- Chris Low, ESPN Senior Staff Writer
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We’re a week into the 2011 college football season, which means somebody’s hot and somebody’s not in the SEC.
You’ve come to know this little exercise as Hot and Not, and it’s back for another season:
LSU’s resiliency: What distractions? The Tigers ventured into Cowboys Stadium last Saturday with everybody wondering how they could possibly be on top of their game after everything that had happened off the field with quarterback Jordan Jefferson’s arrest. Never mind that they were playing the No. 3-ranked team in the country, and never mind that they were playing without three offensive starters. They never flinched and methodically took apart Oregon 40-27 in a win that should move the Tigers closer to that top spot in the polls. LSU coach Les Miles is no stranger to dealing with a crisis. Remember the terrible hurricanes in 2005, his first season as LSU’s coach, and the way he guided his team to an 11-2 record despite the Tigers having to move home games and most of the LSU campus serving as a medical triage? It’s obvious that Miles’ teams don’t lose their focus despite what’s happening off the field, and it’s just as obvious that this team has everything it takes -- physically and mentally -- to win a national championship.
South Carolina spur Antonio Allen: He lines up at spur in South Carolina’s defense, which is a hybrid safety/linebacker position. That’s fitting, because the 6-foot-2, 202-pound senior spurred the Gamecocks to a 56-37 win against East Carolina with a career night. He had 16 total tackles and forced two fumbles, both of which he recovered. He returned one of those fumbles 25 yards for a touchdown to help the Gamecocks pull away from the Pirates.
Auburn’s defense: Defensive coordinator Ted Roof vowed that he would get it fixed, and there’s a lot of fixing to do. Utah State piled up 27 first downs and 448 yards of total offense last Saturday, but Auburn escaped 42-38 thanks to a perfectly executed onside kick. There are a lot of new faces on that Auburn defense that will have to grow up in a hurry.
Mississippi State’s offense: You think the Bulldogs are salivating at the thought of going up against that Auburn defense after the way the Tigers were sliced and diced by Utah State? Granted, Mississippi State did its damage against Memphis, but the Bulldogs exploded for a school-record 645 yards in total offense in their 59-14 rout and scored five touchdowns that were 35 yards or longer.
Georgia’s momentum: The Bulldogs were hoping to go into their SEC opener against South Carolina with some momentum. Instead, they go into Saturday’s home game against the Gamecocks with their backs squarely against the wall. An 0-2 start would go over in Athens about the same way a going-away party would for Texas A&M right now in Austin.
Arkansas receiver Joe Adams: He’s easily one of the best receivers in the league, but worked his open-field magic last weekend on a pair of punt returns for touchdowns. He scooted 61 yards in the first quarter and 69 yards in the third quarter, becoming the first SEC player to return two punts for touchdowns in the same game since Kentucky’s Derek Abney in 2002.
South Carolina’s start: The Gamecocks looked more like the No. 12-ranked team in the SEC for much of the first half in their opener against East Carolina. They rebounded to win 56-37, but won’t be able to get away with falling behind 17-0 against most SEC teams.
LSU nickel back Tyrann Mathieu: If you like watching defense played at light speed, you’re going to love this LSU defense. Mathieu played every defensive snap (82) in the win against Oregon and led the Tigers with 10 tackles. He also forced a fumble in punt coverage that he returned 3 yards for a touchdown. Wherever the ball is, you can bet Mathieu will be there, too.
Kentucky’s offensive line: Maybe it was just a bad first game, but even coach Joker Phillips said his offensive line play was disappointing in the Wildcats’ 14-3 lackluster win against Western Kentucky. The Wildcats have had some nagging injuries in their offensive line. But if they don’t play well this season up front, it’s going to be a long season in the Bluegrass.
Ole Miss’ collapse: The Jacksonville State loss in the opener a year ago was embarrassing. The 14-13 loss to BYU on Saturday in this season’s opener was crushing. The Rebels led 13-0 at home with a little more than 10 minutes to play, and Tyrone Nix’s defense had made one play after another to keep BYU out of the end zone. Then it all came crashing down, and the play nobody in Oxford can get out of their minds is one that should have never happened in the first place. The Rebels, leading 13-7 with 5:30 to play, had Zack Stoudt attempt to throw it from the shotgun on third-and-27 from their own 21 instead of running the ball and punting it away. Sure enough, somebody whiffed up front, and Stoudt -- playing in his first major college game -- was sacked and fumbled. BYU recovered the fumble for a touchdown, and just like that, Ole Miss trailed 14-13. From there, Ole Miss went into meltdown mode, complete with another puzzling decision on fourth-and-10 and several crippling penalties. The loss was costly enough, but it looks like the Rebels might have also lost star running back Brandon Bolden for the season to an ankle injury. The bottom line: You’re not supposed to lose games at home when you give up just one offensive touchdown and your defense also scores a touchdown for you. Yet, the Rebels found a way to do it.
3dSharon Katz, ESPN Stats & Information
4dTom VanHaaren and Erik McKinney