The first weekend of college football did not disappoint with several great games and plenty of surprising upsets. The season is just beginning, and believe me it’s a long way from over.
Fans around the league are already beginning to formulate opinions about their team. The old coaching adage used to be ‘you make the biggest improvements from Game 1 to Game 2’ and that will be put to the test this weekend.
In the Southeastern Conference the most important games for any team are league games, and that is why Georgia must shake off a close loss to Clemson and be ready for South Carolina. Let’s take a quick rewind from Week 1.
Georgia at Clemson: I thought the Dawgs’ defense gambled too much at times and also suffered from a few missed tackles which tends to happen in the first game. Unfortunately these mistakes combined with some offensive and special teams’ “self inflicted wounds” cost the Dawgs. Georgia also lost Malcolm Mitchell for the season, which is tough, but I will remind you they lost their top two wide receivers last year and still won the East. Georgia got a bulk of its rushing yards on first down, 200 out of 222. I think they will be more committed to running the ball on second down this week. The four sacks given up to Clemson is also a point of emphasis this week.
Nugget: Clemson scored seven points off Georgia turnovers while the Dawgs did not score off turnovers.
Alabama vs. Virginia Tech: Speaking of offensive line performances, this one received the most critique in the country especially from their knowledgeable fan base. After one week Alabama is last in the SEC in rushing offense, and they don’t play again until Sept. 14 against Texas A&M. Special Teams and defense looked very solid, but the offense did not perform like one with a veteran quarterback. Alabama’s three non-offensive touchdowns were the most by the Tide in a game since 1995 against Georgia.
Nugget: AJ McCarron did not throw an interception until Game 10 last season when he had two against A&M
LSU vs. TCU: The Tiger offense showed balance with 197 yards rushing and explosion in the passing game with three completions over 25 yards. The 37 points were the most scored by LSU away from home since the 2011 SEC Title game against Georgia. The Tigers two receivers, Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham, both went over 100 yards giving LSU its first duo to do that in a game since 2002. The Tiger defense held TCU to less than 300 yards and showed great upside with its speed and talent.
Nugget: LSU was 13-for-19 on third down and ran 80 plays against TCU. They ran 80-plus plays once last year.
Mississippi State: The Bulldog offense had its lowest output since 2010 with three points and dropped to 2-18 against Top 25 teams under Dan Mullen. Tyler Russell was knocked out of game, but the defense looked good forcing Oklahoma State to punt five times in the first half.
Florida: The Gators held Toledo without a touchdown and the offense rolled up 415 yards. Florida only had 400 yards or more one time in 2012. Mack Brown filled in for the injured Matt Jones with 112 yards and two touchdowns while Jeff Driskel had the highest completion percentage (77%) for a Gator quarterback since Tim Tebow’s final game in 2011 Sugar Bowl.
Missouri: The Tigers had 694 yards of total offense including 400 before halftime in their route of Murray State. That’s a good sign for Gary Pinkel as James Franklin was very sharp and the run game saw the return of Henry Josey who had 113 yards. The defense held the Racers scoreless in the last three quarters.
Tennessee: The Vols scored on their first six possessions and rolled Austin Peay. The 42 points in the first half were the most by a Tennessee team since 2009. The Volunteers had 315 yards rushing, the most since 2010, led by Rajon Neal’s 141 yards. The defense only allowed the Governors past midfield twice the entire game.
Arkansas: Brandon Allen made his second career start and threw for 230 yards and three touchdowns. Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins went over 100 yards for the game rushing giving the Hogs their first two 100-yard backs in a game since 2007. Bret Bielema’s team held the ball for 15 minutes more than the Louisiana squad, dominating the time of possession.
Kentucky: The Wildcats lost their opener to a good Western Kentucky team leaving fans to wonder how many games Mark Stoops can win this season. The Cats had 11 first-time starters in the game and it showed. The quarterbacks are still trying to grasp Neal Brown’s system, while Raymond Sanders’ 97 yards were a bright spot.
Texas A&M: The Johnny Football show continues to make headlines with his antics on the field. But the Aggies played without five defensive starters and need to improve this week before Alabama comes calling. Texas A&M has won seven games in a row and went over 400 yards of total offense for the 15th-straight game.
Auburn: The Tigers opened the Gus Malzahn era with a tough, hard -fought win over Washington State. They needed three interceptions and a kickoff return to get it done, but the Tigers won 31-24. The Tigers finished plus-2 in the turnover margin to lead the SEC after Week 1. The offense ran for 297 yards and new quarterback Nick Marshall did not have a turnover.
Ole Miss: The Rebels won a classic on Thursday night behind a career high in completions (31) from quarterback Bo Wallace. Freshman Laquon Treadwell’s nine receptions were the most by a Rebel in a game since 2005. Freshman Tony Connor intercepted a pass on his first career play.
Vanderbilt: The loss to the Rebels snapped the Commodores seven game win streak and dropped them to 3-5 on Thursday nights. Jordan Matthew had his ninth 100-yard receiving game against an SEC opponent and 11th overall. The Dores defense was stout in the first half holding Rebels to 21 yards rushing.
South Carolina: The Gamecocks scored on the third play of the game, the fastest score in a game for the program since 1992. Spurrier is now 7-0 in openers on a Thursday night. Mike Davis’ 75-yard touchdown run was the longest by a Gamecock since 2006.
This and That
South Carolina at Georgia: This game will be played at a different pace than last week’s shootout in Clemson. Can the Dawgs protect Aaron Murray from and angry Jadevon Clowney? Will the new linebackers for South Carolina have enough to slow down Todd Gurley? These are some of the storylines as we head into a must-win game for Aaron Murray and Georgia.
Florida at Miami: The Atlantic Coast Conference can really make a statement here if the Canes can beat a Top 10 team for the first time since 2009. The Gators must show their improved offense if they are going to win on the road. Miami and quarterback Stephen Morris will face the best secondary in the country. Can Duke Johnson get 100 yards on the Gator defense? Will Jeff Driskel throw the ball down the field against a young Canes defense? This is one of those games where one team has everything to lose (Florida) and the other has nothing to lose (Miami).
Western Kentucky at Tennessee: Can Bobby Petrino go 2-0 against the SEC to start the season? Butch Jones needs this win and I think the Volunteer offense will need to control the ball and the line of scrimmage. Western Kentucky ran for 216 yards on Kentucky.