- Chris Low, ESPN Senior Staff Writer
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Without further ado, we bring you this week’s edition of Hot and Not in the SEC:
Georgia’s offense: You want explosive on offense? Take a look at what the Bulldogs have done in their first two games, and let’s not forget that they’re the only team in the country that’s faced top-10 opponents in both. They smacked South Carolina’s touted defense around to the tune of 536 yards of total offense in a 41-30 win after rolling up 540 yards in a 38-35 loss at Clemson. Senior quarterback Aaron Murray was brilliant, with four touchdown passes and no interceptions. Sophomore running back Todd Gurley is simply the best running back in college football, and you’ve got to hand it to Georgia’s offensive line, which responded well after breaking down at times in the Clemson game. Holding Georgia to less than 30 points this season is going to be a tall order for anybody. Even with their top receiver, Malcolm Mitchell, out for the season, the Bulldogs are balanced enough to beat you several different ways. And one more thing: Isn’t it about time that Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo gets the credit he deserves? The Bulldogs are lucky to have him and even luckier that he’s stayed loyal to his alma mater.
Butch Jones fever: Good luck in finding anybody on Rocky Top who isn’t thrilled with the way Jones has pumped life back into Tennessee’s program, which was on life support when he arrived in December. Sure, the Vols are about to hit a treacherous stretch, starting with the trip to Oregon this weekend, but there’s genuine belief among the players and fans in Knoxville that Jones is the one to lead the Vols back to prominence.
Alabama-Texas A&M trash talk: Man, some of those quotes we’re hearing from the players are really juicy. Yeah, right. Among the more piercing zingers: “Just another game” ... “We’re thankful for the opportunity ... ” Call it a hunch, but here’s betting the action on the field Saturday in College Station will be a tad more lively.
South Carolina running back Mike Davis: With all of the talk about T.J. Yeldon and Gurley, be sure you add Davis’ name to the conversation about the best running backs in this league. He’s been spectacular the first two weeks and is averaging 9.4 yards per carry. He has speed, power and some serious giddy-up.
Little Rock love: It sounds like Arkansas could be moving away from playing games in Little Rock down the road. The crowd of 47,358 for the win over Samford on Saturday was the smallest for a Razorbacks game there since 2002. The current contract calls for the Hogs to play two games in Little Rock through the 2016 season. After that, especially with what appears to be an expansion to Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville looming, the days of playing games in Little Rock annually could be coming to an end.
Auburn’s red-zone defense: The Tigers are making a stand (literally) on defense under first-year coordinator Ellis Johnson. They’re coming off an impressive 38-9 victory over Arkansas State and haven’t allowed a touchdown on defense in 19 consecutive series, stretching to the middle of the second quarter of the season-opening win over Washington State. The Tigers have been at their best defensively in the red zone.
South Carolina’s defense: For a defensive line that was supposed to be one of the best in college football, it sure didn’t look the part Saturday, yielding 536 yards and 25 first downs in their 41-30 loss at Georgia. Granted, teams are running away from Jadeveon Clowney and throwing it quickly, and it’s also true that the Gamecocks’ young linebackers have a ways to go. But if Clowney and crew are genuinely all that, it’s time they start making more plays up front and stop talking about all of the reasons why they’re not.
South Carolina’s sideline: Some of the best action of the day last weekend in Athens was on the South Carolina sideline, where defensive assistants Kirk Botkin and Deke Adams nearly came to blows and had to be separated.
Vanderbilt vs. ranked teams: Here’s another chance for the Commodores to end their drought against nationally ranked teams when they take on No. 13 South Carolina this weekend in Columbia. They’ve lost 13 in a row to ranked teams (six straight under James Franklin) and last beat a ranked team when they defeated No. 24 Boston College 16-14 in the 2008 Music City Bowl.
Florida’s margin for error: A year ago, Florida had very little margin for error as a football team and still managed to win 11 games. That was a credit to the Gators’ coaching staff and the resiliency of that team. Two games into this season, it looks as if the Gators are in a similar situation, but winning big like that two years in a row -- in the SEC -- is next to impossible. They moved the ball better offensively in their 21-16 loss to Miami, but had nothing to show for it. That’s what five turnovers and a slew of costly penalties will do to you. Junior quarterback Jeff Driskel made some woeful decisions, particularly in the red zone, and is catching most of the blame right now. Obviously he needs to play better. But everybody around him needs to play better as well, and the Gators simply have to find a way to score more points.
Their outstanding defense will keep them in every game this season, but leaning too heavily on that and just scraping by on offense is a dangerous way to make a living in the SEC. The Gators still have to play four more teams that are at least as good, if not better, than the Hurricanes. Translation: If they don’t find some answers on offense in a hurry, they could be looking at four or five losses despite having one of the stoutest defenses in the league.
5dAlex Scarborough and Greg Ostendorf
6dEdward Aschoff and Greg Ostendorf