Finally, college football has been played, and everyone now has games about which to boast/bemoan/rejoice. Mississippi State fans may have done all three this weekend. They could boast in the fact they knocked off Southern Miss again. They could bemoan the fact that is was not the cleanest looking win, but they could rejoice that it was a win.
The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly:
The Good: Mississippi State did not play with its A-game Saturday. That probably was not Mississippi State's B-game either. That was somewhere around C/D range, and their play showed it. The Bulldogs looked out of sorts at times, but at different points in the game, they showed flashes of being as strong as the team from last year. For every big pass play given up, there seemed to be a defensive lineman mauling someone. In all, it felt like we all got to watch someone at their first middle school dance. Not a whole lot went right, but enough did to make it successful. There were plenty of miscues, and later on, Mississippi State fans will sit back and laugh at the nervousness felt after the first game.
Good teams find a way to survive when they are not firing on all cylinders, and whether one subscribes to the vanilla play calling theory or not, the Bulldogs did not fire on all cylinders. However, they won, and they kept hope alive another week.
The Bad: Mississippi State's running game fell a bit flat against the Golden Eagles. Once the Bulldogs turned to Dak Prescott to run the ball, things improved, but Prescott running the ball cannot be the Mississippi State rushing attack. Brandon Holloway put up solid numbers, but is he an every down back for an entire game? Ashton Shumpert had opportunity to solidify the starting position this weekend, but his play may have opened up the competition. He did not have a great average on his carries, and his fumble near the goal line was bad.
The Ugly: Mississippi State fans have almost been conditioned to hold their breaths on return plays. For the Bulldogs on Saturday night, it appeared that returns may be feast for famine for Mississippi State this year. Holloway's touchdown return could not have come at a better time as it immediately swung momentum back to Mississippi State after Southern Miss took the lead.
However, the muffed punt by Fred Ross could have really hurt the Bulldogs early. The Bulldogs had just fumbled what looked like a sure upcoming touchdown. The defense answered with a three and out. Then the muffed punt allows Southern Miss to take over the ball at the Mississippi State eleven-yard line. The defense stiffens up again and forces the Golden Eagles to settle for a field goal. Had the defense not answered the bell after those two turnovers, this game could have been different.
Daniel Black has a great recap of the SEC games this weekend, and he will be bringing that to you every week this season. So with that now in play, this portion of the MMQB will turn into a few thoughts on the SEC.
1. The SEC looked awful strong in starting 12-1(Thanks, Vandy), but many of these wins came over weaker foes. The best looking win might have been Texas A&M's victory over Arizona State. The Aggies looked legit, and the SEC West looked that much stronger. In what has become an opening weekend tradition, Alabama takes on a team, dominates them and crushes their hopes for the season.
2. Auburn picked up a win, but Jeremy Johnson has to be better for the Tigers to be true contenders. He threw three bowling shoe ugly interceptions, and Louisville could have had more interceptions. Johnson should improve, but if he does not, the Tigers will become also rans this season.
3. Mother nature proved to be one dominate force this weekend forcing many delays, a cancelled game, and a game called early. There have been many people upset with LSU for canceling their game, but logistically, there was not much of a way to make it happen. ULM looked thankful to get of the field against Georgia. It made for a strange week across the conference.
Offensive Player of the Week: Derek Henry, Alabama | The Crimson Tide always seem to have good running backs, and Henry looks ready to carry the load for Alabama this year. The junior had 147 yards on 13 carries, good for an 11.3 YPC average. He also found the end zone on three occasion and concussed a player with his thigh/butt.
Defensive Player of the Week: Skai Moore, South Carolina | The linebacker twice came up with interceptions on plays that could have won the game for North Carolina. That is just clutch.
This is a complete crapshoot given several of the opponents during week one. We'll know a ton more next week, so don't go apoplectic on us.
1. Alabama: The Tide dominated a good team from the Big Ten.
2-12: You could really slot this however you want, and I wouldn't argue. But for kicks and giggles, here we go.
2. Georgia: The QB question still lingers, but Nick Chubb is an exclamation point.
3. Texas A&M: I don't think the Aggies stay here, but for one week, they looked awful impressive.
4. Mississippi State: Southern Miss is a better team than people think they will be.
5. LSU: The Tigers should be good, but because they did not play, we know very little about them.
6. Ole Miss: That was a lot of points in a game, and it was a solid defensive performance. However, Fresno will be a tougher test than UT-Martin. Ole Miss will win, but we should learn more about the Rebels.
7. Arkansas: If the Razorback can really be successful through the air as well, it will be good times for the fans in Fayetteville.
8. Tennessee: Everyone talked about the rise of Tennessee this year. The offense looked good, but the defense did not.
9. Auburn: The Tigers would have lost to just about anyone in the SEC West with that performance, but they won and moved on. Johnson has to improve for the Tigers to be contenders.
10: Florida: The Gators may have scored more points than they did all of last year. Looking for confirmation.
11. Missouri: This was not a team that opened with a confidence inspiring game.
12. Kentucky: The Wildcats looked for a better spot on this list, but then got lost in the fourth quarter.
13. South Carolina: There are still way too many question marks with this team.
14. Vanderbilt: Well, at least they are not Kansas. Eat it Jayhawks. (Too soon?)
Five Thoughts from the Weekend:
1) I hope you are enjoying a great Labor Day today. We all need to take time to relax. For the most part, Americans are bad at this, and I think we see it reflected in our soaring obesity rates, divorce rates, and so many other negative rates. How many of us have our work emails on our phones to answer them at any and all hours? How many of us actually unplug from work for vacation? I've gotten into highpointing, and one of my favorite things is when I lose cell service for a few days. I shouldn't have to go to mountains to disconnect, but I do. Maybe one day we can all slow down and not be slaves to things that in the end won't matter. I wonder how many of the ills in our society relate to this pressure way too many people feel. If we could go back and ditch cell phones, or at least smartphones, would we be better off? I'm starting to think the answer is yes.
I'm glad the dialogue is starting with paternity time off for moms and dads. Is it not sort of silly to expect new parents to rush back to work so soon? Working for a former employer, I was pushed to rush back less than a week after my son was born. It was not done openly, but in side conversations. That was crazy, especially considering I had nearly 50 leave days accrued. Yes, I know it means picking up slack for each other at work, but isn't that what communities do? If you stop and think about it, shouldn't your work environment be more of a community? After all think about how much time you spend there.
Don't think I am laying all of this blame at the feet of employers. We are the ones who have chosen to make ourselves way too available way too often. PS--This is not a rant against my 9-5..or 7 to 6 or 7 or 8. We have gotten pretty good about trying to respect time off and build community. I'm pretty lucky.
2) I was not really against the 9pm kickoff, but I was thinking from a fan perspective, not a working man's perspective. After the game, the kick felt late even for fans. I still had to get up some quick hits, do the post game show on Bulldog Sports Radio and line up stories for Sunday. That late finish made it awfully brutal. Given that I started with some radio at 9am, it was a long day. Another group who had a long day is the athletic department staff at MSU. I got several updates and staff email stamped around 4am. Those guys are tough workers and make it much easier for all of us. Thanks guys!
3) Way too many people lost way too much of their minds over a season opener. The Bulldogs did not look sharp, but they were not terrible. They also did not lose, so really nothing is lost for the season. Let's not act like it is.
4) LSU having to cancel their game adds quite the twist to their matchup against Mississippi State. LSU would have much rather had some players get playing time against another team before coming to Starkville. I doubt many teams have ever liked opening their season with an in-conference game. The Tigers are basically being forced into that this weekend.
5) I want to give a tip of the hat to my staff here at the blog. I really enjoyed the work from the contributors here, and I hope you did too.
Thanks guys for being a great team, guys.