The SEC got off to a roaring start this weekend. The conference that has monopolized the national championship in college football went 9-1 against non-conference foes entering Sunday with the whole weekend starting off with an in-conference game between the South Carolina Gamecocks and Vanderbilt Commodores. That game was a close one built on defense and missed opportunities by both offenses.
Defense making you pay, a mix of the good and bad on offense, yep, sounds like SEC football is back in full swing. And with any week of football for a conference, there were both good and bad things to take away from a weekend of competition.
The Alabama Crimson Tide defense: I think the new motto for Nick Saban and the Tide should be “wash, rinse, repeat, no problem.” And I’m serious about that. Considering the number of very talented people the Tide lost from their defense last year, and for them to absolutely dominate to the extent they did Saturday night shows that this coach’s ability to reproduce a talented core of players on either side of the ball seems to be foolproof. It wasn’t as if the Michigan Wolverines had a real shot at the upset, but I expected the game to be more competitive than it actually was. First half interceptions by Dee Milliner and C.J. Mosley set up a touchdown and were returned for one respectively. These turnovers helped create the rout this game turned out to be.
A few teams flex their muscles against over-matched foes: It’s usually not a bad thing for a team to begin the year with what amounts to a scrimmage. They go in, slaughter a much smaller opponent, and generally get a chance to warm everyone up for tougher competition down the road. This was the case for several SEC teams this weekend that started the season with very large victories that were expected to be just that. Such wins were a 27-point LSU Tigers win over North Texas, the Missouri Tiger’s first game as an SEC football team being a 59-point win over SE Louisiana, and the Mississippi St. Bulldog’s 56-9 win over Jackson St.
Tyler Wilson: The Arkansas Razorbacks‘ quarterback set a school record for passing yards in a season opener with 367 while leading the Razorbacks to a 49-24 victory over Jacksonville St. The biggest piece of this win was a 28-point second quarter that saw Wilson throw for two touchdowns and lead two more scoring drives. Wilson’s 63-yard touchdown throw to Javontee Herndon in the third quarter ended up putting the game out of reach and it was all Razorbacks. With Alabama in two weeks and games against South Carolina and LSU also on the schedule, Wilson will be leaned upon to recreate this kind of performance.
Marcus Lattimore & Mike Gillislee run their teams to victory: Both South Carolina and the Florida Gators were involved in closer games than were expected out of them this opening weekend. Lattimore’s Gamecocks snuck by Vanderbilt 17-13 and Gillislee’s Gators beat Bowling Green 27-14. Lattimore powered the Gamecocks with 110 yards on the ground and both of the Gamecocks’ touchdowns in their slim win. Gillislee ran for a career-high 148 yards and scored both first half touchdowns for the Gators, erasing an early deficit.
South Carolina’s passing game: The Gamecocks were a combined 7/15 through the air with three different men throwing passes in the game, but starting quarterback Connor Shaw was the only Gamecock to complete passes. The numbers weren’t impressive, but they will have to be with a schedule that is anything but easy.
The Auburn Tiger’s rush defense: A crucial problem with the Tigers’ loss to the Clemson Tigers on Saturday night was their inability to stop Clemson running back Andre Ellington. Ellington ran for 231 yards, averaging nearly nine yards per carry. Even though Ellington didn’t score in the Tigers’ 26-19 loss, the fact that the Tigers gave up this kind of yardage on the ground could mean a few very rough outings for them once conference play begins.
Ole Miss Running Rebels and Georgia Bulldogs both require big second halves for respective victories: Against Central Arkansas and Buffalo respectively, these two teams allowed themselves to go into the half in close games that had no reason to be close. The Rebels were even down at the half! Both teams ended up winning, but both should take note that the season is only going to get harder from here.