SEC

SEC football roundup: LSU way, way up; Tennessee way, way down

Josh Moore, John Clay share thoughts on UK’s win over Eastern Michigan

Lexington Herald-Leader sports columnist John Clay and beat writer Josh Moore share their impressions from Kentucky football's 38-17 win over Eastern Michigan on September 7, 2019, at Kroger Field.
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Lexington Herald-Leader sports columnist John Clay and beat writer Josh Moore share their impressions from Kentucky football's 38-17 win over Eastern Michigan on September 7, 2019, at Kroger Field.

Around the SEC after Week 2 of college football:

LSU quarterback Joe Burrow has to be a Heisman Trophy candidate. That’s right, Joe Burrow. That’s right, an LSU quarterback. Saturday night at Texas, the transfer from Ohio State completed 31 of 39 passes for an eye-popping 471 yards and four touchdowns in the Tigers’ 45-38 win over the Longhorns. Through two games, Burrow has thrown for nine touchdowns with just one interception.

Former LSU quarterback and longtime/on-and-off offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger calls the plays, but Joe Brady is the Tigers’ passing game coordinator. Coach Ed Orgeron hired Brady away from the New Orleans Saints, where he had spent two years as an offensive assistant. And through two games, LSU is No. 5 in the nation in passing offense, behind Temple, Washington State, Purdue and Hawaii. Who’d have thunk it?

And who’d have thunk Tennessee would be 0-2 for the first time since 1988. After being shocked 38-30 by Georgia State in their opener, the Vols found a way to lose to visiting BYU 29-26 in overtime on Saturday. On a third-and-20 from its own 17-yard line, BYU managed to complete a 64-yard pass that set up the field goal that sent the game into OT. The visitors won it there.

Tennessee suffered ridiculous attrition in training camp, but still there’s no excuse for the Vols to be 0-2 out of the gate. After writing that the Georgia State loss was the worst in modern UT history, Knoxville News-Sentinel columnist John Adams wonders if Jeremy Pruitt can last past October. Phil Fulmer back as coach, anyone?

Remember, a Tennessee fan revolt kept the school from hiring Greg Schiano, who resurrected Rutgers. After that, then AD John Currie was close to hiring Washington State Coach Mike Leach before he was abruptly replaced by Fulmer. Washington State is off to a 2-0 start, by the way. Tennessee is, well, you know.

Texas A&M put up a decent fight at Clemson, but lost 24-10 to the defending national champion and No. 1-ranked Tigers. The Aggies held Clemson under 400 yards (389). But quarterback Kellen Mond was just 24-of-42 through he air for 236 yards. Before A&M scored with under 10 seconds left on a 91-yard drive, the Aggies had all of 198 yards of total offense.

When Kentucky plays at South Carolina on Sept. 28, it could be a matchup of first-year starters at quarterback. We hope to find out more about UK quarterback Terry Wilson’s knee on Sunday after he was injured in the 38-17 win over Eastern Michigan.. If he can’t go, Sawyer Smith will be Kentucky’s starter. Meanwhile, South Carolina lost senior quarterback Jake Bentley to a mid-foot sprain last week. Enter true freshman Ryan Hilinski.

And Hilinski’s college debut was impressive as he completed 24 of 30 passes for 282 yards and two touchdowns with one interception. Yes, the opponent was Charleston Southern. Yes, South Carolina rolled 72-10. But the Gamecocks did put up 675 yards of total offense. We’ll learn more when Alabama comes to Columbia on Saturday.

Kentucky backup quarterback Sawyer Smith talks to the media after UK’s 38-17 win over Eastern Michigan. A grad transfer from Troy, Smith could be the team’s starter after Terry Wilson was injured Saturday night.

Speaking of Alabama, the Crimson Tide had no problems with New Mexico State, rolling 62-10. Through two games, quarterback Tua Tagovailoa has completed 42 of 55 passes for 563 yards with seven touchdowns without an interception. Wideout Jerry Jeudy has 18 catches for 240 yards. Not a bad start.

Kentucky’s next opponent, Florida, took care of business against UT Martin, winning 45-0 at The Swamp. Quarterback Feleipe Franks went 25-of-27 for 270 yards and two touchdowns through the air. The Gators allowed UT Martin just 194 yards in total offense.

Mississippi State may have lost its quarterback, as well. Tommy Stevens, the grad transfer from Penn State, who visited UK before settling on the Bulldogs as his destination, completed nine of 10 passes for 105 yards and two scores before leaving in the second quarter of MSU’s 38-15 win over Southern Miss. Stevens did not return. Stevens completed his first nine passes before the injury.

How bad is Arkansas? After going 2-10 last year under new coach Chad Morris, the Razorbacks squeaked out a 20-13 home win over Portland State last week. On Saturday, however, Arkansas was no match for Ole Miss, losing 31-17 in Oxford. Former Texas A&M quarterback Nick Starkel took over for Arkansas and completed 17 of 24 passes for 201 yards and a score.

Ole Miss’s offense was non-existent under new coordinator Rich Rodriguez in a 15-10 loss at Memphis in the opener. It gained just 173 yards. What’s the old saw about a team improves the most between the first and second week? The Rebels rolled to 483 yards of total offense in the win over Arkansas. Running back Scottie Phillips rushed for 143 yards on 26 carries.

Auburn true freshman quarterback Bo Nix, who achieved legendary status in leading the Tigers’ dramatic 27-21 win over Oregon in Week 1, fell back to Earth in Week 2. Nix was just 19-of-37 for 207 yards with a TD in the 24-6 win over Tulane. The stout Auburn defense held Tulane to just 223 total yards.

Georgia officially named its Sanford Stadium playing surface after the truly legendary Vince Dooley, then celebrated with a 63-17 win over OVC member Murray State. Quarterback Jake Fromm stuck around just long enough to complete 10 of 11 passes for 166 yards. Georgia gained 561 total yards.

After losing 37-31 at Wyoming, Missouri picked up its first win, whipping West Virginia 38-7 in Columbia. Mizzou held the Mountaineers to just 171 yards. It’s going to be a long year for first-year head coach Neal Brown in Morgantown. Missouri quarterback Kelly Bryant threw for three touchdowns.

Vanderbilt made a ton of costly mental errors in its 42-24 loss at Purdue. The Commodores, now 0-2, were penalized 13 times for 100 yards. And running back Ke’Shawn Vaughn was held to 56 yards on 17 carries. Purdue had lost the week before, 34-31 at Nevada, who lost 77-6 to Oregon on Saturday.

SEC 2019 standings

East

  • Georgia 1-0 / 2-0
  • Florida 0-0 / 2-0
  • Kentucky 0-0 / 2-0
  • Missouri 0-0 / 1-1
  • South Carolina 0-0 / 1-1
  • Tennessee 0-0 / 0-2
  • Vanderbilt 0-1 / 0-2

West

  • Ole Miss 1-0 / 1-1
  • Alabama 0-0 / 2-0
  • Auburn 0-0 / 2-0
  • LSU 0-0 / 2-0
  • Miss State 0-0 / 2-0
  • Texas A&M 0-0 / 1-1
  • Arkansas 0-1 / 0-2

Saturday, Sept. 14

  • 12:00 - Arkansas State at Georgia
  • 12:00 - Kansas State at Mississippi State
  • 12:00 - Chattanooga at Tennessee
  • 3:30 - Alabama at South Carolina
  • 4:00 - SE Louisiana at Ole Miss
  • 4:00 - Colorado State at Arkansas
  • 7:00 - Kent State at Auburn
  • 7:00 - Florida at Kentucky
  • 7:00 - Lamar at Texas A&M
  • 7:30 - Northwestern State at LSU
  • 7:30 - SE Missouri State at Missouri
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John Clay is a sports columnist for the Lexington Herald-Leader. A native of Central Kentucky, he covered UK football from 1987 until being named sports columnist in 2000. He has covered 20 Final Fours and 37 consecutive Kentucky Derbys.
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