Five things we learned about SEC football as the month of September draws to a close:
1—Don’t look now, but Auburn is growing up on offense just in time for a trip to The Swamp:
This much we knew before Auburn’s season started: Head coach Gus Malzahn, who seems to be on a perpetual hot seat, was going to push all of his chips to the middle of the table and bet on himself. He would go with a true freshman at quarterback and call the plays. And if that wasn’t good enough, there were 26 million (dollars) reasons why he could live with it.
So far, so good.
Auburn scored three touchdowns in its first eight plays from scrimmage and a total of 42 points in the first half on the way to a 49-23 thumping of Mississippi State Saturday night.
So at 5-0, 2-0 in the SEC, the month of September could not have gone better for Auburn.
Bo Nix, the freshman quarterback, had the best game of his career: 16 of 21 for 335 yards.
After beating Texas A&M 28-20 last week in College Station and with Florida looming next, there was room for a letdown by Auburn. It didn’t happen.
“It would have been easy to let up after Texas A&M and a look forward to Florida but they didn’t,” said Malzahn.
This team and this coach have a big ol’ chip on their shoulder.
Now the real fun begins with three straight road games against No. 9 Florida, Arkansas, and No. 4 LSU. In November Auburn hosts No. 3 Georgia and No. 1 Alabama.
2—Alabama gave up 279 yards rushing in a 59-31 win over Ole Miss.
BUT IT DOESN’T MATTER. It really doesn’t.
Every place I’ve spoken in September Alabama fans have come up and expressed real concerns about the Crimson Tide rushing defense. Head coach Nick Saban was fussing about it after the game.
First of all, it’s going to get better as these talented players mature. And second of all, it doesn’t matter as long has Alabama has Tua Tagovailoa and those four receivers who, IMO, are the best collection at that position in SEC history.
Alabama (5-0, 2-0), which jumped over Clemson to No. 1 in Sunday’s polls, gets this week off before traveling to Texas A&M on Oct. 12. Then it has home games against Tennessee and Arkansas before LSU comes to town on Nov. 9. That’s when the season starts.
3—When you gotta have a win, go back to the basics: That’s what Will Muschamp did Saturday night when South Carolina just manhandled Kentucky 24-7 at Williams-Brice Stadium.
Muschamp, in his fourth season at Columbia, was catching a ton of heat after a 1-3 start. But the three losses were to North Carolina (which almost beat Clemson on Saturday), No. 1 Alabama and 3-1 Missouri on the road.
South Carolina had two 100-yard rushers (Rico Dowdle, Tavien Feaster) and held Kentucky’s offense to 178 total yards. The win also broke South Carolina’s five-game losing streak to Kentucky, which had become a matter of serious concern for the Gamecocks.
“This was a commanding win and that is what we needed going into an off week,” Muschamp said.
Now South Carolina (2-3, 1-2) has a week before a second half that includes No. 3 Georgia in Athens, No. 10 Florida, at No. 25 Texas A&M, and No. 2 Clemson.
4—We were wrong about Texas A&M. The Aggies aren’t ready yet:
Despite the fact that Texas A&M was a three-touchdown favorite, history told us Saturday’s game with Arkansas (2-2) in Arlington, Tex., was going to be close.
And it was. In fact, with Arkansas trailing 31-27, the Hogs had the ball at the Texas A&M 36-yard line and a chance to win inside the final minute. But the Aggies got a stop.
“A win’s a win,” said Texas A&M Coach Jimbo Fisher. “But you’re not satisfied. You’re not content.”
Fisher is going to win a lot of games at Texas A&M and will eventually have the Aggies ready to challenge for the SEC West title. But it’s not going to be this season.
The running game, which had only 89 yards, is really missing Trayveon Williams. The offensive line gave up four sacks.
Texas A&M, is simply not on the same level with Auburn, which the Aggies lost to 28-20 last week at home, Alabama (Oct. 12 at home) and LSU (Nov. 30 in Baton Rouge).
I could be wrong about that. We'll see.
5—Florida is more consistent on offense with Kyle Trask at quarterback:
In the place of the injured Feleipe Franks, Trask started his first game at quarterback in seven years on Sept. 21 when he led Florida to a 34-3 win over Tennessee.
On Saturday against Towson, Trask completed his first 15 passes. Dating back to the Tennessee game, Trask had 18 straight completions which broke the school record previously held by Chris Leak.
Trask finished the game completing 18 of 20 passes. Yes, it was against Towson, which fell 38-0 to the Gators.
Still, Florida looks to be a more efficient offense with Trask at the wheel.
“I felt more comfortable,” Trask told reporters after the game.
But now Trask must face what may be the best defensive line in college football as Auburn comes to The Swamp on Saturday.
“Whatever the situation—good or bad—we’ve taken care of business to this point,” said Dan Mullen, Florida’s head coach. “We’ve played some good teams, but now it’s going to a whole new level.”