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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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What we learned in the SEC: Week 1

SEC Logo
SEC Logo

College football kicked off again this weekend and the SEC was in full-force, with marquee matchups filling the conference’s Saturday (and Monday) slate. It was not all pretty at times, even ugly for some, but here’s what we learned about several SEC teams on opening weekend:

  1. Tennessee has work to do: The SEC East preseason favorite Tennessee Volunteers started off the college football week on Thursday, taking on regional Sun Belt opponent Appalachian State, who traveled to Knoxville on the ninth anniversary of their memorable upset of Michigan at the Big House. While it seemed as if the Mountaineers would repeat history yet again nearly a decade later, they were unable to capitalize on a potential game-winning drive at the end of the game after poor clock management before falling 20-13 in overtime. Despite the frustrating loss, App State gave the Vols all they could handle, making the Tennessee offense appear one-dimensional. The Vols did not help themselves, however, as they seemingly abandoned their passing game after their first drive of the game, opting for a running attack that gathered a mere 127 yards on 43 carries, which was only 3.0 yards per rush. A series of miscues by Appalachian State though, including a missed PAT in the second quarter, allowed Tennessee to slowly climb back into the game, which finally regained life after Butch Jones dialed up a deep-ball for a touchdown to tie the game early in the third quarter. A fortunate fumble recovery in the end zone for a touchdown by Jalen Hurd in overtime ultimately saved the Vols from the upset bid, but nonetheless, Tennessee has work to do. With a non-conference date with Virginia Tech (which is being played on the infield of a NASCAR track) this Saturday, it only gets tougher for the Vols, who enter a gauntlet of conference games in two weeks. If Tennessee wants to finally rise to the top of the East again, they must check themselves soon before matching up against the likes of division-foes Florida and Georgia.

  2. What happened to LSU? There is no excuse for LSU’s performance on Saturday. The Tigers boasted 18 returning starters, including the best running back in college football in Leonard Fournette, yet they looked clueless and fell victim to a Wisconsin team that was picked third in the Big 10’s weaker division. Les Miles made the bold move of keeping all his assistants on the sidelines and not sending anyone to the box, but his strategy did not pay off. Wisconsin certainly controlled the entire first quarter, as the Badgers held possession of the ball for 13:07 while LSU only ran six plays and gained seven total yards in the opening frame. Did that throw the Tigers off? Potentially, but if LSU was as legit of a national contender as they were thought to be, they would have found a way to get their mojo back. The Tigers only ran 50 total plays in the game, accumulating only 257 yards of total offense. Numbers like those make will not win many games and the Tigers witnessed that first-hand. It ultimately came down to Brandon Harris’ performance. The Tigers had a veteran offensive line, a star running back and multiple receiver threats. All they needed was to find solid play from their quarterback and LSU could be virtually unstoppable on offense. But Harris could not find a new beat to begin his season, as he continued his old ways, finishing 12-of-21 for 131 passing yards, one touchdown and two interceptions, including one late in the fourth quarter deep into Badger territory that secured a Wisconsin win. So much for LSU’s national title hopes? Maybe not yet, but the Tigers need to be more efficient on offense in order to get back into the race.

  3. Bama is still Bama: With uncertainty surrounding the Tide’s quarterback situation, some believed that USC could shock the Tide while they continued to piece their puzzle together. But everyone should have been smarter than that because come on, this is Nick Saban. And Nick Saban did Nick Saban things and led his team to another win over a Power Five team in Alabama’s opener. Things were sloppy in the first half, but the Tide began to roll in the second half, outscoring USC 35-3 in the final 30 minutes by racking up 313 yards of total offense while holding the Trojan offense to just 95 yards. In all, the Tide used a three-quarterback system to perfection, as Jalen Hurts stole the show. The true freshman went 6-11 for 118 yards and two touchdowns through the air while tacking on 32 more yards and two touchdowns on 9 carries on the ground. No Kirby Smart, no problem. New defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt had an excellent debut as his unit held USC to just 194 yards of total offense as the Trojans averaged just 2.9 yards per play. Alabama may have played a weak USC squad, but the Crimson Tide showed they mean business in reloading and potentially replicating their national championship. And to cap things off, offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin trolled his former employer with a pair of tweets that made the Tide’s win just a little bit sweeter.

  4. Kirby Smart can win as a head coach: The future of Georgia football looked bright with Kirby Smart taking over his alma mater, but with no head coaching experience, it was unknown how the former Bulldog would do in his homecoming. Well, Smart called an excellent game and earned his first win as a head coach over a ranked North Carolina squad in their backyard of Atlanta. While the Tar Heels controlled the majority of the game, the Dawgs running attack was too much as Nick Chubb proved to be fully-recovered from his knee injury and progressively got better as the game wore on. Chubb totaled 222 yards on 32 carries and two touchdowns, putting the game on ice after a 55-yard dash into the end zone with just over three minutes in the game to put Georgia ahead by nine. While Smart started senior Greyson Lambert at quarterback, true freshman Jacob Eason was able to get the Dawgs back into the game in the second half, connecting with Isaiah McKenzie on two key plays, a 17-yard touchdown strike to get Georgia back into the game at 24-21 and a 55-yard bomb down the sideline, which set up the go-ahead 29-yard field goal with 5:27 in the fourth quarter. The win was a great start for Georgia, who was searching for a direction to head in after the major coaching change this offseason. The Dawgs may have found a path to take, as Kirby Smart has begun his rookie head coaching campaign on a high note.

  5. Chad Kelly cannot do it all: Ole Miss looked as if they were on track to make a landslide upset of No. 4 Florida State. The Rebels raced out to a 28-6 lead over the Seminoles with 3:04 remaining in the first half. Chad Kelly looked brilliant as well, as he had completed 14-of-24 passes for 229 yards and three touchdowns to that point. But the Rebels, who returned just three starters on offense and five on defense, soon had their inexperience and youth catch up with them. The Seminoles would outscore the Rebels 39-6 the rest of the game, racking up 425 total yards of offense in the final 33:04 of the game. On the flip side, Kelly and the Rebels’ offense fell to shambles as the signal-caller finished the game 7-of-15 for 83 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. Ole Miss was only able to salvage 68 yards of offense in the entire second half. Kelly showed poise and exceptional leadership, but if the Rebels want to have a successful season, he will have to get his targets to become playmakers and his line to step up like the five players they replaced from last year’s Sugar Bowl-winning squad.

Week One is in the books and the Southeastern Conference had its good moments and its bad ones. Overall, it was an excellent opening weekend for the conference, which earned three wins over ranked non-conference teams. The results showed it may be a wide-open race for now, but with second week adjustments coming, it will be interesting to see how teams build and recover from opening weekend.
 

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