While the notion of the SEC being the undisputed top conference in college football is nowhere near in doubt, there was a missed opportunity for perfection during Week 1 of the college football season.
A 14-0 weekend for the conference, obviously rare in potential, was a second away from completion before Florida State thwarted LSU’s extra point attempt after a late rally in New Orleans. Still, the conference opened up in full with the favorites taking care of business and of course underdog Florida upending top 10-ranked Utah. Paired with Georgia’s demolition of Oregon, and the SEC narrative is as strong as ever while the Pac-12 perception sinks by the minute.
The Grove Report looks back at the full SEC slate before turning the page to Week 2.
Utah State 0, No. 1 Alabama 55
There isn’t much tangible to recap beyond expectation. Reigning Heisman winner Bryce Young threw for five touchdowns and ran for another on a night where things just looked easy for all three phases of football for Nick Saban’s squad. The Tide defense looks as good as any unit nationally, allowing just 136 total yards and three third-down conversions to an Aggie team that already had a game (and a win) under its belt. Line up the Bama-Georgia title game already.
No. 11 Oregon 3, No. 3 Georgia 49
So much for a letdown after claiming that national title after the 40-year drought. If anything, Georgia looked as good against the Ducks as it had at any point in 2021 — a scary thought given the dominant defense and offense that got better with each passing week. Stetson Bennett looked in complete control, throwing for 368 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for another. Even without a dominant backfield, the offense looked efficient in whatever it attempted. And yea, the replacements on the defense will be just fine, just ask Bo Nix. The former Auburn passer wraps up his college career 0-4 against UGA, tossing two more interceptions along the way Saturday.
No. 7 Utah 26, Florida 29
The game of the day in the SEC finished as a launchpad victory for Billy Napier in his first game at the helm in Gainesville. While UF hung around and even led for a chunk of time in this one, it felt like a matter of time before a self-imploding Utah would click and finishes drives. It never happened, and an opportunistic, yet vulnerable, Florida defense took advantage with a pair of turnovers forced in their own end zone including the game-winning interception by Amari Burney. On the flip side, the Anthony Richardson hype immediately feels warranted as his dual-threat display (106 yards rushing, three touchdowns) immediately vaults him into the Heisman conversation.
No. 23 Cincinnati 24, No. 19 Arkansas 31
As physical and back-and-forth a game as there was to kick off the season, K.J. Jefferson and Raheim Sanders guided a consistent Arkansas offensive attack to a steady victory. Every time the Bearcats made plays, especially through the air, the Hog duo was ready and willing to answer. The two combined for 179 yards rushing and Jefferson added 223 more through the air, including three scores. Arkansas was stout against the UC running game, making the talented Bearcats one-dimensional along the way. It was just enough to avoid a shootout feel in Fayetteville.
Miami (Ohio) 13, No. 20 Kentucky 37
The Will Levis hype train is off to a strong start. The Penn State transfer tossed a trio of touchdowns to open the 2022 season for Kentucky, each from within the 10-yard line. He wound up with a 300-yard effort despite not much help from the UK running game, which did not register a double-digit yard rush in the win. The Wildcat defense also limited big plays, via the run and the pass, forcing a turnover along the way.
Troy 10, No. 21 Ole Miss 28
The first half Ole Miss put together was reminiscent of the 10-win team from 2021, but the second half left for plenty to be desired around the offense as a whole. The jury is still out on the quarterback room, too, after Jaxson Dart’s subpar Rebel debut, including one score and one bad interception. The defense and the running game, conversely, looked strong. Zach Evans debuted for 130 yards and freshman Quinshon Judkins provided the power in his 87 yards of work, including a score. The Rebels looked great in stopping the run, too.
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Ball State 10, Tennessee 59
That UT offense continues to work as advertised, especially with QB1 as Hendon Hooker accounted for four touchdowns (two passing) in the blowout win. The Vols also rushed for 200 plus yards as a team, showing more balance than last season provided onlookers. The defense forced three turnovers, including one on the first play from scrimmage. This one was never in doubt, as the Vols were up 45-0 in the second half before the Cardinals got on the board.
Memphis 23, Mississippi State 49
Another star SEC quarterback looked the part Saturday in Will Rogers, who continues to push for MSU passing records with his play. This time out, he tossed five touchdown passes, including four from 20-plus yards out. A lightning delay of three hours wouldn’t slow down this MSU passing attack, as Rogers hit a career-high 450 yards before yielding to a reserve. It’s already his sixth 400-yard game as a Bulldog. The home team’s defense worked very well, particularly in the first half, holding a usually-exciting Memphis offense to less than 50 yards by halftime.
Georgia State 14, South Carolina 35
Spencer Rattler kicked off his Carolina career with an up-and-down effort Saturday, accounting for one score and two interceptions out of the gates despite flashes with his mobility and live arm. Thankfully for USC, the defense and special teams were in their best form, as a pair of blocked punts went for scores to put the game out of reach for good. The offense has to show much better on the road at Arkansas this weekend.
Louisiana Tech 24, Missouri 52
A Thursday-nighter, Mizzou looks like a balanced offense early in the season, especially with new play-makers all over the field. Their top-rated rookie, Luther Burden, kicked off his college career with a receiving and rushing score. It took the offense a bit to get going, and the defense picked up the slack early on — a welcomed sight we’re sure for the MU faithful. Three interceptions in the first two quarters helped flip momentum for good against a seemingly-worthy G5 opponent at times.
Mercer 16, Auburn 42
Another game impacted by a long delay, and another game in which Auburn fans are asking questions about the QB1 spot. Starter T.J. Finley turned it over twice while backup Robby Ashford flashed legitimate wheels and a deep ball worthy of more looks in totaling 168 yards in limited snaps. Luckily for either, the AU rushing attack still has future NFLer Tank Bigsby running the show, and his 147 yards and two scores paced the offense no matter who was at the helm. Auburn’s defense faltered in the two-minute drill before halftime, but was strong otherwise (especially against the run) until garbage time.
Elon 31, Vanderbilt 42
How about a 2-0 Vanderbilt? Sure it was against an FCS opponent but the ‘Dores are a third of the way towards bowl eligibility, a legitimately tough hill to climb for the program. The defense didn’t show up in the second half but VU QB Mike Wright was on board all four quarters, scoring six touchdowns (four passing) and accounting for more than 300 yards (245 passing) during his best night as a college starter. Can Vandy work to become 3-1 heading into Tuscaloosa on September 24?
Florida State 24, LSU 23
While the Florida-Utah and Arkanas-Cincy games were two of the best games nationally from a talent, back-and-forth and just “good” football entertainment — this LSU/FSU game was entertaining for other reasons. Both quarterbacks, Jalen Daniels for LSU and Jordan Travis for FSU, willed their offenses to production and conversions with their arm and legs simultaneously, but almost nothing else on either side looked clean. Fittingly, the final margin was decided on an extra point attempt facing pressure on the left side, the same side LSU gave up another block to earlier on the night.
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Source : Sports Illustrated