What we learned from the SEC's opening week - News, Weather, Sports, Toledo, OH

What we learned from the SEC's opening week

© Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd is tackled by Auburn's LaDarius Owens, left, and Dee Ford in the first half. Auburn vs Clemson on Saturday, Sept.1, 2012 in Atlanta, GA. (Source: Todd Van Emst /Auburn University) © Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd is tackled by Auburn's LaDarius Owens, left, and Dee Ford in the first half. Auburn vs Clemson on Saturday, Sept.1, 2012 in Atlanta, GA. (Source: Todd Van Emst /Auburn University)

(RNN) - The football season is just under way, but already some things have become clear about this year's version of the Southeastern Conference.

Below is a list of 10 things we learned from watching SEC games this week.

1. South Carolina is overrated. Marcus Lattimore appeared to be fine, but he was not quite as explosive as he was before his ACL injury last season. The Gamecocks (1-0) looked very sluggish, failed to get anything going consistently on offense and looked vulnerable at times on defense.

You can say Connor Shaw got hurt and that limited the offense's ability, but that's ignoring this little bit of truth: South Carolina wasn't doing anything particularly well before he got hurt and after the injury, didn't look any worse.

Yes, they won 17-13, but they got help from a pass interference no-call (more on this later), had a well-timed interception that they probably don't win without and never looked ready to play a game. In other words, they were lucky. If South Carolina doesn't fall from the No. 9 spot after that game, the voters weren't paying attention.

2. Vanderbilt needs a receiver. We'll stay in the same game for a second because Vanderbilt could have easily taken the win.

South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said it best: "They don't have any slow dudes like they used to." Jordan Rodgers is a good quarterback and will definitely have a bright future for the Commodores (0-1), but he doesn't have anybody to throw to. When Vandy's receivers got open the few times they did, Rodgers' throws were on target and led to big plays, but that was the exception rather than the rule.

With a solid receiver target for Rodgers to throw to, Vanderbilt would have cruised against a Gamecock secondary that looked vulnerable and confused most of the night.

3. Tennessee's offense can be explosive, but can't sustain a long drive. With the dismissal of Da'rick Rogers, Tennessee was expected to lose its biggest offensive weapon. Maybe the Volunteers (1-0) did, but apparently the No. 2 option was just as good.

Cordarrelle Patterson was dynamic, scoring on a 41-yard reception and a 67-yard end around. Quarterback Tyler Bray also hit Zach Rogers on a 72-yard pass. At one point, Tennessee scored 16 points in 38 seconds. But when it came to putting together a long drive, the Vols couldn't sustain it. Dropped passes and an inconsistent running game stalled the offense several times. Against better teams than N.C. State - and Tennessee plays several - they won't be able to get away with that.

Either way, the 35-21 win gets Tennessee off to a good start in a season when head coach Derek Dooley is under pressure to succeed.

4. Georgia did what Georgia does. The Bulldogs (1-0) were playing Buffalo, so how excited they were and how much of their true game plan was used is anybody's guess. Despite that, though, Georgia won 45-23. However, they were playing Buffalo.

Buffalo won three games last year playing in the MAC. They won two the previous season. In 31 games against BCS Conference schools, the Bulls have lost – LOST – 30. So, that Georgia won was not surprising. However, the Bulldogs didn't look particularly good doing it. At least, they didn't look like the No. 6 team should have.

Georgia was dealing with a lot of players with off-field problems – including a suspension for All-America safety Baccari Rambo – and suffered a couple of injuries in the game, and that could account for some of the sluggish play. But as said earlier, they were playing Buffalo.

Now, to be fair, Georgia won by 22 points. However, they were 37.5-point favorites and the 'Dogs played uninspired football the entire game. That's nothing new for Georgia, though. For several years, Georgia has had the ability to beat anyone they play and the ability to lose to anyone they play. You never really know which Georgia team is going to show up.

Once they get their guys back from suspension and injury then things should pick up, especially on defense, but Georgia fans can't be too thrilled with what they saw Saturday.

5. We'll have to wait until next week to see how the "newbies" do. Missouri (1-0) at least played a game … if you call a 62-10 win over Southeastern Louisiana a game. Texas A&M "changed the game" so much the game wasn't even played.

Maybe Hurricane Isaac is to blame for that – or Louisiana Tech for postponing the game until Oct. 13 – but it's much easier just to take a cheap shot at Texas A&M. Next week it will get better on this front because both will be at home in conference games. Missouri will face Georgia and Texas A&M will use 12 men to play against Florida's 11. Somehow that won't be against the rules, and the next entry explains why.

6. The refs are rusty. A strong case can be made that South Carolina doesn't win without a pass interference no-call that benefited the Gamecocks' defense.

With less than two minutes to go, Vanderbilt had a fourth-and-7, and if not for the penalty would have had the ball 30 yards away from taking the lead. Even without the catch, the penalty would have given Vandy a first down and the ball across the 50.

That call is indisputable. It was blatantly wrong. But Tennessee was hurt on a play a little more debatable. Tyler Bray rushed Tennessee to the line just before halftime to try to take a two-touchdown lead on a quarterback sneak. He didn't get in. Or did he?

It looks like the ball touches the plane of the goal line – all it has to do – before he loses control and fumbles. He actually lost control, gained it back and lost it again. No one is going to fault the referees for missing the call live. It was just too hard to tell. But the play was reviewed and upheld. Maybe there wasn't "indisputable video evidence" to overturn it, but the evidence was as clear as from this play a year ago, and it was changed.

And just to pile on, at one point in the Auburn-Clemson game, it took two video reviews to get the spot of the ball correct. Sticking with the rules…

7. If your helmet comes off, you miss a play. When was this rule implemented, and why did no one point out how stupid it is?

In principle, it's a decent idea. Just how often does a player's helmet come off? According to this weekend, all the time. Clemson's quarterback lost his helmet twice in three plays. On one of those, an Auburn defender wrapped his arm around his neck and while pushing him to the ground, the helmet went with the defender's arm. The result? He has to sit out the next play.

Um … why?

They say it's for safety. OK. A player's helmet comes off and he goes to the sideline and puts it back on. The training staff huddles around him like a NASCAR pit crew getting it back in place, and tighter. He comes back on the field. And if he's Tajh Boyd, the aforementioned Clemson QB, two plays later it comes off again. It came off again with less than two minutes to play at the 1-yard line with Clemson trying to go up by two scores to clinch the game. He came out and instead of trying for a TD, Clemson opted to kick a field goal and only went up by 7.

Is Clemson's pit crew incompetent or was Auburn playing dirty? I don't know, and that question shouldn't even have to be asked. But it does have to be asked, because with this rule in place what is to keep a team from going after the helmet of a star player? It would be a penalty, but when Boyd's helmet came off, no penalty was called either time.

Alabama's Eddie Lacy complained of the same thing after coming up from a pile helmetless against Michigan. No penalty was called there, either.

Safety. It could actually end up making the game more dangerous.

8. If Mike Gillislee gets hurt, Florida's offense is toast. As much as Georgia struggled against Buffalo, they did get something going in the second half. Florida, however, was inconsistent all game against Bowling Green. Gillislee rushed for 148 yards on 24 carries and scored two touchdowns in a 27-14 win.

Outside of that, Florida (1-0) was all over the place. They are young, and it badly showed. Florida hasn't been a power running team in about four years, and the transition back to one – if that's what the Gators are trying to do – is going to be a struggle.

9. Next week will be a make or break game for Auburn. After a 26-19 loss to Clemson, Auburn will have to regroup next week against Mississippi State or there is a very good chance the Tigers (0-1) will start the season 1-4.

Auburn is on the road against Mississippi State (1-0) next week before getting Louisiana-Monroe. Then it's back-to-back games with LSU (1-0) and Arkansas (1-0). A loss to the Bulldogs, and Auburn could risk not becoming bowl eligible with games against Georgia and Alabama at the end of the season.

Auburn will need to take advantage of the opportunity to win close games, like the one with Clemson on Saturday. Miss out on those opportunities and it's going to be a long year.

10. Alabama could score 60 points a game running the wishbone. A.J. McCarron doesn't have the speed you would want in a wishbone quarterback, but with Jalston Fowler at fullback and Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon as the tailbacks, it's hard to envision a way to stop that.

And with play-action passes coming off of that, well, just ask Michigan how that looks.

Yeldon was especially stellar, gaining more than 100 yards in impressive style. Each back has a different approach. Fowler is a power runner, Yeldon is a speedster and Lacy has a combination of the two. Lacy was the starter for the 41-14 win over Michigan, but had the worst game. Lacy had 35 yards and a touchdown, Fowler had 67 yards and Yeldon gained 111 with a touchdown. Lacy wasn't used in the second half because he wasn't needed.

Lacy is still considered the best of the group, but in a couple of weeks, that may no longer be the prevailing wisdom. Whoever ends up getting the bulk of the carries should have no problem finding room behind the Tide's overpowering offensive line.

There's a 0 percent chance Nick Saban switches the Tide (1-0) to the wishbone before playing Arkansas in two weeks, but wouldn't that be fun to see?

Copyright 2012 Raycom News Network. All rights reserved.

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