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Scoping out the SEC: Week two in review

Vols get huge road win, angst in Aggieland, and Bryce Young magic highlight an action packed week two

Syndication: The Knoxville News-Sentinel Caitie McMekin/News Sentinel / USA TODAY NETWORK

While week one saw a multitude of high profile matchups, week two brought the drama. Season two under Josh Heupel is off to a promising start for the Vols as they marched into Pittsburgh and took down the 17th ranked Panthers while patience out of College Station has begun to wear thin with Jimbo Fisher in the biggest upset of the weekend. Following a near upset against unranked Texas, Alabama fell to two in the latest AP Poll while Georgia leaps into the number one spot.


SEC East

9 Kentucky | 2-0 (1-0) +34 point differential (63 F, 29 A)
1 Georgia | 2-0 (0-0) +79 point differential (82 F, 3 A)
15 Tennessee | 2-0 (0-0) +56 point differential (93 F, 37 A)
Vanderbilt | 2-1 (0-0) +44 point differential (130 F, 86 A)
Missouri | 1-1 (0-0) 0 point differential (64 F, 64 A)
18 Florida | 1-1 (0-1) -7 point differential (45 F, 52 A)
South Carolina | 1-1 (0-1) +7 point differential (65 F, 58 A)

SEC West

10 Arkansas | 2-0 (1-0) +21 point differential (75 F, 54 A)
2 Alabama | 2-0 (0-0) +56 point differential (75 F, 19 A)
Auburn | 2-0 (0-0) +34 point differential (66 F, 32 A)
20 Ole Miss | 2-0 (0-0) +74 point differential (87 F, 13 A)
Mississippi St | 2-0 (0-0) +48 point differential (88 F, 40 A)
LSU | 1-1 (0-0) +47 point differential (88 F, 41 A)
24 Texas A&M | 1-1 (0-0) +28 point differential (45 F, 17 A)

Now onto the games this week for each team.


Tennessee: Vols outlast 17th ranked Pitt in top-25 showdown, 34-27

To be on the winning side of a game like sure was refreshing! In so many ways, this game felt like it was bound to slip away from Tennessee in the second half. Tennessee had a lot favoring them going into the second half. The Vols turned around an early 10-0 deficit into a 24-17 halftime lead. Kedon Slovis exited the game due to injury, leaving Pitt without its starting QB.

However, that’s not how it went. The usually accurate Hendon Hooker was missing throws we’re not used to seeing him miss. The Tennessee pass rush was superb all day, but there was inexplicably always an open receiver for Pitt on third down, and a late Pitt TD forced overtime. If we’re all the same, your heart sank, filled with dread. We’ve been here before.

But alas, superstars make super plays, and that’s exactly what happened in OT. Hooker found Cedric Tillman for a spectacular touchdown that ended up being the game winner.

A sack by Trevon Flowers on third and goal put Pitt at the 20 with one play to extend the game, and the eventual 4th down pass fell incomplete. It wasn’t pretty, but Heupel, Hooker, and co. have a big statement win early in the season.

Kentucky: ‘Cats stifle Richardson, Florida in the Swamp, 26-16

Mark Stoops makes history in this one, becoming Kentucky’s all-time winningest coach, passing the legendary Bear Bryant. Florida opened as 4.5-point favorites and were as much as 6-point favorites by kickoff. The first half featured good defense and big plays with Florida leading at half, largely in part to Kentucky’s inability to run the football.

The second half, however, was all Kentucky’s defense. All game long, they contained Anthony Richardson and forced him into tough throws, and the dam finally broke late in the third quarter. Tied at 16, Richardson and Nay’Quan Wright got their wires crossed, and Keidron Smith stepped in front, picked off the pass, and took it to the house to take a 23-16 lead. Kentucky has serious questions along their offensive line, but their secondary is among the best units in the SEC.

Georgia: Dawgs cruise to easy win, number one ranking

While it should’ve been this way from the start, Georgia finds themselves ranked number one once again. Things were very easy for the Bulldogs as they dominated Samford, 33-0. Nearly every starter was out by halftime as Kirby Smart’s squad amassed a 30-0 lead by the break.

Stetson Bennett continues to impress on the young season while Georgia’s suffocating defense held a substantially inferior Samford offense to 128 total yards. The Dawgs head to Columbia to face South Carolina next week to open their SEC slate, a place where Mark Richt’s worst nightmares used to come true, but not Kirby Smart’s.

Vanderbilt: Commodores come up short against Wake, 45-25

It was a rough day for Mike Wright. Despite a pair of strong performances, totaling 10 touchdowns against inferior opponents, Hawai’i and FCS-level Elon, Wake Forest dominated the dual threat quarterback, so much so that head coach Clark Lea made the decision to bench him in favor of AJ Swann.

Though the game was out of hand, Swann impressed, going 8-for-11 for 146 yards and two touchdowns with no turnovers, posting a 96.3 QBR. Looks like there could be a QB battle in Nashville.

Also, it was great to see Wake QB Sam Hartman in good health and back on the field.

Missouri: Kansas State rides running game, rolls Mizzou 40-12

40-12 seems bad, but what if I told you it actually should have been worse? Brady Cook and Jack Abraham each threw a pair of interceptions as Missouri’s offense was matched only by its porous run defense. The only thing that saved them from 50-plus on their heads were Kansas State’s untimely penalty problems that continually demoralized their drives.

Another defensive coordinator, another Mizzou defense that can’t stop the run. Eli Drinkwitz is now on his third d-coordinator in three years, and the same problem continues to rear its ugly head. Deuce Vaughn ran through the Tiger defense, totaling 145 yards and a pair of touchdowns while Adrian Martinez added another 52 yards and a score. The pass defense looks solid much like it did a year ago, but if you can’t stop the run, you can’t stop anyone.

Florida: Trusting the process is not a linear path

Anthony Richardson is going to be good, it’s simply a matter of getting there. Richardson was coming off a great game in Florida’s upset win over Utah, but Kentucky’s defense completely neutralized him. Richardson couldn’t get much going on the ground and completed just 14 of his 35 pass attempts, throwing two interceptions including the aforementioned pick-six that put Kentucky ahead for good. It’s going to take time and reps, but Florida has a good one here, it’s all about withstanding the lumps and letting him develop.

Aside from Richardson, the defense’s run defense looked much improved compared to their struggles against Utah’s rushing attack. There are many bright spots on this team, and while this is likely not going to be an SEC contending team, they’re building for the future here.

South Carolina: They’re going to play spoiler against someone, just not Arkansas

Spencer Rattler played much better in this game than against Georgia State, but lack of consistency and turnovers plagued their chances in this one. The Gamecocks found themselves down 21-3 before they could blink.

They fought back, scoring touchdowns late in the second quarter and on their first drive of the second half, cutting the lead to five, but their next three drives went punt-fumble-interception, leading to a pair of Arkansas touchdowns, putting this one out of reach.

South Carolina’s defense couldn’t stop Arkansas’ potent rushing attack, getting buried by the Hogs’ line and Raheim Sanders to the tune of 295 rushing yards as a team and five rushing touchdowns. Arkansas was able to keep South Carolina at arm’s distance, but it’s because of that that I think this team is so dangerous to a ranked team down the line. Arkansas made very few mistakes, but not every team is going to be this disciplined. Rattler has a huge arm, and this team has enough weapons to catch someone sleeping.

That being said, it likely won’t happen this coming week as the Gamecocks host Georgia, but we’ve seen weirder things happen in Columbia between these two teams.


Arkansas: The toughest team in the West maul the Gamecocks, 44-30

Raheim Sanders was dominant on the ground and KJ Jefferson was surgical through the air as the Arkansas offense controlled this game from the start. Rome wasn’t built in a day. It’s taken three years for Sam Pittman to get to this point, and he’s built one of the consistently best units along his offensive line in the country.

Is it too early to say someone has broken out? Because Raheim Sanders has broken out. Sanders had a good freshman campaign for the Hogs, but he’s the lead man in his sophomore season and has already amassed nearly half his yardage production from a year ago in just two games.

Defensively, they need to shore up their secondary. This team is getting solid pressure, but too many big plays are gashing this unit. That being said, my sleeper pick to emerge from the SEC West is on the right path. The Hogs will get a tune-up game against Missouri State before heading to Arlington to take on Texas A&M in a game they won a year ago and then return home to face Alabama.

Alabama: Tide survive scare in Austin, 20-19

If Quinn Ewers doesn’t get injured, this may be a very different story. In short, Alabama’s offense looked very stagnant. Bryce Young was under duress all game long as Gary Patterson dialed up blitzes that have fueled top 10 upsets for over a decade. We were on the verge of one here, but Hudson Card and the rest of Texas’ offense struggled to capitalize on promising opportunities, mustering just 16 points on five red zone drives.

Bryce Young worked some of his Heisman magic, orchestrating two late scoring drives, including the final drive that led to the game-winning field goal. 133 of Young’s 213 passing yards came on the final three drives, including his only touchdown pass. Not included there was his 20 yard run to set up the game winner.

Bama’s defense is mostly fine. Their pass rush is elite, but their secondary has a lot of exploitable holes against a vertical attack. Saban’s squad will take on UL-M before opening SEC play against Vanderbilt...poor Commodores.

Auburn: Do you know what to make of them? I sure don’t

Despite already completing two week’s worth of football, I have no idea what to make of this team. Two wins against teams they’re clearly better than does nothing for me when there is so much turnover within the team. One thing I do know, however, is this team has a MAJOR problem at quarterback. Tank Bigsby and Jarquez Hunter almost feel wasted in the backfield given the challenges they face in the passing game.

Defensively, they’ve played well, but they’ve not been tested. We’re sure to get more answers as to who this team is this week when they welcome Penn State to Jordan-Hare.

Ole Miss: All things are quiet along the Kiffin front

Things have been eerily, uncharacteristically quiet in Oxford as Ole Miss played its second straight cupcake, defeating Central Arkansas 59-3. Similar to Auburn, it’s too early to tell what this defense is going to be. Offensively, however, there’s less question about this team’s identity. They are going to run the football.

Last week it was Zach Evans, this week it was Quinshon Judkins. Similar to past years, the Rebs have a rock solid running back tandem they can lean on. As for quarterback? Eh, we’ll just have to wait and see. Jaxson Dart underwhelmed in his first game, but he looked much sharper here. Ole Miss heads to Bobby Dodd Stadium in a power-five non-conference matchup against Georgia Tech this week. With much more of a challenge presented, we’ll begin to edge out what this team is and will be.

Mississippi State: Mike Leach can’t hurt me...Mike Leach can’t hurt me...Mike Lea—

What an enigma this team was last year and will probably continue to be. From a team who couldn’t run the ball with a thousand-yard receiver who didn’t even average 10 yards a reception last year to a team that still can’t run the ball, but Will Rogers looks good!

Will Rogers is going to throw the ball 500 times again, isn’t he? He was 40-for-50 against Arizona for 320 yards and four touchdowns. Efficient completing the ball, not necessarily in moving the ball, however, but it didn’t affect them too much here as a pair of late touchdowns helped them pull away from ‘Zona. So, we’ve established they’re better than group-of-five Memphis and a middle of the road PAC-12 team. Can this kind of offense work in the SEC? I still strongly have my doubts.

LSU: Bayou Bengals respond vs. Southern after week one loss, 65-17

This game served a much bigger purpose to not just the schools, but the city of Baton Rouge in general. It was way more than just a football game, and you can read in depth about that here.

On the field, Jayden Daniels finally got his feet under him, completing 10 of his 11 attempts for 137 yards and three scores. Garrett Nussmeier relieved Daniels very early in this game (it was 51-0 at half), but he struggled tremendously, throwing a pair of interceptions.

Kayshon Boutte was more involved overall here than against FSU, but he basically had as much production on the ground as he did in the passing game, breaking off a 41 yard rush versus his five catches for 42 yards. For LSU’s offense to gel, they’d certainly like to get their best player involved.

Texas A&M: Appalachian State does it again

A live look at Jimbo Fisher realizing games are won on the field and not on National Signing Day:

The final petal is nearly off the flower for Jimbo Fisher. As it turns out, running an offense copy/pasted right out of the 1970s with a quarterback who is in over his head is liable to fail! There’s an ironic beauty in Devon Achane’s 95 yard kick return for a game-tying touchdown because, for the third year in a row, Jimbo and the Aggies have been gifted with wonderfully talented playmakers and find all new ways to waste them with their play calling.

There are two very obvious changes that need to be made. The first is at quarterback. Max Johnson transferred to A&M from LSU, and though he didn’t wow anyone last year, he’s a significant upgrade over Haynes King. The second and most definitely the biggest change is Jimbo has to bring in an offensive coordinator to overhaul the offense and call plays.

I think it’s been long enough to admit a couple things: 1. Jimbo can out-recruit just about anyone. 2. Jameis Winston and the 2013 BCS Title has created a seemingly infinite coattail for Jimbo to ride as a play caller, and that has to end if this team ever wants to experience the Alabamian and Georgian levels of success that his recruiting suggests he should.

That being said, this is absolutely hilarious. All the trash talking between old men that we had to endure from January to August deserves to reward us like this. Thank you, once again, App State.


NCAA Football: Tennessee at Pittsburgh Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Disclaimer: I completely remove bias when I do these. That being said, Cedric Tillman was the player who everyone thought he would become this season, and then some.

Tillman more than made up for his two drops down the stretch in this game, and when Tennessee needed a big play, they dialed up 4’s number. Hendon Hooker targeted Tillman 17 times, and Tillman hauled in nine of those for 162 yards and the eventual game-winning score in overtime, securing a huge road win for the Vols.