Now that 25 percent of the college football season is in the dust, what can we take away from the first quarter?
Here are the SEC East Quarterly Assessments:
There’s a trio of legit contenders: South Carolina put on a statement of a performance this past weekend against Missouri, but so did Georgia and Florida. All three were games the powers should win handedly, and they dominated in all three and looked rather studly while doing so. Florida (4-0, 3-0), Georgia (4-0, 2-0) and South Carolina (4-0, 2-0) all look fit to contend for the East, but there can only be one winner. Georgia has the easiest road ahead, followed by Florida and South Carolina. Georgia has to be the favorite, because they can score in a hurry in several different ways, and the defense will regain all returning nine starters against Tennessee on Saturday. Florida is improving every week, and quarterback Jeff Driskel is playing very efficient football. South Carolina will need Shaw to play like he played against Missouri – nearly perfect – to win the East, but the defense is legit. Carolina also plays in Baton Rouge and Gainesville in back-to-back weeks. All three teams have the horses to win it, though.
Tennessee has no clue what they are trying to accomplish on offense: Last weekend was the perfect example against Akron. The Vols came out against an out-talented Akron team and ran Rajion Neal for a gain of seven yards on the first play. The Vols then ran play-action off the run for an incompletion. On 3rd and three, the Vols then threw another pass that gets picked off and returned for a touchdown. Why not run the ball down Akron’s throats the first drive and prove a point, “We’re here to dominate you”? But no, Tennessee is just happy to be playing football with some explosive skill players on offense. Running the football with Tyler Bray in the shotgun makes no sense to me. Run the ball under center, please, and try to find an identity of toughness while you’re at it, Jim Chaney. They looked like they were going to put it on Florida in the first half, and when they got down in the second half, they quit. This team is head scratching. They have all the talent in the world on offense, but it looks like their leadership doesn’t give a damn around there. Cordarrelle Patterson hasn’t had enough touches the last two games, and running back Marlin Lane must be in the doghouse.
Georgia is the most explosive offense in the SEC: Yeah. I said it. With what I think is the best quarterback in the SEC in Aaron Murray, a cast of talented receivers with the emergence of Marlon Brown and two freshmen tailbacks who are thunder and lightning, this team is loaded for bear. Now, the defense may have had a slow start to the season, but they haven’t even played with all nine returning starters yet. Right now, Todd Gurley is the best running back in the SEC. I’m not going to start “the next Herschel” chants, but this kid is out-rushing Walker on less carries through four weeks. Murray has developed into a quarterback with an edge who knows opponents have to play the run first; therefore, he can torch defenses at the third level (20-plus yards). Receivers Tavarres King, Michael Bennett and Marlon Brown each have over 200 hundred yards receiving and all are over 14 catches on the year. And that “patchwork” offensive line has only given up six sacks, too. For comparison, Alabama has given up 10, along with South Carolina, and Florida has given up 12.
Will Muschamp is #winning: You can attribute Will Muschamp winning at Florida to several different reasons. He’s hired a new offensive coordinator and a new strength coach. That’s part of it. He also has a quarterback and a running back playing at a high level in Jeff Driskel and Mike Gillislee. That’s part of it, too. But his second-half coaching adjustments have been superb. Florida has outscored its opponents 64-13 in four games this season in the second half, and they pitched a shutout against (cough) Kentucky last Saturday. This team is on the rise, but Florida has four of the top six teams in the country as it stands right now remaining on the schedule. It’s going to be a tough finish.
Missouri is nowhere near ready for SEC play: This group put up some offensive numbers last season. The offense scored over 32 points per game last season. This year, they are scoring right at 29, but only an average of 15 in two conference games. Quarterback production, or lack thereof, has been an issue, and it takes a very dynamic quarterback to run that offense, no matter what conference you play in. James Franklin hasn’t exactly picked up where he left off of last year’s 36 total touchdowns, and he’s only totalled three so far. He doesn’t look so quick against faster SEC players, and maybe his shoulder is really is bothering him more than we know. The offense is not in rhythm, and the Tigers are 13th in the SEC in total offense. Defensively, this club is okay, as they are ranked 6th in total defense after two conference games. But this group as a whole has a long way to go to get to where they are competing regularly for SEC championships.
Vanderbilt and Kentucky are the same as former years: We knew Kentucky would be down, but Vanderbilt is down again, too. The former bottom dwellers are the current bottom dwellers once again. Kentucky may have reminded you of a high school team over the weekend…they did me! Vanderbilt had some momentum before the season, but it just reminds us of the tough job it is to win at Vandy in the SEC. The Dores are 1-3, with their only win coming against Presbyterian. They have been outscored 65-16 in two conference games this season. Likewise, Kentucky is 1-3, and there is very little light at the end of the tunnel.