Week two was interesting. Even though Mississippi State lost, because of what happened around the SEC and the nation, MSU is still in good standings after last night. We still have a shot at getting 9-10 wins. Theoretically, we can still get to Atlanta. Yes, criticisms can (and probably should) be made over clock management late in the 4th quarter. It is fair to question why the offense didn’t do the hurry up no huddle passing attack magic earlier in the game. But there is no need to panic. And here’s why:
The SEC is overhyped. It is down this year. Several schools became media darlings and received too much attention this offseason. And it looks like they flat out just aren’t good. At all. You know what’s great about several SEC schools (looking at you Arkansas, Auburn, Mizzou) being over hyped? Is that all of those teams are on our schedule. On top of that, we have an A&M team that is receiving unjust media praise after beating Arizona State (who is quickly proving to be something just slightly better than being a dumpster fire after beating FCS CAL POLY 35-21) and then Kentucky who still isn’t good at football. (And no, their basketball team can’t play the rest of their SEC games for them.) Because of what happened in a very strange and fun week two, MSU can still win 10 games, and here’s how:
Starting with Auburn: Jeremy Johnson is not playing like Cam Newton. Those comparisons were dumb and he just looks lost on the field. He has the talent, he has the build, but for some reason he just doesn’t have the execution to be great. Johnson has thrown 5 interceptions in the past two games, against FCS 40 point underdog Jacksonville State and a Louisville team that isn’t any good right now. (Shoutout to Charlie Burris who didn’t buy the media hype around Johnson.) On top of their quarterback worries, Auburn’s defense looked lost against both Louisville and Jacksonville State’s dual threat quarterbacks. These guys are nowhere near as talented as Dak and they were able to pick Auburn apart through the air and gain the necessary yards on the ground. I’m no longer concerned about playing this team. Unless they find a miracle, they’re going to have a very long season.
Onto A&M: The Aggie defense looked great against what was supposed to be a Pac-12 contender in Arizona State. They held the Sun Devils to 17 points and completely obliterated them at the point of attack. And the Aggies have received a lot of praise for that victory. But apparently it isn’t all that hard to slow down that ASU’s offense. Cal Poly, from the FCS, held Arizona State to 35 points while forcing an interception and a fumble. I’m not sure that A&M’s win over Arizona State is that much to hang your hat on anymore. A&M still might be a good team, but it is too early to say that given the evidence that came from week two around the nation. I want to see them stop a proven offense before I’ll buy the notion that they can stop Mississippi State.
Moving over to Kentucky: All offseason, we had heard that Kentucky would be improved, that their offense would be more complete, and that they finally had enough athletes and depth to keep up with the rest of the conference. A couple of analysts with the SEC network even predicted UK to beat MSU in Starkville. I’m not buying it. The Cats struggled against Louisiana Lafayette in week 1, only winning by a late touchdown after giving up a 24 point lead to give the Ragin Cajuns a chance at a comeback. Then yesterday Kentucky jumped out to a 24-7 lead against a bad South Carolina team only to score 2 points in the second half and let the Gamecocks fight their way back into the game, with Kentucky only winning 4 points. Based on scores and opponents alone, this team is lucky to be 2-0. They’ve struggled against not so great competition. And they won’t beat better, more talented, and deeper teams like this. Unless they learn how to hold onto early leads, they’ll struggle against tougher competition.
Looking at Mizzou: The Tigers are an interesting team. And that starts with their quarterback Maty Mauk. This team and their quarterback have done just enough to win the SEC East the past two years, and they might again, but this team tends to get lucky. Yesterday, like several teams in the SEC, Mizzou struggled against an inferior opponent, escaping Arkansas State with only a touchdown and were trailing 17-10 at one point. Mauk threw 3 touchdowns but also had two interceptions yesterday while backup quarterback Drew Lock also threw a pick. Mauk was an abysmal 16-36 for 148 yards with a QBR of 51.5. He was able to get 75 yards on the ground on 10 carries, but the rest of the Tiger running attack was stifled yesterday going 20 carries for 63 yards. It looks like Mizzou will be reliant on their defense again this season, and they better hope that their defense can stymie Mississippi State the way LSU did.
And now Arkansas: The Razorbacks. Some predicted they’d go 10-2 with an outside chance at Atlanta. Everyone marveled at how quickly Bielema had rescued the Hogs from mediocrity and despair. Everyone was enamored by their running backs and stout defense. Everyone seemingly bought the hype that they would be the 3rd best in the SEC West. Everyone except Toledo who went to Little Rock and won 16-12. Arkansas is missing a key piece to their offense in Jonathan Williams who looks to be out for the regular season with an injury, and it looks like their offense will miss him. It’s been noted how Mississippi State struggles historically playing in the state of Arkansas. But, as of what we have to go with based off of the games that have been played this year, it looks like Arkansas might have been the most overhyped team in the nation.
Alabama and Ole Miss will be interesting. We saw Alabama play well against a Wisconsin team that is breaking in a new coach and running back and we’ve heard about how well Chad Kelly is playing. We’ve seen the outrageous scores from Oxford and we saw Alabama cruise to a victory over a cupcake (something Auburn, Mizzou, and Arkansas couldn’t do). But I don’t know what to make of these two teams. Luckily, we get to play them both in Starkville this year, and that will be a huge part of those games. It honestly wouldn’t surprise me to see us win both, lose both, or split the games (which is probably the most likely outcome). I am excited to see these two play this weekend.
So, it’s okay that the SEC looks like it was overhyped. It’s okay to see criticisms of our conference. In fact, it’s a good thing, because it looks like MSU might be the beneficiary of it. And assuming we win all of our out of conference games, we could be anywhere from 9-3 to 11-1. Of course, there is the chance that we stumble and other teams regain footing, proving to be better than what we’ve seen so far. But as of right now, given what happened in week two, I’m not impressed with the majority of the SEC schools on our schedule, and that is good for us.