The SEC East looked great in Week One. Here are some highlights of the season openers.
Two years ago, Urban Meyer called his running backs “trash.” Against Hawaii—whose biggest strength is its front seven—the Gators ran the ball 38 times, with 10 different players getting carries, 11 if you count the punter, Chas Henry.
It had to be tempting to let Tebow loose against the overmatched Hawaii defensive backs, but Meyer only allowed his Heisman winner to throw 14 times.
255 yards on 38 carries, good for 6.7 yards per carry: Something tells me Meyer likes his backfield a little more these days.
And I’m convinced that Brandon James, Chris Rainey, and Jeff Demps are the same person. There is no way three guys that size can all run that fast and play for the same team. These diminutive backs combined for four of the Gators’ touchdowns, and Demps scored from 62 yards out on his second carry of his college career.
As for the Gator defense, it looked fantastic, attacking, blitzing, and making jumps on the ball. That said, Hawaii’s offense is certainly nothing special. But Gator fans have to be excited about the energy, big hits, and confidence their team played with.
Crazy fact: Florida didn’t score in the first or fourth quarters and still posted 56 points, 21 of those coming from the defense and special teams.
Georgia certainly took care of business against Georgia Southern, going up 38-0 before giving up some late meaningless touchdowns.
Offensively, the Bulldogs were sharp.
Stafford threw for a career-high in yards, even if it was only 275. Perhaps the best part of Stafford’s game was that he didn't throw an interception, avoiding the mental errors that have plagued him in the past.
Meanwhile, all three Georgia tailbacks—Moreno and the freshmen, Caleb King and Richard Samuel, did damage on the ground.
Freshman receiver A.J. Green looked sharp as well, hauling in a key pass to set up a score for the Bulldogs, and freshman kicker Blair Walsh nailed a 52-yard field goal.
However, Georgia fans have to be concerned with another injury report. First, All SEC left tackle Trinton Sturdivant went out for the year before the season started, and now it appears the Dawgs will lose a starting tackle from the defensive side, as Jeff Owens left with a right-knee injury early in the game.
The loss of Owens would certainly cut into the depth on defense for the Bulldogs. And with the tough schedule quickly approaching, you have to wonder if Georgia can stay healthy.
Yes, Tommy Beecher threw four interceptions. But don’t count this kid out yet. It was the quarterback’s first start, and it was a nationally-televised game against an aggressive and fast Wolfpack frontline, which pressured Beecher on nearly every play.
It’s hard to take too much away from this game. The Gamecock offense isn’t bad enough to post three points in a half, and they certainly aren’t good enough to run off 31 in a half.
Mike Davis looked dynamic, running for 101 yards—courtesy of a 50-yard scamper late in the game against the worn out Wolfpack defense. But Davis catches the ball well out of the backfield, and he can flat out run over you. This kid looks like he is on a mission.
The defense, though, certainly lived up to the hype.
New DC Ellis Johnson has to feel good about a shutout in his first game, even it was against a mediocre ACC team. Even cupcakes find a way to get a touchdown or two in blowout games, and the Wolfpack couldn’t muster a thing—they were held to an embarrassing 138 total yards for the game.
Bottom line is that NC State is a bad team, so the season essentially starts next week at Vanderbilt for South Carolina.
The Commodores pasted Miami of Ohio, going up early and avoiding a letdown throughout the entire game.
Not long ago, Bobby Johnson wasn’t sure who was going to start at quarterback for the opener. But after Chris Nickson’s brilliant performance, there is no doubt who will take the field against South Carolina next Thursday.
Nickson accounted for three touchdowns, two on the ground, as part of his 166-yard rushing performance, and one through the air.
D.J. Moore looked the part of the SEC first teamer he is supposed to be. Moore picked off a pass early in the game and then took a punt return 91 yards to the one-yard line.
The trouble, though, comes with a closer look at the numbers. Vandy was actually outgained offensively by the Redhawks, giving up 360 total yards. Miami showed they could move the ball on Vandy’s defense, but three interceptions proved too costly to overcome.
Then there is the fact that Nickson only threw for 91 yards. While the Commodores certainly didn’t need the passing yards, Vandy fans might be concerned that the leading receiver, senior Sean Walker, only had two catches.
On top of that, only three completions went for more than 10 yards. With Earl Bennett gone, Vandy needs a clear No. 1 guy to step up.
Vanderbilt will certainly be tested by South Carolina’s aggressive defense next Thursday.
As for the other two East teams, Kentucky plays Sunday, and Tennessee kicks off on Labor Day.
For the SEC West recap, click here.