Sunday, September 13, 2009
What we learned in the SEC: Week 2
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
Auburn made a little history. Tennessee came crashing back down to reality and Georgia lived to see another day Saturday.
Here’s a look at what all we learned in the SEC in Week 2:
1. Auburn serves notice: Hey, this Gene Chizik guy has made a pretty big splash. In fact, of the three new head coaches in the league, he’s made the biggest splash, and he’s done it the old-fashioned way -- by winning games. Auburn flattened Mississippi State 49-24 on Saturday night and rolled up more than 500 yards of total offense for the second straight week. It’s the first time since 1970 that Auburn has surpassed the 500-yard mark in back-to-back games. This is a team that’s improving weekly and a team that obviously knows how to put its opponent away. Auburn led Louisiana Tech 13-10 at the half last week, but set sail on a 24-3 run in the second half to win easily. And then Saturday, Mississippi State jumped out to a 17-14 lead midway through the second quarter, but Auburn scored four unanswered touchdowns to send the Bulldogs packing in the SEC opener for both teams. Here’s the most telling stat about what the Tigers have done: They scored six offensive touchdowns against Mississippi State. A year ago, they scored a total of seven offensive touchdowns in eight SEC games.
2. Alabama has options on offense: Sophomore running back Mark Ingram was already coming back from the flu and a bruised knee. Then on the opening drive against Florida International, Julio Jones bruised his right knee cap, while senior running back Roy Upchurch injured his ankle. No problem, though. The Crimson Tide unveiled freshman running back Trent Richardson in full, and he responded with 118 yards rushing. Mike McCoy got most of Jones’ snaps and finished with 100 yards in receptions, and junior quarterback Greg McElroy really looks comfortable standing in that pocket right now and throwing the ball. Everybody will keep an eye on Jones these next few days to see how his knee responds, but this appears to be a more diverse Alabama offense than a year ago.
3. Tennessee not ready for prime time: Now we know. Western Kentucky was just that bad. The Big Orange Nation was giddy with excitement over the Vols’ 63-7 season-opening win last week. But after watching the Vols play a real opponent and lose to UCLA 19-15 at home Saturday, reality quickly set in for the folks on Rocky Top. This is an average team that has a ways to go before it climbs back among the SEC’s elite. The offense doesn’t look any better than it did a year ago, although Monte Kiffin’s defense played valiantly. Lane Kiffin has a decision to make about senior quarterback Jonathan Crompton, who’s already thrown five interceptions in two games. Kiffin obviously lost any confidence he had in Crompton throwing the ball in the second half Saturday. How else do you explain those two up-the-middle-run calls by Kiffin down near the goal line in the final minutes?
4. Garcia finds his groove: Even though South Carolina didn’t win Saturday, sophomore quarterback Stephen Garcia gave the Gamecocks hope for the future with the way he played. He showed some courage in the pocket, was a wizard at scrambling out of trouble and just generally grew up in South Carolina’s 41-37 loss at Georgia. It’s sort of what everybody has been waiting to see from Garcia ever since he came to South Carolina as a highly regarded prep quarterback out of Tampa, Fla., two years ago. He finished 31-of-53 for a career-high 313 yards and was intercepted just once. He also led the Gamecocks in rushing with 42 yards on 10 carries. If he’d only kept the ball on that final fourth-down play instead of trying to throw it, South Carolina might be 2-0 right now. Either way, if he continues to play this way the rest of the season, the Gamecocks are going to have a chance to win a lot of games.
5. Bulldogs aren’t dead yet: They were reading the last rites on Georgia’s season as South Carolina drove down the field in the final minutes Saturday. Who knows where an 0-2 start would have led the Bulldogs? Wherever that is, it wouldn’t have been a lot of fun. But by gutting out a 41-37 win, Georgia now heads to Arkansas this coming weekend with a little momentum. The Razorbacks have been pointing toward this game for the past couple of weeks. Even Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino admitted the Hogs worked on some Georgia stuff leading up to the opener against Missouri State, and they were off this past weekend. The Bulldogs will have to play better defensively, especially against the pass, if they’re going to win in Fayetteville. But they go into that game with some newfound confidence and do so 1-0 in the SEC.