The week two SEC slate didn’t appear to have many monumental or impactful games on it at first glance (one of the only two that met that criteria ended up being mostly uncompetitive), but when the dust settled Saturday night, quite a bit had happened. Texas A&M pushed the second-ranked Clemson Tigers to the brink, Mississippi State dominated Kansas State in a major trap game, and Kentucky snapped a 31 year losing streak by toppling the 25th-ranked Florida Gators in the Swamp. It’s obviously still very early, but it seems the structure of the conference is really starting to take shape.
- Alabama Crimson Tide. What else needs to be said about the Crimson Tide’s passing attack? Tua Tagovailoa and this corps of receivers are special (and still young). Easily the most pleasant surprise in the early goings for the Tide has been that the brand new secondary has held up well. Louisville and Arkansas State both have pretty strong passing games, and this mostly green group limited both of them. There are still some issues up front on the offensive line, and the kicking game remains shockingly abysmal, but it’s going to take a special effort to beat this Alabama team. The Tide made a middle-of-the-road ACC team look like a Group of Five paycheck game, and then turned around and made a team that very well may win the Sun Belt look like an FCS team.
- Georgia Bulldogs. Following a 41-17 drubbing of their presumed biggest challenger in the division, the Dawgs have clearly established themselves as second only to the Tide in the SEC. They’ve lost a lot of firepower on the defensive end, but with guys like Tyler Clark and Jonathan Ledbetter up front, Monty Rice and Natrez Patrick at the next level, and DeAndre Baker and J.R. Reed on the back end, this defense is still one of the best in college football. They manhandled South Carolina’s front and harassed Jake Bentley all game. Jake Fromm may not be as dynamic as some quarterbacks out there, but his efficiency is as good as anyone’s. When you’ve got a trio of running backs, a plethora of weapons at receiver, and a top offensive line, that’s exactly what you need at the helm to win a championship. Ask anyone around here at RBR.
- Auburn Tigers. There are some really nasty defensive lines around the country (Alabama, Georgia, Ohio State, Clemson, etc.), but Auburn honestly may have the best. Derrick Brown is an animal. He’s been nearly unblock-able the first two weeks of the season. Granted, Alabama State doesn’t necessarily provide the best barometer. JaTarvious “Boobie” Whitlow is developing into the bell-cow back that Gus Malzahn covets, which could really help take the load off Jarrett Stidham and the passing game.
- Mississippi State Bulldogs. An 11:00 am kickoff in sleepy Manhattan, Kansas against the Purple Wizard, Bill Snyder, just screams:
However, Joe Moorhead’s team impressed by winning convincingly. The Bullies dominated both sides of the line of scrimmage, pounding the Wildcats with an explosive ground game on offense and smothering them on defense. The trio of Jeffery Simmons, Montez Sweat, and Leo Lewis in the front seven is absolutely destructive. Honestly, when it comes to the running game, State is as good as anyone else in the country on both sides of the ball. Kylin Hill and Nick Fitzgerald combined for 380 yards rushing on 36 attempts this past Saturday. However, the passing game is where the Bulldogs still need to make significant strides. Fitzgerald still struggles with accuracy (11/27 for 154 yards with 2 TDs and 1 INT), and he really doesn’t have any consistent receivers. Still, this team is going to make noise in the SEC this season.
5. LSU Tigers. The Bayou Bengals are in the top five for now, but this looks like the most LSU team of all-time. The defense is elite (though they will really miss pass-rushing specialist K’Lavon Chaisson the rest of the season), but the offense looks to be the same old LSU offense. Joe Burrow is getting a lot of praise in some circles, but completing only 10/20 passes for 151 yards (40 of which came from a Hail Mary at the end of the first half) against Southeastern Louisiana is a massive concern. Nick Brosette ran for over 100 yards again on Saturday, but we’ve seen this show before. Ed Orgeron’s group could be in for a rude awakening in Auburn this upcoming weekend.
6. Missouri Tigers. This ranking may surprise a few, but I’ve got a sneaky suspicion this Missouri team is going to be pretty damn good. Wyoming has a solid defense, and Drew Lock still threw for 400 yards and 4 TDs. Now, the Cowboys don’t hold a candle to most of the defenses in the SEC, but Emmanual Hall, Jonathan Johnson, and Albert Okwuegbunam have consistently been the recipients of Lock’s passing prowess dating back to mid-season last year. Repetition and experience typically lead to improvement in the passing game, and I have confidence this group will finally be able to put up some numbers on good defenses. And unlike teams like Ole Miss, the Tigers have shown some life defensively to go along with their explosive offense. Watch out for this team.
7. Texas A&M Aggies. Well, I don’t know if anyone saw that coming. Clemson has been the second best program in college football for a few years now, and yet there were the Aggies with a chance to tie the game at the end on Saturday night. Kellen Mond grew up before our eyes, as he looked sharp in the second half against the Tigers, completing over 70% of his passes for 330 yards and 3 scores. Granted, some of his bigger plays had more to do with receivers like sophomore Kendrick Rogers making incredible plays on the ball, but he didn’t fold under the pressure of the Tigers’ fierce defensive front. If the Aggies can continue to develop their passing game to pair with Trayveon Williams and the rushing attack, they could win quite a few games this season. Now, the verdict is still out on how well this young team can travel, but they certainly looked ahead of schedule in only week two of the Jimbo-era.
8. South Carolina Gamecocks. With all of the hype boiling in Williams-Brice Stadium on Saturday afternoon, the Gamecocks had to have had one of the most disappointing outings of anybody in football this weekend. Georgia just whipped this team. Honestly, the ‘Cocks don’t look like they’ve improved at all from last season, and given Will Muschamp’s track record, that isn’t a good sign. After a few lean years, the SEC looks like it is on its way back to being a league of juggernauts. An inability to develop on both sides of the ball will kill this team. As I mentioned last week, Jake Bentley, Rico Dowdle, Deebo Samuel, and Bryan Edwards are legitimately good players on the offensive side of the ball, but the South Carolina offense is less than the sum of its parts. A lot of that has to do with their weakness along the offensive line. They couldn’t run the ball to save their lives against Georgia. Defensively, they are still a few players away from being the type of unit Muschamp always fielded in Gainesville. This is a solid team, but they aren’t contenders in the SEC like many hyped them up to be.
9. Kentucky Wildcats. Last week, I wrote this about Kentucky:
Mark Stoops has made a career in Lexington by following up unimpressive wins against cupcakes by keeping it competitive with the rest of the SEC East (and beating South Carolina) during the East’s down period, but I have a feeling that won’t last much longer. Stoops has brought some serious talent to Lexington (Benny Snell at runningback, Josh Allen at linebacker, etc.), but he hasn’t really capitalized on it. Terry Wilson had a pretty bad debut at quarterback, and if Stoops can’t get that corrected, it could be a long year for the Wildcats.
So, I was still kind of right? Terry Wilson looked like a completely different quarterback in the Swamp, completing 11/16 passes for 151 yards and a pair of TDs and rushing for 105 yards and another score on the ground, as he led the Wildcats to their first win over the Gators since before Steve Spurrier arrived in Gainesville. He was dynamic, and Benny Snell tore it up for 175 yards on 27 totes himself. The ‘Cats were by far the more physical team on Saturday, which is not something Dan Mullen is used to when playing Kentucky. This is probably still a 6-6 type of team, but that win had to have won Mark Stoops a lifetime contract in Lexington.
10. Ole Miss Rebels. On one hand, this is one of the best offenses in college football. On the other hand, the Rebels have one of the worst defenses in college football. The basketball team in Oxford would probably combine for less points in a game with Southern Illinois than their football counterparts did. With Jordan Ta’amu dealing the ball out to the likes of A.J. Brown and D.K. Metcalf, and Scottie Phillips running behind a strong Ole Miss line, it’s going to be nearly impossible to keep this team under 30 points any given Saturday. Unfortunately for the Rebs, they will have an equally difficult time preventing everyone else from scoring 40 themselves. This defense is atrocious.
11. Vanderbilt Commodores. You know the SEC is back to being itself again when a team that has looked as solid as Vandy has the first two weeks finds itself this far down the list. After a surprisingly bad season defensively last year, the ‘Dores have seemingly righted the ship on that side of the ball, as Derek Mason’s squad has shut down two sneaky good offenses in Middle Tennessee State and Nevada so far this season. With Kyle Shurmer distributing the ball with great efficiency and Ke’Shawn Vaughn and company finding success in the running game, Vanderbilt is a solid, solid club.
12. Florida Gators. Maybe Dan Mullen has a bigger rebuild on his hands than anyone thought. After looking quite sharp in the opener, Feleipe Franks looked like his old self again Saturday night. Are we sure Franks and Terry Wilson didn’t dress out for the wrong teams? The strangest thing about the game though is why Mullen, of all people, completely abandoned the run game. LaMichael Perine had 34 yards on 4 carries, and Jordan Scarlett only got 7 carries himself. Franks had as many carries as both of those guys combined, mostly on scrambles. Very uncharacteristic of a Dan Mullen-led team.
13. Tennessee Volunteers. I’m really upset that I can’t put this team last in the conference again because...
14. Arkansas Razorbacks. My goodness, this team is awful. They couldn’t run the ball week one against Eastern Illinois, but Ty Storey came in at quarterback and led the Razorbacks to an easy win. He followed that up by going 5/13 for 36 yards and 2 INTs against a Colorado State team that had looked dreadful on defense the first two weeks of the season against Hawaii and Colorado. Oh, and speaking of defense, this team is only better than Ole Miss on that side of the ball in the SEC, and that’s not saying much. Good luck, Chad Morris.