Welcome back to the world of the knee-jerk. Here in the microwave manner of today’s instant “hot take” world, every reaction leans toward an overreaction. All we need is a small sample size to make a sweeping proclamation.
Most recent case in point, the downfall of the SEC. Surely, you’ve heard the news. On what was the greatest opening weekend in college football history — “arguably” doesn’t apply; no one uses “arguably” anymore — the once loud and proud leader of the college game took it on the glass chin.
Around these parts, we are too well aware of Kentucky’s Saturday night meltdown against visiting Southern Miss when the Cats coughed up a 25-point first-half lead and lost 44-35. UK wasn’t alone, however. Among its mates, misery loved conference company.
Mississippi State lost to South Alabama, which came as quite the surprise to a large section of the nation unaware South Alabama even had a football program. LSU traveled to legendary Lambeau Field and suffered a loss to unranked Wisconsin. Missouri was mashed in Morgantown by West Virginia. Monday night, Ole Miss zoomed to a 28-6 lead over Florida State only to slip on a banana peel in the second half and lose 45-34.
Even several of the SEC’s winners were hardly impressive. Tennessee needed a comeback and overtime to vanquish visiting Appalachian State. Arkansas survived Louisiana Tech by a single point. Florida’s offense sputtered in a win over UMass. South Carolina needed a 55-yard field goal in the closing moments at Vanderbilt to give Will Muschamp his first win as Gamecocks coach.
Still, all this moaning and groaning about the league’s first week seems a bit overblown.
For starters, several league teams did get off to impressive starts. With the help of Damien Harris’ 138 rushing yards, Alabama smashed Southern Cal 52-6 in Arlington, Texas. Over in College Station, Texas A&M knocked off No. 16 UCLA 31-24 in overtime. Georgia’s Nick Chubb, who missed most of last season with a torn ACL, proved he’s Nick Chubb again, rushing for 222 yards in the Bulldogs’ 33-24 win over North Carolina.
How will Florida’s coaches address the streak over Kentucky this week?
Auburn lost 19-13 at home to Clemson, but give the losers credit. Clemson is the defending national runner-up and proud owner of the nation’s best quarterback, Deshaun Watson. Holding Clemson under 20 points is an accomplishment. And a six-point loss is hardly cause for War Eagle to hang his head.
Besides, there are some justifiable reasons some league members were not rocking and rolling right out of the starting gate. In fact, there is one big reason: A lack of experienced, talented quarterbacks. Saturday showed why several schools waited until the last minute before announcing who would take the first snap in the first game.
Dak Prescott doesn’t play in Starkville anymore. South Carolina used two quarterbacks in Nashville. Auburn used three. Arkansas broke in a new first-string quarterback. So did Florida. Even after Georgia’s win, new head coach Kirby Smart said he would continue his quarterback competition for another week.
Alabama’s Nick Saban was also among those who didn’t announce a starter at quarterback until game time, but in case you haven’t noticed, the Crimson Tide isn’t like most teams. Saban has so much talent and Bama is so well-coached, not sure it matters who plays quarterback. The Tide Train just keeps on rolling.
A glaring exception may be LSU, which has a quarterback in Brandon Harris but no offense. Deep-pocketed Louisiana boosters nearly got Les Miles fired a year ago and you can bet they’ll come after the LSU coach again if the plodding persists. How a team with Leonard Fournette can score just 14 points is a mystery the great college football scholars will study for some time.
As for the rest of the league, expect improvement. Once coaches settle on a quarterback and once that quarterback gets experience, SEC teams should start looking like SEC teams again. There’s just too much talent on too many rosters for the league to stay flat on the mat for too long. Prepare for a comeback.
SEC football schedule for Sept. 10
- Noon: Nicholls State at Georgia (SEC)
- Noon: Prairie View A&M at Texas A&M (SEC alternate)
- 3:30 p.m.: Kentucky at Florida (CBS)
- 3:30 p.m.: Western Kentucky at Alabama (ESPN2)
- 4 p.m.: Wofford at Ole Miss (SEC)
- 4 p.m.: Middle Tennessee at Vanderbilt (SEC alternate)
- 7 p.m.: Arkansas at TCU (ESPN)
- 7 p.m.: South Carolina at Mississippi State (ESPN2)
- 7 p.m.: Eastern Michigan at Missouri (SEC alternate)
- 7:30 p.m.: Jacksonville State at LSU (ESPNU)
- 8 p.m.: Tennessee vs. Virginia Tech (ABC)