Todd Gurley's Opening Night Statement
If a player who plays a position other than quarterback is going to win the Heisman Trophy, it helps to make a statement early.
Georgia running back Todd Gurley's statement was made on Saturday afternoon between the hedges, when he set a Bulldog single-game record with 293 all-purpose yards and four total touchdowns in Georgia's 45-21 win over ACC foe Clemson.
"Todd Gurley is obviously as good as it gets," Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said. "He is a great, great football player. If you give him the ball in the position that we gave them he is going to do great things. Gurley, and all their backs, were special tonight."
The performance was good enough to vault Gurley into the No. 3 spot in B/R's Saturday night Heisman rankings and has him as high as first in others, including HeismanPundit.com's weekly straw poll.
Lofty praise for Gurley for sure, but how realistic is it that he can legitimately win the Heisman Trophy?
It's going to take a lot considering there's a crowded quarterback field this year that includes Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston, Baylor's Bryce Petty and, as we saw during Week 1, Texas A&M quarterback Kenny Hill.
Only two non-quarterbacks have won the award since 2000: former Alabama running back Mark Ingram (2009) and former USC running back Reggie Bush (2005)—who returned his after NCAA sanctions hit the Trojans.
Playing special teams will help Gurley, though. That's something that he should continue to do as long as Georgia's running back depth in Athens stays intact. The emergence of true freshmen Sony Michel and Nick Chubb combined with veteran Keith Marshall allows the Bulldogs to keep Gurley fresh in the first half, use him on special teams as needed and then bring him in as "the hammer" in the second half to take advantage of tired defenses.
He's in the mix, and if the Bulldogs follow the same blueprint that worked last week against Clemson, Gurley has a legit chance to win college football's top individual prize.
Fixing The Glitch
It was clear watching Alabama play West Virginia inside the Georgia Dome on Saturday afternoon that cornerback play is still an issue for the Crimson Tide.
A big one.
Bradley Sylve and Cyrus Jones were both picked on by quarterback Clint Trickett early and often, and had it not been for several key drops and unforced errors, West Virginia would have put itself in position to spring the upset.
Head coach Nick Saban recognized the problem and is working this week to fix it.
Sophomore Eddie Jackson—who started four games last year and tore his ACL this spring—is practicing this week and should play this weekend against Florida Atlantic.
"He has practiced, he has done well, and I feel like we'll play him some in this game in some kind of way trying to ease him back into what he has to do to become a player at his position, which he's totally capable of," Saban said on Wednesday. "A very good player who we're anxious to get back in the lineup, but certainly not at the expense of putting him at any risk."
That's big, because Alabama's secondary needs to be fixed in a hurry.
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As I mentioned in the video above, it appeared to me that both quarterback Blake Sims and Jake Coker approached the season opener as the No. 1 and No. 2 quarterbacks, respectively—not as "1A" and "1B." Coker will likely get a shot to prove his coaches wrong these next two weeks against Florida Atlantic and Southern Miss, but the coaching staff was fine with Sims managing the game well—especially when they went more no-huddle in the second quarter.
"I thought Blake did a really good job," Saban said after the game. "He had a couple of guys open who he missed, and he also had a couple of guys who dropped balls that he delivered. All and all, for him to throw for 250 yards, he did a pretty good job of executing."
Can Sims open it up if Alabama gets forced into a shootout? He didn't have to against West Virginia, and Saban and offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin would probably not go down that road if they don't have to. That's why Saban is exploring options in the defensive backfield, because offensively, this is what the Crimson Tide is at the moment.
Time for Ole Miss to Act Like a Contender
Ole Miss' first outing was successful—the Rebels topped Boise State 35-13 last Thursday in the first of two Chick-fil-A Kickoff Games—but that game was much closer than the score indicates, and quarterback Bo Wallace was the reason why.
Wallace tossed three picks in the first half, telegraphed his passes and allowed a clearly undermanned Bronco team to hang around far too long.
"Two of the three interceptions were a bit unbelievable to us, because they weren't even in his progression on the route," Freeze said after the game. "He'll be the first to tell you that, and he knows that. It was a bit amazing. He was a little out of sync."
A team improves the most between the first and second game of the season, and the Rebel quarterback better play smarter against a struggling Vanderbilt team in Nashville, otherwise contending for the SEC West will be more wishful thinking than anything else.
The foundation for Ole Miss is set. The defense looks nasty, Laquon Treadwell is a monster at wide receiver and tight end Evan Engram is a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses. Wallace just needs to stay smart, and Ole Miss needs to find a running game.
If they accomplish those two things against the 'Dores at LP Field, they can become that fly in the ointment in the SEC West.
Is Brandon Harris the Forgotten Man?
Sophomore Anthony Jennings and true freshman Brandon Harris entered last weekend's game in a battle for the top spot on the depth chart, but it didn't look like it based on how head coach Les Miles and offensive coordinator Cam Cameron used them.
Harris only got one series against the Badgers in which he didn't throw a pass late in the second quarter.
That will change this weekend against Sam Houston State.
“I think Brandon Harris is coming,” Miles said according to Glenn Guilbeau of Gannett Louisiana. “We’re not going to predetermine lack of playing time for him. We’re going to continue to bring him on. But it was obvious in that game that the opportunity for us to win was to get Anthony Jennings comfortable in there and let him play."
Jennings was just 9-of-21 against the Badgers but was 4-of-6 for 119 yards and a touchdown in the second half. Expect LSU to weave Harris more into the game plan this week to gauge what his upside is. If the Bossier City, Louisiana native "gets it" and shows more upside, more playing time may come his way early in the season.
- Missouri opened as a 5.5-point favorite at Toledo, and that line has actually dropped to 3.5 or 4.0 according to OddsShark.com. There's a good reason. Missouri's defense looked average at best last week to South Dakota State, and the Tigers let the Jackrabbits—with a backup quarterback—hang around way too long. If the Tigers mess around this week, the Rockets could spring the upset.
- South Carolina better watch out for East Carolina. The Pirates can sling it around, and South Carolina's defense has major issues in the front and back ends.
- Breakout star this week: Alabama quarterback Blake Sims. If the 250 yards last week count as his breakout performance, than go with Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel.
- Who will disappoint? Auburn's defense. The Tigers will experiment up front a bit, which will lead to plenty of yards for the Spartans. It won't matter for Auburn's offense, which will play dial-a-score on offense.
- UAB beat Troy by 38 points last week, but Mississippi State shouldn't worry. The Bulldog defense is tough, and barring some major unforeseen development, Dan Mullen's crew should roll.
- Psst...Vandy...settle on a quarterback and actually let him play.
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.