By Andrew Kahn
This is the CBS Local SEC Football Report. Every Tuesday, this space will recap the results and top performances from the Southeastern Conference and look ahead to key match-ups the following week.
The Georgia Bulldogs don’t often venture far from home, and their fans took advantage of the rare opportunity this past weekend. Several people at Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday night estimate at least 40 percent of the fans wore red. It was a bucket list weekend for Georgia fans, as many attended the first regular season Friday night game at Wrigley Field (a Brewers win) and the Atlanta Falcons’ win over the Bears at Soldier Field on Sunday. In between, they saw the Bulldogs’ 20-19 win over the Irish.
It was a costly ticket, perhaps the most expensive non-neutral site college football ticket ever on the secondary market, though some traveling from Atlanta to South Bend earned thousands of dollars for switching to later flights. Georgia’s defense meant the visitors left happy. Always physical and often sloppy, the game went down to the final minutes. Rodrigo Blankenship, who went from walk-on to scholarship kicker earlier in the week, made the game-winning field goal with 3:39 left. Lorenzo Carter recovered his second fumble of the game, after a sack, to seal the win.
Less talented Tigers
Another SEC team went on the road for a high-profile match-up but went home with an ‘L.’ Just like last season, Auburn kept it close against Clemson but came up short in a 14-6 defeat. Quarterback Jarrett Stidham was sacked 11 times by a Clemson defense that looked even better than advertised. Auburn never turned it over but managed just 117 yards of offense, failing to hit a big play or reach the end zone.
Gus Malzahn’s offensive prowess is, deservedly, being called into question. Other than hanging 56 on Arkansas last season, the offense has mostly sputtered against ranked competition the last few years. If adjustments were made at halftime, they didn’t work, as Auburn managed just 15 yards in the second half. This was against a Clemson offense that lost a lot of talent to the NFL, including star quarterback Deshaun Watson. Replacement Kelly Bryant was poised and effective against Auburn, doing damage with his arms and legs.
Other notable performances:
In the first SEC game of the season, South Carolina’s Deebo Samuel helped shift the momentum and propel the Gamecocks to a 31-13 win over Missouri. With his team trailing 10-0 early, Samuel returned a kickoff for a touchdown for the second straight week. After an interception on the next play from scrimmage gave the ball back to SC, Samuel ran for a touchdown.
Alabama rolled at Bryant-Denny Stadium, whipping Fresno State 41-10. There was plenty of playing time for the back-ups, including a pair of highly-touted freshmen: quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and running back Najee Harris, who led the team in carries.
LSU had no trouble with visiting Chattanooga, winning 45-10. It’s Kary vs. Terry for Saturday’s best one-handed catch. LSU’s Kary Vincent, Jr. had a fantastic interception, but Georgia receiver Terry White’s touchdown grab was also incredible. Judge for yourself:
This season’s Arkansas-TCU game was nothing like last year’s up-and-down affair, especially for the Razorbacks, who took a 28-7 loss in Fort Worth on Saturday. The offense has some dysfunction and head coach Bret Bielema will have to fix it. The loss brought his record at the school below .500 (26-27).
Kentucky was down 13-3 in the second quarter against Eastern Kentucky but came away with its second shaky win to start the season. The Wildcats have benefited from a positive turnover margin (five forced; one committed). With so many returning contributors, including eight offensive starters, from a team that won four conference games last year, there was a hope in Lexington that the Cats could compete for an SEC East title. So far, it doesn’t look that way.
Mississippi quarterback Shea Patterson set the school single-game record with 489 yards against Tennessee-Martin. No. 20 is at 918 yards and nine touchdowns through two games.
In a result that won’t exactly inspire confidence in Aggie Nation, Texas A&M was tied with Nicholls State in the fourth quarter before escaping with a 24-14 win.
If you haven’t seen the Louisiana Tech fumble that led to a third and goal from Tech’s own seven yard line against Mississippi State, you must (“This ball is still loose!”):
In this battle of the Bulldogs, Mississippi State quarterback Nick Fitzgerald had another impressive game running and throwing. If they awarded the Heisman after Week 2, he and Patterson might get invites to New York.
The other SEC results (home team first): Vanderbilt 42, Alabama A&M 0; Tennessee 42, Indiana State 7; Florida, Northern Colorado (cancelled);
Biggest game: Tennessee at Florida
As of Monday night, it was unclear where this game would be played. Hurricane Irma hit Gainesville, and whether the game will be moved—Atlanta is reportedly a likely choice if it does—remains a developing situation. Florida had won 11 straight in the rivalry heading into last year’s game, and by halftime it appeared the streak would reach 12. But Tennessee erased 21-0 deficit, reeling off 38 straight points in the process.
Both teams are once again ranked, and it should be a competitive game. The Vols have scored 42 points in each of their first two games, but the Gator defense is a big step up from previous competition. This early match-up is an important one in deciding the SEC East.
Keep an eye on: LSU at Mississippi State; Kentucky at South Carolina; Mississippi at California; Kansas State at Vanderbilt
LSU and South Carolina are both seven-point favorites in their SEC match-ups. Mississippi and Vanderbilt both get serious non-conference tests.
For the diehards: Louisiana-Lafayette at Texas A&M; Mercer at Auburn; Purdue at Missouri; Colorado State at Alabama; Samford at Georgia; Arkansas–off
Andrew Kahn is a regular contributor to CBS Local. He writes about college football and other sports at andrewjkahn.com and you can find his Scoop and Score podcast on iTunes. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at @AndrewKahn