GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — The Southeastern Conference was sort of a no-show in Week 1. The powerhouse league, which boasts 13 of the last 17 national championships, went 0-3 in marquee matchups.
Florida (at No. 14 Utah), South Carolina (vs. No. 21 North Carolina) and then-No. 5 LSU (against eighth-ranked Florida State) each lost by double digits in primetime, non-conference games. The trio got dumped by a combined 48 points and showed significant flaws in their season openers.
The SEC gets a chance to redeem itself in Week 2 showdowns featuring No. 3 Alabama, No. 20 Ole Miss and No. 23 Texas A&M. The Tide host 11th-ranked Texas. The Rebels play at No. 24 Tulane. And the Aggies travel to Miami.
It’s hard to image any of those three being as dreadful as their Week 1 counterparts.
The Gators turned in arguably the worst performance of any of them, a mistake-filled debacle in Salt Lake City that prompted questions about second-year coach Billy Napier’s play-calling, his clock management and how he organizes special teams.
“Success is a dirty process,” said Napier, who has the first four-game losing streak of his coaching career. “You’ve got to navigate a world that has doubt, that has fear. There’s always disruptions, there’s always challenges. It challenges everything inside of you. If you’re a competitor, this game will challenge you. I think it demands all that you’ve got.
“For many, it’s not worth it. But for the select few out there, they wouldn’t have it any other way. We certainly embrace the things that come with this challenge.”
South Carolina and LSU had their own challenges.
The Gamecocks were overmatched at the line of scrimmage, allowing a whopping nine sacks, and some would argue the Tigers should give up the “D-B-U” monicker after their defensive backs had trouble covering FSU’s Keon Coleman and Johnny Wilson.
Coaches Shane Beamer and Brian Kelly, much like Napier, were primary punching bags afterward. Beamer was ripped for postgame comments in which he blamed the “chain crew” for delaying the start of the second half — and a successful onside kick — by being “in the locker room eating hot dogs.” Kelly pointed the finger at himself while also partially blaming his Tigers.
“This is a total failure from a coaching standpoint and a player standpoint that we have to obviously address and we have to own,” Kelly said. “I’m confident our guys and our coaches will rally in the manner that they need to.”SOLID STARTS
Alabama: Jalen Milroe looked like the Tide’s next great starting quarterback in a 56-7 drubbing of Middle Tennessee State, which stunned then-No. 25 Miami a year ago. The Texas native should get a tougher test Saturday against his childhood team, the Texas Longhorns.
Tennessee: QB Joe Milton was sharp and shouldn’t have to shoulder the load with a three-tailback system that features Jaylen Wright, Dylan Sampson and Jabari Small.
Texas A&M: Maybe the Jimbo Fisher-Bobby Petrino pairing will work. Petrino’s offense rolled up 411 yards and 52 points against New Mexico.LITTLE LEARNED
Arkansas: The Razorbacks’ running game was cause for concern in a 56-13 victory against lower-division Western Carolina. Under new offensive coordinator Dan Enos, the Hogs managed 105 yards on 36 carries.
Auburn: Hugh Freeze’s coaching debut with the Tigers drew rave reviews even though it came against UMass, arguably the worst team in major college football. Freeze should get a better idea of what he has at Cal, although the Bears are coming off three consecutive losing seasons.
Georgia: The top-ranked Bulldogs’ quest to become the first team in the modern era to win three straight national championships got off to a sluggish start against lower-division Tennessee-Martin. Carson Beck flashed, but he might not get truly challenged until Week 5 at Auburn.
Kentucky: Coach Mark Stoops nitpicked his team’s 30-point win against Ball State despite scoring touchdowns on defense and special teams. The Wildcats have time to clean up their operation with games against Eastern Kentucky and Akron upcoming.
Mississippi: The Rebels’ 524 yards passing against lower-division Mercer were a new high for coach Lane Kiffin and led him to commit to Jackson Dart as the starting QB for the 20th-ranked Rebels. A more formidable opponent awaits in No. 24 Tulane this weekend.
Mississippi State: Freshman Creed Whittemore was a pleasant surprise against Southeast Louisiana. He totaled 91 yards and two touchdowns and could provide immediate help for QB Will Rogers and new head coach Zach Arnett as the Bulldogs host Arizona, LSU and Alabama this month.
Missouri: Cody Schrader had a career-high 138 yards rushing and a touchdown against lower-division South Dakota. Schrader led Division II with 2,075 yards rushing and 24 touchdowns in 2021 before transferring.
Vanderbilt: Are the 2-0 Commodores for real? A visit to Wake Forest on Saturday should provide more insight.UGLY OUTINGS
Florida: Among Napier’s myriad issues is finding more touches for running backs Trevor Etienne and Montrell Johnson as well as dynamic receiver Eugene Wilson.
LSU: Standout defensive tackle Maason Smith (suspension) returns this week. It remains to be seen if star linebacker Harold Perkins will show up as well. Perkins somehow was less effective against the Seminoles than “D-B-U.”
South Carolina: The Gamecocks allowed nine sacks against a defense that managed just 17 in 14 games in 2022. That doesn’t bode well for a team that plays at Georgia, at Tennessee, at Missouri and at Texas A&M before Halloween.