Auburn Tigers: Odell Beckham

AUBURN, Ala. -- There wasn’t much fire in the voice of Gus Malzahn as he stood at the podium following Auburn’s first scrimmage of the spring on Saturday. All told, it was a pretty boring scene. No injuries to report. No position changes to speak of. Only one turnover and a handful of big plays. His team had to move indoors because of the threat of rain, but as he said, “It didn’t bother us a bit.”

Watching Malzahn, you got the feeling he wasn’t playing coy. This was the difference a year makes. Last spring was an anxious time for Auburn. There was no quarterback, no depth chart and no sense of expectations. Malzahn and Co. were simply trying to pick up the pieces left behind from the previous staff.

This spring has a much different tone. All one needed to do was look at the long-sleeve, collared shirt Malzahn wore after practice, the one with the SEC championship patch on its left shoulder. The building phase of Malzahn’s tenure is over. The questions are much fewer this year than the last. And with that, the sense of urgency is far more diminished.

“We've got more information now, so we're not as urgent,” Malzahn said. “We pretty much know a lot about the guys returning.”

Not every coach in the SEC is in the same enviable position.

“You've also got to keep in mind next year," Malzahn said. "You want to get your guys as much reps as you can moving forward for next year, because that's what it's all about ... but I would say, probably, for the most part, that we've got guys in the position that we want them to be in."

Not every coach can afford to look ahead this spring. Not every coach has the time.

With that said, let’s take a look at the programs with the most to accomplish this spring, ranking all 14 schools by the length of their to-do list.

Vanderbilt: Any new coaching staff has the most work to do, from determining the roster to installing new schemes on both sides of the ball. Throw in a new starting quarterback and the raid James Franklin put on the recruiting class, and it adds up to an enormously important spring for Derek Mason.

Kentucky: Mark Stoops has done a lot to turn around the culture at Kentucky. In fact, veteran defensive end Alvin Dupree said it feels like more of a football school now. But the fact remains that Stoops has a very young group to deal with, so inexperienced that true freshman Drew Barker is in contention to start at quarterback.

Tennessee: The Vols are facing many of the same challenges in Year 2 under Butch Jones. He has brought in a wealth of talent, including a remarkable 14 early enrollees. Considering the Vols lost all of their starters on both the offensive and defensive lines, there’s a lot of work to do.

Florida: The hot seat knows no reason. All is good in Gator Land right now as a new offense under a new coordinator is installed, injured players -- including starting quarterback Jeff Driskel -- return, and expectations creep upward. But a bad showing in the spring game could change the conversation quickly for Will Muschamp.

Arkansas: There’s nowhere to go but up for Bret Bielema after a 3-9 finish his first year with the program. The good news is he has young playmakers on offense (Hunter Henry, Alex Collins, etc.). The bad news is the quarterback position is unsettled and his defensive coaching staff is almost entirely overhauled from a year ago.

LSU: A depth chart full of question marks is nothing new for Les Miles, who has endured plenty of underclassmen leaving for the NFL before. But missing almost every skill player on offense (Zach Mettenberger, Jeremy Hill, Odell Beckham, Jarvis Landry) hurts. He has to find replacements at several key positions, and we haven’t even gotten into the defense.

Texas A&M: Cedric Ogbuehi can replace Jake Matthews at left tackle. The combination of Ricky Seals-Jones and Speedy Noil can replace Mike Evans at receiver. But who replaces the legend of Johnny Football? Determining a starter under center won’t be easy, but neither will be overhauling a defense that was far and away the worst in the SEC last year.

Georgia: Jeremy Pruitt should breathe some new life into a struggling Georgia defense. Having Hutson Mason to replace Aaron Murray helps as well. But off-the-field problems continue to plague Mark Richt’s program. With stars such as Todd Gurley, the players are there. The pieces just need to come together.

Missouri: After 13 seasons in Columbia, Gary Pinkel knows how to handle the spring. Maty Mauk appears ready to take over for James Franklin at quarterback, and even with the loss of Henry Josey, there are still plenty of weapons on offense. The real challenge will be on defense, where the Tigers must replace six starters, including cornerstones E.J. Gaines, Kony Ealy and Michael Sam.

Alabama: The quarterback position won’t be settled this spring, so we can hold off on that. But still, Nick Saban faces several challenges, including finding two new starters on the offensive line, replacing C.J. Mosley on defense and completely overhauling a secondary that includes Landon Collins and a series of question marks.

Ole Miss: Hugh Freeze has his players. Now he just has to develop them. With emerging stars Robert Nkemdiche, Tony Conner, Laremy Tunsil, Evan Engram and Laquon Treadwell, there’s plenty to build around. Include a veteran starting quarterback in Bo Wallace and there’s a lot to feel good about in Oxford.

Mississippi State: It’s a new day in the state of Mississippi as both state institutions have high expectations this spring. Mississippi State returns a veteran defense, a solid offensive line and a quarterback in Dak Prescott who could turn into a Heisman Trophy contender. A few months after Dan Mullen was on the hot seat, he now appears to be riding high.

Auburn: Losing Tre Mason and Greg Robinson hurts, but outside of those two stars, the roster remains fairly intact. Nick Marshall figures to improve as a passer, the running back corps is well off, and the receivers stand to improve with the addition of D’haquille Williams. The defense should get better as youngsters such as Montravius Adams and Carl Lawson gain experience.

South Carolina: Steve Spurrier would like to remind everyone that Dylan Thompson was the only quarterback in the country to beat Central Florida last season. Sure, Thompson wasn’t the full-time starter last year, but he has plenty of experience and is ready to be the man. Throw in a healthy and eager Mike Davis and an improving set of skill players, and the offense should improve. The defense has some making up to do on the defensive line, but there’s no reason to panic, considering the rotation they used last year.

What to watch in the SEC: Week 7

October, 10, 2013
10/10/13
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1. Will Clowney play?: There have been a lot of rumors flying around about South Carolina’s Jadeveon Clowney and his last-minute decision to sit out against Kentucky. It didn’t go over well with coach Steve Spurrier based on the postgame comments. However, Spurrier defended his star player this week. Once again, Clowney is listed as questionable for Saturday’s game at Arkansas with a muscle strain near his rib area. He returned to practice on Wednesday.

[+] EnlargeJames Franklin
Getty ImagesJames Franklin and Missouri can prove they're legit SEC contenders with a win at Georgia on Saturday.
2. Health concerns at UGA: The Bulldogs survived a scare in Knoxville last weekend, but they didn’t come out unscathed. They lost both running back Keith Marshall and wide receiver Justin Scott-Wesley to season-ending injuries while fellow wide receiver Michael Bennett will miss an extended period of time with a knee injury. Georgia will have to bounce back quickly with No. 25 Missouri coming to town on Saturday.

3. Mizzou a legitimate contender? It’s safe to say nobody had Missouri as one of the two unbeaten teams in the SEC heading into Week 7. But after an impressive road win at Vanderbilt, the Tigers are 5-0 and finally starting to gain some respect around the league. The next three weeks will be telling, though, as they play Georgia, Florida and South Carolina.

4. LSU’s WRs versus Florida’s CBs: It’s a dream matchup for NFL scouts. LSU features what many consider to be the top wide receiver tandem in college football with Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry. However, Florida’s Loucheiz Purifoy is arguably the top cornerback in the SEC, and playing opposite of him is freshman Vernon Hargreaves III, who already has three interceptions. The Gators are also expecting the return of corner Marcus Roberson, another one who could soon be playing on Sundays.

5. Tyler Murphy in Death Valley: Since replacing the injured Jeff Driskel at quarterback, Murphy has exceeded expectations for the Gators. In three games, he has thrown for 530 yards with five touchdowns and just one interception, and he’s progressively gotten better. However, the junior signal-caller is in for his toughest assignment yet when Florida travels to LSU this weekend. How will he perform in a hostile atmosphere?

6. The return of Cooper: When will we see the real Amari Cooper, the one who had 1,000 yards receiving as a freshman for Alabama? The star wide receiver has been slowed by nagging injuries all season, but he expects to play Saturday against Kentucky. Will he be 100 percent? Quarterback AJ McCarron would love to have him back sooner rather than later.

7. Aggies without Ennis: As if Texas A&M’s rush defense wasn’t bad enough, the Aggies lost Kirby Ennis, one of their top interior linemen, for the season with a torn ACL. The injury comes at a bad time for the Aggies, who have to visit Ole Miss this weekend and deal with Rebels running back Jeff Scott, not to mention quarterback Bo Wallace. The staff will turn to freshman Isaiah Golden, who is expected to start alongside Alonzo Williams in the middle.

8. Shootout in Oxford: The SEC has featured its fair share of shootouts early in the college football season, and Saturday’s game between Ole Miss and Texas A&M could be right up there. Both teams feature an up-tempo offense, and neither one likes to waste much time between plays. It could be a long day for both defenses.

9. Big game for Bielema: After a 3-0 start, Arkansas has quickly fallen back to .500 with three consecutive losses. However, first-year coach Brett Bielema has a chance to notch his first signature victory with the Razorbacks this Saturday when they host No. 14 South Carolina. The Gamecocks have struggled in recent weeks and could be prime for an upset. It’s likely a must-win scenario for Arkansas if the Hogs want to reach a bowl game.

10. Auburn’s quarterback: Who will start for the Tigers against Western Carolina? Starter Nick Marshall injured his knee last weekend against Ole Miss, and although he’s expected to play, coach Gus Malzahn hasn’t made a ruling one way or the other. If Marshall can’t go, Auburn will either turn to returning starter Jonathan Wallace or true freshman Jeremy Johnson.

What we learned in the SEC: Week 6

October, 6, 2013
10/06/13
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Another solid weekend of SEC football is in the books. Georgia and Tennessee gave the fans a treat, but there were plenty of other takeaways. Here are five things we learned from around the league in Week 6:

[+] EnlargeAaron Murray
Jeffrey Vest/Icon SMIGeorgia quarterback Aaron Murray was 19-of-35 passing vs. Tennessee, with 196 yards and three touchdowns.
Murray, Georgia have the clutch gene: Remember when people wondered whether Aaron Murray could or would ever win a big game? That's been pretty much put to rest, especially after last week's 44-41 win over LSU, but on Saturday, Murray and Co. came up with a touchdown drive when they absolutely had to have it in the final minutes of regulation to send their dramatic battle with Tennessee into overtime. The Bulldogs benefited from a fumble by Tennessee running back Pig Howard as he dove for the pylon in the first overtime, but still, credit is due to Georgia for finding a way to win when Tennessee came roaring back from a two-touchdown deficit to take a 31-24 lead with all of Neyland Stadium singing "Rocky Top." Not to mention, injuries eliminated key player after key player from the Bulldogs' lineup, leaving them depleted in some areas -- particularly receiver and running back -- down the stretch. The Bulldogs' title hopes are still alive as a result of their fight.

Tennessee has reason for optimism: The loss hurts and it looked like the Volunteers were going to pull off the upset of the No. 6 team in the country, but there are definitely positives to be taken away. For starters, the kind of fight and grittiness Tennessee showed is what you want to see in your football team and something that hasn't necessarily been there in recent years. The Vols could have easily folded up like a tent when down 17-3 and Georgia was on the verge of taking a three-score lead before a missed field goal. Instead, they fought to the point that they put themselves in position to win. That's a huge positive for new coach Butch Jones. Secondly, quarterback Justin Worley played his best game of the year and made some big-time throws down the stretch. The execution by Worley down the stretch -- as well as the offense as a whole on three fourth-down plays in the second half -- was terrific.

Auburn and Mizzou are worth keeping an eye on: We weren't sure what to make of undefeated Missouri coming into Saturday, because all of the Tigers' opponents had been of the nonconference variety and none were particularly formidable. But in their first SEC contest on Saturday, the offense did what it has done much of the season -- score points -- en route to a 51-28 win over Vanderbilt. Missouri racked up 523 yards and got a great performance from quarterback James Franklin (19-of-28 passing, 278 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions). Mizzou is now 5-0 heading into a showdown with Georgia in Athens next week. Auburn, meanwhile, withstood a late rally from Ole Miss to secure a 30-22 win. Defensively, Auburn was relentless in rushing Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace, collecting six sacks. Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall gave the Rebels trouble on the ground, rushing for a team-high 140 yards and two touchdowns while also throwing for 93 yards on 11-of-17 passing. Auburn's now 2-1 in the SEC and has surpassed its win total from a year ago.

Odell Beckham Jr. is the truth: He has already shown how good he is this season by recording more than 100 receiving yards in three games, but on Saturday against Mississippi State the LSU junior receiver recorded career highs in catches (nine) and receiving yards (179) with two touchdowns in a 59-26 road win. The Bulldogs had absolutely no answer for Beckham all night as LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger threw him a variety of passes, including some jump balls that he made look unfair to defenders.

South Carolina is struggling to close games: Last week the Gamecocks saw Central Florida reel off 15 unanswered points in the final 10 minutes, but they hung on to win 28-25, and on Saturday, Kentucky rallied to make another Gamecocks win close late. South Carolina came into the fourth quarter with a 27-7 lead but the Wildcats pulled to within six with 11:50 remaining and seven with 4:02 to go. The Gamecocks held on, but it certainly isn't all roses for Steve Spurrier and Co. Not to mention, Jadeveon Clowney sat out the game with bruised ribs.

SEC lunchtime links

October, 2, 2013
10/02/13
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It's Wednesday which means the SEC coaches and players have turned their attention to Saturday's opponent. See what's being said, who's going to play or not play and how teams are preparing in a sampling of news across the league.
  • Alabama center Ryan Kelly is expected to a miss a couple of weeks with a “stretched” MCL. That means more playing time for Chad Lindsay, who is making the most of his opportunity.
  • Coming off a huge win over LSU, Georgia is still on high alert as it heads to Knoxville this weekend for a matchup with SEC East foe Tennessee.
  • Since Lane Kiffin was fired, there have been rumors linking Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin with the open USC position. He says the rumors are just part of the job as the Aggies head into an open week.
  • LSU’s Odell Beckham Jr. muffed a punt against Georgia on Saturday that led to a touchdown. It’s not the first miscue for the dynamic return specialist, but he knows how to respond from a mistake like that.
  • Connor Shaw was expected to miss at least a couple of weeks with a shoulder sprain, but the South Carolina quarterback could play against Kentucky on Saturday.
  • Florida boasts one of the top defenses in college football, so the Gators’ offense has resorted to an old-school approach -- a simple, keep-away philosophy.
  • Ole Miss was shutout last Saturday at Alabama. Head coach Hugh Freeze says it starts with the offensive line, and they will need to play better this weekend against Auburn.
  • Missouri has yet to start SEC play, but through four games, the Tigers’ offense has passed the test under new coordinator Josh Henson.
  • Auburn cornerback Chris Davis has missed the last two games due to injury, but the Tigers are eager to get their “extra spark” back on defense this week against No. 24 Ole Miss.
  • The trash talk has already started between Arkansas and Florida this week. Florida defensive lineman Damien Jacobs called out the Razorbacks’ offensive line, saying they play a little dirty. He singled out Hogs’ center Travis Swanson.

SEC lunchtime links

September, 26, 2013
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We're a little closer to game day in the SEC. With several notable conference matchups on tap, here's look at some of the storylines, news and notes from around the league:

Week 4 helmet stickers

September, 22, 2013
9/22/13
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Auburn was handed its first loss of the season on Saturday. The Tigers couldn’t overcome the nasty weather conditions, a hostile environment and a very talented LSU team, falling 35-21. Still, the performance wasn’t all bad, and it’s time to hand out some helmet stickers from the game.

Tre Mason: After the game, all the talk was on LSU running back Jeremy Hill and his big night, but Mason had a very good game in his own right. The junior running back finished with 26 carries for 132 yards and two touchdowns. Whether it his experience or just the fact that he had the hot hand, Mason dominated the number of carries for Auburn and took full advantage of it. Cameron Artis-Payne scored a late touchdown but had just seven carries in the game while Corey Grant rushed the ball twice. Auburn still wants to try and utilize all three backs going forward, but Mason has looked like the most consistent of the trio. He could see his role expand when Ole Miss comes to town in two weeks.

The Auburn secondary: It wasn’t the best defensive effort from Auburn -- in fact, it’s one the Tigers would like to forget -- but the secondary should be commended. The defensive backs held LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger to just 229 yards passing and one touchdown. Coming into the game, Metteberger led the SEC with a Total QBR of 91.6. On Saturday, his QBR was down to 62.7, thanks in large part to the Auburn defensive backs. Safety Jermaine Whitehead gave the LSU signal-caller his first interception of the season when he picked him off on the first play of the second half. The defense also kept LSU’s Odell Beckham in check for most of the game. The star wide receiver finished with only five catches for 59 yards.

Gus Malzahn: We’ll call it a visor sticker, but Auburn’s head coach deserves praise for what he has been able to do in such a short amount of time. If last season's team got behind 21-0 at halftime, there’s a good chance it would have given up. But not this year’s team. It believed it could win all the way through the final whistle. Credit Malzahn because whatever he said to the players at halftime worked. The onside kick to start the second half went awry, but the Tigers made up for it with an interception followed by a quick touchdown. The Tigers competed against a very good LSU team, and although its difficult to swallow any loss, a 35-21 loss looks a lot better than a 35-0 loss, or worse.

Honorable mention: WR Sammie Coates

Five things: Auburn-LSU

September, 21, 2013
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When the sun finds it home in the western sky, SEC West rivals will face off in Death Valley. It’s Auburn vs. LSU, a clash of two undefeated teams. Here’s what we'll be watching when a pair of Tigers square off against each other Saturday night.

Quarterback battle: It’s an intriguing matchup of contrasting styles, but the two quarterbacks share one thing in common -- they both started their career at Georgia. Zach Mettenberger transferred to LSU prior to the 2011 season, and he’s just now starting to come into his own. The senior has already thrown for nine touchdowns through the first three games after throwing 12 TDs all of last season. Auburn’s Nick Marshall took a different route. He played defensive back for UGA as a freshman but switched back to his old position when he went to junior college. Now he’s directing the offense for Gus Malzahn’s Tigers. Mettenberger has the edge in experience, but Marshall grew up a lot in last week’s game-winning drive against Mississippi State.

Starting fast: Both teams like to score quickly. LSU has jumped out front in every game and has yet to trail this season. Auburn has scored a first-quarter touchdown in all three of its games. What will give on Saturday? The onus will be on Auburn to score first as the visiting Tigers will try to silence the home crowd early. A quick touchdown would also calm the nerves and give confidence to Marshall and the rest of the first- and second-year players who are playing in Tiger Stadium for the first time. On the other side, LSU is hoping to put the game out of reach by halftime. The closer it stays, the better Auburn’s chances are for pulling an upset.

Big plays: There will be plenty of home-run threats on the field Saturday, but none bigger than LSU wide receiver Odell Beckham. He’s averaging 22 yards per catch and scored four touchdowns against UAB, all from 20 yards or more, including a 100-yard return of a missed field goal. He’s dangerous with the ball in his hands and a perfect complement to fellow wide receiver Jarvis Landry. But Auburn can hit the big play, too, having already scored four touchdowns of 68 yards or longer -- and it could’ve been more had Marshall not overthrown his target on at least two other occasions. Both teams can strike at any moment.

Hostile environment: You can turn the volume up at practice and prepare all you want, but nothing compares to the atmosphere in Death Valley on a Saturday night. It’s been talked about plenty this week. LSU is 39-2 in Saturday night home games under Les Miles. Auburn is 3-0 this season, but the Tigers have yet to play a game away from home. The key will be Marshall. How does he respond to the hostile crowd when it comes to making play calls and calling audibles? How does he handle the atmosphere? His teammates have helped him all week and are confident in their quarterback, but nobody knows for sure until he takes the field.

Inclement weather: There’s expected to be two to three inches of rain in Baton Rouge, La., on Saturday, and a flash-flood watch is in effect all weekend. It’s likely going to be wet, and it could be sloppy. The precipitation could slow down the two offenses, which would play more to Auburn’s favor in keeping the game close. However, LSU’s power rushing attack is better suited for wet conditions. Either way, it will make it difficult to hang on to the football, putting a premium on ball security.

Planning for success: Auburn Tigers

September, 19, 2013
9/19/13
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AUBURN, Ala. -- When Gus Malzahn took over a 3-9 Auburn team last December, he wanted to change the culture. He wanted to instill a winning mindset to a team that had grown accustomed to losing. The Tigers opened the season 2-0, but the real progress showed up in last week's come-from-behind win over Mississippi State. It's a step in the right direction.

"In football there are a lot of mental things that go on with winning: expecting to win, knowing how to win. I think that will help us moving forward," Malzahn said. "As a matter of fact, I know that will help us moving forward if we have situations like that. Our guys will believe they can win."

The Auburn head coach hopes the renewed confidence will carry over to the Tigers' matchup with No. 6 LSU on Saturday. A trip to Death Valley is never easy, especially for a young football team, but they Tigers are not going in defeated, but with hope.

What Auburn needs to do to win: Start fast. Auburn has looked nearly unstoppable on its first-quarter drives, no doubt scripted by Malzahn, but putting up points early is a must against LSU. It's the Tigers' first road test of the season, and they have to find a way to take the crowd out of it. It won't be easy, with quarterback Nick Marshall making his first start outside of Jordan-Hare Stadium, but he showed poise on the final drive Saturday against Mississippi State. He has to limit turnovers and make plays for Auburn to hang with LSU.

What LSU needs to do to win: The offense has been much improved this season, and the Tigers have to carry that progression into SEC play. In last year's game, a 12-10 win, LSU scored just 10 points from its offense, and quarterback Zach Mettenberger threw for just 169 yards. This year, he is averaging 266 yards and three touchdowns per game, and LSU has scored at least 37 points in each of the first three games. Couple that with an Auburn defense that has given up its fair share of yards, and the Bayou Bengals might reach 12 points in the first quarter alone. But it starts with the offense.

Players to watch

Auburn TE C.J. Uzomah: Now known for his game-winning touchdown grab against Mississippi State, Uzomah is emerging as a go-to target for Marshall. If there was ever a game where the inexperienced quarterback needed a safety valve, it's Saturday against LSU.

LSU WR Odell Beckham: As a wide receiver, nobody has been able to cover him. He's fast. He's explosive. He flat out makes plays. Between Beckham and fellow wideout Jarvis Landry, LSU has one of the top tandems in the SEC. Beckham is also a threat in the return game, as well.

Auburn DT Gabe Wright: After a solid performance in Week 2, Wright was virtually non-existent against Mississippi State. The former ESPN 150 star has to step up this weekend if Auburn wants to have any chance of slowing down LSU's power rushing attack.

LSU S Craig Loston: The LSU defense starts up front with its two star defensive tackles, but Auburn likely will try to get outside the box, making Loston that much more important. Whether it's against the run or the pass, he needs to prevent Auburn from hitting on any big plays.

Quotable: "I did watch Nick's drive at the end of the game last week. Even before the drive started, I was sitting there thinking I've got a pretty good feeling that this guy is going to start making some history there at Auburn, because I had a feeling that they were going to move it down the field with him and put some points on the board." -- Georgia head coach Mark Richt on Nick Marshall's game-winning drive last week against Mississippi State.

SEC helmet stickers: Week 2

September, 8, 2013
9/08/13
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Week 2 was another wild week in the SEC that provided plenty of highlights, and now it’s time to hand out the helmet stickers.

Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia: The monkey is finally off his back. Murray delivered in a big game, in front of a national audience, and the Bulldogs came out victorious. Before Saturday, he had a reputation for losing big games. He lost to Clemson in the opener. He lost to Alabama in last year’s SEC championship. He was 0-3 in his career against South Carolina. That’s all changed now. Murray finished 17-of-23 for 309 yards and four touchdowns. More importantly, he didn’t turn the ball over. It’s just one game, and Georgia still has aspirations of winning an SEC title and then a national title, but Murray can sleep easy for now.

The Tennessee secondary: Many pundits thought Western Kentucky would go into Knoxville and take down the Volunteers, but Tennessee’s defense had other ideas. At one point in the first quarter, it forced five turnovers in a span of six snaps, including two interceptions that were taken back for touchdowns. In all, the Volunteers pulled down five interceptions and held coach Bobby Petrino’s passing offense to just 222 yards through the air. Junior safety Brian Randolph, who missed the majority of last season with a torn ACL, finished with two picks.

Odell Beckham, WR/RS, LSU: What didn’t Beckham do? As a receiver, he had five catches for 136 yards and three touchdowns. He returned a missed field goal 100 yards for a score, and he also added a 60-yard punt return that set up another LSU touchdown. For the game, he finished with 331 all-purpose yards. The junior now has more than 100 yards receiving in both of his first two games and has emerged as a go-to target for quarterback Zach Mettenberger.

The Auburn defensive line: In Week 1, Auburn failed to generate much of a pass rush from its defensive line. After a rigorous week of practice under defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson, the line responded. The Tigers had 13 tackles for loss against Arkansas State, including a pair of sacks. They held the Red Wolves to just 150 yards rushing after they had gained 500 on the ground the week before. Defensive end LaDarius Owens led the way up front with eight tackles, two for a loss, and a sack.

Maxwell Smith and Jalen Whitlow, QBs, Kentucky: The Wildcats needed a win in the worst way, and the two quarterbacks delivered against Miami (Ohio). Smith, who started, finished 15-of-23 for 310 yards and three touchdowns while his counterpart Whitlow added 103 yards passing on a 10-for-12 night. Whitlow also rushed for 48 yards and a score. New coach Mark Stoops picked up his first win and has to feel good about his two signal-callers going forward.

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