By Brandon Daniel @Brandon_Rant on September 1, 2014
The college football season has finally arrived, and Week 1 was as entertaining as any fan could have hoped for it to be. Some teams showed that they are more capable than first thought, while others gave the impression that they may be overrated. The good news for every team is that it's only one game and they still have 11 more to convince the committee they are good enough for the playoff. After Week 1, here's how the SEC shakes out.
The Commodores are the black eye for the conference after Week 1. A loss at home to the Temple Owls, an AAC team, is not a mark the conference wanted on its resume. This kept the SEC from a 9-0 record in non-conference games for opening weekend. We knew the Commodores may struggle in their first year without James Franklin, but there should have been enough talent left on the shelf to beat the Owls. Things could be rough in Nashville in 2014.
Mark Stoops and the Wildcats handed a beat down to UT Martin as they should have. Still, it does not prove anything as far as what the Wildcats are capable of. If they can hang with the Gators in a couple of weeks, maybe there will be some hope for Wildcat fans that they are turning the corner. Until then, they are still ranked at the bottom of the conference.
The Razorbacks gave the Auburn Tigers more of a game than was expected to open the year. They went to the locker room tied halftime, but Nick Marshall's entrance into the game led to a romp for the Tigers. Still, the fact that the Razorbacks were able to hang with the proverbial favorites in the conference is a good sign that there may be progress happening under Bret Bielema.
Fans still don't know much about the Volunteers as they did what they should -- taking care of Utah State at home. There were some who predicted an upset in this game, so the fact the Volunteers won handily does provide hope for 2014. Still, they need a win in a big game before getting consideration for top 10 in the conference. A win against Oklahoma in a couple of weeks would do it.
Regardless of the opponent, a shutout is always something to be proud of in college football. That's what Miss State was able to do in Week 1. The defense shut down Southern Miss, and quarterback Dak Prescott looked good in the win. The Bulldogs are a dark horse in the West and could make some noise as the season rolls along, They still need to do it against top competition, however, before I can move them any higher.
The Gamecocks laid an egg on national television against the Texas A&M Aggies. The SEC East favorites looked hapless against Kenny Hill and the Aggies. They endured the biggest drop in the rankings for Week 1 and have some work to do in order to win back the confidence of fans. They will get a tune-up game next week, then the Georgia Bulldogs come to town. If they lose that game, their goals will be pretty much in tatters by Week 3.
Missouri began their reign as division champs with a win over South Dakota State. Maty Mauk was effective, and Russell Hansbrough ran well. The Tigers didn't prove much in this game and should still be expected to finish fourth in division. With Carolina's struggles, there is at least a chance they could finish third. Regardless, the Tigers have a lot of work left if they want to be considered contenders.
The Rebels looked sloppy in their opener against Boise State, but they got the victory. A team that some think have a real shot at contending in the West, the Rebels will need to clean their act up if that is to become a reality. If they can learn to live in the spotlight, there is enough talent to make some waves in 2014.
There is not a team that fans know less about than the Gators. Their game against Idaho was suspended due to severe weather, and it is unclear whether or not they will make it up. We do know that the expectation is for the Gators to finish in the top three in their division, so this seems like a reasonable spot for them, especially given the way Carolina flopped. They'll need to actually play a game before I can consider them for the top five.
For all the talk of newcomers Brandon Harris and Leonard Fournette, it was the old hats that paved the way for the Tigers' comeback win over the Wisconsin Badgers. Anthony Jennings was the clear-cut starter and Kenny Hilliard shined at running back. The Tigers showed some resolve with their fourth-quarter surge to earn the victory, which was good to see, but they have to improve dramatically if they hope to compete in the West.
By far the biggest surprise of opening weekend was the domination by Kenny Hill and the Aggies. Their dismantling of the Gamecocks in Columbia was not something anyone saw coming. A win would not have been completely shocking, but the extent to which they outplayed Carolina was surprising. The Aggies should be considered real contenders for the division, but will need to improve on defense if they hope to pull off some divisional upsets.
The Crimson Tide got the win over West Virginia, and for that they should be grateful. They didn't play to their potential, and had the Mountaineers not made so many mistakes, this could have gone in the loss column. The good was that surprise starter Blake Sims played well and the running game looked strong as expected. The Tide have to improve defensively against fast-paced offenses if they hope to get back to the top of the SEC.
The Bulldogs' performance against Clemson was the overall best performance of the weekend, and almost landed them at No. 1. The offense and special teams were spectacular all game, and the defense was nothing short of dominant in the second half. Todd Gurley showed how special he is, and if he stays healthy, the sky's the limit for what the Bulldogs can achieve. They are now the unquestioned favorites in the East.
Until they are beaten, the Auburn Tigers still deserve the top spot. While the opener may have been a little too close for comfort, Nick Marshall's return from suspension sparked the team and they showed their ability to dominate. Despite a tough schedule, they should still be the West favorites. Nick Marshall is a difference-maker, and the defense will only get better as the season progresses. The future looks bright for the Tigers in 2014.
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