We’ve heard a time or two (OK, more like 200 times) that every week matters in college football.
I would agree that most do, but all weeks aren’t created equal. As proof, I give you Week 2 in the SEC.
Talk about an epic snoozer. If you like glorified scrimmages, the chance to see second- and third-teamers play and post-game tailgate sessions cranking back up early in the fourth quarter, this is your week.
Find me a marquee matchup in the SEC. The closest thing would be the Ole Miss-Vanderbilt tussle, and the Commodores are coming off a 30-point home beating at the hands of Temple.
Not those John Chaney-coached Temple hoops teams of years gone by, mind you. Nope, we’re talking Temple football. The Owls burst into this season fresh off a 2-10 finish a year ago.
It underscores how underwhelming the lineup of games is this week in the SEC, which raises a question my colleague at ESPN, Brett McMurphy, posed to coaches from Power Five conferences this preseason. Would they be in favor of scheduling all nonconference games against other Power Five teams as long as everybody in the Power Five conferences did the same and teams were no longer required to win six games to play in a bowl game?
Seven SEC coaches -- Ole Miss’ Hugh Freeze, Tennessee’s Butch Jones, LSU’s Les Miles, Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen, Florida’s Will Muschamp, Alabama’s Nick Saban and Kentucky’s Mark Stoops -- said they would be in favor of such a setup.
Five -- Arkansas’ Bret Bielema, Vanderbilt’s Derek Mason, Missouri’s Gary Pinkel, South Carolina’s Steve Spurrier and Georgia’s Mark Richt -- said they wouldn’t endorse such a move, and two others -- Auburn’s Gus Malzahn and Texas A&M’s Kevin Sumlin -- were undecided.
While I certainly understand the different sides to this argument, including the desire of some coaches to help give back to the smaller schools in their states by playing them, it’s a real downer for the fans to have a week like this.
How do you get excited about San Jose State at Auburn or Florida Atlantic at Alabama or Sam Houston State at LSU or Nicholls State at Arkansas?
The answer: You can’t.
There was so much buzz last week with Georgia opening against Clemson and LSU against Wisconsin. Alabama was a big favorite against West Virginia, but it was still the SEC vs. the Big 12, and obviously, the Mountaineers didn’t travel to Atlanta to be a sacrificial lamb.
We need more of those matchups. Saban is dead-on when he says fans are going to quit coming to see one-sided affairs.
Plus, as we cross over into the playoff world, it would be so much easier to evaluate teams if they’re playing comparable non-conference schedules. The next step would be making sure everybody plays the same number of conference games.
My guess is the playoff will have a profound effect on scheduling. Taking away the stipulation that you have to have six wins to go to a bowl would also help. More teams would schedule aggressively if that were the case.
Either way, somebody please wake me when we get to Week 3 in the SEC.
• It’s OK to call Georgia’s Todd Gurley a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate. Just don’t call him injury-prone.
The Bulldogs’ star tailback was mesmerizing last week with his 293 all-purpose yards and four touchdowns in the 45-21 win over Clemson. The only semblance of a question about Gurley coming into the season was whether or not he could stay healthy, something he was well aware of this summer when I asked him about it.
“People are always going to have something to say if it’s negative,” Gurley said. “You could run the ball 100 times and fumble once, and they’re going to talk about the fumble. It’s football. People get hurt.
One game into the 2014 season, Gurley has come back stronger than ever, and it’s hard to disagree with his coach, Mark Richt, who called Gurley the best player in America.
• Despite A.J. Johnson’s big tackle numbers the last couple of seasons, several coaches in the league and NFL scouts thought the Tennessee senior linebacker was a bit overrated. In fact, I had one coach tell me that teams would find him and run at him, which was one of the reasons he had so many tackles. But in the Volunteers’ season-opening 38-7 win over Utah State, Johnson looked a step faster and was extremely disruptive. He was the kind of difference-maker Tennessee will need him to be all season on defense, and it’s obvious that he’s the one that makes that defense go.
• Saban maintains there’s still a quarterback competition at Alabama, and the plan this week against Florida Atlantic is to get Jake Coker some snaps. The key with Coker, if he’s going to overtake Blake Sims, is being more consistent, making quicker decisions and not putting the ball in harm’s way. There’s no doubt he has the bigger arm of the two, but the feeling around the Alabama program is Sims still gives the team the best chance to win. We’ll see if Coker can do anything about that over the next couple of weeks.