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Tuesday Morning Brews: Re-Thinking the SEC

Talkin' about the SEC. And Indiana.

Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

Assorted Thoughts, And Music II

Say what you will about the Indiana Hoosiers, but they're 3-0 now (only 28 teams in Division I can claim that) and showing a lot of athleticism on both sides of the ball. The biggest issue going forward might be confidence; early in the match-up with Western Kentucky, Nate Sudfeld rolled out and had room to run, but instead he just fumbled it without being touched and gave the ball back to the Hilltoppers. The front seven will show some veteran savvy and know-it-all at times, but some of the freshmen in the back four (here's looking at you, Jameel Cook) look like a deer in the headlights when asked to make a play. Still, there's a lot to like about this group overall, and that 3-0 start is no fluke.

Also, Jordan Howard is leading the Big Ten in rushing yardage by a pretty wide margin already - 507 to second place Justin Jackson's 332. In fact, Howard leads the country in rush yards, ahead of Dalvin Cook, Nick Chubb, and Old Dominion's Ray Lawry. Howard has been explosive and hard to bring down, and the Demon Deacons will have their hands full next week.

Like most everybody else, I was very impressed with Ole Miss against Alabama, showing maybe the fastest, most disciplined defense in the country. I'm not sure exactly how much credit should go to Hugh Freeze for taking questionable characters and making them productive players, but he's clearly good at it. Quarterback Chad Kelly has kept his emotions in check, brought a new-found focus and determination, and limited the turnovers despite some gutsy choices (including diving over an Alabama defender to get in the end zone).

And there's no reason why this team can't go all the way. In a stunted SEC (a little more on that below), Ole Miss is a complete, well-rounded team. They can run, throw, defend, and lead. Robert Nkemdiche is an All-American who proved he could shut down Bama inside, and there are a few tests remaining of that caliber. Plus the back seven is veteran, disciplined, and athletic.

As for Alabama, the Tide will recover. The secondary does look improved from last year, and the wide receivers are the kind of young, talented group that tends to get better in October. Jake Coker finally clenched the starting spot by the end of that Ole Miss game, showing the elusiveness that the coaching staff wants and the arm to make all the throws. (Seriously - he can probably chuck it 70 yards downfield.)

With all of that said, though, the SEC love-fest has to calm down. Arkansas, Missouri, and Auburn have not been anywhere close to preseason expectations, but two of them are still ranked in the Coaches Poll. Tennessee is not the contender some thought they'd be, and South Carolina is struggling quite a bit because it's too easy to make plays on their defense. Hopefully a few more losses to some of these teams will be enough to get the national pollsters to wake up.

On a much lighter note, this is a song that waxes whimsical about waking and sleeping in the South, by one of my favorite artists, a now-58-year old guitarist named Jim White. His songs tend to be poetic and reflective, and they get pretty lengthy (like the one above, for example). His best song might be Diamonds to Coal, and that one's a more immediate payoff.

It's still early, but the SEC East is feeling like Georgia's to lose at this point. That's not to undercut the rest of the division, but there's a lot of rebuilding going on. Missouri has a very young line on defense and a lot of recent shuffling and injuries on the offensive line. (Plus, they just don't look talented enough to challenge for an East crown, but that's not to say they can't make strides.) Tennessee needs to give their quarterback and the secondary a lot more practice while somehow keeping their big guys and play-makers injury-free.

For a division that thinks pretty highly of itself, there are a lot of other holes, as well: from Kentucky's very young offense, to South Carolina's leaky pass defense, to Florida's incredibly young offense, to Vanderbilt's .... well, whole team. With the East champs, Missouri, barely beating Arkansas State and Connecticut, this has to be considered Georgia's division until proven otherwise.

The Dawgs will face a tough West division game against Alabama, and Auburn hates the Bulldogs enough to put up a very good fight as well, regardless of whether or not they're "good." Still, this Georgia squad looks well-positioned to get Mark Richt another 10-win season in Athens - which would be his tenth in fifteen years there.

Funnily enough, though, Georgia fans won't be happy either if an SEC East title  doesn't then result in an SEC Championship Game win. C'est la vie for Richt and his staff.

Hitting the Links Is All-Big Ten

Ohio State Presser Bullets

Whoever starts at QB, there's a lot to be said for getting them in a rhythm and not putting in another guy. Also, this is the time - while the schedule is a bit easier - to ask the offensive line to carry the team as far as they can for stretches. Practice, reps and more reps, with some attitude mixed in.

29 Random Thoughts From Penn State-Rutgers

I had floated this before the season, and I'll say it again. Christian Hackenberg could use a fourth season to continue to develop. There's nothing wrong with that, and he'll be able to get a degree from Penn State while also chasing (or solidifying) some program records. He's currently third all-time in total yards, and should move into #2 after this next week. He's also 8th in touchdown passes.

Report Card: Miami

This is a young secondary for Nebraska; I doubt there are any 'quick' solutions there. The offensive line also has some deeper talent issues to work through over the next year or two.

Indiana-WKU: Five Things

Alright, Hoosiers fans, don't get TOO excited. That back seven is going to lose some games.

Weird Game For Wisconsin, Troy

Thanks to some penalties, Troy actually had more first downs in this game than Wisconsin. The Badgers are probably the most complete team in the West, but they're not really in a groove, either.

Copeland was a starter, and looked like a good player from what I saw of him. He redshirted last year as a freshman.

Northwestern-Duke: Player Grades

Nineteen tackles for Mr. Walker, who continues his march to All-Big Ten honors and possibly more.

Rutgers Secondary Making Strides

Griffin, the writer of this, hands out nicknames for about every player mentioned, which adds a hilarious touch.

Congrats to Ferguson, who broke the 2,000-yard mark for his career this week.