With Auburn off on Saturday, it was an opportunity to check out the rest of the SEC to see how the competition stacks up to the Tigers early in the 2014 schedule. You have to start with a look at South Carolina’s win over Georgia in Columbia. While Georgia was riding high following its win over Clemson to open the season, the Gamecocks were quietly getting better after playing quality opponents in Texas A&M and East Carolina the first two weeks.
Going into the game I thought the key to winning for South Carolina would be having the ability to throw the ball down the field against a suspect secondary. That proved to be the case as the Gamecocks threw the ball well early while getting no pressure from the Bulldogs, setting up the running game to put it away late for Steve Spurrier’s club.
As for Georgia its lack of ability to make big plays in the passing game proved to be a killer on the road, as did a strange decision to throw the ball from the four-yard line on first down late in the game instead of giving the ball to Todd Gurley. Not sure how you can justify that move if you're Mark Richt and offensive coordinator Mike Bobo.
Both teams should be in the SEC East race at the end of the year with Missouri having a great chance to play its way to Atlanta once again following a strong start to the season. One team that doesn’t appear ready for prime time is Florida. The Gators were torched often by Kentucky in the second half and were fortunate to come away with a win in triple overtime. Facing Alabama this weekend won’t be pretty for Will Muschamp’s club unless they can take some serious strides forward in the next five days.
The story in the SEC’s Western Division was the performance of Arkansas on the road at Texas Tech. Coming into the season I wasn’t sure what to expect from the Razorbacks, but even though Auburn thoroughly handled Coach Bret Bielema’s team in the season opener I thought they were a much-improved team. They showed that Saturday in Lubbock, Tex., by dominating the Red Raiders from start to finish for the easy win.
Running for 438 yards on 68 attempts, Arkansas broke the will of Texas Tech and never let up on the way to a three-touchdown victory. It won’t be the last for the Razorbacks either. Somewhere along the way Arkansas is going to beat one of the big boys in the SEC and it’s going to happen this year.
While we’re talking about the Razorbacks and Bielema, I wonder how tired the Texas Tech defenders were following a game when the opponent ran the ball 68 times and held the ball for just over 40 minutes in the win. I bet that’s not something that came up in the postgame press conference for the Razorbacks however.
Well-rested and ready to hit the road, Auburn will face a tough test at Kansas State. A quality football team and fundamentally sound in every area, the Wildcats won’t make it easy for the Tigers on Thursday night.
While it will be difficult I think Coach Gus Malzahn’s team will be up for the challenge. I have no doubt Auburn will see a better team than the one that almost lost to Iowa State, but the flip side is that the Tigers should be an improved team as well and that could be bad news for everyone on Auburn’s schedule moving forward.