After a week in which the SEC went 12-2 in nonconference games, on Saturday, the SEC was 11-1. Unlike Week 1, this wasn’t really expected.
13 of the 14 SEC teams were favored to win their season openers, with only Georgia (which was playing Clemson) being an underdog. In Week 2, four teams were underdogs and three of them won, with Arkansas hammering Texas by a 40-21 score, Mississippi State suffocating NC State in a 24-10 win, and of course Vanderbilt stealing one from Colorado State on the road in a 24-21 win. And South Carolina, which was a slight favorite at East Carolina, rallied from an early 14-0 deficit to win 20-17 on a walk-off field goal by kicker Parker White.
And the one loss doesn’t really make the week any worse for us: Tennessee lost 41-34 to Pittsburgh. The Vols lost starting quarterback Joe Milton during the game, though Milton wasn’t terribly effective while he was out there (7-for-12 for 50 yards, 5 carries for 54 yards); backup Hendon Hooker threw 2 touchdown passes and an interception. The bigger absence was RB Tiyon Evans, who missed Saturday’s game after rushing for 120 yards on 16 carries in the opener.
Tennessee wasn’t the only SEC team to be down a starting quarterback. Texas A&M lost starter Haynes King early on against Colorado and uh, let’s just say that Jimbo Fisher made the right call in the preseason QB competition between King and Zach Calzada. Calzada went 18-for-38 for 183 yards, though he did throw a late touchdown pass to Isaiah Spiller to get out of Denver with a 10-7 win over the Colorado Fightin’ Karl Dorrells.
The first conference game of the season ended with Chris Rodriguez (27 carries, 206 yards, 3 TD) carrying Kentucky to a 35-28 win over Missouri. After looking great in the opener, Kentucky QB Will Levis had just a so-so game against Missouri, but it looks like the Wildcats can rely on Rodriguez, and Wan’Dale Robinson is a weapon.
The rest of the SEC’s Week 2 slate isn’t worth writing much about. Georgia blew out UAB 56-7 even with starting QB J.T. Daniels out. Florida beat South Florida 42-20, and I’m going to go out on a limb and say that Anthony Richardson will have supplanted Emory Jones by the time Vanderbilt visits Florida on October 9. Auburn, Alabama, Ole Miss, and LSU won easily over FCS opponents.
Ranking the Teams
- Alabama: I think the gap between the Tide and Georgia isn’t that big, but Bama will remain #1 until they lose.
- Georgia: I still don’t know what Georgia’s offense is capable of against better teams, but the defense pitched a shutout on Saturday (UAB’s only touchdown came courtesy of their defense.)
- Texas A&M: The good news is that nobody is going to score much on the Aggies’ defense. The bad news is that if Haynes King is out for a while, I’m not sure the Aggies’ offense is going to score much, either.
- Ole Miss: This might be a bit aggressive, but the Rebels appear to have a functional defense, which when paired with that offense... well, this could go very well for them.
- Florida: The Gators haven’t looked terribly impressive in sleepwalking through wins over Florida Atlantic and South Florida, though I think they could move up a spot or two once Dan Mullen faces reality and just installs Richardson as the permanent quarterback.
- Kentucky: Currently in sole possession of first place in the SEC standings.
- Arkansas: I’m not quite ready to jump the gun on the Razorbacks, even after the dominating win over Texas. Remember, they looked very iffy against Rice in Week 1. They should handle Georgia Southern this week, and then we’ll find out how real they are when they face Texas A&M in Week 4.
- Auburn: Two blowout wins over awful teams. Yawn. Wake me up when the Tigers play somebody. (They play at Penn State this week.)
- Missouri: I’m not too down on them even after the loss to Kentucky. Connor Bazelak played well enough for them to win; they just got run over by Chris Rodriguez.
- LSU: Max Johnson threw for 161 yards on 27 attempts... against McNeese. Suffice to say, the LSU offense has issues.
- Mississippi State: Mike Leach’s offense still isn’t clicking, but at least against NC State, the defense was good enough to carry the team. “A Mike Leach team relying on defense,” however, is rarely a formula for long-term success.
- Tennessee: It’s going to take a while to get the Jeremy Pruitt out of the program.
- South Carolina: It’s going to take a while to get the Will Muschamp out of the program.
- Vanderbilt: At least we’re not going 0-12!
The SEC schedule won’t really get rolling in Week 3, but there are two conference games on the schedule. Alabama is anywhere from a 14.5-point to 15.5-point favorite at Florida in the afternoon CBS game, which frankly sounds about right. Georgia, depending on who you ask, is favored by 30 or 31 against South Carolina at home. That also sounds about right.
In nonconference action, Kentucky (Chattanooga), Missouri (SE Missouri State), and Tennessee (Tennessee Tech) are playing FCS opponents this week and don’t have lines yet. The line for the Stanford-Vanderbilt game has settled for now on the Cardinal as an 11-point favorite after opening at 9, which seems suspiciously low but never, ever think that Vegas gives away free money on lines. That also applies to the 20.5-point spread on Central Michigan-LSU — a line that LSU is absolutely capable of covering even if they’ve spent two weeks looking like a team that will struggle to put away a team like Central Michigan.
Two SEC teams head on the road for nonconference games, and Auburn opened as a 7-point underdog at Penn State; that’s since moved down to 5 or 6. Mississippi State opened as a 3-point favorite at Memphis and, as often happens with 3-point lines, the line hasn’t moved much — a couple of places now have it at 3.5, but most are still stuck on 3.
Texas A&M is about a 28-point favorite over an awful New Mexico team; Arkansas is favored by 23 over Georgia Southern; and the Tulane-Ole Miss line seems to have settled in at 14 or 14.5 in the Rebels’ favor.