One week into the 2011 football season and the SEC already has an impressive 10-2 overall mark. But some of those 10 wins were a lot more impressive than others. Below you’ll find our weekly Monday morning look back at the league’s best and worst performances from the previous week.
1. LSU 40, Oregon 27 at Arlington, TX — There’s no question about it, LSU’s big win at Cowboys Stadium was the most impressive performance of opening weekend. Is Les Miles often lucky? Is he a bit challenged when it comes to public speaking? Does he have a hard time finding a hat that fits? Yes, yes, yes and so what? No coach in the SEC does a better job of consistently getting his troops to believe in his plan. Sure Oregon turned the ball over four times. But the Tigers took advantage of those turnovers and converted them into points… even without Jordan Jefferson and Russell Shepard dressed out. In the face of more turmoil than most teams could withstand, Miles, his coaching staff and the Tiger players deserve some serious props for Saturday’s performance. Just fantastic.
2. Mississippi State 59, Memphis 14 at Memphis — Vick Ballard and Chris Relf looked ready to build on last year’s good deeds. As a whole, Dan Mullen’s spread offense rolled up a gaudy 645 yards. Memphis might be the weakest team on MSU’s schedule — yes, including UT-Martin — but a blowout win is a blowout win. A good boxer knocks out the tomato cans in his way. State did just that. So the enthusiasm in Starkville continues to build.
3. Florida 41, Florida Atlantic 3 at Gainesville – The athletes are there… and it looks like Will Muschamp, Dan Quinn and Charlie Weis know just how to use them. Weis in particular got off to a hot start in his Sunshine State debut. By constantly getting the ball t0 Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps, Weis proved what we at MrSEC have been saying for 14 games now: With properly-utilized skill players around him, John Brantley will be just fine.
4. Alabama 48, Kent State 7 at Tuscaloosa — Ninety yards. Ninety. That’s all Alabama’s stingy defense allowed in its boa constrictor-like crushing of Nick Saban’s alma mater on Saturday. That was the good part. But while the Tide offense put plenty of points on the scoreboard, the head coach couldn’t have liked seeing his two quarterbacks toss two interceptions apiece. Four interceptions against Kent State does not bode well for the future.
5. Arkansas 51, Missouri State 7 at Fayetteville — New quarterback Tyler Wilson did his part (18 of 24 for 260 yards and 2 TDs), but Knile Davis’ absence was obvious. Against the FCS-level Bears, Bobby Petrino’s team managed just 102 rushing yards on 33 attempts. Like Bama’s four INTs above, rushing for a 3.1 yards-per-carry average against Missouri State is cause for concern heading forward. Now, if Joe Adams can return two punts for TDs every week, the run game may not matter. Heckuva job by Adams and the Razorback punt return unit to bring back a 61-yarder and a 69-yarder.
6. South Carolina 56, East Carolina 37 at Charlotte, NC — The Gamecocks get the nod here because they were playing an FBS opponent. Too bad they didn’t decide to really start playing them until after spotting ECU a 17-0 lead. Steve Spurrier’s decision to start Connor Shaw over team leader Stephen Garcia clearly backfired. But even after Garcia entered the game and his teammates came to life — battling back for a comfortable win — the Ol’ Ball Coach still wouldn’t give his QB credit. In fact, he made it clear that Garcia won’t get a celebratory gameball until he throws for 300 yards someday. Well, Spurrier needs to call Brian Billick. That quarterback guru got tired of winning ugly with Trent Dilfer so he dumped him for a series of more highly-touted passers. And he never won another Super Bowl. Garcia is better than Dilfer. He led Carolina to an SEC East title last year. At 66 years of age you’d think Spurrier would by now understand that winning is more important than throwing for 300 yards. He needs to live and die with his senior signal-caller.
7. Tennessee 42, Montana 16 at Knoxville — Sophomore quarterback Tyler Bray picked up where he left off last year… winging the ball around the field with great effectiveness. Speedy wideouts Justin Hunter and Da’rick Rogers both reached the century mark in yardage and both hauled in touchdown passes. But the Vols’ offensive line is a cause for worry. Bray was sacked three times and on three different occasions UT couldn’t get enough push to gain one yard against the FCS Grizzlies. The Vols’ were even stuffed for a safety by a D-line that weighed 60 pounds per man less than UT’s O-line. Bray can throw it, but if Tennessee can’t run it, throwing it will become tougher and tougher.
8. Vanderbilt 45, Elon 14 at Nashville — The Commodores scored three fourth-quarter touchdowns to pull away from the Phoenix. On the stat sheet, Elon actually out-offense’d Vandy 323 to 309. But let’s not pick too many nits. James Franklin got off on the right foot with a victory. And his offense used a variety of formations throughout the night. The Dores were at least interesting to watch. And that’s a huge improvement over the VU offense of the past two seasons.
9. Auburn 42, Utah State 38 at Auburn – Okay, so now maybe Tiger fans will stop complaining that their team was “disrespected” entering the season. If Cam Newton, Nick Fairley and about 14 other starters had returned from last year’s team, AU would have been a preseason Top 5 team. They also wouldn’t have needed two touchdowns in the last three minutes, an onside kick, and a 97-yard kick return to subdue tiny Utah State. By game’s end, the Aggies had rolled up 448 yards to Auburn’s 364. Disrespect? Try reality. The Tigers are young and inexperienced. They’ll have growing pains. And as Rick Pitino might say, “Cam Newton isn’t walking through that door.”
10. Boise State 35, Georgia 21 at Atlanta, GA – Yep, we’ve got a loser ranked above a winner. That’s because UGA lost to a Top 5 team that may wind up playing for the BCS title. But the real story is the heat on Mark Richt. He’s now won just 14 of his last 27 games. Dawg fans have noticed. Mike Bobo’s thin offensive line looks like it will be a worry spot all season. Aaron Murray was sacked six times and without a good line in front of him, ultra-hyped tailback Isaiah Crowell sure didn’t remind anyone of Marcus Lattimore or Mike Dyer. Oh, and the defense couldn’t keep pace with the Broncos, either. From a fan-revolt standpoint, Richt needs a win over South Carolina on Saturday.
11. BYU 14, Ole Miss 13 at Oxford — The Rebels lost a game they flat should have won. Tyrone Nix’s defense looked much improved — as we expected — but Houston Nutt and David Lee had no such luck with Mississippi’s offense — which was not what we expected. Ole Miss quarterback Zach Stoudt was strip-sacked in the 4th quarter and the ball was returned for BYU’s game-winning score. Why Ole Miss had Stoudt back to pass on 3rd-and-27 while protecting a lead — run a draw, punt the ball! — is anyone’s guess. Now the heat is being turned up on Nutt who is just 13 games removed from back-to-back Cotton Bowl berths. To add injury to insult, tailback Brandon Bolden seriously injured his ankle and could miss several games.
12. Kentucky 14, Western Kentucky 3 at Nashville, TN – Anyone who wonders why we have a victorious squad listed as having given the least impressive performance of the week… didn’t watch UK’s abysmal performance against one of the worst teams in the FBS. Like most people outside the Bluegrass State, we thought the Cats would have a hard time replacing Randall Cobb, Derrick Locke and Mike Hartline. We just didn’t think they’d struggle against the Hilltoppers. At the end of three quarters, Kentucky had just 75 yards of total offense. Yeah. It was that bad. Viewers needed novocaine just to watch that mess.