All in all, a great week for the SEC, save Auburn's performance against Clemson and Kentucky's expected flop with Louisville. Now we get into the meat of the schedule. Really looking forward to the GA/Mizzou and FL/TAM games this Saturday. What an outstanding way to welcome these two newcomers to the SEC. If any Georgia fans reading this are headed to Columbia this weekend, be sure and stop by The Heidelberg for a beer before or after the game. I wandered into the place 4 years ago and met some wonderful people there. I can't wait to get back there someday!
Here’s your Labor Day breakdown of each and every SEC game played this weekend.
Tennessee 35, NC State 21 in Atlanta
Key Stat: 524 yards. That’s how impressive the Vol offense was in the Georgia Dome on Friday night. Quarterback Tyler Bray and receivers Justin Hunter and Cordarrelle Patterson put on a show that will keep defensive coordinators up at night. UT had five plays of 20 or more yards including a 41-yard TD pass, a 72-yard TD pass, and a 67-yard end-around TD run.
* In what was a huge game for hot-seated coach Derek Dooley, his team came out and showed that they’re no longer a paper thin bunch of freshmen and sophomores. For the first time in his three years as coach, the Vols have some depth, some maturity, and some superior athletes.
* The Vols’ rushing numbers were aided by the aforementioned end-around and there’s still a need for Tennessee to show that they can run the ball between the tackles consistently. Too often, Bray was called upon to save the day with a third-and-long play.
* For his part, Bray’s 333 yards passing might have been his best performance as a Volunteer. Not only did pick apart NC State’s secondary with play-action bombs, but he also wisely checked the ball down, dumped it to a back, or through it away. For the first time, Bray’s decision-making equaled his talented right arm.
Georgia 45, Buffalo 23 in Athens
Key Stat: 199 yards. That’s how many rushing yards UGA’s injury/suspension-riddled defense allowed to Buffalo. Repeat… Buffalo. The Dawg D will have to be much, much better when they step onto the field at Missouri on Saturday.
* Freshman tailback Todd Gurley rushed for 100 yards, returned a kickoff for another hundred, and scored three touchdowns in his debut. As unveilings go, it was an electrifying performance. After the game, Richt deadpanned: “He averaged about what he averaged every scrimmage, about 12.5 yards per carry. I hope that’s a trend in his career.”
* Alex Zordich complete 14 of 24 passes against UGA’s secondary and he rushed for 83 yards on 14 carries. Missouri’s dual-threat QB James Franklin has to be licking his chops hoping that Todd Grantham didn’t hold his guys back with vanilla defenses.
Read the rest of the SEC breakdowns by clicking below…
Florida 27, Bowling Green 14 in Gainesville
Key Stat: 10-of-16 for 114 yards and a touchdown. Jeff Driskel’s passing numbers against the Falcons — and his 24 yards rushing — were enough to finally settle the Gators’ quarterback battle. Will Muschamp named Driskel UF’s starter for next week’s game at Texas A&M.
* Muschamp has wanted a pro-style running game and it appears Mike Gillislee is ready to step in and be Florida big-time back. The senior ran for 148 yards on 24 carries and tallied two touchdowns, including a 38-yarder.
* The sloppy Gators were flagged a whopping 14 times for 106 yards on Saturday and that will have to be cleaned up before Saturday.
* Texas A&M’s Kevin Sumlin believes Florida intentionally showed nada against Bowling Green. Gator fans — who failed to sell out the Swamp — had better hope Sumlin’s right or else Florida’s got a long, long way to go.
Clemson 26, Auburn 19 in Atlanta
Key Stat: 320 yards. Brian VanGorder’s new Tiger defense allowed Andre Ellington and Clemson to rush for 320 yards in the Georgia Dome. If the Tigers don’t improve in that area, it’s going to be a long season in the SEC for AU.
* Oh, so that’s why Gus Malzahn never let Kiehl Frazier throw the ball last year. The sophomore completed just 11 of 27 passes for 194 yards. His yards-per-attempt weren’t bad, but his inaccuracy was part of the reason Auburn was a terrible 4-of-14 on third- and fourth-down conversions.
* Despite Frazier’s poor debut and its defense allowing 528 yards in total offense, Auburn still only lost by a touchdown. In other words, as badly as the Tigers played, they still could have won the game and that provides a glimmer of hope.
* Gene Chizik’s record as a head coach in six seasons (including two at Iowa State) is just 21-30 without Cam Newton. He was 14-0 with Newton. Just saying, that’s quite a gap.
Arkansas 49, Jacksonville State 24 in Fayetteville
Key Stat: 19-of-27 for 367 yards and three touchdowns. That was the stat line for quarterback Tyler Wilson. That’s what was expected from the senior coming into the season and that’s what he’s likely going to have to deliver every single week if the Razorbacks are to compete for an SEC or even BCS championship… as so many in the Natural State hope.
* Paul Haynes’ new defense didn’t look a whole lot better than UA’s old defense. Sure, they buckled down a bit in the second half, but missed tackles and blown assignments in the secondary plagued the Hogs. The final tally was comfortable, but with 9:44 to go in the 3rd quarter, this was a 35-24 game with FCS-level Jacksonville State.
* Knile Davis returned from a nasty ankle injury that cost him his 2011 season but he wasn’t quite as explosive as he’s been in past years. An 18-carry, 70-yard night was solid for a first game back, but it wasn’t a return on par with, say, Marcus Lattimore’s big night against Vanderbilt on Thursday. That’s not to say Davis won’t round into shape, but this was a Heisman-candidate pre-injury. Much is needed from him.
* Brandon Mitchell’s move from backup quarterback to wide receiver was a success. He hauled in four balls on the night for 122 yards. That’s better than a 30-yard-per-catch average.
Missouri 62, SE Louisiana 10 in Columbia
Key Stat: 4-0. That was the turnover count at Faurot Field and if SELA had any hope of hanging with the Tigers, they couldn’t afford to give the ball away. They did. Mizzou pounced. In fact, this was never a game as the Tigers raced out to a 28-0 first quarter lead.
* Marcus Murphy returned two punts for touchdowns for the Tigers — one for 70 yards and the other for 72. His twin scores tied SEC and NCAA records and earned him the SEC’s special teams Player of the Week award. You can bet Georgia’s coaches will take note of Murphy’s ability. The Dawgs struggled at times last year and two long punt returns by LSU’s Tyrann Mathieu sealed UGA’s fate in last year’s SEC title game.
* Quarterback James Franklin looked fine in his first post-shoulder surgery action, lasting late into the third quarter, completing 13-of-21 passes, and rushing six times for 39 yards.
* Dorial Green-Beckham — the nation’s top signee in February — caught three passes for 32 yards.
LSU 41, North Texas 14 in Baton Rouge
Key Stat: 316 yards. While Tiger fans spent their offseason dreaming of a new pass-happy offense, LSU was working to make sure its ground game remained as potent as ever. And, boy, was it ever. LSU rushed for 316 yards. Kenny Hilliard tallied 141 yards and two touchdowns while Alfred Blue chipped in with an additional 123 yards on the ground. Zach Mettenberger may be the talk of Louisiana, but the Tigers still look plenty capable of running around, through and over opposing defenders.
* Mettenberger took a scary hit when — according to Les Miles — he failed to read North Texas’ defense and failed to get rid of the ball. After laying on the turf, a woozy Mettenberger was taken to the sideline for treatment before returning. His debut stat line: 19-of-26 for 192 yards a touchdown and an interception.
* Odell Beckham — taking the place of the Honey Badger, Tyrann Mathieu — returned a first-quarter punt 70 yards for a score.
Mississippi State 56, Jackson State 9 in Starkville
Key Stat: 2 of 11. If you can’t stay on the field, it’s hard to win a game. Mississippi State’s defense made sure Jackson State’s offense couldn’t stay on the field. The Tigers converted just two of 11 third downs and were forced into three additional turnovers. Result? A 47-point shellacking.
* The Tyler Russell era began in Starkville, but the QB’s opening night performance was good, not spectacular. Fifteen of 24 through the air. 185 yards passing. Two touchdowns. Those are numbers to build on to be sure — and we can’t know just how much of the playbook Dan Mullen was willing to show — but anyone hoping for an aerial explosion probably left a bit disappointed.
* That said, the passing game was still improved over last season. In fact, the Dogs amassed 193 yards passing and 202 yards rushing which is the kind of balance all coaches desire. And State did not punt the football until the final minute of the third quarter. MSU did what they were supposed to do… they had their way with an inferior opponent and put them away early.
Ole Miss 49, Central Arkansas 27 in Oxford
Key Stat: 20-of-24 for 264 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. Not a bad debut for new Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace who also added 82 yards on 13 carries rushing, including another touchdown. If the Rebels can keep the juco transfer healthy, Hugh Freeze might just have a playmaker who can worry a few SEC defensive coordinators.
* Unfortunately for UM, Central Arkansas quarterback Wynrick Smothers had a big night, too. The Bears’ QB completed 25-of-32 passes against the Rebels’ retooled, thin secondary for 247 yards and a pair of TDs. When an FCS-level quarterback completes 78% of his passes against you, you’re probably looking at a long season in the SEC.
* Matter of fact, the Rebels actually trailed Central Arkansas 20-14 at the half before pulling away 35-7 in the second stanza. The victory snapped the seven-game losing streak Ole Miss fans endured to close out last season.
Alabama 41, Michigan 14 in Arlington, TX
Key Stat: 31-0. With just under five minutes to play in the second quarter, that was your score. Bama and the SEC 31, Michigan and the Big Ten zip. And in case you missed the game, yes, it really was that easy for Nick Saban’s team.
* Didn’t the Tide lose a number of big-name stars from last year’s defense? You wouldn’t have known it on Saturday night. Alabama ended Denard Robinson’s long-shot Heisman hopes before they could get off the ground. Michigan’s QB complete just 11 of 27 passes and accounted for just 27 yards on 10 carries rushing.
* While UM threw for 200 yards and Alabama passed for 199, the difference was in the run game. Alabama racked up 232 yards at clip of 5.5 yards per carry. Michigan, uh, well, uh, they ran 29 times for 69 yards… and a per-carry average of just 2.4 yards. It was complete domination from near-start to finish by the Crimson Tide. And this wasn’t North Texas they were up against, it was the eighth-ranked school in the country. The Wolverines were without their starting tailback due to suspension, but anyone who watched the game — and doesn’t have a picture of Bo Schembechler tattooed on his back — knows Fitzgerald Toussaint’s absence had little to do with the final score.
* Eddie Lacy came into the season as the presumed starter at tailback, but newcomer TJ Yeldon might have gotten himself some more playing time with his debut. Lacy carried nine times for 35 yards. Yeldon had 11 carries for 111 yards. Both scored touchdowns.
Louisville 32, Kentucky 14 in Louisville
Key Stat: 219 yards. That’s how many yards UK’s defense allowed on the ground yesterday in Louisville. The Cats have freshmen and sophomores all over their roster and it showed against their hated rivals. Kentucky’s defense allowed a 99-yard drive to open the game.
* Sophomore QB Maxwell Smith put up some gaudy stats of his own with a 35-of-50 performance for 280 yards and two scores through the air. After showing promise late in the 2011 campaign, it appears that offensive coordinator Randy Sanders has in Smith a solid pupil with which to work.
* The Cardinals rolled up 466 yards of total offense and had four scoring drives of 75+ yards. Meanwhile, UK was just two-of-six in its red zone trips. For Joker Phillips — even though his team is young — the perception is that these are two programs heading in drastically different directions.
* After the game, senior receiver La’Rod King refused to credit Louisville for their blowout victory. “We beat ourselves. We are much better than this.” The Big Blue had better hope so or else it will be very tough for AD Mitch Barnhart to give Phillips another year the controls.