The West will be wild and there are beasts in the East.
The SEC season kicked off in style from the Grove to the Swamp this past weekend and the conference looks stronger than ever. Scary strong.
In the East, Florida and Georgia (the two highest rated teams in the SEC) started their seasons by dominating lesser opponents. South Carolina struggled offensively, but the Gamecock defense completely stifled NC State in a 34-0 victory. Vanderbilt also won on the road against a viable Miami of Ohio team, and Kentucky continued the traveling theme by dominating Louisville in Derby town.
Tennessee was the only division team to lose, dropping a Labor Day night game to UCLA in overtime at the Rose Bowl.
Out West, the defending national champion LSU Bengal Tigers ignored the distraction of moving their game to the morning hours in response to Hurricane Gustav and overwhelmed Appalachian State.
The Tigers will have plenty of competition this year however.
Ole Miss made Houston Nutt’s debut a success by downing Memphis, and Auburn shut down Louisiana-Monroe. Arkansas snuck by Western Illinois late.
The biggest statement came from Alabama.
The Crimson Tide crushed Clemson 34-10 in the inaugural Chick-fil-A Kickoff Classic in Atlanta. This was a bowl atmosphere contest against a preseason Top Ten opponent, and the Tide came ready to roll. LSU, Auburn, Ole Miss, and Alabama … should be quite a race.
The most disappointing league team was Mississippi State. The Bulldogs were sloppy and inconsistent on offense, and the defense finally wilted in a tough road loss to Louisiana Tech and up-and-coming young coach Derek Dooley.
Finally, the thoughts and prayers of all of us here at Game Day Weekly and The Campus Game go out to all our friends along the Gulf Coast. Be safe.
Here are our weekly conference power rankings … remember these change a lot week-to week so don’t despair if your team is not where it needs to be just yet.
The Campus Game Weekly Conference Ratings
1. LSU … this was the best SEC team I saw over the weekend.
2. Florida … Gators were sluggish for a couple of possessions, but look mighty fast.
3. Alabama … Saban’s Tide rolled over Clemson and have a nice mix of youth and experience. Watch out.
4. Georgia … Mark Richt’s Dogs cruised over GA Southern, but the loss of DT Jeff Owens hurts.
5. Auburn … For all the talk of a new offense, the key for the Tigers is always a great D.
6. South Carolina … Defense is superior … offense still needs work.
7. Ole Miss … Rebels should probably be higher, but Nutt must still work out some kinks.
8. Tennessee ... Vols missed several chances to beat Bruins in Rose Bowl.
9. Kentucky … Boys from the Bluegrass suprised in Derby town.
10. Vanderbilt … Commodores sank decent Miami (Ohio) team on road. SC will be tougher.
11. Mississippi State ... Turnovers turn into tough loss at LA Tech.
12. Arkansas … Petrino’s porkers barely escaped with win over W. Illinois. Not pretty.
(Last Week’s Record 8-4)
(2008 Record 8-4)
Ouch - a mediocre start for the old professor as Alabama and Kentucky surprised (in a positive way!), while Big Orange and the Bullies of State faltered.
South Carolina at Vanderbilt (7:30 ET ESPN 9/4)
See SEC Game of the Week column.
Game Ball: South Carolina
Tulane at Alabama (6:30 CT 9/6)
Alabama looked awfully good as the Tide mixed in talented youngsters with experienced veterans. Both lines of scrimmage dominated Clemson. Tulane did not play in week one, and the minds of the Green Wave might understandably be on the hurricane headed toward Louisiana.
Game Ball: Alabama
LA-Monroe at Arkansas (Little Rock) (6:00 CT 9/6)
New head Hog Bobby Petrino got off to a rough start, suspending top returning rusher Michael Smith for the opening game, seeing his team fumble away the opening kickoff, and then trailing Western Illinois deep into the game. LA-Monroe could do little against the stout Auburn D (gaining only 220 total yards), but the Warhawks just might make a game of this one.
Game Ball: Arkansas
Southern Miss at Auburn (11:30 CT Raycom 9/6)
The Golden Eagles ran and passed for 633 yards in a 51-21 win over LA-LAF to kick off the Larry Fedora era. Tailback Damion Fletcher ran for 222 of those yards and two TDs. Auburn played close to the vest, rarely throwing the ball in new OC Tony Franklin’s spread attack, but easily beat LA-Monroe 34-0.
Game Ball: Auburn
Miami at Florida (8:00 ET ESPN 9/6)
The Gators played without two of their best players (LB Brandon Spikes and WR Percy Harvin) but still scored on offense, defense, and special teams to wallop Hawaii 56-10. Florida is the speediest team I saw opening weekend. Miami whipped Charleston Southern 52-7 behind QB Jacory Harris’ two TD passes. Florida should be at full-strength and ready to make a statement in this game.
Game Ball: Florida
Central Michigan at Georgia (3:30 CT FSNS 9/6)
Georgia called off the Dogs early in a season-opening 45-21 win over Georgia Southern. TB Knowshon Moreno carried only 8 times, but made them count with three touchdowns. Central Michigan is the two-time defending MAC champ with a top QB in Dan LeFevour.
Game Ball: Georgia
Norfolk State at Kentucky (6:00 ET 9/6)
Wildcats from the Bluegrass looked surprisingly strong in lambasting Louisville on the road. The Spartans of Norfolk State held Virginia State to 109 total yards in a 47-7 rout for whatever that’s worth. Probably not much.
Game Ball: Kentucky
Troy at LSU (Game postponed until November 15)
Ole Miss at Wake Forest (2:30 CT ABC/ESPN2 9/6)
The Rebels were not perfect in the opener for Houston Nutt but found enough offense to beat rival Memphis. Wake continued to look very sound as QB Riley Skinner passed for 3 TDs in a road win at Baylor. This will be a big test for both squads and could influence bowl destinations down the road. Let’s go with Rebs in mild upset.
Game Ball: Ole Miss
SE Louisiana at Mississippi State (6:00 CT 9/6)
State was the first SEC team to visit Ruston, LA, in a hundred years and it may be another century before a league team goes back. The Bulldogs were ragged with five turnovers in a 22-14 loss to LA Tech as QB Wesley Carroll threw 3 INTs and gave way for much of the game to backup Tyson Lee. Dogs should recover against SE-LA, a 34-28 winner over Alcorn.
Game Ball: Miss State