A year ago on opening weekend, Southeastern Conference teams went 12-1 with a 14-12 Vanderbilt loss to a Western Kentucky team that would go on to win 12 games the only blemish. LSU would have scored a blowout win over D1AA McNeese State if not for monsoon rains and lightning that cancelled game one. Of the 12 wins on opening weekend, seven were against teams that went on to bowl games so it wasn’t like the league was only beating up cupcakes. It was a big start to a year that saw Alabama win the national championship for the SEC’s eighth national championship since 2006.
My how times have changed.
Just this past weekend the SEC went 6-6 in games against teams from other conferences. There were three good wins over ranked teams by Alabama (over #17 Southern Cal), Georgia (over #20 North Carolina) and Texas A&M (over #24 UCLA) but you expect SEC teams to win games against teams that aren’t ranked in the top 10.
That LSU looked so inept against Wisconsin, that Tennessee, Florida and Arkansas struggled against teams with only a fraction of their talent and that the SEC was 0-2 against Conference USA and only 1-1 against the Sun Belt Conference should be concerning. Rationalize all you want that it was the opening weekend and teams traditionally improve the most from week one to week two but it’s still a huge embarrassment for the league that has set the standard for college football excellence the last 10 years. Only Alabama looked the part of the kind of dominant team you expect from the SEC.
Apologists are spinning that even with this worst start for the league as a whole in recent history, it’s still too early to write off the SEC, that the league is still brimming with talent and it was, after all, just one week. But here’s an ice cold non-celebratory Gatorade bath for you: There are only three non-conference matchups remaining the rest of the season for SEC teams vs. a ranked opponent – Arkansas vs. #12 TCU; Kentucky at #15 Louisville; and Florida at #3 Florida State.
The SEC won’t make up any ground whatsoever this weekend with Auburn, Georgia, LSU, Ole Miss and Texas A&M playing teams from Division IAA. The Western Kentucky team Alabama plays is actually very good but this game is only a story if Alabama loses. Arkansas could score some dignity points after its underwhelming win over Louisiana Tech if it could kneecap TCU and Tennessee fans might regain a bit of their lost swagger after the Appalachian State debacle if they beat Virginia Tech before what will be a college football record crowd of some 150,000 at Bristol Motor Speedway but these games will do nothing to restore what the SEC lost in terms of prestige the first weekend of the season.
To put it all in perspective, Alabama is carrying the SEC torch and if the Crimson Tide falter, the unthinkable could happen and the league could find itself on the outside looking in when they announce the four teams for the College Football Playoff.
FLORIDA FOOTBALL UPDATE
The Gators are opening as a 17-point favorite to beat Kentucky Saturday afternoon and with a win can extend the winning streak over UK to 30 years. The last time Kentucky beat the Gators was 1986 and the last time the Wildcats beat Florida in Gainesville was 1979, Charley Pell’s first year on the job when Florida went 0-10-1.
The Gators rank #1 in total defense in the SEC (187 yards per game) and #14 nationally. Florida is #10 nationally against the run (46 yards per game) and #36 against the pass (141 yards per game). That’s quite a contrast to the offensive side of the ball where UF is tied for #81 in total offense (363 yard per game), #96 in rushing offense (107 yards per game) and tied for #45 in passing offense (256 yards per game).
COACHES TOP 25 POLL/ WEEK 2
(SEC teams in bold face)
1. Alabama (1-0)
2. Clemson (1-0)
3. Florida State (1-0)
4. Ohio State (1-0)
5. Stanford (1-0)
6. Michigan (1-0)
7. Houston (1-0)
8. Michigan State (1-0)
9. Georgia (1-0)
10. Iowa (1-0)
11. Washington (1-0)
12. TCU (1-0)
13. Oklahoma (1-0)
14. Tennessee (1-0)
15. Louisville (1-0)
16. Wisconsin (1-0)
17. Oklahoma State (1-0)
18. Ole Miss (0-1)
19. Baylor (1-0)
20. Texas (1-0)
21. Notre Dame (0-1)
22. LSU (0-1)
23. Oregon (1-0)
24. Texas A&M (1-0)
25. FLORIDA (1-0)
SEC FOOTBALL NEWS
SEC Players of the Week, Week 1
Offense: Nick Chubb, RB, Georgia
Defense: Jonathan Allen, DE, Alabama
Special Teams: Elliot Fry, PK, South Carolina
Freshman: Jonah Williams, RT, Alabama
O-Line: Erik McCoy, C, Texas A&M
D-Line: Deatrich Wise, DE Arkansas
#1 Alabama (1-0, 0-0 SEC): By hiring former Washington and USC head coach Steve Sarkisian as an offensive analyst, Matt Hayes writes that Nick Saban already has his offensive coordinator to replace Lane Kiffin, who is expected to land a job as someone’s HBC after this season. Writes Hayes, “This is about the next Alabama offensive coordinator and the next rehabilitation project for college football’s best coach” … At least 10 Alabama freshmen are expected to burn their redshirts.
Arkansas (1-0, 0-0 SEC): While there are serious concerns about the offensive line after the Hogs managed only 2.7 yards per carry and gave up four sacks to Louisiana Tech, there won’t be any changes in the starting five this week … Another concern is linebacker depth, especially against TCU’s no huddle, hurry up offensive scheme this week. Last week against Louisiana Tech, Brooks Ellis and Dre Greenlaw played practically every snap.
Auburn (0-1, 0-0 SEC): For reasons that baffle comprehension, Gus Malzahn is sticking with Sean White as his starting QB. John Franklin III is taking the #2 reps this week. Jeremy Johnson, who was 4-6 passing for 38 yards against Clemson, is the odd man out … Safety Stephen Roberts, suspended for the Clemson game, is back at practice and should start this week against Arkansas State.
#9 Georgia (1-0, 0-0 SEC): Running back Sony Michel still hasn’t been cleared for contact. Michel dressed for the North Carolina game but didn’t play and is still wearing a non-contact jersey in practice.
Kentucky (0-1, 0-0 SEC): The Wildcats gained 387 yards in the first half against Southern Mississippi last week but netted only 22 yards in the second half and didn’t score a point after lighting it up for 35 in the first two quarters. Drew Barker threw for 323 yards in the game with 4 first half TDPs but he couldn’t put points on the board in the second half. Said UK offensive coordinator Eddie Gran bout the first half, “We were protecting; we were doing the right things and he was making great throws” … In the second half, Barker threw a pick and fumbled the ball, both leading to Southern Miss scores.
#22 LSU (0-1, 0-0 SEC): Les Miles says QB Brandon Harris doesn’t “have a lifetime” to grow up and play better. Either Harris matures quickly or Miles better make the switch to Danny Etling. If neither of those two things happen, then Miles might punch his own ticket out of Baton Rouge. The natives are indeed very, very restless ... OC Cam Cameron’s experiment on the sideline is over. He’s moving back to the press box. You have to wonder if and when Miles will be smart enough to turn the offense over to Dameyune Craig.
Mississippi State (0-1, 0-0 SEC): Even though he only played the first two possessions in the loss to South Alabama, Nick Fitzgerald is still listed as a co-#1 QB along with Damian Williams as the Bulldogs prep for their SEC opener with South Carolina. Fitzgerald was 0-3 throwing the ball and ran two times for 11 yards. Williams, on the other hand, ran for 93 yards and was 20-28 passing for 143 yards and a TD.
Missouri (0-1, 0-0 SEC): Although the Tigers scored only 11 points, which was pretty close to normal for last year, they did gain 462 yards, which is more than they gained in any game last year … Freshman linebacker Trey Baldwin, still dealing with the effects of two concussions suffered during fall camp, will take a redshirt for 2016.
#18 Ole Miss (0-1, 0-0 SEC): Starting corner Ken Webster and backup running back Eric Swinney are out for the season after leaving Monday night’s game with FSU with knee injuries … RB Akeem Judd left Monday’s game and didn’t return. With Swinney gone and Jordan Wilkins academically ineligible this season, the Rebels are down to a fourth string running back if Judd can’t go.
South Carolina (1-0, 1-0 SEC): It didn’t take South Carolina long to get over Steve Spurrier. The Spurrier banner is gone and will be replaced by a new one prior to the Gamecocks’ home opener against East Carolina ... Senior Perry Orth will get the start at QB at Mississippi State Saturday but freshman Brandon McIlwain is going to continue to get some snaps.
Tennessee (1-0, 0-0 SEC): The Vols will be facing a very balanced offense against Virginia Tech in the Battle of Bristol. In its first game under new HBC Justin Fuente, Virginia Tech put up 458 yards – 206 on the ground and 252 through the air. Although the Hokies didn’t thrown an interception, they did lose four of their five fumbles in their season opening win over Liberty.
#24 Texas A&M (1-0, 0-0 SEC): Although the Aggies gave up 468 yards of offense against UCLA, the defense actually had a fine day with 5 sacks, 7 QB hurries, 3 interceptions of Josh Rosen and holding the Bruins to 5-18 on third down conversions … WR Speedy Noil is expected to return from suspension this week when the Aggie face Prairie View A&M. Noil was suspended the final two games of 2015 and the suspension carried over into the first week of 2016.
Vanderbilt (0-1, 0-1 SEC): Although the Vandy O-line struggled in the last three quarters against South Carolina in the opener, the starting five for Saturday’s game with Middle Tennessee State will remain the same – LT Justin Skule, LG Bruno Regan, C Barrett Gouger, RG Delando Crooks and RT Will Holden. Against South Carolina Vandy gained only 242 yards, 169 on the ground and just 73 through the air.
SEC TOTAL OFFENSE
1. Georgia 474 yards per game; 2. Alabama 465; 3. Missouri 462; 4. Texas A&M 442; 5. Kentucky 409; 6. Mississippi State 382; 7. Ole Miss 380; 9. FLORIDA 363; 10. South Carolina 308; 11. Arkansas 297; 12. Auburn 262; 13. LSU 257; 14. Vanderbilt 242
SEC TOTAL DEFENSE
1. FLORIDA 187 yards per game; 2. Alabama 194; 3. South Carolina 242; 4. Arkansas 291; 5. Tennessee 292; 6. Vanderbilt 308; 7. Georgia 315; 8. LSU 339; 9. Mississippi State 379; 10. Auburn 399; 11. Texas A&M 468; 12. Missouri 494; 13. Kentucky 520; 14. Ole Miss 580
With speculation growing that Les Miles is on a very short leash unless LSU turns things around quickly, the list of potential replacements begins with Florida State HBC Jimbo Fisher and Houston’s Tom Herman. Frank Frangie of Gridironnow.com writes that if Fisher leaves FSU for LSU “it won’t be about money.” If Miles doesn’t win big this year and remains the LSU coach, it will definitely be about the money. If he’s fired before December 31 his buyout would cost the school a cool $12.9 million.
Dabo Swinney and his wife have pledged $1 million to IPTAY, the school’s highly organized, very effective booster arm. Wouldn’t you love to see more of these multi-million-a-year coaches invest in their programs like this?
Iowa has extended the contract of HBC Kirk Ferentz through the 2025 season. Ferentz, now in his 18th season on the job, also got a raise to $4.5 million a year.
Motel 6 will remain the sponsor of the Cactus Bowl in Phoenix.
Mark Schlabach and Brett McMurphy of ESPN.com are projecting a final four of Alabama, Houston, Ohio State and Florida State with Alabama beating Houston in one semifinal and Ohio State knocking off FSU to set up an Ohio State-Alabama national championship game.
QUESTION OF THE DAY
Two-part question: (1) Does Les Miles win enough to save his job at LSU and (2) if he’s canned will Jimbo Fisher leave FSU for Baton Rouge?
MUSIC FOR TODAY
The music of the Grateful Dead lives on thanks to Dead and Company, which consists of former Dead drummers Mickey Hard and Bill Kreutzmann along with Bob Weir on guitar, joined by John Mayer, Oteil Burbridge (bass) and Jeff Chimenti (keyboards). Today’s music is a concert at The Gorge from back in July.