By: Barrett Sallee
The first week of the SEC season saw the best conference in America go 11-1. Some of that was against vastly inferior competition, and some of it wasn't. Here are the three most important things to take out of week one in the SEC:
The Bama Offense Is Just Fine
The question going into the biggest matchup in week one was: "How will Alabama's offense look against the always-stingy Virginia Tech D?" Answer – Just fine.
The Crimson Tide let the Hokies hang around for three quarters, before totally out-manning them in the fourth quarter. Alabama rolled up 498 yards of total offense, including 230 yards through the air from junior QB Greg McElroy, who was making his first start. McElroy got off to a slow start, completing only two of his first nine passes, before settling in nicely en route to a 15-for-30 performance. Mark Ingram rushed for a career-high 150 yards to take a lot of the pressure off of McElroy's shoulders.
The general consensus going in was that Alabama would have some growing pains on the offensive side of the ball early in the season with some fresh faces in the two-deep. Those growing pains lasted all of one half.
The Crimson Tide heavily relied on defense last season. If Saturday is any indication, their offense may also approach "juggernaut status" sooner rather than later.
Look out SEC.
New Coaches With Strong Starts
One-quarter of the SEC had turnover in their head coaching jobs this past off-season, and all of those coaches got off to solid starts. Gene Chizik led his Auburn Tigers to a 37-13 win over Louisiana Tech, Lane Kiffin's Vols stomped over Western Kentucky 62-3 and Mississippi State, led by former Gator offensive coordinator Dan Mullen, cruised to a 45-7 win.
Auburn, Tennessee and Mississippi State all are supposed to dominate lesser competition, like they played on Saturday. However, none of them did last season, which is a major step in the right direction for each of the programs. Of the three, the most impressive performance was, without a doubt, Auburn's win over La Tech.
I'm not taking anything away from Tennessee or Mississippi State, but you can't take too much from either of those games considering who they were playing. But, Auburn was playing an 8-win bowl team from 2008; and they ran roughshot over, around and through them behind first-year offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn, to the tune of 556 yards of total offense, the most for Auburn in a game since 2005.
Much-maligned QB Chris Todd threw for 255 yards, two touchdowns, zero picks; and, most-importantly, showed significant improvement in his arm strength following off-season shoulder surgery. The Tigers had two running backs, Ben Tate and Onterio McCalebb, go over 100 yards rushing, McCalebb being the first freshman running back to go north of 100 in his first game at Auburn since Bo Jackson. Not bad company to be in, to say the least.
Wildcats Looking Good
In a game that flew under-the-radar Saturday afternoon, Kentucky thoroughly dominated Miami (Ohio). The Wildcat D held the RedHawks to 188 yards, including an interception returned for a touchdown by All-SEC CB Trevard Lindley.
But, it wasn't the defense that was the story for UK, it was the offense; and, in particular, the efficiency of third-team All-SEC QB Mike Hartline. When Hartline and South Carolina QB Stephen Garcia were named as co-third team All-SEC quarterbacks, the SEC was criticized for its obvious lack of quarterback depth. After one week of football, it's clear that Hartline is more deserving of that title, and that the depth isn't as bad as some belive.
The six-foot-six junior went 18-for-27, for 222 yards and two touchdowns, with 96 of those yards going to QB-turned-WR Randall Cobb. In addition to the efficient passing offense, the Cats got solid ground performances from juniors Moncell Allen and Derrick Locke.
Head Coach Rich Brooks has led the Wildcats to three consecutive bowl wins, and is vastly overlooked in the All-Star stable of SEC East coaches. Kentucky has been a thorn in the side of the SEC East for the last several years, but judging from the offensive problems shown by Georgia and South Carolina, the Wildcats could contend for second spot in the East this season.
Barrett Sallee covers the SEC for www.CollegeFootballNews.com. He can be reached at email@example.com, or on Twitter at http://twitter.com/BSallee_CFN
Three & Out Archive:
Three & Out: SEC Thoughts, News & Notes - September 7, 2009
Three & Out: SEC Thoughts, News & Notes - September 3, 2009
Three & Out: SEC Media Days, Day 3 – July 24, 2009
Three & Out: SEC Media Days, Day 2 – July 23, 2009
Three & Out: SEC Media Days, Day 1 – July 22, 2009
Three & Out: SEC Thoughts, News & Notes – April 16, 2009
Three & Out: SEC Thoughts, News & Notes – April 12, 2009
Three & Out: SEC Thoughts, News & Notes – April 9, 2009
Three & Out: SEC Thoughts, News & Notes – April 3, 2009
Three & Out: SEC Thoughts, News & Notes – March 30, 2009
Three & Out: SEC Thoughts, News & Notes – March 26, 2009
Three & Out: SEC Thoughts, News & Notes – March 18, 2009
Three & Out: SEC Thoughts, News & Notes – March 15, 2009
Three & Out: SEC Thoughts, News & Notes – March 11, 2009
Three & Out: SEC Thoughts, News & Notes – March 7, 2009
Three & Out: SEC Thoughts, News & Notes – March 3, 2009
Three & Out: SEC Thoughts, News & Notes – February 28, 2009
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