SEC Week 2 Preview: Searching For Answers After Week One’s Debacle
In our first conference preview, we referred to the SEC as a conference that reigned supreme, but conferenec went an abysmal 6-6 in non-conference games to open the season. Four of those six wins were decided by fewer than 10 points.
Ironically, the SEC still leads all other conferences with six ranked teams in the latest AP top-25 poll.
Still, the conference as a whole has a lot of ground to make up in week two. There is very little room for error especially with most games being against inferior opponents despite learning in week one that you should never underestimate your opponent no matter who you are playing. Were the opening week struggles just a fluke or a sign of things to come? Those questions should be answered on Saturday.
**All stats are courtesy of cfbstats.com**
Alabama was the only SEC team to dominate their week one opponent when they defeated USC, 52-6. In the process, Nick Saban took one step forward in determining who would be the Tide's starting quarterback.
True freshman Jalen Hurts should be leading the quarterback race after throwing two touchdown passes and rushing for two more. Blake Barnett is not out of the race, but Hurts proved that he is very much capable.
This week, the focus will shift to Western Kentucky quarterback Mike White, who put up a record-breaking 98.3 QBR against Rice last week. White will need to have a similar performance if they want to pull off the impossible.
The Tide's defense will not allow the Hilltoppers to keep it close, and they will do Saban a favor by giving the offense more time of possession, which in return will give both Hurts and Barnett more reps.
Despite the unlikeliness that Western Kentucky keeps this game close, Saban wants you to know that he is taking the Hilltoppers very seriously.
The Kirby Smart era got off to a good start with a win over North Carolina.
Highlighting the game was Nick Chubb's 222 rushing yards in his first game back from a leg injury. Bulldog fans also got a glimpse of the future when true freshman Jacob Eason made an appearance and passed for 131 yards and one touchdown.
Smart proved that his team does have enough talent to make a serious run in the SEC East. This week's game against Nicholls will do nothing to endanger that as Georgia should put this one away early.
Last week proved that anything can happen, but a Georgia loss would be an early contender for upset of the year.
Texas A&M's win over UCLA was likely the most impressive among SEC teams.
The Aggies defense showed dramatic improvement in year two under defensive coordinator John Chavis, and it proved to be the difference maker in the win over the Bruins.
Oklahoma transfer quarterback Trevor Knight also had a big game, throwing for 239 yards and a touchdown. It helps that he has one of the nation's best wide receiving corps to throw to.
Texas A&M will roll through Prairie View A&M with ease, and the Aggies will likely put up a lot of points.
Both Florida and Kentucky struggled against teams in which they were favored . The Gators managed to put Massachusetts away in the fourth quarter. Kentucky, meanwhile, was upset by Southern Miss.
The last two meetings between these teams have resulted in narrow victories for Florida, but Kentucky has not defeated the Gators since 1986.
In last week's loss, Kentucky quarterback Drew Barker threw for 324 yards and four touchdowns, and he only needed 15 completions to do. If Barker has similar success then it could be a long day for Florida.
Of course, the Gators have an excellent defense to matchup with the Wildcats' Air Raid offense. The reoccurring issue in Gainesville has been finding a way to score. Quarterback Luke Del Rio showed promised but lacked consistency.
Do not let last week's results cloud your judgement. This has all the makings to be a close game for a third consecutive season.
Under normal circumstances Ole Miss would be on upset alert this week for multiple reasons.
For starters, this will be the Rebels' second game this week after losing in grueling fashion on Monday night. To add insult to injury, Ole Miss lost starting cornerback Ken Webster for the season to an ACL injury.
Despite the early misfortune, quarterback Chad Kelly will be too much for Wofford to handle. It could be a close game early on, but the Rebels should pull away in dominant fashion.
In the only conference game of week one, Vanderbilt lost to South Carolina despite holding a 10 point lead for most of the game.
The Commodores' defense is showing a lot of promise with head coach Derek Mason making the calls. The lack of scoring is what continues to plague this team. Running back Ralph Webb is the lone bright spot on the offense, but he cannot do it alone.
It is going to be a long day (and season) for Vanderbilt if they cannot figure out an offensive scheme that results in points. Middle Tennessee State will find a way to score behind the strong arm of quarterback Brent Stockstill.
Rome was not built in a day and this Vanderbilt offense won't be built in a day either. In other words, it will be up to Mason to figure out a defensive system that results in the Blue Raiders scoring little to no points. If he doesn't then prepare to see an SEC team drop another game to a non-power 5 team.
In the preseason, it may have seemed unfair for South Carolina to open up the 2016 season with back-to-back conference games. Now it seems much more manageable due to Mississippi State's shocking loss to South Alabama.
The Bulldogs blew a 17-point lead and subsequently missed an extra point which led to a Jaguars win. Keep in mind that South Alabama has only had a football program for seven years.
Taking all these factors into account, Mississippi State is still the favorite in this matchup. South Carolina lacks the ability to score consistently, and in turn, does not have many people In Vegas believing they can pull off the win.
The deciding factor in this game will be at quarterback. Improved play at the quarterback position will result in more consistency in a matchup that lacks superior talent.
It is not often that a narrow victory over a team like Louisiana Tech is praised. However, Arkansas deserves credit for getting the win, which is something that other SEC teams struggled to do this weekend.
Coming out of week two will be even more difficult for the Razorbacks. TCU, despite losing some of its best offensive talent from last season, is thriving with Texas A&M transfer quarterback Kenny Hill. In his first start with the Horned Frogs, he threw 439 passing yards and two touchdowns.
If Arkansas hopes to pull off the upset then they will need to attack TCU's glaring weakness: pass defense. The Horned Frog gave up 333 passing yards and three touchdowns against South Dakota State last weekend. Not to mention the Jackrabbits managed to score 41 points.
Arkansas quarterback Austin Allen's statline of 191 passing yards is not quite convincing enough for one to believe that he will take advantage of TCU's vulnerabilities. If he proves otherwise then the Razorbacks do have the potential to pull off the upset.
If any SEC team deserves recognition despite a loss it is Auburn. Not many gave them a chance to keep up with Clemson, and they proved just the opposite. In fact, their quarterback issues are the only that held them back.
Head coach Gus Malzahn has already announced that Sean White would start against Arkansas State. The Tigers should see more success on offense if they decide to stick with White for an extended period of time although he is only a short term answer.
Malzahn's versatile offense hinges on a dual-threat quarterback and multiple running backs; two things that Auburn lacks. One positive sign to carry into the game is an improved defense that managed to slow down the development of Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson.
Anything can happen, but Arkansas State's 31-10 loss to Toledo last week should be enough evidence to suggest that Gus Malzahn will have little to no issue with his former team.
On the surface, LSU seemed like a favorite to win the national championship. The Tigers returned 19 starters including running back Leonard Fournette. However, all that promise was lost when LSU dropped its first game of the season to Wisconsin.
What went wrong? Quarterback Brandon Harris did not show much improvement, and offensive coordinator Cam Cameron still refuses to adjust to modern day college football. LSU's defense is the lone bright spot, but that will not matter if the offense continues to struggle despite having a rare talent like Fournette.
Most will look at this game as a bounce back win for the Tigers, but that will not be the case. Jacksonville State is consistently one of the best teams in the FCS. So much so that they almost upset Auburn last season.
The Gamecocks have a lot of upside in quarterback Eli Jenkins, who is a threat through the air and on the ground. JSU also added former Auburn running back Roc Thomas to its roster, and he is already showing promise.
To make a long story short, LSU winning this game is not a lock despite it being against an FCS team in Tiger Stadium.
It could be a long season for new head coach Barry Odom as he tries to restructure a team that has gone through its fair share of on the field and off the field issues.
Odom will get an opportunity to square things away with what should be an easy win.
Eastern Michigan did score 61 points in last week's win versus Mississippi Valley State, but the Tigers defense will smother the Eagles. Expect the Tigers to pull away in the second half.
The most interesting component of this game will be the fact that it's being played at Bristol Motor Speedway. The popularity of college football is constantly growing so the use of interesting venues like Bristol is likely the beginning of a new trend.
Predicting the outcome of this game is quite tricky. Tennessee was far from impressive in week one as they needed overtime to put away Appalachian State. Also, there is concern that Joshua Dobbs is not 100 percent.
These are factors to take into account, but the Vols will still be the favorite in this game. Even without a "healthy" Dobbs, Tennessee still has Jalen Hurd and Alvin Kamara along with a defense with great pass rushing capabilities.
Virginia Tech is operating under new head coach Justin Fuente, and he is off to a good start with dual threat quarterback Jerod Evans leading the way. Evans led the team in passing and rushing in the Hokies' 36-13 win over Liberty.
This game could go either way, but when in doubt go with the SEC (unless you lost all hope after week one).