SEC schools have fueled the conference wide narrative, an attempt to glom onto Alabama’s success. That worked against them this week. The Tide smashed into the USC hype train, leaving a myriad of scattered parts. Georgia secured a solid win against North Carolina. Pretty much the rest of the conference was in the dreaded “they s’posed to be SEC” territory.
SEC teams lost litmus test games. SEC teams lost to bad programs. SEC teams blew commanding leads. SEC teams had to escape with wins. It was brutal. If it was indication of what is to come, there could be substantial turnover come November.
LSU: The Tigers went north. They lost to Wisconsin 16-14. This was a Badger team breaking in a new quarterback. It was a Badger team Vegas had pegged for seven wins, with those in the know liking the under. LSU had more talent and experience at just about every position. LSU has Leonard Fournette. LSU has a raft of blue chip receivers. The continued inability to provide a quarterback with any foundation to succeed should be fireable incompetence, as it nearly was last season.
Ole Miss: The Rebels took a 28-6 lead over Florida State near the end of the second half. The program’s “next step” was in reach. Then, the momentum swung. Ole Miss’ defense looked like sharks left out on land. Florida State scored 33-straight points and held on for the win. Veteran SEC quarterback Chad Kelly looked like more of a rollercoaster than Florida State’s freshman. He looked like a wild ride on par with off-the-field Chad Kelly.
Auburn: These Tigers covered at home against Clemson. The defense looks alright. Of course, Auburn’s offense could not run the ball. Gus Malzahn changed quarterbacks 22 times. There are about six to seven teams with decent defenses remaining. Auburn boosters have to be feeling itchy, if they weren’t already.
Missouri: Missouri’s offense produced 462 total yards against West Virginia! That would be 462 yards on 100 plays, in a two-touchdown loss. Worryingly, Missouri’s defense looked soft. West Virginia ran for an easy five yards/carry. Fans have probably checked out, if they even bothered to check back in.
Mississippi State: There’s a reason Dan Mullen keeps getting linked away from Starkville. The Bulldogs have a ceiling with a good quarterback and not that sturdy of a floor without one. Mississippi State struggled passing, struggled stopping the pass, blew a 17-point halftime lead, and lost to South Alabama after doinking the getaway field goal. Clanga.
Kentucky: Kentucky scored 35 points in the first half, averaged 12-plus yards/pass, and somehow conspired to lose 44-35 to Southern Mississippi. The Wildcats could not get the Golden Eagles off the field, could not stay on the field, and were outscored 27-0 in the second half. Not an ideal start to what may be a “bowl game or bust” campaign in 2016 for Mark Stoops.
Tennessee: The Volunteers could and probably should have lost to Appalachian State at home on opening night. Tennessee was controlled on both lines. Their offense was bland, plodding, and largely ineffective. The “comeback” was more springing one big play and riding inertia, opposition mistakes, and fumble luck. Josh Dobbs is no Vince Young. The “Clemsoning” replacement should be “Butching It.”
Arkansas: The Razorbacks survived on a late touchdown to eek out a 21-20 win against Louisiana Tech. Optimistically, slow starts have been a hallmark of Bielema teams. Pessimistically, the stats did not hint at a team better than the result. Arkansas’ line could not get push or protect the quarterback against a Conference USA team. That may be a problem for them if it continues.
Florida: We knew what we were getting with Florida this year. Their defense will be good. Their offense is going to struggle. Still, it’s hard to call one sustained touchdown drive from outside their own half and not pulling away from UMass until the fourth quarter an auspicious start.
Texas A&M: Beforehand, Texas A&M would have taken a 31-24 win over UCLA in overtime. So, this characterization may a bit unfair. Still, a team that needs to be screwed down tight to save Kevin Sumlin’s job gave up a 15-point lead in the final five minutes. That won’t cut it against better teams. Texas A&M will play them.
South Carolina and Vanderbilt: The battle of, perhaps, the two worst SEC teams. South Carolina beat Vanderbilt 13-10. It was an ugly watch. It was a crushing loss for Derek Mason, blowing a 10-point lead and still unable to produce something resembling an offense. South Carolina looked…about as sloppy and erratic as last year.
It’s fun to poke the SEC when they are down after a week of collective ineptitude. The conference still recruits the best talent top to bottom and spends the most money on coaching. That should come into play over the whole season.
Also remember two years ago when the Big Ten was dead and eventual champion Ohio State had just “eliminated itself from playoff contention” with a two-touchdown loss to Virginia Tech.
Oh, and the SEC still has ‘Bama.
Houston Uber Alles
Houston beat Oklahoma 33-23 – an emphatic win or a true to form “Big Game Bob”-ing. They beat Florida State in the game before that. The natural inclination will be to start talking playoff. ESPN may, as of this writing, already be bombarding you with scenarios. Pump the brakes a bit.
The Cougars have zero margin for error. It’s 12-0 or irrelevance. Even with everything coming up Tom Herman, one would still bet they drop a game.
There are three short week Thursday night games for Houston on the schedule against Louisville (3-point win last year), at Cincinnati (3-point win last year), and UConn (3-point loss last year). There are road trips to Memphis (1 point win last year) and Navy.
Things look very optimistic for the Cougars (and Tom Herman’s 2017 bank balance), but it’s early.
We had quarterback questions entering the season. We received answers. Florida State will be rolling with redshirt freshman Deondre Francois who overcame porous offensive line play to throw 419 yards and two touchdowns and big play mobility on the ground. If/when Jimbo Fisher gets his sights aligned, it’s not clear Clemson will have the better quarterback.
Alabama did not want to throw freshman Jalen Hurts into the mixer against USC. But, the Crimson Tide offense looked a lot better when they did. He averaged 10.7 yards/pass and produced four total touchdowns.
Texas appears to have a quarterback. Miracle baby Shane Buechele came on as a freshman, made big plays, and got Texas a win in a game where DeShone Kizer accounted for six Notre Dame touchdowns. A strong debut, though it may be prudent to wait until he gets out of the Tate Forcier zone.
Young quarterbacks stepping into the breach should surprise few. Three of the past six Heisman winners were first-year quarterbacks. But, Alabama and Florida State having top-tier signal callers and Texas having even a viable quarterback should set a lot of people recalibrating.
Best Weekend Ever
ESPN put on a solid show opening weekend. High-profile teams played. Those games were close and exciting. There were shock results. Naturally, this led ESPN to toot its own horn with persistence.
There’s nothing wrong with that, provided ESPN and other networks take equal credit for next weekend’s slate, which may be among the worst ever, for any weekend. No ranked teams play each other. Teams that will be playing on national broadcast TV include UCF, Nevada, Tulsa, and Kentucky. Feel the excitement.