After an opening weekend that saw half of the SEC drop its opening games, it’s safe to say that the SEC is no longer a “Power Five” conference and that every team — with the exception of Alabama — should drop to the FCS. Expect a plethora of five-star recruits and future first-round draft picks to flock to superior conferences like the Sun Belt.
In all seriousness, while the SEC did experience a number of painful losses (Mississippi State and Kentucky, everyone’s looking at you) and close calls (Vol so hard Appalachian State gonna actually find them), it’s not time to hit the panic button just yet. No conference can compete with the SEC’s depth, but the lack of quality quarterback play should raise some eyebrows.
But, context is also important. The non-conference scheduling that the SEC engaged in justified a few losses. LSU traveled to Lambeau Field to play a hard-nosed Wisconsin squad that returned seven starters from its top-five nationally ranked defense in 2015. The Crimson Tide faced a ranked USC team at a neutral site. Ole Miss faced a supremely talented Florida State squad in what was essentially a road game at the Orange Bowl, and Auburn hosted Clemson and, surprisingly, held the nation’s top offense in check. There was even some friendly fire after South Carolina squeezed out a victory over Vanderbilt in the least-appealing SEC matchup of all time.
SEC fans, don’t fret. The talent pool remains deep. Against lesser opponents in week two, expect a number of strong performances. Here are three players destined to have breakout performances during the second weekend of the college football season.
1. Tennessee RB Alvin Kamara
According to head coach Butch Jones, the Vols’ versatile back was featured in 16 designed read-option plays, but based on what the Appalachian State defense presented to the Tennessee offense, Kamara was limited to nine total touches for 41 yards. Against Virginia Tech during the Battle at Bristol, Jones must find ways to feed Kamara. Jalen Hurd is undoubtedly the team’s No. 1 running back, but isn’t as explosive as his counterpart Kamara. Tennessee notched only one play of at least 20 yards on Thursday. Against a potentially explosive Virginia Tech offense, Kamara’s involvement on the offensive side of the ball is critical for the Vols if they want to keep pace.
2. Florida CB Jalen “Teez” Tabor
Who has a rockier relationship: Ebro in the Morning and The Breakfast Club, or “Vol Twitter: and Jalen “Teez” Tabor? It’s tough, but the Florida cornerback — projected by most NFL draft experts to be an early first-round pick — certainly made himself public enemy No. 1 in Knoxville after an offseason full of Tennessee trashing. Tabor was suspended for the Gators’ opening game against UMass after fighting with a teammate, but returns just in time for Florida’s SEC-opening clash with Kentucky. Although the Wildcats blew a 25-point lead to Southern Miss last weekend, quarterback Drew Barker still managed to rack up 323 yards through the air on only 15 completions and four touchdowns. For his first game back, it won’t be a walk in the park for the controversial defensive back.
3. LSU RB Leonard Fournette
Leonard Fournette is normally a walking highlight reel. Against the Badgers’ stout defense, he was “held” to 138 yards on 23 carries. It wasn’t the prototypical Fournette performance that includes dazzling highlight-reel scampers with defenders laid out on the ground after a bulldozing of a lifetime. For the most part, Wisconsin kept Fournette and the LSU offense in check. After disappointing Tiger Nation with a heartbreaking loss to start a season that had considerable hype, Jacksonville State’s chances of slowing down Fournette are slim to none.
Edited by Nathan Odom
Featured image by Donald Page, courtesy of Tennessee Athletics