Saturday Morning Tailgate: SEC Week 2 – TV Times

Saturday, September 6th, 2014

  • Florida Atlantic at Alabama, 12:00 p.m. EST – SEC Network
  • Missouri at Toledo, 12:00 p.m. EST – ESPN2
  • Arkansas State at Tennessee, 12:00 p.m. EST – SEC Network
  • Alabama Birmingham at Mississippi State, 2:00 p.m. EST – Fox Sports South
  • Ohio at Kentucky, 3:30 p.m. EST – ESPNU
  • Nicholls State at Arkansas, 4:00 p.m. EST – SEC Network
  • Eastern Michigan at Florida, 4:00 p.m. EST – SEC Network
  • Ole Miss at Vanderbilt, 4:30 p.m. EST – ESPN
  • San Jose State at Auburn, 7:00 p.m. EST – ESPNU
  • East Carolina at South Carolina, 7:00 p.m. EST – ESPN2
  • Sam Houston State at LSU, 7:30 p.m. EST – SEC Network
  • Lamar at Texas A&M, 7:30 p.m. EST – SEC Network
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Saturday Morning Tailgate: SEC Hierarchy – Week 1

 

The Contenders: These teams are threats on both sides of the football and their production is only matched by their talent, athleticism and coaching. Improvements are still needed but these teams are in the hunt for the Southeastern Conference Title:

Alabama – The Crimson Tide did not look the part, on either offense or defense, of a national title contender, still we must consider the talent and coaching associated with the Alabama football program. Iron out problems in the defensive line/secondary, have either Jacob Coker or Blake Sims win the signal caller job, and the Crimson Tide will be firmly in play in both the SEC West race and the conference title debate.

Auburn – In a true showcase of an elite conference team, Auburn played around with the Razorbacks for a half before managing to still mustard a three touchdown victory over their SEC West foe. The Tigers program still needs to clean up a few aspects of their game but it is clear that Auburn has the thoroughbreds to win the Western Division Derby. If Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall continues to distribute to Sammie Coates and Duke Williams, this offense will become virtually unstoppable.

Georgia – Athens might be the home to the best running back and linebacker core in all of college football, two units that totally dominated in their victory over Clemson. Still many improvements in the UGA secondary and wide receiving core must happen before gift wrapping the SEC East title to the Bulldogs. September 13th the Bulldogs will face South Carolina, in a match-up that will probably decide the SEC East race.

Texas A&M – The Aggies’ offense is elite, maybe the best in all of college football, but the SEC West demands much more than point. Texas A&M will have to continue to improve across their three levels of defense to have any chance of staying in the divisional and conference title race. A&M will be depending on a youthful secondary and defensive line to improve to stop the likes of Alabama, Auburn and Ole Miss.

 

The Missing Element: Whether their defensive line is thin or the receiving core can’t stretch the field, there is a hole that will need to be patched before moving into the Southeastern Conference’s most elite category.

Florida – With the cancellation of their contest against Idaho, the eyes of the conference will have to wait another week to form early season conclusions on the 2014 Gators. Eastern Michigan will not challenge the athleticism of Florida this Saturday but the Gators will have the opportunity to win over their fans with new coordinator Kurt Roper’s spread offensive attack. Florida’s talent will keep the Gators in this category until their first game but the offense must be able to score point to win the SEC East.

Mississippi State – The 2014 Bulldogs feature the most depth Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen has had since arriving in Starkville. The unfortunate part of this advantage is, the debatable best Bulldog team since 1999, still might only be the fourth best team in the SEC West. Moreover, the fate of the 2014 Mississippi State Bulldogs will rest on the health and legs of quarterback Dak Prescott. If Prescott delivers an All-SEC season, then the Bulldogs will be in the conversation in the SEC West race.

Missouri – Too many unknowns remain to begin debating the range of the Tigers successes this season but Missouri’s win over South Dakota State showed one truth, speed and talent still exist within their skill positions. The next variable the Tigers must prove is the legibility of their defense. If their defensive line and secondary play to the levels forecasted by many SEC writers, Mizzou will be in the SEC East mix.

Ole Miss – It is hard to criticize a season opening victory against Boise State but the Rebels did not look organized in Atlanta. Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace was very careless with the pigskin and put doubts into Rebels fans whether he will ever reach his full potential. With a defense full of future NFL players, it will be the improvement of the Rebels offense that will determine their Southeastern Conference fate in 2014.

LSU – Glass half full or glass half empty, LSU played awful in their victory Saturday night over Wisconsin. Still, no team in the Southeastern Conference has more room for improvement than the Bayou Bengals. LSU already has the best overall secondary in the conference and by seasons end the Tigers could have the potential to have the best defensive line. Last, questions marks at the wide receiver and quarterback position must be answered before moving the Bayou Bengals up into the next tier of the SEC.

South Carolina – The Ole Ball Coach ripped into his coaches and players to the levels only Spurrier could get away with after their loss to Texas A&M on Thursday. If last Thursday was not the true 2014 Gamecocks, then South Carolina will need to demolish ECU  this weekend and regain their SEC East respect with a win over Georgia on September 13th. The Gamecocks must first fix their pass defense for this to happen.

 

The PretendersThe trick is up and the truth is out. There is a glaring weakness in the teams listed below and it will cost them an opportunity to compete for the SEC Title. Based on their performance last weekend, each team must remedy their weaknesses before moving up and out of this category.

Kentucky – The Wildcats have improved at about every aspect of the game from their awful 2013 campaign. Kentucky has found a SEC level quarterback, play-makers at wide receiver/running back positions and continue to improve on defense. Kentucky will still have their ups and downs this season but the eye test shows that the Wildcats are better this season, but their difficult schedule will probably not allow a bowl birth.

Arkansas – The Razorbacks have three running backs that would start at 98% of all college football programs. But with deficiencies at wide receiver, linebacker and corner, the Razorbacks are still well below the median average in the brutal SEC West. With that said, the Hogs should register an upset this season, due to their strong offensive and defensive line. Our uneducated pick would be their Sept. 13th trip to Texas Tech.

Tennessee – The Volunteers looked sharp on Sunday night. The rebuilt offensive line and a make-shift defense performed better than most anticipated. Another strong performance against Arkansas State and hold their own against Oklahoma and a reevaluation of the Vols program might be in order. Still UT has the most difficult schedule in all of college football. It will be difficult to reach a bowl game in 2014.

 

The Damned: There is no light at the end of the tunnel, there is no rescuing your season, the Southeastern Conference has proven beyond your grasp once again. Below you will find the reasoning your program can not be moved into a higher category.

Vanderbilt – A loss to the powerhouse…well, middle of the road, maybe lower tier American Athletic Conference Temple Owls does not project a successful SEC season for the Commodores. It is going to take a lot of winning to help forget about this one.

 

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SMT: Southeastern Conference Talking Points

  

Talking Point #1 – LSU has the highest growth potential of any team in the SEC? This is 100% true. The Bayou Bengals have a wealth of talent, mostly found in the freshman and sophomore classes, that are future members of the All-SEC team and potential NFL Draft selections. Once these underclassmen grow comfortable in their new roles, LSU could push into the upper tier of the SEC West with Alabama, Ole Miss, Texas A&M and Auburn. Given their elite but youthful talent the Bayou Bengals are X-Factor in the SEC West race.

Talking Point #2 – Texas A&M’s defense will continue to make the necessary plays to keep the Aggies in the SEC West race? This is false. Moving across the Aggies’ depth chart you will see that blue chip talent exist at every level, but that talent is still very youthful, lacking of SEC depth and is never more than one arrest/suspension away from creating a large defensive hole. The Aggies’ defense with proper health, can keep Texas A&M in play for eight/nine victories this season, maybe third or fourth place in the western division, but will not be able to stop Alabama, Auburn Ole Miss, Mississippi State and LSU.

 

Talking Point #3 – Tennessee has the talent to compete for the SEC East Title? This could be true, not to the point the Volunteers have finally rebounded from the Dooley administration, but more to the point that multiple question marks remain at South Carolina, Florida and Missouri. Yes, Georgia looks the part of the SEC East show horse, but as the past two years have shown, injuries can deplete the Bulldogs. As of Week 2 of the 2014 SEC season Tennessee should be in the conversation for the SEC East race but until a true evaluation of the Gators, Gamecocks, Bulldogs and Tigers can be made, it is much too early to consider the rebuilding job of the Butch Jones administration complete.

Talking Point #4 – The Kentucky football program has surpassed Vanderbilt to no longer being considered the worst team in the SEC? This is true. Being the first to admit that Temple is a more talented team than the Wildcats’ first opponent, UT Martin, the Kentucky team looked improved at every facet of the game, compared to the Vanderbilt, which looked like a unorganized mess. This question will answer itself in three weeks as the Commodores and Wildcats will play it out on the field, yet the eye test goes to UK, as the offense looked explosive, the defense looked somewhere above it’s dismal norm.

  

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SMT: SEC Team Total Yards Per Game Leaders – Week 1

 

School – TYPG – Passing Yards Per Game – Rushing Yards Per Game

  1. Texas A&M – 680.0 total yards – 511.0 passing yards – 169.0 rushing yards
  2. Kentucky – 656.0 total yards – 422.0 passing yards – 234.0 rushing yards
  3. Auburn – 595.0 total yards – 293.0 passing yards – 302.0 rushing yards
  4. Mississippi State – 550.0 total yards – 349.0 passing yards – 201.0 rushing yards
  5. Alabama – 538.0 total yards – 250.0 passing yards – 288.0 rushing yards
  • Due to Tennessee’s late Sunday game, stats not included.

 

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SMT: SEC Individual Leaders Through Week 1

 

Southeastern Conference Passing Yards Leaders of Week 1:

  1. Kenny Hill (TAMU) – 511 yards – 44/60 (comp/atts) – 3 TDs, 0 Ints
  2. Bo Wallace (OM) – 387 yards – 25/36 (comp/atts) – 4 TDs, 3 Ints
  3. Patrick Towles (UK) – 377 yards – 20/29 (comp/atts) – 1 TDs, 0 Ints
  4. Dylan Thompson (USC) – 366 yards – 20/40 (comp/atts) – 4 TDs, 1 Ints
  5. Dak Prescott (MSU) – 284 yards – 18/26 (comp/atts) – 4 TDs, 1 Ints

Southeastern Conference Rushing Yards Leaders of Week 1:

  1. Todd Gurley (UGA) – 198 yards – 15 atts (13.2 ypc) – 3 TDs
  2. Cameron Artis-Payne (AU) – 177 yards – 26 atts (6.8 ypc) – 1 TDs
  3. Russell Hansbrough (MU) – 126 yards – 20 atts (6.3 ypc) – 1 TDs
  4. T.J. Yeldon (UA) – 126 yards – 23 atts (5.5 ypc) – 2 TDs
  5. Braylon Heard (UK) – 116 yards – 2 atts (58.0 ypc) – 2 TDs

Southeastern Conference Receiving Yards Leaders of Week 1:

  1. D’haquille Williams (AU) – 154 yards – 9 rec – 17.1 ypc – 1 TDs
  2. Travin Dural (LSU) – 151 yards – 3 rec – 50.3 ypc – 1 TDs
  3. Malcome Kennedy (TAMU) – 137 yards – 14 rec – 9.8 ypc – 0 TDs
  4. Amari Cooper (UA) – 130 yards – 12 rec – 10.8 ypc – 0 TDs
  5. Nick Jones (USC) – 113 yards – 5 rec – 22.6 ypc – 2 TDs
  • Due to Tennessee’s late Sunday game, stats not included.

 

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SMT: The New Stars of the 2014 SEC Season

 

Auburn – Junior college transfer D’haquille Williams did not disappoint in his first career game at Auburn. The 6-2, 215lbs athletic freak/wide receiver finished with 9 catches for 154 yards and a touchdown. At the end of SEC week one, fellow Auburn wideout Sammie Coates and Williams could be the best wide receiver duo in the Southeastern Conference.

Alabama – SMT should probably be punished for not splitting this award with Crimson Tide running back T.J. Yelton (23 carries for 126 rushing yards and two touchdowns) but it is always fun discussing about the new kid on the block. After a dominating performance in the Sugar Bowl last season (a loss to the Oklahoma), Alabama sophomore running back Derrick Henry did it again Saturday afternoon. Henry had 17 carries for 117 yards and a touchdown in a punishing performance and victory over the West Virginia Mountaineers.

Kentucky – It is not often that a player that gets two touches in an entire game would make the list of potential SEC stars but not many Wildcats had two trips to pay dirt and averaged 58.0 yards per carry. That was the Saturday for Nebraska transfer Braylon Heard, who looks to have found an offensive fit and new home in Lexington, Kentucky.

 

Ole Miss – With names like Laquon Treadwell, Evan Engram, Vince Sanders and Quincy Adeboyejo, junior wide receiver Cody Core was not suppose to be the star of the Rebels passing attack. Yet after a four reception game (and two for a touchdown) against Boise State Thursday night, it is clear the Rebel’s offense is balanced and very dangerous.

LSU – Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry have departed to the NFL and a new deep threat from the Bayou Bengals’ wide receiving core is needed for any hopes of a SEC West Title. In their opening game victory over the Wisconsin Badgers, Bayou Bengals sophomore wide receiver Travin Dural emerged as that threat, catching three passes for 151 yards (50.3 yards per catch) and one touchdown, becoming the catalyst to a 17 point comeback.

Texas A&M – After recording the fourth best opening start for a quarterback in the history of the SEC, Texas A&M redshirt sophomore Kenny Hill has received praise of both conference insiders and Vegas. Hill recorded 44 completions for 511 passing yards, along with three touchdowns, demolishing the South Carolina Gamecocks, which has pushed him into the Top 5 players to win the 2014 Heisman Trophy, according to many Vegas insiders.

 

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SMT: SteveSMT’s Week One Pick’em

Texas A&M at South Carolina (-10.5*) 6PM on SEC Network

*- According to www.vegasinsider.com

Texas A&M: The Aggies lost three key offensive players to the 2014 NFL Draft: WR Mike Evans, OL Jake Matthews, and of course QB Johnny Manziel. The most noticeable loss will be that of Johnny Football. When any team losses three first round draft picks from one side of the ball there will be some major question marks at each of those three positions. Coach Kevin Sumlin has developed a reputation as an offensive minded coach. So, expect the Aggies to still have the ability to put up some points. The biggest question mark is going to be has A&M made any upgrades on defense? Last year their defense surrendered an average of 390.23 yards per game and 32.2 points per game. Considering the SEC has never been known for its juggernaut offensives there is a lot of room for improvement this season. However, with such a young defense that only projects to start three seniors, beginning the season against an SEC foe isn’t the most helpful.

South Carolina: Since Steve Spurrier took over the head coach role in Columbia back in 2005, many questioned whether the Gamecocks had the ability to play with the “big boys” in the conference. The Head Ball Coach has shown time and again that they were capable of not only playing with, but beating the best teams in the conference. What has been surprising though is how they have done it. During his days as the head coach of the Florida Gators, Spurrier has been known for putting prolific offenses on the field and outscoring anybody. In Columbia it has been just the opposite. The Gamecock defense has carried the load for the Head Ball Coach. Known for having great QB play in Gainesville, Spurrier has yet to find his “it” QB in Columbia. The 2014 season may not be that year either. But expect the Gamecocks to maintain a physical presence on both sides of the ball. With an experienced OL vs the inexperienced defense of Texas A&M, expect South Carolina to play a more smash mouth style. So this is a good opponent for QB Dylan Thompson to start the season against.

Pick: Look for the Gamecocks to win this one big. That’s why I am taking South Carolina and the points in the SEC opener and inaugural SEC Network football game. South Carolina has too much experience upfront against the inexperience of the A&M defense. That brings a terrible combination for A&M. An inexperienced defense and trying to fill the void left behind from Evans, Manziel, and Matthews, the Gamecocks will prove to be too much for the Aggies in the season opener.

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SMT: The Fun-n-Gun, the OBC Has Moved On…

The Ole Ball Coach: There was a time, back in the care-free days of the early 90′s in which the SEC East was an open book. Think back to the days when watching Saved By The Bell and listening to Ace of Base was still acceptable. Sure, the Volunteers had a formidable program (before Peyton Manning) and Georgia would have above average seasons but there was no show horse in the Eastern Division. Much like the current state of God’s Conference, the Western Division (i.e. Alabama and Auburn) was the class of the SEC. And then, with one hire that brought a favorite son back to the University of Florida campus, where he once won the Heisman Trophy, the conference landscape changed. The Ole Ball Coach, Steve Spurrier himself, can into the Southeastern Conference guns out and a-blazing and the boring league completely changed overnight.

Steve Spurrier, at his core, is an offensive mastermind, that molded his craft into an attack that would end the SEC Era of triple options and three yards and a cloud of dust. The high-flying, spread offense that created the legend of the Ole Ball Coach, was unstoppable and routinely embarrassed conference foes. As a spectator of a few Florida vs. Kentucky games of the middle 90′s, I can ensure you the OBC was the most feared, but also weirdly loved, character in the SEC. With his trusted visor and Mid-90′s Oakley’s by side, Steve Spurrier oversaw one of the most lethal offensive attacks in the history of college football.

 

This rein of terror saw the Gators become a national powerhouse and win the 1996 title. Unfortunately, the Ole Ball Coach still had some wild oates to sow and started tom’cattin around on the Gators. After many off-seasons of speculation Spurrier left his alma mater in 2001 and landed in the NFL with the Washington Redskins. This would turn out to be the lone blimp on his impressive coaching resume, as the Fun-n-Gun did not translate to the NFL. Still, many key coaching lessons were learned in the NFL that would aid him at his next stop, back in the conference he helped shaped in a force of nature, which while away had become the most powerful league in all of college football.

Fast forward from his divorce with the Washington Redskins and eventual return to the Southeastern Conference, Spurrier found himself shopping for a job, preferably one near great golf courses. In the summer of 2005, with the news that Lou Holtz was retiring from his position at South Carolina, Steve Spurrier agreed to become the next Gamecocks head coach. Many SEC insiders thought the Gameocks was destine to become the next great offensive power in the conference and possibly the new SEC East juggernaut. Those SEC prognosticators went one for two, as the best coaching job of Spurrier’s career was still to come, but without his signature offense.

Early in his tenure in Columbia the writing was on the wall. This was a rebuilding effort and it was going to take many season of elite level recruiting before the Gamecocks could compete with Tennessee, Florida and Georgia and provide anything near the “Fun-n-Gun” once witnessed at Florida. Along with recruiting success the coaching staff at South Carolina upgraded facilities and were on par with the other elite programs in the Eastern Division. Still, as small improvements begin to show within the Gamecocks program and years progressed the South Carolina’s offense featured neither the fun or any guns.

 

South Carolina fans began to believe in the direction of the Ole Ball Coach’s Gamecocks but mediocrity still plagued the program, filled with Liberty and Music City Bowls, and the talking heads of the SEC began to ask if the Ole Ball Coach had lost his magic. But with strong resolve and great energy, the Gamecocks’ program grew closer to the skill levels needed to compete for the SEC East Title. Even more impressive, winning continued without the dangerous offenses that the OBC had been known. Surprisingly, the Gamecocks were winning SEC games with a game plan more suited for Nick Saban or Phil Fulmer than Mr. Fun-n-Gun himself. This new and improved Ole Ball Coach then saw the day when his program transformed into a conference power with the upset of the top ranked Alabama Crimson Tide on October 9th, 2010. Next came the birth into the SEC Title game, as the Gamecocks captured their first ever SEC Eastern Division Title that same season (2010). Steve Spurrier had finally turned the once joke South Carolina football program into a national powerhouse and an annual SEC Title contender, just as he had once done at Florida.

The OBC’s Plan: The Fun-n-Gun was not coming to Columbia, or better stated, the Fun-n-Gun was never the plan for the Gamecocks. The Fun-n-Gun worked in the early 90′s because the SEC was not comfortable with the spread offensive schemes and Spurrier could exploit the lack of speed within the conference. Now with almost every program in the SEC running a version of the spread, the OBC knew he must change his offensive philosophy to win at South Carolina. The Gamecocks became an SEC East powers riding the wave of recruiting elite athletes, solid coaching principals, an impressive run game with an accompanying play action element and a stout defense. Yes, the Ole Ball Coach or better titled “SEC Renaissance Man” is winning because he is smart enough to know that if you aren’t growing your not improving. An unlike most coaches toward the end of their careers, the Ole Ball Coach is the best in the business because he is humble enough to question his methods and change his coaching methods. Spurrier’s achievements at South Carolina have been beyond impressive.

We are nearing year ten of the Steve Spurrier Era at South Carolina, a team he has led to 11 or more victories in three consecutive seasons, and the Fun-n-Gun, the OBC’s claim to fame, has been no where to be found. But I would imagine if you ask his plan now, this would have been the road to success the whole time. Still, we all know the Visor has trick or two up his sleeve when defensive coordinators forget who they are dealing with, the man who changed the SEC twice!

  

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