With a chaotic first week of gridiron craziness mostly behind us, it’s time to hand out grades. Not for A&M or UT, who will have to settle for Incompletes, but everybody else in the SEC gets evaluated. As we do, we’ll hand out an overall grade to each team and then single out a couple of teams for hall passes (good work) or detention (bad work) for offense, defense, and special teams.
SEC West grades
A very solid opening performance for the Tide. There were some things to shore up (sub-100 yards passing, poor special teams), but that defense didn’t look any the worse for losing a bunch of NFL players.
It wasn’t always glamorous, but LSU methodically chipped away at an inferior BYU team. The Tigers completely dominated the line of scrimmage and showed signs of a legitimate passing game, although the jury is still somewhat out on that issue.
Georgia Southern won’t be confused with Georgia anytime soon. But when you outgain your opponent 535-78, you handled your business. Jarrett Stidham was a bit rusty in spots, and Daniel Carlson somehow missed a couple kicks. Still, a good start.
Mississippi State: A-
A 555-33 margin on yardage? Two first downs allowed in the entire game? Probably more impressive was the offensive balance of passing for 274 yards and rushing for 281. Level of competition hurts the value a bit, but if State can bring these types of efforts all year long, they could surprise in the West.
There are limitations on exactly what anybody can learn from an opener against an FCS opponent. The Razorbacks defense looked much improved, holding Florida A&M to 175 total yards. On the other hand, the offense was a bit spotty, especially the passing game, and again, level of competition renders this somewhat meaningless.
Ole Miss: C+
They won by 20; Shea Patterson passed for 429 yards and four scores. But the Rebels were outrushed significantly by South Alabama. That defense is more than a little shaky, and they’re one bad hit on Patterson away from being a MAC team.
Texas A&M: Incomplete
They play Sunday against UCLA.
SEC East grades
Chubb and Michel were Chubb and Michel. Jake Fromm looked very good in relief of Eason, and may have Wally Pipped his way into the lineup. On the downside, UGA outgained Appalachian State by just 84 yards and allowed them 4.3 yards per carry. More focus will be required in the SEC.
The Commodores passed for nearly 300 yards and never struggled against an MTSU team that beat Missouri in 2016. The bad news for Vandy? Rushing 35 times for just 71 yards suggests that the ’Dores may have to throw a lot.
South Carolina: C+
Deebo Samuel was great and they won. Now, they were outgained 504-246. I’m not sure when the last time was that an SEC team was doubled in yardage, but still somehow won. But it doesn’t happen often. The pass defense had some significant issues, and Carolina rushed for 1.5 yards per carry. If neither of those things change, South Carolina’s results will change.
Much like Carolina, Kentucky won ugly. UK was outgained by Southern Mississippi 364-254. The power running game that had been UK’s bread and butter was MIA, as it rushed for just 2.2 yards per carry. The Kentucky defense did look much better, but they may have to be better or struggle to compete.
It feels like two separate grades should be given. Drew Lock set a school record with over 500 yards passing and the Tigers racked up 815 total yards and 72 points. That said, their defense allowed 492 yards to an FCS opponent, including 353 passing yards, resulting in 43 points allowed. That Missouri State team was 4-7 last year and lost to Northern Iowa by 54 points and Illinois State by 37.
D is for defense, which is all that Florida could rely on, and even that eventually dried up in the disappointing loss against Michigan. The Gators gained just 192 offensive yards, including 27 carries for 11 yards. Of UF’s 17 points, 14 came via defensive touchdowns. McElwain better figure out a line and an offense, or this could be a brutal season.
The Vols play on Monday,.
Hall passes: Offense
Sure, it was against Little Sisters of the FCS Poor, but 815 yards is a ton. Damarea Crockett rushed for over 200 yards and J’Mon Moore had four receptions for 187 yards.
Rushing for 351 yards is a nice start to the season, as is featuring two backs who each ended up with 136 yards on the ground (Kerryon Johnson and Kam Martin). A little more fine tuning would have made this nearly perfect.
Sub-200 yard effort, with 11 rushing yards and five fumbles? At least neither QB threw an interception. Unfortunately, neither led an offensive touchdown drive either.
A mere 254 yards against a CUSA opponent doesn’t do much for confidence in the UK offensive attack. And 3-for-13 on third down is a stat that has to improve.
Hall passes: Defense
They knocked a Heisman Trophy candidate out of the game, and then held one of the strongest teams in the nation to 1.5 yards per carry. Forcing three turnovers didn’t hurt, but Alabama was just all over Florida State from the time the Seminoles got off the bus.
BYU isn’t exactly the 1980s’ San Francisco 49ers. But the Tigers held them below 100 yards well into the fourth quarter, and pretty much imposed their will against the run.
It’s one thing when you give up nearly 500 yards and 43 points to Alabama. It’s another when you give it up to a 4-7 FCS opponent of no particular offensive renown.
A team won’t win many games with 374 yards of offense allowed and an absence of turnovers forced. Fortunately, the Rebels were playing Sun Belt foe South Alabama. Unfortunately, opposing scoreboards may look like pinball games in 2017.
Special teams: Hall passes
After a brutal year from their punter, transfer Matt Panton killed kicks deep in opposing territory all day. Solid kicker Austin MacGinnis hit his only field goal try and Sihiem King had a long kickoff return.
Deebo Samuel returned the season’s opening kickoff 97 yards for a score. The other kicking and coverage units were all solid.
Special teams: Detention
Two missed field goals and a mediocre punting game were not impressive.
See Alabama comment and repeat.