It was the best of times and the worst of times for the Mississippi State Bulldogs last week. The defensive effort was tremendous, so much so that South Carolina had to resort to a trick play to score the game's only touchdown.
An offense that was billed as much improved lost the spring's most improved offensive player in starting quarterback, Mike Henig. There were some flashes with some nice runs by freshman Anthony Dixon and some nice throws from newly anointed quarterback, Tray Rutland, but by and large the offense struggled to find any rhythm against a defense with one starter back.
So what now? Rutland showed a lot of poise and moxie for a player thrown to the wolves more or less. He has a big arm and great athleticism, but needs some reps. Tray will make his first start against Auburn, a team most expect to contend for the SEC crown. Talk about a trial by fire.
You can't talk about Auburn without talking about Kenny Irons. Irons has the ability to take a "no gainer" and make it a highlight reel game breaker. He should find the sledding a bit more difficult this week against a Bulldog front seven that is exponentially better than the one the Washington Cougars trotted out last week. Make no mistake though, Irons will get his yards.
A lot of people rave about Chris Leak - and he certainly is one of the best quarterbacks in the country - but if I were picking teams, no offense to Chris, I would take Auburn's Brandon Cox as my QB.
Cox does all of the little things well and he manages the offense to near perfection. He can make all of the throws and has sort of a blue collar appeal to him. No, he is not flashy, but give me a guy who can make the plays and won't get me beat any day.
If Mississippi State has any chance in this game they have to stop the run, Cox, Courtney Taylor and the defense or special teams probably has to score. Playing Auburn is a tall order any season for any team, but take a team like MSU which has struggled on offense the past couple of seasons, and throw in a Quarterback making his first start and you have a recipe for a frustrating afternoon.
I think the following two weeks Rutland and the Bulldogs have a very good chance to win and possibly even the record out at 2-2, but a win this week is probably asking too much of an offense searching to find playmakers.
Auburn 31 Mississippi State 10
Elsewhere around the league
Ole Miss vs. Missouri
BJGE had 127 yards on 26 carries and 2 touchdowns. When the Reb defense was having a tough time making stops, the transfer from Indiana helped salt away the clock. He could be the key to the Rebels season.
This week a young Ole Miss team will go on the road to visit Missouri and rising Quarterback Chase Daniel. The Rebels must get more production out of their passing game to get a win and some improved play from the defense wouldn't hurt either.
Missouri 27 Ole Miss 17
Vanderbilt vs. Alabama
Alabama can just about always expect the Commodores to give them fits. Vandy has had a lot of moral victories against the Tide, but have only come out on the winning side of things 19 of 79 times.
This is the first meeting between the two teams since 2002. Alabama got to basically skip the Jay Cutler years. Oh, what if?
Alabama should be able to run their way to a win behind McLain and Darby. If QB John Parker Wilson can pick up where he left off in the second half of the Hawaii game the Tide should have a bit more breathing room this week.
Alabama 31 Vanderbilt 10
Arizona vs. LSU
A lot of Wildcat supporters are expecting an upset this week in Baton Rouge. I simply don't see it happening. JaMarcus Russell is off to big start and despite the running game having some issues, the Tigers should still prove to be too much for Arizona.
If there is a quartet of receivers in the country better than the explosive group the Tigers have I would like to see it.
Ryan Perrilloux finally got on the field for LSU last week and his first completion was to Picayune, MS native Mit Cole. RP will find his touches limited as long as Russell stays healthy. Despite playing three Quarterbacks last week, Russell is still the man and unless he gets injured it will likely stay that way.
LSU 31 Arizona 14
Central Florida vs. Florida
The Gators had some issues with Southern Miss a week ago, but managed to pour it on late. Florida may have as much or more talent that any team in the conference, but the spread option is still not the well-oiled machine it was billed to be.
Chris Leak and company will get another week to fine tune things before traveling to Tennessee and taking on perhaps the conference's most improved team. Next week should be a barn barner.
This week the Gators should have little trouble with UCF, but they still have a lot to prove if they are going to be the SEC's best.
Florida 38 UCF 10
Texas State vs. Kentucky
Brian Brohm and Louisville had very little trouble moving the ball at will against the Wildcats a week ago in the Battle of the Bluegrass. The Cardinals scored on nine possessions and punted just three times en route to a 59-28 win.
Andre Woodson connected on a couple of long scores to give the Wildcats something to build on before the half, but they clearly had no answer on defense.
The UK defense gets a reprieve this week as they take on Texas State of the Southland conference. The Cats may be in for a long season, but this week they will get something to cheer about.
Kentucky 38 Texas State 3
Air Force vs. Tennessee
In a rematch of the 1971 Sugar Bowl, the Vols host the Falcons in Knoxville. David Cutcliffe's offense was nothing short of spectacular a week ago. The Volunteers are looking to erase the memories of a poor season in 2005 and a win over top ten California certainly helped.
Tennessee's main objective this week is to win and emerge healthy before taking on Florida next week. The winning part should be easy, but you never know about health.
The Vols were clicking on all cylinders last week and this week should not prove to be any more difficult. Watch Tennessee, a win next week and things could get real interesting in the SEC East.
Tennessee 38 Air Force 14
Georgia vs. South Carolina
The Gamecocks had some problems on offense last week. South Carolina managed just ten first downs in 15-0 win over Mississippi State and amassed 274 yards. 96 yards of those yards came on two plays.
The blue print on how to slow down South Carolina may be out. WR Sidney Rice was held to just 13 yards on two catches. Expect him to get the ball more this week.
With JT III and Matthew Stafford both getting work last week it will be interesting to see who Mark Richt goes with going forward behind center. This week, the Bulldogs running back by committee should prove to be very solid in a game that could be low scoring. The Bulldog defense probably saw enough last week to keep South Carolina's "cock and shoot" misfiring for at least another week.
Georgia 24 South Carolina 14
Well, that's the week. With a 9-2 mark last week we should see the overall percentage increase this week. It should be a fun, but predictable week, but you never really know.