Aug 31, 2012; Atlanta, GA, USA; Tennessee Volunteers wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson (84) during the game against the North Carolina State Wolfpack at the Georgia Dome. Tennessee won 35-21. Mandatory Credit: Paul Abell-US PRESSWIRE
With week one of the college football season in the books, a few thoughts from around the SEC:
Alabama: Most dominant opening weekend performance of any top team, though a word of caution should note that the Tide will face better teams down the stretch who are better equipped to exploit their weaknesses. T.J. Yeldon played like an instant star, the offensive line was as good as billed, and special teams looked better than expected, though Nick Saban's postgame comments on the health of Eddie Lacy were concerning. Good night in Dallas, but victory came at a high price, with Jesse Williams, Robert Lester, Amari Cooper and Reggie Ragland all being banged up along the way. Consider Michigan a successful first step on a long road, not a cause for premature celebration. Still a long, long way to Miami, folks, and national championships never come easy, even when the come at all.
Arkansas: Ugly start in Fayetteville, but the Hogs took over in the mid-to-late second quarter and never looked back. Big night from Tyler Wilson, but Knile Davis and the offensive line looked pedestrian, with Davis only averaging 3.9 yards per carry on eighteen attempts. Converted quarterback Brandon Mitchell looked like a budding threat at wide receiver, and tight end Chris Gragg played well. Turnovers were a concern. Run defense was stout, but consider the opponent. With Jacksonville State and ULM in the first two weeks, really two audition scrimmages for the Hogs in preparation for 'Bama.
Auburn: Kiehl Frazier did some good things and made some strong throws, but was far too inconsistent. Forty percent completion rates never get it done. Offensive line looked good despite missing Reese Dismukes, and Tre Mason was particularly impressive at tailback. Defensive play was pretty ugly at times, particularly in the back seven, but in fairness they played an explosive offense and that pass rush alone will cause a lot of teams serious problems. Defensive line has to play much better against the run for this team to have a chance against the Alabamas and LSUs of the world, though. You can't just chase the quarterback all night looking for the highlight reel sack, you have to fight in the trenches and snuff out the run on the plays no one but the coaches will watch more than once.
Florida: Arguably the ugliest performance since Ron Zook. Empty seats and bad football are a dangerous combination for Will Muschamp. Bowling Green is a quality non-BCS team, but Urban Meyer at his peak would have committed cruel and unusual punishment on such an opponent. The quarterback controversy will consume much attention, but neither has done anything to show that they can be a quality signal caller at this level. Five stars are worthless when you go 10-16 for 114 yards against a MAC team in your sophomore season. Offensive line was solid at times, and there was some semblance of an interior running game from Mike Gillislee. Defense is highly talented, but still an undisciplined unit that struggles to tackle; lots of potential going to waste on that side of the ball. Is this the fifth team in the SEC East?
Georgia: Hard to make any meaningful evaluations after a cupcake, but a generally ugly performance against Buffalo. No reason why a defense this good should allow a team like that to move the ball so well. Be interesting to see what this team does next week if Rambo and Ogletree are still suspended. Todd Gurley looks like an instant impact-maker, and combined with Keith Marshall it's reasonable to believe they will mitigate, in large part at least, the dismissal of Isiah Crowell. Nevertheless, UGA continues to stand for Underachieving Georgia. Don't believe that Missouri and Tennessee have a legitimate chance in the SEC East? Catch the replay of this game.
Kentucky: Coming off of a three win season, losing by three touchdowns to Louisville, possible lame duck at the helm, and now playing in a division that features Missouri and a Vanderbilt program on the rise. Very dark period in Lexington, even with Kentucky football standards in mind. Strange that CoShik Williams only had ten carries. Hat tip goes out to former Alabama verbal commitment Daryl Collins, who turned down a greyshirt offer to play for the Tide, for grabbing seven balls for 64 yards in his first collegiate game.
LSU: Kind of a sleepy, pedestrian performance for much of the night, but never any concern in Baton Rouge. Zach Mettenberger was solid, not spectacular, but that is all LSU needs anyway. The big shot he took on the corner blitz looked scary, but he avoided any apparent head injury and later returned to the game. Defense was absolutely dominant, and Kenny Hilliard and Alfred Blue both had big nights at tailback. Wide receiver corps looked poised for a better showing with a competent quarterback. And for those wringing their hands over the supposed weakness LSU would have in the return game without Tyrann Mathieu, sophomore wide receiver Odell Beckham, Jr. returned two punts for touchdowns in the first quarter against North Texas.
Ole Miss: Forget that Central Arkansas led until the late third quarter and that Ole Miss largely just wore an undermanned team down in the final twenty minutes. When you have this many issues, you just take your wins any way you can get them and you bow in respect to the Football Gods for their kindness. Bo Wallace had an impressive performance as a dual-threat quarterback, but the defense was very bad and the fact that this game was even competitive when it was simply screams out.
Mississippi State: Given that the opponent was Jackson State, nothing of note can really be derived from this one. Tyler Russell and the offense looked decent, but only one play from scrimmage went for longer than twenty yards, so the complete lack of explosiveness is a sinister development. Auburn will tell the tale on Mullen and his Bullies.
Missouri: The scoreboard read 28-0 after less than eight minutes of action against Southeastern Louisiana, so to say it was a less than useful game for evaluation purposes would be generous. We'll find out what this team is made of this weekend, but some words of wisdom from the outset regarding Mizzou and Texas A&M: If you think these two are simply being fed to the wolves like Arkansas and South Carolina were twenty years ago, the next three months ought to dispel those false notions.
South Carolina: If this was a top ten team, can you imagine how ugly a bottom ten team would look like? Jadeveon Clowney was sucking more air in the late first quarter than the typical triathlon competitor. Very good early returns on Lattimore, who had an impressive burst, good leg drive, and no issues planting with the left leg on a slippery surface. As feared, the passing game remained impotent, even with Shaw under center, and now there are legitimate health concerns with him. Impression can change, but after week one this team looked far more like a pretender than a contender.
Tennessee: 'Bama fans will hate this, but so be it: Cordarrelle Patterson looked like Julio Jones sans the piggyback rides. Not the best overall performance against a middling ACC team, but a much better team than the last time we saw the Vols in Lexington. Patterson and Justin Hunter will give SEC defensive coordinators nightmares (you can see why it was so easy for Dooley to dismiss Da'Rick Rogers), and the passing game will keep this team afloat. Sal Sunseri looked good in his debut, he learned well under Saban. Defense gave up a lot of yards and points, but generally physical, aggressive, and forced several turnovers. The passing game alone will give South Carolina and Florida lots of issues, given the impotent offenses of the latter, and Alabama had better get its defensive backfield figured out by late October.
Vanderbilt: Quality showing for James Franklin, but yet another frustratingly close loss. Botched pass interference call and the bad pass early on the throwback screen doomed their upset bid. Zac Stacy being shaken up has to be a real concern. Bigger problem for Vanderbilt is the impotent offense and the complete lack of a passing game with Jordan Rodgers. Defense looked good, but we'll have to see them face a legitimate offense being we can be convinced. Is it crazy to think this team could pull an upset? Early returns suggest no.