After a soft opening weekend with just one game — and that was off the mainland with Vanderbilt winning in breeze at Hawaii last Saturday — welcome to the first full weekend of Southeastern Conference football!
And it started early with two games on Thursday night — Tennessee ripped Ball State fell, 59-10, and Missouri beat Louisiana Tech, 52-24.
NO GEORGIA STATE NIGHTMARES FOR TENNESSEE
Second-year Tennessee coach Josh Heupel did not have the same problem as second-year Vols’ coach Joremy Pruitt had in his 2019 opener, which was one of the biggest upsets in college football history. Georgia State, a 24-point underdog, beat Tennessee, 38-30, in the ’19 opener for its first win over a Power Five school after an 0-11 mark entering the game.
The 2022 Vols did not give 35-point underdog Ball State a chance in a 59-10 victory in Knoxville. Quarterback Hendon Hooker completed 18 of 25 passes for 221 yards and two touchdowns in the first half as the Vols took a 38-0 lead at the half. Hooker also rushed for two scores. Tailback Jaylen Wright led Tennessee with 88 yards on 13 carries.
The Vols (1-0) play at No. 17 Pittsburgh (1-0) on Sept. 10 after the Panthers beat West Virginia in a Backyard Brawl thriller Thursday night, 38-31 in Pittsburgh.
Eleven games follow Saturday with No. 11 Oregon playing No. 3 defending national champion Georgia at 3:30 p.m. on ABC in Atlanta. And don’t forget dessert on Sunday night as LSU and Florida State will play at 7:30 p.m. in New Orleans.
So, welcome to the first weekly installment of This Week In The SEC — notes, quotes and TV times from across the league.
SO, WHAT ARE YOU DRINKING?
Season openers are a bit like going to a new bar, where you are unsure of the menu and the bartender, according to Arkansas coach Sam Pittman. Do they know how to make an Old Fashioned, for example?
The No. 19 Razorbacks — 9-4 last year with an Outback Bowl win over Penn State — host No. 23 Cincinnati — a College Football Playoff team last season — at 3:30 p.m. eastern Saturday on ESPN.
Cincinnati has not named a starting quarterback. It could be either senior Ben Bryant or sophomore Evan Prater who follows Desmond Ridder — a third round pick by the Atlanta Falcons in the 2022 NFL Draft.
The Bearcats also have a new offensive coordinator in Gino Guidugli, the quarterbacks coach last year who was promoted after Mike Denbrock left to be LSU’s offensive coordinator. Pittman also doesn’t know who his opponent’s starting tailback will be.
The word “or” is all over the Bearcat depth chart. It could be senior Ryan Montgomery, senior Charles McClelland, freshman Myles Montgomery or sophomore LSU transfer Corey Kiner.
“So you don’t know exactly what they’re going to do,” Pittman said. “The first couple of series are going to be really important to figure out what they’re bringing to the party. Some guys bring iced tea, and some guys bring liquor. We went to LSU last year, and they came after us. They were bringing moonshine. It wasn’t just liquor.”
But at closing time, Arkansas beat LSU 16-13.
“I like ice tea with a lot of sugar,” Pittman said. “And I like a little bit of brown water, too.”
KENTUCKY’S MARK STOOPS COMPARES TRANSFER PORTAL TO ‘THE TANK’
Kentucky coach Mark Stoops was asked about senior tailback Kavosiey Smoke sticking it out into his fourth season with the Wildcats with only one career start on Wednesday’s SEC teleconference opener. He is expected to start his second career game Saturday when the No. 20 Wildcats host Miami of Ohio in at 7 p.m. on ESPN+ and SEC Network+.
“I’m excited for Kavosiey. He’s been around a bit and definitely deserves a start,” Stoops said. “Instead of going in the tank and going in the portal, he challenged himself and responded. Credit him for taking to coaching. Things have to be earned. You’re not given anything.”
LSU’S BRIAN KELLY ASKED THE MAN FOR ADVICE
Is there a better coach to ask for advice about taking a new job than Alabama coach Nick Saban, winner of seven national championships? That was new LSU coach Brian Kelly’s thinking.
“It’s good job,” Saban said he told Kelly. “Lot of passionate fans there. People in Louisiana are great people. I think that they have a great opportunity. LSU has a great history and tradition. I told him that I thought he would do an outstanding job there. They’ve always got good personnel. But now, they’ve got a really good coach. Not that they’ve not had great coaches in the past.”
LSU’s last three coaches before Kelly won national championships within four years: Saban in 2003 after being hired before the 2000 season; Les Miles in 2007 after replacing Saban following the 2004 season after Saban took the Miami Dolphins head coaching job; and Ed Orgeron in 2019 after replacing a fired Miles four games into the 2016 season. Orgeron was fired last season.
QUOTES OF THE WEEK
It’s not from the SEC, but this one was too good to pass up.
“Oooh, I don’t know about that,” FOX color man Brock Huard, a former University of Washington and NFL quarterback, said seconds after the onside kick called by Nebraska coach Scott Frost that failed last Saturday against Northwestern in Dublin, Ireland. Nebraska led 28-17 with 9:08 to play in the third quarter at the time.
Northwestern recovered the kick, scored a touchdown moments later and won 31-28.
“I don’t know if I love that call right there,” Huard continued just after the kick.
“Kind of mortgage your momentum,” play-by-play announcer Jason Benetti said.
STAT OF THE WEEK
Alabama coach Nick Saban over his last 100 games is 92-8 with three national championships, five SEC titles and a 20-5 mark against the Top 10, going back to 2014, according to ESPN’s Chris Low.
THIS WEEKEND’S GAMES (All times eastern)
Tennessee 59, Ball State 10.
Missouri 52, Lousiana Tech 24.
Sam Houston State at No. 6 Texas A&M, Noon, SEC Network
No. 23 Cincinnati at No. 19 Arkansas, 3:30 p.m., ESPN.
No. 11 Oregon vs. No. 3 Georgia, in Atlanta, 3:30 p.m., ABC.
Troy at No. 21 Ole Miss, 4 p.m., SEC Network.
No. 7 Utah at Florida, 7 p.m., ESPN.
Mercer at Auburn, 7 p.m., ESPN+, SEC Network +.
Miami of Ohio at No. 20 Kentucky, 7 p.m., ESPN+, SEC Network+.
Elon at Vanderbilt, 7 p.m., ESPN+, SEC Network+.
Georgia State at South Carolina, 7:30 p.m., ESPN+, SEC Network+
Utah State at No. 1 Alabama, 7:30 p.m., SEC Network.
Memphis at Mississippi State, 7:30 p.m., ESPNU.
Florida State at LSU, 7:30 p.m., ABC.