SEC Football: Stock Report for Each Team Heading into Week 2
What a first week it was for college football. There were thrilling finishes, numerous upsets of FBS teams from the hands of their little brothers in the FCS and plenty of great games to watch on the tube.
Down south, the SEC was, well, the SEC. Winners of the last seven national titles, the SEC is once again primed to send a team to the biggest game in a of college football.
The best conference in the country posted an 11-3 record in Week 1 and it could have been even better had Ole Miss and Vanderbilt not faced each other in their season opener. So, which teams in the league improved their stock in week one and which saw it drop?
Alabama Crimson Tide
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The No. 1 team in the country for the last two seasons and entering 2013 firmly handled the Virginia Tech Hokies, 35-10, at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.
The Crimson Tide scored a touchdown the first time they touched the ball on Christion Jones 72-yard punt return. Jones also returned a kickoff 94 yards to the house and hauled in a 38-yard touchdown pass from A.J. McCarron.
The defense played great, holding the Hokies to 212 yards of total offense and 10 points. However, the offense left much to be desired. Minus the two special teams scores, the offense scored only 21 points and put up just 206 total yards. Much of it had to do with the offensive line, which lost three key starters from last year.
Struggles are expected in the first game, but it's a safe bet that they get everything figured out with Nick Saban watching over things. Alabama until proven otherwise remains the team to beat. They have a bye this weekend before they travel to College Station, Texas, to take on the Texas A&M Aggies.
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The Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns were expected to give the Hogs everything they could handle, but with new head coach Bret Bielema's ground attack, Arkansas ran away with a 34-14 victory.
The Razorbacks looked sharp in just about every aspect of the game, posting 522 yards on offense (292 rushing, 230 passing) and allowing a solid Louisiana offense to only 274 yards.
The running game highlighted the afternoon, as sophomore Jonathan Williams ran for 151 yards on 18 carries (8.4 yards-per-carry average) and a touchdown, while highly touted true freshman Alex Collins displayed his speed and vision, finishing with 131 yards on 21 attempts.
The defense gave up the most passing yards per game (285.8) in the SEC and Ragin' Cajuns' quarterback Terrance Broadway is no slouch. They answered the critics by allowing Broadway to go just 15-of-28 for 171 yards and 189 yards through the air overall.
Arkansas was expected to win, but they did it in dominating fashion. The Hogs have a great chance to start 4-0 before playing at Texas A&M on Sept. 29. They welcome Samford to Little Rock Saturday.
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There's a new since of hope around Auburn with new coach Gus Malzahn after one of the worst seasons in the program's history last year. The Tigers did not have a great season opener, but nonetheless, they got a 31-24 win over Mike Leach's Washington State Cougars.
The offense was dreadful in 2012, ranking 115th in the country in yards per game with 305.0. Malzahn brings an up-tempo style and it paid immediate dividends as the Tigers put up 394 yards, 295 of which came on the ground.
The passing game still has a long way to go though. Quarterback Nick Marshall had a unspectacular debut under center, going 10-of-19 for 99 yards. The Tigers' stock could have been up had it not been for the QB play and the continued struggles on defense.
They gave up 464 yards and 344 through the air. They could have easily lost, but Washington State threw three picks.
Malzahn is going to need time to fix the mess Gene Chizik left behind, but he is the right man for the job. The Tigers host Malzahn's former team Arkansas State this weekend, a game that they could lose if they aren't careful.
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Kirk Herbstreit went out on a limb when he picked the Toledo Rockets to beat the Gators in Gainesville. Needless to say, he was wrong as Florida shut down the Rockets' offense to win 24-6.
The defense held a prolific Toledo offense to 205 yards, with an eye-popping 50 yards on the ground. They also limited Toledo quarterback Terrance Owens, who averaged 207.6 yards per game passing last year, to 155 yards and a pick.
The key for the Gators this year is the offense, which was 113th in the nation in 2012 with an average of 334.4 yards per game. They got off on the right foot against the Rockets with 415 yards.
Florida had no problem finding holes in the d-line as they ran for 262 yards. Starting QB Jeff Driskel was efficient (17-of-28 for 153 yards and a touchdown), but will have to get better and fast.
The Gators are at in-state rival Miami Saturday, who looked impressive in their season opener with a 34-6 win over Florida Atlantic. The Hurricanes provide Florida a very tough early road test.
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Despite outgaining the Clemson Tigers in total yards, 545 to 467, the Bulldogs couldn't overcome a valiant performance by Heisman dark horse quarterback Tajh Boyd.
Boyd completed 18-of-30 pass attempts for 270 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions on his way to leading the Tigers to an exhilarating 38-35 win over the fifth-ranked Bulldogs in Death Valley. With the loss, Georgia's national title hopes took a big hit. Though they could still make a run for it, they would virtually have to win out.
The offense put up more numbers than Clemson on the ground and through the air, as well as a five-minute advantage in time of possession. However, they were 4-of-14 on third downs and committed nine penalties that totaled 84 yards, something you simply can't do against a top-10 team on the road. Turning the ball over twice doesn't help either.
The defense was also a disappointment, allowing 230 passing yards and 197 on the ground. If the Bulldogs want to avoid a disastrous start to 2013, they will have to make adjustments quickly as South Carolina rolls into Athens this weekend. At this point, an 0-2 start is a very real possibility.
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Bobby Petrino returned to the sidelines with Western Kentucky last weekend and spoiled Mark Stoops' head coaching debut with the Kentucky Wildcats at LP Field in Nashville.
The Hilltoppers posted a lot of yards as has become expected with a Petrino-coached team. They racked up 487 total yards of offense and had plenty of balance doing it, with 271 passing and 216 rushing. The offense kept them in the game with 419 yards of its own.
The Wildcats were very efficient running the ball with 216 yards, but Stoops will have to choose a true starter if Kentucky is to have impact against tougher teams. They used Maxwell Smith and Jalen Whitlow for the game, and if we've learned anything in recent years, it's that you can't thrive without a unquestioned signal caller.
It shouldn't come as a surprise that they struggled, as they returned just nine starters on both sides of the ball from a team that went 2-10 and winless in the SEC. Stoops has made a splash on the recruiting trail, but 2013 could be another forgettable year for the Wildcats. They have a chance to shore up on some fundamentals with Miami (Ohio) at home Saturday.
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Many thought the TCU Horned Frogs would surprise LSU in their season opener, but credit to Les Miles and the team for playing a sound game. The Tigers have been known to be offensively challenged in the past few seasons, but they didn't look it.
They finished with 448 yards and Zach Mettenberger looked as if Cam Cameron's coaching had an effect. Mettenberger had a good pocket presence, passing for 251 yards and a score. He still had problems with accuracy as he went 16-of-32. However, he appears to have turned a corner, which would make LSU very dangerous.
There's not much to say about the defense. They played like they always do: good. TCU managed just 259 yards and Casey Pachall couldn't get anything going in his return against a suffocating Tigers secondary.
LSU is a serious contender for an SEC and national title. The schedule sets up nicely and the Tigers should enter Sept. 28 at Georgia 4-0.
Ole Miss Rebels
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In the first game of the college football season, the Ole Miss Rebels won a 39-35 thriller at Vanderbilt in the waning minutes of the fourth quarter. The main focus was on the highly touted group of freshmen who made an instant impact.
The most notable performance of the newcomers came from the No. 1 high school wide receiver prospect in the 2013 class, Laquon Treadwell. He hauled in nine passes for 82 yards and was quarterback Bo Wallace's favorite target. Wallace also had a solid outing with 283 passing yards with no touchdowns or picks.
The Rebels also got a great performance from running back Jeff Scott, who had 138 yards on 12 carries and the decisive 75-yard scamper to win the game. The defense left a lot to be desired though. They gave up 426 yards to the Commodores, including 300 yards passing from the arm of Austin Carta-Samuels.
The No. 1 overall recruit in the country Robert Nkemdiche was rather quiet,but did have a highlight 11-yard run on a fake punt for a first down. Tony Conner, another highly touted recruit in the class, made his impact felt early with an interception.
Overall, it was a good season opening win for Hugh Freeze's Rebels. He has them on the rise and they could factor into the West if they continue to progress.
Mississippi State Bulldogs
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The seat has started to heat up on Bulldogs head coach Dan Mullen. While Mississippi State wasn't expected to beat the Oklahoma State Cowboys, they were certainly expected to do better than a 21-3 loss.
The offensive woes from last year carried over as they scored a measly three points on 333 yards. Fifth-year senior quarterback Tyler Russell didn't seem to have taken any steps forward in the off season, finishing 10-of-16 for 133 yards with an interception. Mullen tried his luck with Dak Prescott, but he was also ineffective.
The defense, which has been the strength of the team, allowed 432 yards to the Cowboys' offense. They defended the pass well, but gave up 286 yards rushing and 100 yards to two different rushers.
After starting 7-0 in 2012, the Bulldogs finished 1-5 in their final six games. If Mullen can't get things going in the right direction, his days in Starkville could be numbered. They have one tune-up against Alcorn State before heading to Auburn on Sept. 14.
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Missouri absolutely obliterated Murray State last Saturday, 58-14. The Tigers posted an astronomical 694 yards of total offense and surprisingly enough, their attack was very balanced with 358 yards on the ground and 336 through the air.
Granted, it was against a physically undermanned Racers team, but those type of numbers are impressive no matter who the opponent is. James Franklin played with poise, dicing up the Murray State secondary for 318 yards and three scores. The consensus No. 1 overall recruit for 2012, Dorial Green-Beckham, looked the part with four receptions for 83 yards and a 20.8 yards-per-catch average.
They also had three players rush for over 50 yards, two of which eclipsed the 100-yard mark. The defense didn't disappoint either, limiting the Racers to 297 yards.
The Tigers must be weary of a good Toledo team this weekend, but all signs point to them starting 4-0 when they go to Vanderbilt Oct. 5. Gary Pinkel has a much-improved Missouri team that should surpass last year's five wins and make it back to a bowl.
South Carolina Gamecocks
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Steve Spurrier took a tough job at South Carolina and has turned them into national title contenders. The Gamecocks hosted a talented North Carolina team and shut them down in a 27-10 victory.
Against a Tar Heel defense that ranked 40th in the country in rush defense in 2012, South Carolina ran for 228 yards. They can thank Mike Davis for the brunt of that as he turned in 115 on just 12 carries for an impressive 9.6 yards-per-carry average.
The defense also played well, giving up 293 yards of total offense. The most impressive number by far was 2.8, North Carolina's yards per carry. On the night they managed to run for only 99 yards, and that was without Jadaveon Clowney at his best.
The problem remains the quarterback play. Connor Shaw was average at best, going 11-of-20 for 149 yards and a touchdown. If he can get it going, this team wins the SEC East. If they can beat Georgia this weekend in Athens, they have a legitimate shot to enter Nov. 16 against Florida at home 9-0 in what could determine who goes to Atlanta from the East.
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The Butch Jones era commenced with a nice 45-0 win over the Governors of Austin Peay and, though it was against an FCS opponent, there were some positives to take out of it.
The ground game, led by Rajion Neal's 141 yards, was efficient and deep. Deanthonie Summerhill made the most of his nine carries, going for 67 yards and a 7.4 yards a pop. They also got a valiant effort from Marlin Lane, who finished with 38 yards on six touts and two scores.
Justin Worley had threw for three scores, but overall, Jones was very conservative in the passing game. Worley attempted just 13 passes—he did complete 11 of those—and a 8.0 yards-per-completion average. If anything, you could say he was very efficient in his limited role for game one.
The defense allowed 211 yards to the Govs, with the front seven standing out by giving up just 79 yards on the ground. Not to take away from the defensive backs though, who also had a fantastic outing with Austin Peay managing only 132 yards through the air.
It was overall good showing by the Vols, but the win still doesn't tell us much. They will be tested this weekend at home against Petrino's Hilltoppers, who just beat Kentucky. The true gauge to this team will be Week 3 at Oregon.
Texas A&M Aggies
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The most highly anticipated debut for any player in the country had to wait until the third quarter as Johnny Manziel had to sit out the first half against the Rice Owls for his autograph saga.
His presence was felt immediately as he scrambled for 12 yards on his first play. He finished 6-of-8 for 94 yards and three touchdowns, but was pulled in the fourth quarter after receiving an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for pointing to the scoreboard in an exchange with a Rice player.
The Aggies are happy to know they have a capable backup if anything ever happened to Johnny Football in Matt Joeckel. The junior threw for 190 yards on 14-of-19 attempts for one score in a very solid first half of football.
The Aggies had 486 yards of total offense, but it was overshadowed by a porous defense. The Owls racked up a blistering 509 yards of offense, most notably 306 on the ground. Rice had three rushers gain more than 50 yards, highlighted by Charles Ross' 107 yards and two scores.
Much of it had to do with a multitude of defenders being suspended, but even backups on an SEC team allowing those kind of numbers is alarming. Rice hung around until Manziel entered the game and they pulled away to win 52-31.
They face Sam Houston State Saturday, followed by the showdown verse Alabama next weekend.
This team has all the talent to compete for an SEC and national title, but at this point, Manziel has become a huge distraction and whether or not the Aggies can overcome all the drama is what stands between them and college football's ultimate prize.
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Despite a heartbreaking loss to Ole Miss, the Commodores continue to impress us all. It wasn't that long ago that you could pencil in a game verse the Commodores as an easy win. Head coach James Franklin has changed the culture and the results are showing on the field.
Vanderbilt had an excellent game on offense, gaining 426 yards on the night. Quarterback Austin Carta-Samuels posted impressive numbers of 300 yards passing and two scores, though he did throw two interceptions that proved costly.
Receiver Jordan Matthews is one of the best in the country. He was out of his mind against the Rebels secondary, grabbing 10 balls for 178 yards and a touchdown. Carta-Samuels and Matthews have the potential to be one of the best duos in the SEC.
The defense is what will determine how good this team can be. They allowed 489 to the Rebels and nearly six yards per run. If the defense can improve, Vanderbilt has a chance to have a special year. They have a chance to work out some kinks this week against Austin Peay before traveling to South Carolina on Sept. 14.