SEC Week 1 superlatives

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Every Monday, we’ll be looking at Saturday superlatives. We’ll recognize the teams and players who stood out before we officially turn the page to next Saturday…but we’ll also recognize the most disappointing units of the entire weekend.

Isn’t it great to have football back? Regardless of whether your team was on the short end of the stick or is sitting 1-0, the season is finally here. And it’s beautiful.

Here are week one superlatives:

Best game: Ole Miss at Vanderbilt

Maybe it was opening night, or maybe it was that both teams refused to lie down for the other, but Ole Miss-Vanderbilt was the most thrilling game of the weekend. We may have witnessed a top five game on opening night. Incredible game and incredible finish.

Related: Three thrilling plays in last two minutes

Most impressive team(s): South Carolina and LSU

Based purely on week one showings, it would be hard not to argue LSU and South Carolina as the two favorites in the SEC. Carolina looked like a legitimate championship contender, and if LSU plays offense like it did Saturday, they could march right through the West, including Tuscaloosa in November. Although the defense will need to gel before Auburn in two weeks. The Gamecocks and Tigers look like the SEC’s two most complete teams exiting week one, as both teams are led with great trench play.

Best Offense: LSU

Aside from teams playing FCS and lesser opponents, LSU’s offense stood out the most. They didn’t score the most points, nor did they rack up the most yards. But Cam Cameron’s impact was very obvious, and Zach Mettenberger’s play increases optimism surrounding the Tigers. The Tigers rolled up 448 yards of total offense, including 197 on the ground. TCU was the Big 12’s best defense in 2012. LSU ran 80 plays Saturday; they ran 80 plays in only one game last season. Tip o’ the hat, Cam Cameron.

Best Defense: Florida

The one thing we’ve learned about Florida is that Will Muschamp will put a top five defense on the field. Toledo isn’t Oregon, but they averaged over 30 points last year and had nine returning starters. Muschamp understands the SEC is won or lost in the trenches, and he has arguably the SEC’s best defensive line, led by DT Dominique Easley, who wreaked havoc against Toledo. Florida welcomes back CB Loucheiz Purify and LB Antonio Morrison against Miami.

Biggest immediate position concern: Georgia O-line

Georgia’s O-line play was lacking. Clemson exposed the Bulldogs when they mixed up their blitzing schemes, and the Tigers’ speed rusher exposed the left tackle play – Kenarious Gates and Kolton Houston both got beat. Yes, Georgia had 500-plus yards of offense, but with South Carolina and Jadeveon Clowney – arguably the best D-line in the SEC, things get tougher this week.

Related: Georgia WR out for the season

Biggest letdown: Alabama offense

Taking nothing away from Virginia Tech’s tenacious defense, the Alabama offense has issues to fix. The root of the problem is the O-line. The running game yielded just 96 yards, while AJ McCarron finished 10 of 23 for 110 yards, one TD and one INT. There was no push up front, and Tech took full advantage of three new starters on the Tide’s O-line. Thanks to Christion Jones and special teams, the offense had a freebee, but there are issues to be fixed during the bye week.

Related: Three takeaways on Bama’s performance 

Best offensive player: Georgia RB Todd Gurley

The Beast of the East is back and better than anyone. Although Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins will get the ink, Gurley was the best player on the field. He looks like Jamal Lewis chewing up and spitting out defenses. He carried 12 times for 154 yards and two touchdowns, and he missed half the game with a quad injury.

Best defensive player: Robenson Therezie, DB, Auburn

Auburn needs someone in the secondary with a nose for the football, and Therezie looks like that guy. He recorded two INTs, three passes defended and seven total tackles to help seal a seven-point opening week win against Washington State.

Related: Washington State QB still talking trash about Auburn

Biggest surprise: Arkansas

Arkansas came out guns blazing and were very impressive. Most had Arkansas tabbed to win five games, but after week one, opinions may have changed. The defense racked up four sacks, and the offense posted 292 rushing yards. Nobody is ready to talk championships and Arkansas, but it won’t be long before Bret Bielema has the Hogs competing for a western crown.

Photo Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

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COMMENTS

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  • So Carolina looked like one of the most impressive and UGA O-line is the biggest question mark plus the loss of their WR wonder if that’ll change some predictions for Saturday? Plus it is Spurrier’s Christmas morning. GO COCKS

  • Saying UGA’s O-line poses the biggest immediate concern is pretty lazy. They gave up 4 sacks and looked pretty shaky for about 4 series, but it wasn’t all on the O-line. 3 of the 4 sacks were after bad penalties put the offense in obvious passing situations.

    2nd and 15 after a chop block
    3rd and 9
    2nd and 25 after two penalties

    Only one sack came on a non-passing down, 1st and 10.

    I’m not sure that there are many units that wouldn’t give up a few sacks given those situations. Murray was 20-29 for 323 yards. QB’s aren’t able to put up nearly 70% completion rates and 16 yards per reception without pretty good line play. Not to mention that they ran for ball for 222 yards and 5 TDs.

    SC’s D-line is Clowney. You will see similar schemes that UNC used against him again this week. SC’s LB’s are a big drop off from last season and you will see that with UGA’s running game and TE play this weekend.

    UF’s QB continuing not to be able to throw the ball down field and Bama’s O-line (95 yards rushing in a 25 point win???) have much bigger questions than a line that helped rack up 545 yards and 5 TD’s against a top 5 team.

    • Way to qualify all the mistakes they made! Clowney had 3 tackles against UNC but defense still held them to low numbers so obviously the D-line isn’t just Clowney. I guess we will see Saturday.

    • The total yardage and output of UGA tells me more about the skill position players than the O-line. Alabama has a bye week; Georgia plays against the best D-line in the SEC. It’s an immediate concern, especially with five returning starters.

      • With that logic, shouldn’t Bama produced better this weekend?

        • Perhaps, but when UGA’s coaches haven’t even settled on a starting lineup for the O-line, it becomes the most immediate concern, IMO. We can agree to disagree, I guess.

        • You don’t think that it is a matter of having to many guys that can start and have experience? They are 2 deep at every position on the line. Might take a few quarters to find the right combination. Still don’t think that it is that big of an issue. If they crap the bed and give up a ton of sacks, Murray has no time to throw, and they cant run the ball (ie: last season’s game against SC) then there might be some concern. Until then, I think it is just media hype to promote Clowney after a whole off season of hearing about him.

        • …and the media’s perceived let down by him against UNC.

    • If you think USC’s D-Line is (just) Clowney you’re obviously on the short bus to begin with. Chaz Sutton and Kelcy Quarles are bests in their own right, Clowney just (rightfully) gets all the press. It’s kind of like saying Warren Sapp was just the Buc’s D-line and forget about Simeon Rice. USC has arguably the best D-line in the SEC going up against an O-line that got embarrassed by an ACC team. Shape up or good luck – your game is just as easily “just” Gurley, and that’s it. (and I would be equally wrong in saying that)

      • Quarles had 38 tackles and 3.5 sacks last year…all world. He is a stuffer, not a sack guy. No it would be like saying the Buc’s D-line was Rice, and forgetting Sapp, except Quarles isn’t even close to being a Warren Sapp.

        I guess perception is reality in fandom. Not sure that coach Spurrier would agree that UGA is just Gurley. Not sure that I buy that the skill players are the reason for the yards and the O-line got embarrassed. If that were the case, wouldn’t Bama have produced better than they did? I think that they have pretty good skill players. I think.

        At the end of the year UF will be shown to have the best D-line in the SEC.

        • I can’t disagree with you here about Florida. A question worth asking – Does Florida have the strongest team from the inside out? LSU, Florida and SC look to have the best combos of O-lines and D-lines right now.

        • I’m not sold on anything with UF on O. Yes they ran the ball well against Buffalo, but its Buffalo. This week will be interesting against Miami, but lets face it, they do not have a good test until maybe Arkansas. If they aren’t doing anything different than they were last year on O by then, they will be in trouble down the stretch.

        • @J Patterson – Didn’t y’all play Toledo this weekend? They’re like 10x better than Buffalo, who played Ohio State.

        • Just interesting you’re telling everyone on this article that they’re wrong, and you don’t even know what damn team you played.

        • I meant Toledo…I was watching the replay of OSU and Buffalo when I was replying.

        • You’re right Quarles is a stuffer. He stuffs the run! As does a lot of that defensive line. UGA clearly is not just Gurley. But for you to make a statement that SC’s defense is just Clowney is non-sensical. What are you upset that Florida wasn’t picked as the most complete team after their stellar victory over Toledo?

      • Hmmm, please tell me where I went wrong with all of my observations???? Clowney didnt play bad tonight, but 1 sack and 2 tackles isnt 1st pick / Heisman stuff. Again he got gassed, or “got his foot stepped on in practice” or something. Two weeks in a row where we learn about “issues” a half into a mediocre game. He is still the scariest guy in college football, but everyone got sucked into the hype.

        As for the D being only Clowney, ummm yeah. Quarles and Sutton both had 1 tackle, 2 asts, and 0 sacks. They were non-factors. Good offenses can scheme, wait even bad UNC offenses can scheme away from 1 guy. SC lost to much talent at LB going into this season. Great D’s dont give up 300 + passing, 225+ rushing, and 40+ points to teams with porous o-lines and “shaky” qb play.

        UF’s O is absolutely brutal, but their D is already the best D in the SEC. Could you imagine the type of damage that guys like Easley could do if they had a Clowney on their team? UF has 2 maybe 3 legit 1st round guys on their D line. Sutton and Quarles might be 3rd guys.

        I sure wish UF had this porous of an o-line and overrated qb.

    • Excellent points J Patterson….also…lets give credit where due …this was against a top ten team in their VERY jacked up stadium for the home opener. While there were clearly some mistakes made by individuals I’m not ready to hit the panic button on anything yet. Thought the young D did well for the most part without possibly their best player (JHC) and Murray made some plays but just didn’t seem sharp at times. Clemson was 3 points better than we were in a very entertaining shoot out…end of story.

    • I think it’s pretty lazy of you to make a statement that SC’s D-Line is all Clowney. Did you watch the game? The young LB’s played extremely well considering their inexperience and kept a high scoring up-tempo offensive unit under 300 yards. Pretty impressive.

  • I bet a lot of teams would look like championship contenders against UNC.

    • for the sake on not thinking that you are a total moron, i am going to consider that comment sarcasm. unc could very easily win the acc this year. that offense is scary fast. they came into a crazy williams-brice stadium, and went blitzkrieg fast all game on the hottest night of the year. they will beat plenty of teams this year. i could see if you were talking about florida’s opponent, but usc took on a bcs conference foe on the first night of college football, and didn’t hide behind some nobody team like most of the other top schools.

  • Congratulations Hogs and coach B. from a Missouri follower. We had a great time camping in the Buffalo River Canyon, AR over the weekend. Thanks for have a State government that values natural Blessings.

  • Gotta say Co-Offensive MVP’s: Gurley and Jordan Matthews. Dude caught a 40+ yard pass on 4th and 18 with a minute left just three minutes after throwing up. Not to mention his other 9 catches for 130 yards

  • The Gators have got to throw the ball down field more. Better teams will put 7 in the box and no matter how good our D is…you gotta score.

  • I was really impressed with the way Ole Miss’ offense played for the most part considering it was the first game and against a very good team. Vandy is a top 25 team, I don’t care what anyone says. They are a veteran group with some talent and good coaching. Ole Miss played two freshmen on the OL against a tough Vandy DL. No. 1 OT Laremy Tunsil played LT and looked like a pro and No. 3 OT Austin Golson played RG and look solid. Plus Ole Miss started a freshman TE Evan Engram and the No. 1 WR Laquon Treadwell. Treadwell is going to be a All-American sooner than later. The Ole Miss defense is also very young and didn’t start their starting CB’s. So they will continue to get better.

  • I am confused Jon. In one paragraph you say Florida has “arguably the SEC’s best defensive line” and in the next paragraph you say “with South Carolina and Jadeveon Clowney – arguably the best D-line in the SEC”. So who’s better? ;)

    • Right now? Would have to say SC, but Florida can certainly become that, especially once Cummings gets back. All the ingredients there for Gators to dominate with D-line.

      • usc has a better defensive line, and a better defense than florida. our starting dt quarles didn’t play for half the game, and we got it on our gamecock board on wed that clowney was sick. our lb’s who were supposed to be a weak link, took it to unc all night long. and the usc secondary is nasty and deep. gurley can hit, and will easily step into swearingers old spot. i don’t care who florida gets back, the gamecocks dl and defense in general is better. period!

      • Guess you have a new leader now?

  • It’s still too early to tell anything. It’s college football so anything could happen on any given week. Georgia lost to a very talented team in a hostile environment. This weekend will tell us all a lot about the upcoming season. If SCAR can pull it off, they will definitely be a favorite to win the East, as Florida will have to get past LSU and UGA before they even get to SCAR.

  • As an LSU fan, it’s hard to be optimistic just yet. Hopefully, TCU’s defense is a good unit as a whole, but they were without the defensive player of the year in the Big 12. I’m also hoping that Hill will still be an upgrade at back. Blue seemed to run the ball fairly well, but he didn’t seem to have much vision. It was all north and south, and that’s it. Terrence McGee did a great job, and should be an asset, but I was hoping we would utilize the tight ends and backs in the receiving game much more than we did. Maybe that will come with time. Defense looked good at times, but sloppy at others. Other than the roughing the passer penalty, Ego Ferguson seemed to have the best game. Hopefully, the kinks will be ironed out in the upcoming weeks before SEC play.

  • Does anybody else think Clowney is just a little overrated?

  • To John, we in the State of Louisiana were shocked that because of his height, our top High School QB at the time, Terrence Magee, was not considered a top recruit by the scouting services. Like other players waiting in the depth-chart behind NFL blue-chippers (like Jordan Allen & Micha Eugene), not being named a ‘starter’ ahead of veterans is all that some people see.

    “When Terrance Magee told Sprote Writer, Lee Brecheen, his final season stats for 2010, it blew us all away; which were 2,421 yards passing with 33 Touchdowns as a QB, and 1,221 yards rushing and 18 Touchdowns, That’s an amazing 51 Touchdowns in one season combined Running and Passing, lead Franklinton to the Superdome 4A State Championship for a second year in a row. During that senior campaign, Magee was named LSWA Class 4A Most Outstanding Player on Offense as he rushed for 1,370 yards and 19 touchdowns on 161 attempts, and completed 159 of 255 passes for 2,634 yards and 35 touchdowns with only three interceptions.”

    The ONLY reason he did not make the recruiting radar as a 5-star prospect was his height. As one of the most successful High School QB’s in Louisiana, he has been in a deep, deep depth-chart at LSU for 3-years, but is STILL: T-Magee, Champion and speedy multi-talented player. The Tigers like Magee’s speed. He played sparingly at receiver last season, but has shown this spring that he’s very comfortable catching the ball out of the backfield and gives them a speed option that will be important in Cam Cameron’s offense.”

    VIDEO: (Magee named Sportsline Player of the Year)
    Posted: Jan 26, 2011 8:22 PM CST
    Updated: Feb 08, 2011 12:40 PM CST
    By Michael Oliver – email

    Terrence Magee
    By Sharief Ishaq – bio | email

    “BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) – Franklinton High School quarterback Terrence Magee was named the winner of the 2010 Warrick Dunn Award as WAFB’s Sportsline Player of the Year during a ceremony Wednesday night.

    Magee led the Demons to the school’s first-ever state title this year. He was the Class 4A Offensive Player of the Year and MVP of the 4A Championship game.

    The LSU commitment had almost 4,000 total yards and 54 touchdowns. The young man was very humble when speaking about the award after the presentation.

    “I never expected to win the award,” Magee said. “God blessed me with the opportunity and ability he gave me and each day, I try to go out and make the most of it because you never know when it could be taken from you.”

    He joins an elite group of special athletes from the Capital area. The previous three winners of the award are Blaine Gauthier, Shane Andrus and Frankie Jackson. Magee said winning the award was a great honor, but it also comes with responsibilities.

    “Those guys that won it before me, I have a lot to live up to and especially him (Dunn). He’s a great running back and I like what he does. He gives back to his community. He never forgets where he comes from. That’s something our coach instills in us every day, remember who you are and where you come from.”

    Magee beat out the likes of Redemptorist offensive lineman La’el Collins, Patterson running back Kenny Hilliard, Catholic High quarterback Zach Oliver and others.”) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cXmOLRmM1mk

    Now that Cam Cameron has found a use for his special talent, we would like to see more writers speak about Terrence Magee, and outstanding High School player that was almost overlooked, despite his legendary accomplishments…

  • …….Best game of the week HAD to be GA/Clemson!……..I would rank best game of the week: 1a. GA/CL 1b. Ole Miss/Vandy……