Six loses and we’re not even finished with the opening week of college football for 2016. Doubtful any SEC fan was predicting this type of carnage. Tabbed as “The Greatest Opening Week in College Football History” it’s been anything but for the most dominant conference of this century. It started with Tennessee beating Appalachian State in overtime. A game the Mountaineers should have won in regulation. Also on Thursday night South Carolina beat Vandy in a display of truly anemic offenses.
On Saturday, LSU lost to Wisconsin in Lambeau Field, Missouri was beaten soundly by West Virginia, Kentucky lost at home to Southern Miss, Mississippi State fell to South Alabama in Starkville, while Florida struggled with U-Mass and Arkansas rallied for a one-point win over Louisiana Tech.
On the positive side, Alabama crushed Southern Cal, Georgia started the Kirby Smart era with a win over North Carolina, A&M beat a ranked UCLA in College Station, and even Auburn was impressive in losing 19-13 to Clemson.
The overriding issue is quarterback play. So let’s start with LSU.
What the hell Les?!! You were given a reprieve last season and spent the entire offseason talking about how dynamic the Tigers offense would be this year. In the build-up to the game against Wisconsin you even said the most improved aspect of your offense would be quarterback Brandon Harris. You’re either a bad judge, bad liar, or both.
Harris was horrible – again. For the second straight year, pollsters have fallen for the hype around an unworthy quarterback. To vote LSU into the Top 5, you would have to believe they’d get solid quarterback play from Harris. Shame on you for believing that.
In 2015, pollsters believed Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn when he touted Jeremy Johnson. Johnson couldn’t live up to the hype last year and the Tigers finished 2-6 in conference play. Against Clemson, the defense was outstanding, but crappy quarterbacking killed any opportunity Auburn had for pulling the upset. Between Johnson and Sean White – who rotated in-and-out in a system designed to fail – combined to go 14-27 for 178-yards.
At some point the amazing thing about Auburn and LSU in particular is how substandard their quarterback play is. You would think blind luck would eventually get them at least decent quarterbacking.
At Mississippi State everyone assumed there would be a falloff with Dak Prescott now the starting QB in Dallas. But that doesn’t excuse a loss to South Alabama when you’re a 21-point favorite. Nick Fitzgerald “won” the starting job, but lost it in two possessions. Damaian WIlliams took over and did lead the Bulldogs to a 17-0 halftime lead. But he too was mostly ineffective.
Kentucky also blew a big halftime lead Saturday. The Wildcats led USM 35-10 in the second quarter only to watch the Golden Eagles score the final 34 points. (If Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops needs help from his brother Mark, it’s on the way in ’17.)
Missouri also showed little offensively in falling to West Virginia 26-11. And in Gainesville, FL the final score is not indicative of the struggles the Gators offense had in putting away Massachusetts 24-7.
Georgia is going to try and win by running the ball and that’s what the Bulldogs did in the Georgia Dome Saturday night. Nick Chubb return from major knee surgery to rush for 222-yards and two touchdowns, while true freshman Jacob Eason completed eight of twelve passes for 131-yards and a score in the Dawgs 33-24 victory over the Tar Heels.
The Georgia victory also highlighted the “other side of the coin” regarding quarterback play in week 1. If your opponent doesn’t have it, it makes winning that much easier. Tar Heel QB Mitch Trubisky was 24-40 for 156-yards – not good enough.
An opponent without a viable QB also played out in Dallas where Alabama steamrolled USC 52-6. That game could still be going on, and Southern Cal would still be struggling to avoid three-and-outs on offense. The Tide will always be an extremely tough match-up as long as Nick Saban is head coach. But the Tide’s weakness the past few years still seems in play. If you’ve got a good QB and/or can force the Tide to need good QB play, you stand a good chance of beating Bama. Few teams can exploit the Tide’s weakness, and Southern Cal had no chance. (Based on what we’ve seen so far, there isn’t a team on their schedule that does have a good enough quarterback to beat Bama – Ole Miss t.b.d.)
What looked like a gut-wrenching loss, ended up being a thrilling victory for Texas A&M. Trevor Knight was efficient enough, and the Aggies pressured Bruin QB Josh Rosen into three interceptions in the 31-24 overtime win.