SEC Football: Takeaways After Week 1

Loaded with plenty of action-packed games, early season upsets, and even renewed some old rivalries, Week 1 of the college football season did not disappoint.

SEC teams were in action from Thursday to Sunday. Fans couldn’t have been happier as we were given five straight days of college football to start 2022.

SEC teams went 13-1 in Week 1 games. Here’s a look at some takeaways from the SEC:

The Gap Between the Top of the Conference and the Rest is Large

The main takeaway from Week 1 is that there is such a big gap between Alabama, Georgia, and then the rest of the conference. No. 1 Alabama cruised to a 55-0 win against Utah State and No. 3 Georgia absolutely manhandled 11th-ranked Oregon in a 49-3 victory.

Alabama’s domination was expected, but a 46-point win from Georgia over a top-15 team exceeded expectations from even the most diehard fans in Athens. Despite significant attrition, the reigning national champions didn’t miss a beat in Atlanta. Compared to the other SEC teams in Week 1, Alabama and Georgia are in a tier of their own in the SEC. 

Haynes King Has Much to Prove

The third-highest ranked SEC team, No. 6 Texas A&M, blanked Sam Houston State on Saturday, 31-0. Texas A&M was as good as advertised defensively. Despite having great skill players on offense, the Aggies left much to be desired on that side of the ball.

Off a season-ending injury in 2021, quarterback Haynes King did not impress. After beating out LSU transfer Miles Johnson for the starting job, King threw for 364 yards and three touchdowns, but was intercepted twice and had a total QBR of 49.0. King had spurts where he looked very comfortable in the pocket and delivered some good deep balls, but he did make some bad mistakes. 

The Aggies have high hopes for 2022. Perhaps it was just rust, but for Texas A&M to live up to expectations, King must play much better than he did against an FCS opponent to open the year.

Arkansas Will Again be a Force in the SEC

Arkansas is another team that has high hopes for the 2022 season. The No. 19 Razorbacks were tested immediately against 23rd-ranked Cincinnati in a matchup of programs defined by toughness. In what turned out to be an entertaining game, Arkansas prevailed, 31-24.

Quarterback KJ Jefferson played outstanding and the Hogs’ defense stepped up when it needed to. Arkansas will give teams problems this season.

Jefferson will make sure the Razorbacks put up points. Head coach Sam Pittman and coordinator Barry Odom should have one of the best defenses in the SEC.

Tennessee Will Live Up to the Preseason Hype

Tennessee may just be the team to shock everybody in the SEC. The Volunteers started their 2022 season on Thursday night with a 59-10 win over Ball State and it could have been worse than that.

Tennessee looked the part of a top-20 team. The Vols’ offense looked unstoppable and the defense looked improved. Quarterback Hendon Hooker was stellar and appears ready to take the next step. Georgia and Alabama will be tough to top in the SEC, but Tennessee seems to stand a puncher’s chance.

Florida Could be the Biggest Surprise in the SEC

Florida was a big surprise in Week 1 and could be in 2022. In head coach Billy Napier’s debut, the Gators welcomed in No. 7 Utah and escaped with a thrilling 29-26 victory. Against a Utah team that many pegged as a College Football Playoff sleeper, Florida looked the part of a top-20 team on Saturday night, and exceeded everyone’s expectations. 

Quarterback Anthony Richardson was phenomenal and the defense was up to the challenge. We’ll find out more about the Gators when they host Kentucky in Week 2.

Many SEC Teams Have Serious Work to Do

Missouri, Vanderbilt, and Auburn all cruised to easy wins in Week 1, but none were overly impressive.

Missouri started off slow, but beat Louisiana Tech, 52-24. Auburn handled business and beat Mercer, 42-16. The Tigers have another tune-up game against San Jose State before hosting Penn State in a Week 3 showdown.

Vanderbilt has gotten some love the past week after it dominated Hawaii in Week 0. The Commodores have some things to work on defensively, but offensively they will be solid. They were less impressive in a 42-31 win over Elon this past week.

Ole Miss, South Carolina, and Kentucky all entered 2022 with high hopes. Those three struggled a little more on Saturday.

Ole Miss was largely unimpressive in a 28-10 win over Troy. Jaxson Dart got the start on Saturday for Ole Miss and was never really able to get into a rhythm. Expect a great offensive mind like head coach Lane Kiffin to get these things corrected. Ole Miss did have a nice day on defense.

As for South Carolina, it found itself behind against Georgia State in the second half on Saturday. South Carolina would go on to win 35-14, thanks largely to special teams play.

Spencer Rattler and the offense struggled. With a trip to Arkansas looming, that’s not a good sign. South Carolina has a big game next week, at Arkansas.

Kentucky ended up winning big against Miami University 37-13, but it also struggled early on. Defensively, Kentucky played well, but the offense couldn’t get much going without Chris Rodriguez Jr. in the backfield.

Mississippi State’s Offense Will Again be Fun to Watch in 2022

Following a 49-23 win over Memphis, Mississippi State should be a fun team to watch in 2022 — particularly on offense. Quarterback Will Rogers dominated and looks improved from 2021, finishing with 450 yards passing and five touchdowns in the win.

Against a team they lost to in 2021, the Bulldogs impressed in Week 1. Rogers is on his way to putting up huge numbers in head coach Mike Leach’s Air Raid offense in 2022.

LSU is the SEC’s Biggest Mystery

The last SEC team to play in Week 1 might be the most intriguing. LSU and new head coach Brian Kelly took the field Sunday night in New Orleans against Florida State and fell in a 24-23 thriller.

Jayden Daniels hardly shined at quarterback for LSU, but did make a number of plays with his legs to save drives. The LSU defense had its up and downs with one of the biggest lows being the injury to defensive tackle Maason Smith.

Special teams was ultimately the deciding facet of the game. LSU dropped two punts and gave Florida State great field position. On a night where the offense was largely lackluster, Daniels was precise late by leading the Tigers 99 yards to pull within one following a game-saving forced turnover on the goal line.

With overtime seeming like an inevitability, the Seminoles blocked the game-tying extra point to escape with a victory. LSU fought hard, only to lose in gut-wrenching fashion. One game into the Kelly era, it’s still hard to know what to expect from the Tigers in 2022.

SEC Power Rankings after Week 1

  1. Georgia
  2. Alabama
  3. Arkansas
  4. Tennessee
  5. Florida
  6. Texas A&M
  7. Kentucky
  8. Mississippi State
  9. Ole Miss
  10. Auburn
  11. South Carolina
  12. LSU
  13. Vanderbilt
  14. Missouri

Featured image courtesy of Georgia athletics