The Southeastern Conference is usually known for its strong defenses and 2010 does not seem to be an exception.
With the exception of LSU, no SEC team played a truly competitive opponent in Week 1, but apparently someone forgot to tell the Ole Miss Rebels and Vanderbilt Commodores that they were supposed to dominate.
Ole Miss was the unfortunate recipient of a Week 1 loss to Jacksonville State, the 2010 equivalent of Appalachian State as the Rebel offense turned the ball over several times, leaving the defense to defend a shortened field.
Vanderbilt was just picked apart by Northwestern and has no reprieve as they host LSU in Nashville in Week 2. The Commodores have a long way to go before they can be competitive in the SEC.
Week 1 is not usually a great test of a team's true strength as it is usually a warm-up game against an extremely inferior team, but performances can sometimes be indicative of things to come.
Overall, the SEC defenses did their jobs in Week 1, but again it’s difficult to tell if the defense causes the opponent to look bad or if the bad opponent causes the defense to look good.
Week 2 will probably be a better indication of what some of these defenses are capable of, but still, from weakest to strongest, I have attempted to rate the SEC defenses based on their Week 1 performance regardless of the lack of competitive opponents.
Did Tennessee’s blanking of Tennessee-Martin earn the Volunteers the No.1 spot? Is Arkansas return to glory and top the charts? Or will Nick Saban’s Crimson Tide continue in their championship form of 2009 and take home the Week 1 glory as the Power Defense?
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Vandy had its hands full in Week 1 as they took on Northwestern. Although the 23-21 score doesn’t show it, the Wildcats dismantled the Commodore defense.
Northwestern quarterback Dan Persa was surgically precise in his attack, completing 19 of 21 attempts for 222 yards and three touchdowns.
The Commodores have no chance of competing in the SEC if they don’t improve tremendously on the defensive side of the ball.
Speedy LSU comes to Nashville in Week 2 and should have their way with Vandy’s defense.
The Kentucky Wildcats showed tremendous defensive weakness in Week 1 against in-state rival Louisville.
Although the Wildcats held the Cardinals to a respectable 317 total yards, they demonstrated a severe weakness in stopping the run, giving up 190 yards and an average of 5.9 yards per carry, including 153 yards to Cardinal RB Bilal Powell.
Allowing 190 rushing yards to Louisville is not good when they have four ranked teams on their schedule in the next seven games. Lucky for them, they have Western Kentucky and Akron coming to town in the next two weeks, giving them a chance to make necessary repairs to their defense.
As bad is it is to lose to Jacksonville State, the Ole Miss defense really didn’t have that bad of a day. Yes, giving up over 300 yards to an inferior team is bad, but in all actuality, the offense was the bigger reason for the loss, turning the ball over three times.
The Rebel defense was put in bad spots on several occasions and was forced to defend a short field.
If they expect to compete in the SEC, the Ole Miss defense will need to produce turnovers.
The Auburn Tigers’ defense was not as successful in Week 1 as head coach Gene Chizik would have liked.
The Tigers allowed 366 yards to an Arkansas State team that has no business competing with an SEC power-house.
The Red Wolves controlled the clock with a 35-25 advantage in time-of-possession.
The only positive Auburn can take from this game defensively is the run defense that held Arkansas State to 43 yards.
Auburn travels to Starkville in Week 2 to take on surprising Mississippi State who racked up 569 yards in Week 1.
Despite a convincing win against Southern Miss, South Carolina’s defense was not impressive at all. Against the run, USC did well, holding Southern Miss to only 67 yards. However, the Gamecocks allowed 337 passing yards against their Conference USA opponent.
Steve Spurrier better have his team more prepared in Week 2 when Georgia comes to town.
LSU made North Carolina quarterback T.J. Yates look like a Heisman candidate in the second half of their Week 1 match-up. However, this seemed to be more to the coaching staff calling off the dogs than a lack of ability.
In the first half the Tigers defensive line lived in the UNC backfield, constantly harassing Yates and the Tar Heel running backs.
A really aggressive blitzing style of defense is the Tigers’ strength.
The Tigers will play a full 60 minutes in Week 2 and display their true abilities against SEC foe Vanderbilt.
It’s been a long time since we’ve seen the Florida Gators struggle against Week 1 competition, but regardless of the lack of fire-power that the Gator offense showed, the defense did an amazing job.
Urban Meyer’s squad held Miami (OH) to only 212 yards total and only four yards on the ground. The Gators dominance on defense kept them from the threat of an embarrassing loss to an over matched opponent.
Not only did the Gators hold the Redhawks to only 208 yards of passing, they also added four interceptions to add insult to injury.
Mark Richt’s Bulldogs displayed a level of dominance that is expected when an SEC team meets an inferior opponent out of a small conference.
Georgia’s defense held the UL Lafayette Ragin Cajuns to 128 total yards and only 14 yards on 29 rushing attempts for a 0.5 average.
It’s hard to tell if the Bulldog defense was dominant because the Ragin Cajun offense was bad, or if the Ragin Cajun offense was bad because Georgia’s defense was dominant.
We’ll find out this week when the Bulldog’s go on the road to take on SEC competition in South Carolina.
Are the Bulldogs back?
Mississippi State surprised a lot of people in Week 1 as they racked up 569 yards on offense and held their opponent to 237 total yards. It looks like head coach Dan Mullen has his team on the right track to get back into the SEC hunt.
But before we get ahead of ourselves, the Bulldogs have #21 Auburn coming to town in Week 2. This will be a more true test of talent.
The Razorbacks defense took care of business as expected in Week 1 as they held Tennessee Tech to under 200 yards of total offense.
The Golden Eagles threw everything they had at Arkansas as they had nine different players carry the ball in 43 attempts. But it was all for nothing as they were held to only 79 yards on the ground.
Despite dominating the field, the Razorbacks failed to force a turnover and turned the ball over themselves three times. This ratio will not get them very far when they get into their SEC schedule.
The Derek Dooley era at Tennessee kicked off in great fashion in Week 1 when they blanked in-state opponent Tennessee-Martin in a 50-0 rout.
The Volunteer defense was stellar as they held the Skyhawks to 142 total yards and intercepted Derek Carr twice.
Tennessee also stopped the run well as they held Tennessee-Martin to 56 yards on the ground and 1.9 yards per carry.
The Volunteers will be truly tested in Week 2 when they host #7 Oregon who is coming off of a 72-0 rout of their own. If they can contain Oregon, it will prove that the Volunteer defense is one of the best in the country.
Nick Saban’s Crimson Tide did exactly what anyone would expect a Saban-coached team to do against an inferior Week 1 opponent. They dominated on both sides of the ball.
The offense gained over 500 yards without Heisman running back Mark Ingram.
On defense, the Crimson Tide did their job, holding San Jose State to under 200 yards of total offense and under 50% completion.
Cornerback Robert Lester had Alabama’s lone turnover when he intercepted Jordan La Secla.
The defense was a question mark coming into the season after losing the bulk of their defensive stars to the NFL draft, but it looks like Saban has reloaded as usual.