BY NEIL BISMAN
Nick Saban’s conference debut at Alabama, Steve Spurrier beats Georgia (again) and LSU rolls under the lights in Baton Rouge. All that and more in today’s SEC Notebook…
Team of the Week- (tie) South Carolina and LSU: Though on the list for complete opposite reasons, it was just too hard to pick one of these teams. South Carolina was able to pull off a huge upset on the road, knocking off the #11 Georgia Bulldogs. The South Carolina defense was seemingly everywhere, forcing quarterback Matthew Stafford to run around all night long. Though not exactly vintage Steve Spurrier football, look for the Gamecocks to rely heavily on their defense and running game all season long as quarterback Blake Mitchell plays the role of caretaker as opposed to gun slinger…Can anyone stop the LSU Tigers? Virginia Tech made the trip down to Baton Rouge and did not have an answer for the Bayou Bengals on either side of the ball as they were routed by the score of 48-7. It may be early but LSU appears to be invincible, at times looking like they can knock off quite a few National Football League teams.
Team of the Weak- Auburn: There is an old adage that if you play with fire enough, eventually you are going to get burned and this week’s victim was Auburn. The Tigers looked shaky a week ago in their defeat of Kansas State and were lucky to escape with a victory. This week, they were not as fortunate as they lost at home in overtime to South Florida. The Bulls became a trendy upset pick over the summer and did not disappoint, going into Jordan-Haire Stadium and looking anything but intimidated. Except of course for kicker Delbert Alvarado who missed four field goals in the second half.
Player of the Week- BenJarvus Green-Ellis (Ole Miss): It isn’t very often a player on a losing squad has the week’s best individual performance but that was the case when Green-Ellis (pictured above) gained a whopping 226 yards on 33 carries and ran for a touchdown in the 38-25 loss to Missouri. Green-Ellis was able to bounce back after a terrible performance last week in which he gained just 79 yards on 23 carries at Memphis.
Player of the Weak- Brandon Cox (Auburn): While BenJarvus Green-Ellis was able to overcome a shaky performance from a week ago, Brandon Cox managed to look worse this week totaling 165 yards and completing just 16 of his 35 passes thrown with a touchdown and two interceptions. With Cox looking this shaky at home, it makes you wonder what type of performances we are in store for when Auburn has to travel to Florida, Arkansas, LSU and Georgia.
At least they got to play a full 60 minutes this week, technically…Florida was able to avoid bad weather this week in their 59-31 rout over Troy. Florida got out to a huge lead early and let Troy creep back into the game, making the score appear closer than it actually was. Perhaps more important than the outcome is the aftermath. Florida may be without receiver Andre Caldwell and running back/return man Brandon James for their huge match-up against Tennessee this coming Saturday. Caldwell sprained the medial collateral ligament in his right knee while James sprained an ankle. The severity of the injuries are yet to be determined.
In Grant They Trust…The emergence of freshman running back Terry Grant may be even more important than the arrival of Nick Saban in Tuscaloosa. Grant ran for 173 yards on 24 carries, scoring two touchdowns in the conference debut for head coach Nick Saban at Vanderbilt. Running back was arguably the biggest question going into the season for Alabama and if Grant can keep it up, the Crimson Tide offense will be explosive.
Time to play with the big boys…Kentucky gets to take its training wheels off and see just how potent their offense is when they get Louisville at Commonwealth Stadium this Saturday night. With blowout wins over Eastern Kentucky and Kent State, it should be interesting to see how the three-headed monster of Andre' Woodson, Keenan Burton and Rafael Little handle their first true test of the season.
SEC vs. Conference USA Challenge…The Southeastern Conference improved its record to 3-0 this week against Conference USA foes but Tennessee and Mississippi State both needed big second halves to avoid being upset. State was able to get a much better performance out of quarterback Michael Henig than it did a week ago when he threw for a school-record six interceptions a week ago…Don’t be fooled by Tennessee’s improved defensive statistics as they were the benefactor of Southern Miss running back Damion Fletcher being forced to sit out most of the second half due to cramping. Expect a shootout next week when the Vols have to travel to the Swamp next week to take on the Gators.
The third Saturday in September always proves to be an exciting one and this weekend should be no different. Be sure to check back later in the week when we break down all of the big games.