Fourteen thoughts from the first Saturday of SEC football
Chris Lee • 9/4/2021 in Football
Here's what caught my eye from the first SEC Saturday.
Bryce Young photo courtesy of Alabama athletics.
1. The nation may be playing for second. Okay, it's Week One and a lot of teams improve greatly after that. But what Alabama did to Miami--the 14th-ranked team in the country--was super impressive. The Crimson Tide buried Miami early, scoring the game's first 27 points and then delivering the dagger midway through the third quarter with a touchdown that put the lead over 30. Alabama out-gained Miami, 501-266, and dominated every phase of the game in cruising to a 44-13 win in Atlanta that wasn't that close.
2. Bryce Young looks like the real deal. It was Young's first start and it wasn't just the 27-of-38, four-touchdown, no-interception, 344-yard stat line that told the tale. It was the way Young stood in the pocket and delivered throws with touch and accuracy that were most impressive, like the time he stepped up in the pocket and hit John Metchie III on an early touchdown, or the way he fired a dime to Jameson Williams for a 94-yard touchdown while facing pressure from his own end zone. Alabama's produced so many good quarterbacks in a row that you take them for granted, but Young looked pretty special today.
3. Georgia has put itself squarely in College Football Playoff territory, already. Sure, it's just one win but the Bulldogs--three-point underdogs heading in--but take a look at UGA's remaining schedule and try to tell me where the Bulldogs will be underdogs. Should Georgia run the table and lose in the SEC title game, the Bulldogs won't be left out of the top four. Maybe it wasn't pretty, but beating Clemson (and dominating the way it did on defense) as decimated by injury as the 'Dawgs were is impressive.
4. Despite all that talent in the secondary, LSU got whipped again in on defense. It's no secret that the Tigers have the country's most highly-touted cornerback tandem and yet LSU allowed 330 passing yards (7.2 per attempt). That's not to blame it on the corners--there are a lot of moving parts here, and many failures that didn't go unnoticed by former LSU players--but this is a team not lacking in talent. All this is only going to amp up the talk that Ed Orgeron's 2019 national title was a product of Joe Burrow, Joe Brady and an epic receiving corps, and a pair of games ahead against lesser opponents (McNeese State, Central Michigan) give the Tigers a chance to get it right going into league play.
5. Kentucky quarterback Will Levis looked terrific today. It seemed as if Kentucky had traded one quarterback who can't pass for another when the Wildcats lost quarterback Terry Wilson and gained Levis, a Penn State transfer. And yeah, it helped that Levis had receivers running open all day, but Levis showed a really good arm and an ability to deliver a deep ball, completing passes of 57, 58 and 61 yards on Saturday. Levis was 18-for-26 for 367 yards and four scores and that included a couple of balls his receivers should have caught, including his one pick.
6. Mississippi State got a win, but a lot of last year's offensive problems popped up. Kudos to the Bulldogs for a come-from-behind, 35-34 victory over Louisiana Tech--and that's not a bad win. But State couldn't run the ball last year or protect its passer for great lengths of time, and yesterday (3.4 yards per rush, three sacks of quarterback Will Rogers) probably wasn't what coach Mike Leach had in mind. Teams often improve a lot from Week One to Week Two, so it'll be interesting to see how that looks next week against a solid North Carolina State team--a 45-0 winner over South Florida--that will present defensive challenges next week.
7. Arkansas looked sloppy but was good enough. If all you saw of Arkansas' game with Rice was a 38-17 final score, just know that's really deceiving. The Razorbacks trailed at halftime and didn't lead for good until 12:44 remained. There were dropped passes, 13 penalties for 117 yards and an inconsistent day from quarterback KJ Jefferson. Again, it's nothing to hit the panic button about in Week One but the Razorbacks have work to do before next week's huge game with Texas.
8. Vanderbilt looked historically bad. That's not a statement one should make likely given Vandy's mostly-dismal last season of football. There aren't many bad moments that remained unchecked on the Commodores' bingo card of bad losses, the one vacant spot out there was losing to an FCS team. Yeah, Vandy not only did that, but it got thoroughly whipped (23-3) and it came against an East Tennessee State team that wasn't even ranked in the preseason FCS Top 25. Coach Clark Lea's job was going to be hard enough, but if you watched any of Vandy's struggle--and it was that for literally 60 minutes--it's hard to recall a Commodore team that looked worse than this.
9. Missouri found a much-needed defensive star in Blaze Alldridge. Alldridge transferred from Rice, where he'd racked up some big numbers in two years there. Alldridge stepped his game up in a huge way on Saturday, racking up some incredible numbers--10 tackles, six for loss, 3.5 sacks--while manning linebacker for the Tigers in a 34-24 win over Central Michigan.
10. On the other side of the ball, Tiger running back Tyler Badie had a huge day. Missouri's had some productive runners, but Badie has always been more of a third-down-type back than a pure runner. But 25 carries for 201 yards (and three receptions for another 40) suggests that maybe Badie's ready to step in for the departed Larry Roundtree.
11. Haynes King = Johnny Manziel? No, those weren't my words, but they were uttered elsewhere yesterday and this piece makes the case as to why. Of course, there were some downsides to Manziel, and the Texas A&M freshman showed some of that, too, with the three picks he threw in his debut.
12. Auburn played a clean game in a blowout of Akron. Okay, it's Akron, one of the worst teams in the FBS right now. But openers can be an adventure and it's hard to expect clean football out of the gate. Bryan Matthews at AuburnSports.com explains more about the day in the Tigers' 60-10 victory.
13. Florida beat FAU, but perhaps left the weekend with a quarterback controversy. The short version: Emory Jones threw two picks and averaged 4.2 yards per pass, which didn't exactly allay any fears about the drop-off with an offense that lost quarterback Kyle Trask. Adam Spencer at Saturday Down South has more on that here.
14. South Carolina pulled an encouraging opening-day shutout of Eastern Illinois. Yeah, it's a shutout over EIU, but the Gamecocks (who allowed an average of 36 points a game last year) needed some defensive confidence to start the year. Apparently, they found that--maybe a little too much of that?--in allowing just 2.5 yards per play on Saturday.