By Andrew Kahn
Welcome to the CBS Local SEC Football Report. Every Tuesday, this space will recap the results and top performances from the Southeastern Conference and look ahead to key match-ups the following week.
Alabama: Still good
In at least one very noticeable aspect, the college football season has started the same way it did last year—with No. 1 Alabama throttling a ranked opponent. In the first-ever season-opening game between a top-ranked team and a team ranked as high as No. 3, Alabama was dominant and dangerous against Florida State, winning 24-7. While the Tide offense was nothing special, the defense was exceptional and the special teams play even better—Bama blocked a punt and a field goal and recovered a fumble on a kickoff return.
All told, it is not hard to imagine Alabama returning to Atlanta for the national championship in January. Florida State will have a hard time rebounding given the season-ending knee injury sustained by quarterback Deondre Francois on a sack.
Gators and Aggies slip, Vols survive
There were mixed results in the SEC’s other high-profile matchups. What looked like an impressive road victory all fell apart for Texas A&M in Los Angeles Sunday night. It took two improbable touchdown passes, but UCLA overcame a 44-10 deficit with 4:08 left in the third quarter to win 45-44. It was the biggest comeback in an FBS game since 2006. Most all of it came after A&M starting quarterback Nick Starkel broke his ankle. Freshman Kellen Mond completed just 3 of 17 passes in his place, and the Aggies allowed four fourth-quarter touchdown throws. One slipped through a defender’s hands; another was a desperate heave. And yet A&M fans will cut head coach Kevin Sumlin little slack. Starkel, meanwhile, may miss the rest of the season after surgery.
In Arlington, Florida’s defense scored twice—on interception returns—but its offense could only muster a lone field goal in a 33-17 loss to Michigan. Florida’s top returning receiver and running back were among 10 Gators suspended for the game, and the results was just 192 total yards of offense. Redshirt freshman Feleipe Franks got the start at quarterback, though Notre Dame transfer Malik Zaire relieved him early in the second half.
The final game of Week 1 was played late into Monday night, as Tennessee rallied from a 14-point fourth-quarter deficit to beat Georgia Tech 42-41 in Atlanta. The Vols won it with a stop on a two-point conversion try in the second overtime.
Other notable performances:
Mississippi State and LSU were lights out Saturday. The Bulldogs allowed just 33 yards to FCS foe Charleston Southern. BYU managed just 97 yards against LSU.
Missouri quarterback Drew Lock set school records with 521 yards and seven touchdown passes in a 72-43 win over Missouri State (FCS).
South Carolina wide receiver Deebo Samuel returned the opening kickoff against North Carolina State for a 97-yard score and also caught two touchdown passes in a 35-28 win.
Kentucky was out-gained at Southern Mississippi, 364 to 254, but won 24-17. Vanderbilt also went on the road, and dominated Middle Tennessee State 28-6.
The other SEC results: Arkansas 49, Florida A&M 7; Auburn 41, Georgia Southern 7; Georgia 31, Appalachian State 10; Mississippi 47, South Alabama 27
Biggest game: #12 Auburn at #5 Clemson
Auburn gave Clemson quite the scare last season, and they have a good chance at toppling the defending champs on Saturday night. Running back Kamryn Pettway will be back after serving his suspension in Auburn’s opener, and quarterback Jarrett Stidham (a Baylor transfer) will get his first huge test with his new school.
Keep an eye on: Georgia at Notre Dame; TCU at Arkansas; South Carolina at Missouri; Mississippi State at Louisiana Tech
Georgia lost starting quarterback Jacob Eason to injury but fans are excited about freshman Jake Fromm. Arkansas won a double-OT thriller at TCU last year. SC and Mizzou provide an early conference matchup. Louisiana Tech is only a seven-point underdog.
For the diehards: Eastern Kentucky at Kentucky; UT Martin at Mississippi; Fresno State at Alabama; Indiana State at Tennessee; Alabama A&M at Vanderbilt; Nicholls at Texas A&M; Chattanooga at LSU; Northern Colorado at Florida
Andrew Kahn is a regular contributor to CBS Local. He writes about college football and other sports at andrewjkahn.com and you can find his Scoop and Score podcast on iTunes. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at @AndrewKahn