, Aggies… right now. It’s tempting to say that the Aggies get a tune-up game against Sam Houston State this weekend, and that may well be the case, but Sam Houston State’s ranked fourth in the current FCS poll and let’s not forget what No. 1 North Dakota State (beat Kansas State) and No. 2 Eastern Washington (won at then-No. 25 Oregon State) did last weekend, and A&M will be missing some key defenders. Giving up 509 yards to Rice last weekend was not what coach Kevin Sumlin wanted, and until things settle down, I can’t see moving A&M higher, though that could obviously change quite easily.
7. Ole Miss (1-0)
The Rebels scored an impressive, come-from-behind road victory at Vanderbilt last weekend, and a lot of Hugh Freeze’s freshmen looked for real. Ole Miss has some injury issues that could hurt going forward, but at the same time the healthier Rebels should only get better. If the Rebels get the breaks they didn’t get last a season ago, a top-3 finish in the West could happen.
8. Vanderbilt (0-1)
I came into Thursday night convinced that if the Commodores and Ole Miss played 100 times, neither team would win more than 53 or 54 times. Nothing I saw on Thursday dissuaded me from that opinion. The Commodores need to spend this week getting some answers against the read option and really need to get suspended receiver Chris Boyd back soon, but this is essentially the same team that won nine games last year.
9. Arkansas (1-0)
There’s a pretty big gap between Vandy and the rest of the conference, and the lingering memory of how bad the Razorbacks were last year makes it easy to downgrade what Arkansas did in its opening-day, 34-14 win over Louisiana-Lafayette. But the Cajuns were a 9-win team each of the last two years and could be that good again, and the fact that the Razorbacks out-gained their opponent 522-274 means the score could have been worse. Arkansas did everything well on Saturday, and seems a half-step ahead of the rest of the pack after Week 1.
10. Missouri (1-0)
For some reason, people have forgotten that the Tigers were pretty good before joining the SEC. Mizzou will struggle on defense this year and it’s hard to tell much since the opponent was Murray State, but a healthy Henry Josey and James Franklin helped Missouri roll up 694 yards Saturday. Just finishing middle of the pack would be a huge accomplishment and the defense may not allow that, but the Tigers should at least be fun to watch.
11. Auburn (1-0)
One could actually make a case for the Tigers at the No. 9 spot, since that 31-24 win over Washington State is a small feather in coach Gus Malzahn’s hat. The good: Auburn ran for 295 yards, didn’t turn the ball over, and had three interceptions. The bad: the defense gave up 464 yards and Nick Marshall was just 10-of-19 for 99 yards.
12. Tennessee (1-0)
I don’t know what to take from UT’s 45-0 win over an awful Austin Peay squad, except that the zero penalties indicates that the Vols should be more disciplined than a year ago. I’ll have a better read on Tennessee after the Vols play Western Kentucky this weekend.
13. Mississippi State (0-1)
The Bulldogs did absolutely nothing against good teams a year ago, and did nothing against an Oklahoma State team not known for its defense. The Bulldogs managed just three points and now will play a week without quarterback Tyler Russell (concussion). Fortunately, MSU draws Alcorn State next weekend, but I didn’t see enough around him to encourage me once he returns.
14. Kentucky (0-1)
The Wildcats seemed to clearly be the league’s worst team, and did little to change that perception after giving up nearly 500 yards to Western Kentucky. Rookie coach Mark Stoops is supposed to be a defensive genius, but clearly, the ‘Cats don’t have the athletes just yet.