Week 1 is in the books, and several lingering questions in the SEC have been answered.
South Carolina's defense has major issues, Texas A&M's defense got overlooked in the Kenny Hill bonanza, and Florida unexpectedly has to wait a week before kicking off its season.
Let's get you in the mood for Week 2 with a little SEC Q&A.
@BarrettSallee Can Spurrier and South Carolina turn it around in time to actually test Georgia? (And what are the implications of that game)— Say Say (@WarDamnEagle_) September 2, 2014
The implications of that game are huge. If Georgia beats South Carolina, that'd be two SEC losses for the Gamecocks—both coming at home. It would essentially eliminate any margin for error for the rest of the season, which includes road trips to Auburn and Florida.
Lose, and the Gamecocks are done in the SEC East race.
As for what they can do to turn it around, they're going to have to figure things out up front, because Texas A&M pushed them around quite a bit en route to 169 rushing yards.
Georgia can do a lot of the same things. You saw Georgia's offensive line getting to the second level in a hurry particularly off the edge, which is a big reason why running back Todd Gurley had a great day. That front four needs to come together in a hurry and stop Gurley before he gets going, otherwise it could be a long afternoon in Week 3 when the Bulldogs come to town.
Even if the Gamecocks do the impossible and stop Gurley, it might not matter.
Quarterback Hutson Mason played more of a game manager role in Week 1 but has the arm and understanding of the offense to be a difference-maker even if receivers Justin Scott-Wesley and Malcolm Mitchell aren't ready to go (according to Gentry Estes of Dawgs247) in Week 3. Michael Bennett and Chris Conley are difference-makers at wide receiver and will certainly test that young and inexperienced Gamecock secondary.
Simply put, I don't think South Carolina can turn it around. The combination of an inexperienced defensive line and secondary was a big reason why I thought they were getting too much preseason hype going in, and experience isn't something that develops overnight.
This is who the Gamecocks are.
@BarrettSallee Will TAMU's defense keep the team from reaching the SEC championship game again?— maub (@earlmaub) September 2, 2014
Not if it continues to play the way it played against South Carolina.
Defense doesn't win championships anymore, just enough defense wins championships. Texas A&M didn't have enough over the last two seasons, but they "held" the Gamecocks to 433 yards on opening night. That number, 433 yards, doesn't sound great, but if the offense keeps producing at the level it did in the opener, that's certainly enough to keep the Aggies competitive.
Texas A&M's rush defense was solid, giving up just 67 yards to a team that has not only a Heisman Trophy contender at running back in Mike Davis but one of the best offensive lines in the conference. Sure, Davis' absence and injury played into that state quite a bit, but it's certainly something for the Aggies to build on.
If quarterback Kenny Hill plays the way he did, and perhaps adds a running game element that was noticeably absent from his game Thursday, the Aggies certainly have "enough defense" to contend.
The trick is doing it consistently, which is not something Texas A&M's defense is used to doing.
@BarrettSallee Fearless forecast on Florida's record at the end of the regular season?— Marco J. (@pinoygator) September 2, 2014
I predicted the Gators to go 9-3 and finish second in the SEC East prior to the season, and even though the Idaho game got cancelled due to lightning, that prediction seems more realistic after Week 1.
South Carolina's defensive holes were exposed, Missouri didn't exactly set the world on fire against South Dakota State, and it looks like Vanderbilt's transition to new head coach Derek Mason may be a little tougher than Mason anticipated.
We didn't get to see new offensive coordinator Kurt Roper's offense in action, but he's the perfect fit for quarterback Jeff Driskel, knows how to get the ball to playmakers in space and has the luxury of having one of the best defenses in America across the practice field. That's the beauty of Florida this year—the offense doesn't have to be great, it has to be adequate.
That shouldn't be difficult for these Gators.
I'm sticking to my three loses that I predicted in August: Alabama, Georgia and Florida State, with the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party deciding the SEC East title.
Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and video analyst for Bleacher Report, and co-host of the CFB Hangover on Bleacher Report Radio (Sundays 9-11 a.m. ET) on Sirius 93 XM 208. Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats are courtesy of CFBStats.com, and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports.
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