What We Learned About the SEC in Week 2
There have been two conference games in SEC play this year, and both have lived up to the hype. Ole Miss topped Vanderbilt 39-35 in Week 1, while Georgia outlasted South Carolina 41-30 between the hedges on Saturday night.
If this is a sign of things to come, it's going to be a long and eventful season.
Georgia/South Carolina was the only conference game played in Week 2, but we still learned quite a bit about the conference. What are some of the key takeaways?
The Aaron Murray Criticism was Silly
Remember when Aaron Murray was 1-9 against Top 15 opponents?
Well, now he's 2-9.
The senior signal-caller for the Georgia Bulldogs was electric, going 17-of-23 for 309 yards, four touchdowns and zero interceptions in the 41-30 win over No. 6 South Carolina in Athens.
Sure, he was helped by running back Todd Gurley, who's a man amongst boys. But Murray played with confidence, poise and precision against a very good Gamecock defense.
Late in the third quarter, he rolled right and found Gurley near the back of the end zone after directing traffic on the run. In the fourth quarter, with Jadeveon Clowney comin', he escaped pressure and found a wide-open Justin Scott-Wesley for an 85-yard touchdown to put the Bulldogs up 11 and essentially ice the game away.
It wasn't just a win for Murray, it was redemption.
Redemption for last season's putrid performance on the road in Columbia. Redemption for last week's loss, which he unfairly shouldered the blame for. Redemption for three straight losses to the interstate rival Gamecocks.
Top 15 teams are ranked for a reason. Murray proved that he is, in fact, a big-game quarterback and isn't scared of the big stage.
It also gave his team a leg up in the SEC East. With essentially a game-and-a-half lead on its primary competitor in the race for Atlanta, Georgia is in prime position to three-peat.
Florida Is Exactly Who We Thought It Was
It's clear now why Florida plays such a conservative style under head coach Will Muschamp. The defense is solid, the running game is effective and the rest of the offense is abysmal.
The Gators actively try to prevent quarterback Jeff Driskel from being the difference-maker, but it was unavoidable in the 21-16 loss to Miami on Saturday afternoon.
Miami jumped on the Gators early with two touchdowns in the first quarter, and the pressure was too much to take for Driskel.
He threw a pick on the Miami 4-yard line early in the second quarter with his team down eight that could have negated the Hurricanes' hot start. With his team down five midway through the fourth, Driskel was picked off at the Hurricanes' 12-yard line after rushing a throw. The very next drive, he was sacked while pinned deep in his own territory and fumbled, leading to the game-winning touchdown for the 'Canes.
Florida simply can't pass itself out of a hole. It doesn't have the quarterback to do it, doesn't have the wide receivers to do it and doesn't have the system to do it.
It's going to be a long season in Gainesville if the Gators can't be two-dimensional.
Johnny Manziel Is Evolving
Saturday's cakewalk over Sam Houston State served as a sequel to the spring game for Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel. It provided him another opportunity to work on his ability as a traditional dropback passer, and he passed that test with flying colors.
The sophomore signal-caller was 28-of-41 for 403 passing yards and three touchdowns against the Bearkats. He showed poise in the pocket, kept his eyes downfield when his protection broke down and gave Alabama plenty to look at on film heading into the showdown between the two SEC West powers.
But it wasn't just his passing game that was impressive, it was the familiarity he gained with some new targets. He found sophomore Sabian Holmes five times for 60 yards and a score, and he tossed a pretty touchdown pass to freshman JaQuay Williams, who didn't play in last week's opener versus Rice.
Manziel looked sharp and built a ton of momentum for himself heading into the biggest game of his football career.
Well, Hello Again, Auburn Defense
Raise your hand if you can remember the last time Auburn didn't give up a touchdown.
OK, put your hand down. It was Oct. 15, 2011, when the Tigers beat Florida 17-6 on the Plains.
Yeah, it was Arkansas State, and the Red Wolves did manage to rack up 422 yards. But Auburn didn't break in its 38-9 win over the Red Wolves, which is major progress for a unit that gave up 28.3 points per game last season. Besides, this was an Arkansas State team that had scored 34 or more points in eight of its last nine games.
The Tigers held Arkansas State to 150 rushing yards on 39 attempts and pressured Red Wolves quarterback Adam Kennedy throughout the game.
It's a good sign for the Tigers, because the offense, led by running backs Tre Mason, Cameron Artis-Payne and Corey Grant, looks like it can be reliable even if quarterback Nick Marshall doesn't turn into the dynamic playmaker he was touted to be.
Simply not breaking is a departure from the norm and is huge for Auburn's confidence heading into the conference opener next week at home against Mississippi State.
The Marriage of Zach Mettenberger and Cam Cameron Is Working Out Just Fine
LSU offensive coordinator Cam Cameron is known as a coach who likes to push, and quarterback Zach Mettenberger has the arm to do just that.
He showed that big arm off again on Saturday in LSU's 56-17 win over UAB in the Tigers' home opener in Baton Rouge. The senior signal-caller completed 16 of his 19 passes for 282 yards, tossed a single-game school-record five touchdowns and wasn't sacked.
That's a solid stat line against air, much less against a real-life football team.
Two weeks into the season, it's abundantly clear that LSU isn't rebuilding, it's reloading. Cameron is perhaps the most important part of that reloading process. He stepped into a perfect situation in his transition from the NFL to college football with a veteran offense and a senior quarterback whose strengths play into his style.
Look out, SEC West. The Tigers are for real.
We Still Don't Know Much About Tennessee
The Butch Jones era in Knoxville got off to a hot start, with a 45-0 win over Austin Peay in Week 1 and a 52-20 win over a decent Western Kentucky in Week 2.
Despite the two wins, we don't know a whole lot about the Vols. They didn't suffer any defensive breakdowns versus Austin Peay, which is a step in the right direction. The Western Kentucky game, however, was gift-wrapped for the Vols.
The Hilltopers committed five turnovers in six plays late in the first and early in the second quarter, two of which were interceptions returned for touchdowns. Throwing out the two picks-sixes, three of Tennessee's four first-quarter drives started inside the Hilltoper 30-yard line.
It's hard not to blow out a team with that kind of field position.
We'll know more about the Vols in the coming weeks, as they travel to Oregon and Florida in back-to-back weeks.
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