Biggest flaw for every SEC championship contender after Week 2
The top 3 teams in the SEC look very much like College Football Playoff contenders: Florida and Georgia in the East, Alabama in the West. In fact, the Crimson Tide already have a clear 1-game lead in their division.
The Gators and Bulldogs are undefeated as well, but they are not alone. Tennessee is also 2-0 and has looked reasonably solid. Those three have created a gap in their division because the other 4 SEC East teams (South Carolina, Kentucky, Missouri and Vanderbilt) are all 0-2. The Vols get a chance to prove that the next level might be attainable because they face Georgia this Saturday and Alabama on Oct. 24. For now, we’ll add the guys from Knoxville to our list of contenders.
As for the West, the teams that were considered the biggest threats to Alabama have all lost, though 2 of them lost on the road to 1 of the Big 3. In fact, there’s a 6-way tie for second at 1-1 in the division. Mississippi State could have been considered a surprise contender after its win over LSU — but Saturday’s loss to Arkansas knocked the Bulldogs back down to the middle of the pack.
Two weeks into the season, even Bama, UF and UGA are not flawless. So here are the biggest flaws for each SEC title contender.
The Bulldogs looked much better on offense against Auburn than they did against Arkansas in their opener, and the defense was excellent. UGA confirmed its status as an SEC and national title contender — but there is one area to clean up and it should be pretty easy. Georgia leads the conference in penalty yards at 83.5 yards per game, a long way ahead of No. 2 Kentucky (60.5). Even this area was better against the Tigers than against the Razorbacks, but 8 penalties for 59 yards against Auburn won’t satisfy coach Kirby Smart.
Florida: Pass defense
Teams are passing a lot against the Gators because they’re trailing a lot, as the UF offense continues to operate at a high level. But it has to be a little troubling for Gators fans that UF is 13th in the league in passing yards allowed at 327.5 per game (only LSU at 368 is worse) and the Gators have yet to face one of the elite quarterbacks in the SEC. The Gators were better Saturday against South Carolina as Collin Hill was 28-of-47 for 212 yards. UF did a decent job of slowing the Gamecocks offense but they can get better for sure.
Tennessee: Lack of explosive plays
This is nitpicking a little. The Vols’ offense has looked solid enough, especially running. UT ranks 2nd in the SEC at 182.5 rushing yards per game. But as a whole, the Tennessee offense is averaging 5.9 yards per play, good for only No. 8 in the league. The longest play for the Vols so far is 36 yards, on a pass from Jarrett Guarantano to Jalin Hyatt.
The Vols and Auburn are the only SEC teams that haven’t registered a 40-yard play from scrimmage.
In an East division where Kyle Trask is passing the ball all over the place — with great success — and Georgia suddenly looking dangerous on Saturday, UT will need more quick strikes on offense.
Alabama: Pass defense
This is also nitpicking a little because Texas A&M threw a lot Saturday. But when the game was close in the first half, Kellen Mond threw for 148 yards and 2 touchdowns against Bama, including a 47-yard TD to Ainias Smith. Texas A&M wound up with 7.1 yards per passing attempt and though that’s not a spectacular number (certainly not compared to Tide QB Mac Jones, who threw for 16.1 yards per attempt), it is slightly worrying for a young secondary that is still a work in progress.
Auburn: Offense. All of it.
In Week 1, the Tigers’ defense played well enough to paper over any cracks that might have appeared in the Auburn offense. No such luck in Week 2 against Georgia. Auburn gained just 216 yards against the Dawgs, including 39 on the ground in 22 carries. For all the (deserved) talk about how Auburn has to develop Bo Nix and how the passing offense is not where it needs to be, the running game is much worse. At 65 yards per game, the Auburn running game has gone nowhere through 2 games. Nix struggled badly against Georgia, but he was far from the only one.
LSU: Pass defense
Yeah, yeah, we know. The Tigers only gave up 113 passing yards in Saturday’s rout over Vanderbilt and held Commodores QB Ken Seals to 11 completions on 25 attempts. And after that very solid performance, LSU moved up to … actually nowhere, because the Tigers are still last in the SEC in pass defense, allowing 368 yards per game. LSU showed no real flaws against Vandy, but we still can’t get KJ Costello’s record-setting performance against the Bayou Bengals out of our heads. LSU will have to shut down a better foe before we start believing again. They won’t have to wait long. Trask and Florida await in Week 4.
Texas A&M: Turnovers
The Aggies were blown out at Alabama after keeping things close for a good chunk of the first half. Perhaps the biggest back-breaker for A&M was Daniel Wright’s 47-yard interception return, which gave Alabama a 28-14 lead in the 2nd quarter. It was bad enough for the Aggies that Mac Jones threw for 435 yards and running back Najee Harris scored 2 touchdowns. But when you give Bama free points on defense, your task becomes nearly impossible. A&M has committed 5 turnovers this season, 2nd-most in the SEC.