SEC Week 1: How Did Your Team Stack Up?

Kevin ScottCorrespondent ISeptember 8, 2009

GAINESVILLE, FL - SEPTEMBER 05:  Florida Gator head coach Urban Meyer watches Tim Tebow #15 following a touchdown during the game against the Charleston Southern Buccaneers at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on September 5, 2009 in Gainesville, Florida.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

I'm a firm believer that you can learn something about your team in any game, no matter the opponent.  Sure, if you play a better team you are going to learn more, but anytime you step on the field in a competitive environment you have a chance to see something about your team.

In Week 1, most of the SEC played fairly manageable opponents, while a few stepped out to test themselves against top tier teams.  In the following review, I'm going to give my perspective on how each SEC team did in making a first impression this season.

The order will be in where I think each team stacks up respectively in a "power ranking" type system.

1.  Florida - 62-3 W vs Charleston Southern

As expected, the Gators trounced CSU at home with minimal effort.  One concerning point in the game was that the Gators' vaunted defense allowed CSU 323 yards of offense, more than one would expect from what many consider the nation's top defensive unit.  In spite of that, Florida showed again it possesses outstanding athletes to compliment QB Tim Tebow and still holds the #1 spot in the conference as the defending National Champion.

Up next for Florida is Troy, who lost to Bowling Green last week 31-14.  Look for Meyer to really put an emphasis on holding down Troy's yardage to make a statement about his defense, as Troy should be no match for the Gators.  Take Florida and lay the 36.5.

2.  Alabama - 34-24 W vs Virginia Tech

The score doesn't begin to show the Tide's domination of the Hokies.  Bama piled up 498 yards of offense while holding Tech to a measly 155.  If it weren't for some big plays in the kicking game, Bama would have won this one by 30, as Tech was completely outmanned.  

Bama's defense is strong, fast, and tackles very well.  Mark Ingram and Julio Jones may be the best players at their positions in the conference on offense, and Greg McElroy proved more than up to the task in his starting debut.  Time will only make McElroy better, which makes one wonder if anyone will be able to slow Bama down by the end of the year, even Florida.

Next week, Bama gets Florida International at home and should be up by more than the spread at halftime.  The Tide will roll, lay the 34.

3.  Ole Miss - 45 -14 W @ Memphis

The Ole Miss score is the exact opposite of Bama's, this game was much closer than it indicates.  Ole Miss struggled in the first half with a couple of bad turnovers and an inability to make any big plays against a sub par Memphis defense.  Call it rust, but it had to be frustrating for Houston Nutt that this was so close at the half, and the Rebs didn't score a point in the 3rd.  However, they blew it open with 28 4th quarter points.

Dexter McCluster continued to show he's as dynamic of a playmaker as there is in college football and I really liked the running of Brandon Bolden.  I have some concern over Jevan Snead, though, as he wasn't as accurate as we've seen him in the past, so one has to wonder if the rumors circulating of a collarbone injury were more than just a little preseason talk.

Ole Miss is off next week.

4.  LSU - 31-23 W @ Washington

The Tigers were no doubt disappointed in their defense for the opener, getting out-gained 478 to 321, as John Chavis made his LSU debut.  Washington was an 0-12 team last year, but returned Jake Locker, a QB everyone thinks will be a very good one.  Plus, the environment of a "new era" under new coach Steve Sarkisian and a rabid crowd helped the Huskies keep it much closer than many thought.

Jordan Jefferson turned in another solid day and didn't turn the ball over, which is really all a QB at LSU should have to do.  Terrance Toliver showed up great at WR and Charles Scott and Keiland Williams were steady on the ground.

LSU hosts Vanderbilt next week in what should be a tougher test, but being the home opener will probably end up as a big win for LSU.  I expect the Dores to hang around for a half, but only laying 14 1/2 is too good to pass up.  Night game at Tiger Stadium, lay the points.

5.  Tennessee - 63-7 W vs Western Kentucky

"Homer," "Orange glasses," or whatever else, get it out of your system.  Tennessee kicked off the Lane Kiffin era by doing what they were supposed to do, beating the snot out of an inferior team.  That's something Vol fans have become all too accustomed to not seeing.  Despite a scoreless first quarter, the Vols racked up a FBS best 657 yards of offense and 63 points, while the defense held the 'Toppers to 83 total yards.

Jon Crompton looked like a different player, looking off receivers and throwing accurate balls with zip.  Montario Hardesty and Bryce Brown both eclipsed 100 yards, while a total of 3 freshmen scored TDs.  The Vol offense operated much more efficiently than last season, limiting mental mistakes and procedure penalties, something that plagued them in every game last season.

Week 2 is a statement game for the Vols and Kiffin, they lost to UCLA last season in Pasadena, but this is a very different team.  Eric Berry leads a defense that is fast, smart, and coached by a living legend in Monte Kiffin.  Right now, the line is at eight.  Very rarely have I ever felt good about UT covering a spread, but lay the eight, because the Vols will pile it on.

6.  Georgia - 24-10 L @ Oklahoma State

The Bulldogs deserve some credit for playing a Top 10 opponent to open the season, especially on the road, as that's the first time they've opened the season that far from home since Moses parted the sea.  However, the first drive aside, the Dawgs really struggled to generate anything on offense and Joe Cox appears to be Joe Tereshinski 2.0.

Yes, I know, Caleb King didn't play.  And the Dawgs saw the potential in Orson Charles who made a couple nice catches, he'll be a great compliment to A.J. Green.  Cox, however, was underwhelming and one has to wonder how well he'll be able to get the ball to these playmakers.  Willie Martinez's defense was much improved, but still lacks the one or two playmakers Georgia is used to having on defense.

Next week UGA hosts the Cocks.  While I think UGA will win the game, losing Sturdivant for a second straight season will open a hole on the offensive line and USC will have a chance at keeping it close.  Take the points and SC, but UGA will win the game.

7.  South Carolina 7-3 W @ N.C. State

Hampered by bad decisions and drops, the Wolfpack looked terrible on offense at times, but some credit must go to the SC defense.  This group lost a lot of talent from last year's unit, but still shows impressive speed and athleticism, with an ability to make plays that could change a game.  Holding any BCS school to 133 yards is an accomplishment.

The questions for the Cocks start on offense.  Stephen Garcia can look like an all world player one play, and lost the next.  It's clear Carolina has great potential at the skill positions, as their running game dominated at times during their opener.  The offense was stifled by bad decisions and inaccuracy by Garcia, which could be problematic in the SEC where being one dimensional is a season killer.

Next week the Cocks travel to UGA.  See Georgia for prediction.

8.  Kentucky - 42-0 @ Miami, OH

42-0 is a nice road win no matter who you are playing, it's especially nice when it's a program you recruit against.  The Cats rolled up 488 yards of offense without turning the ball over and holding the Redhawks to a total of 188 yards.  Randall Cobb had a great day with a rushing and receiving TD, while Mike Hartline proved serviceable with an 18 for 27 performance, yielding 222 yards and 2 TDs.

Many believe this to be Kentucky's most talented defense ever, led by Trevard Lindley who nabbed an interception on Saturday.  Losing Jeremy Jarmon before the season will hurt the pass rush, but it appears Kentucky's defense, while not elite, is certainly better than it has been.

UK is off next week, then it's Louisville.

9.  Arkansas - 48-10 W vs Missouri State

Dennis Johnson returning the opening kickoff of the season for a TD has to be a good sign.  In Bobby Petrino's second season, it's not unrealistic to expect great improvement, especially since high school All American and transfer Ryan Mallett is now taking the snaps.

The biggest question for the Hogs is on defense, where a year ago they had a hard time stopping anyone.  Also, the skill positions were left void of some talent when Nutt left, but Petrino always had a way of getting more from less at Louisville, so Arky should be able to tread water.

Next week, the Hogs are off to prepare for a telling matchup with Georgia in 2 weeks.

10.  Auburn - 37-13 W vs Louisiana Tech

While Auburn's talent level is nowhere near where they got used to, I have to believe there is still some talent there.  Saturday, there were obviously some good athletes on the field for the Tigers and it seemed they were buying into new coach Gene Chizik's system.  

While La. Tech has a weak defense, Chris Todd looking good and the Tigers' running game producing two 100 yard rushers is encouraging considering how abysmal the offense was last season.  Onterio McCaleb emerged as a stout playmaker to compliment veteran Ben Tate.

One thing Tech is normally good at, though, is offense.  Auburn held them to 245 yards and forced two turnovers.  

Next week, Auburn hosts Mississippi State.  This will be a telling game for the Tigers as the Dogs are rebuilding under Dan Mullen, but run a spread offense that Auburn may have problems with.  In the end, the Tigers athletes will take over, get some turnovers and push the game over the spread.  Take Auburn -14 1/2 at home.

11.  Vanderbilt - 45-0 W vs Western Carolina

The Commodores start off the season with a thumping of a weaker team.  Again, one would expect an SEC team to do so, but Vandy has had a problem in the past with playing down to opponents.  This time, the Dores matched a solid running game with a stingy defense, out gaining the Catamounts 620 to 115.

Freshmen Zac Stacy and Warren Norman both went for over 100 yards rushing in a record setting performance for Vandy.  Eric Samuels and the Dores defense forced four turnovers in a good opening game for that unit.

Next week at LSU should be telling for Vandy.  Contrary to initial reports, QB Larry Smith left the game due to dehydration and not an injured arm, so he'll be available.  Vandy's best hope is to keep this game close and build some confidence, as LSU should be able to pull away late.

12.  Mississippi State - 45-7 W vs Jackson State

Dan Mullen's debut went as planned, a beating of a lesser school, giving his team a shot of confidence.  The Bulldogs looks like a different team Saturday, with a new system and some hope of righting their ship.  QB Chris Relf threw 3 TDs and led the team in rushing, giving the Dogs another dimension from that position in the spread.

Despite the good showing, Miss State is short on talent, and there's no nicer way to say it. They are the least talented team in the league and have to fight a daunting schedule against the SEC West, then throw Georgia Tech into the mix.  The tough part is, their games against highly ranked teams are all at home, so the home crowd will have to watch home blowouts, one after the other.

This week, the Bulldogs travel to the plains to face Auburn.  See Auburn above for the prediction.


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