Barnhart’s burning questions for Week 2

4 hours ago
Tony Barnhart | SEC Network

Seven games down.

Only 63 more to go.

Last week SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey told me that if all seven games scheduled for Sept. 26 were played and completed, it would be a major success.

Mission Accomplished.

Before we move on, let’s quickly remember what we witnessed in Week 1:

  • We saw Mississippi State’s K.J. Costello make his SEC debut by throwing a conference-record 623 yards in a 44-34 win at LSU.
  • We saw two games that were 7-5 at halftime. And yes, that is a first. Vanderbilt trailed at Texas A&M and then lost 17-12. Georgia trailed at Arkansas and came back to win 37-10.
  • We saw Florida and Ole Miss produce 1,255 yards of total offense. The Gators won 51-35.

So what does Week 2 of SEC football hold in store? Here are our Five Burning Questions to get us started:

Is this really Auburn-Georgia week?

Yes friends, it really is.

The Deep South’s longest continuous rivalry has traditionally been on the second Saturday in November. But things change and when the new 10-game SEC schedule was released, the game fell on the first Saturday in October.

So the only thing on the line at Dooley Field at Sanford Stadium Saturday night will be the chance to go 2-0.

The big question for Georgia comes at quarterback, where former walk-on Stetson Bennett may get the start after coming off the bench to lead the Bulldogs to a 37-10 win over Arkansas. Georgia fans also want to see if USC transfer JT Daniels makes his first appearance. Auburn beat a pretty good Kentucky team 29-13 last week.

Georgia has won eight of its last 10 meetings with Auburn.

So what does K.J. Costello do for an encore?

Costello’s 623 passing yards broke a previous SEC record of 544 set by Georgia’s Eric Zeier in 1993 against Southern Mississippi. Now Costello gets to play his first home game at Davis Wade Stadium against an Arkansas team that has given up 106 points in its last two meetings with the Bulldogs.

Here’s the scary part if you’re Barry Odom, the former Missouri head coach who is now the defensive coordinator at Arkansas: Last Saturday Mississippi State had three players with over 100 yards receiving, including running back Kylin Hill, who had eight catches for 158 yards, including a 75-yard catch-and-run for a touchdown.

Mississippi State threw it 60 times last week. How many times do the Bulldogs throw it against the Hogs?

Can Kentucky’s underrated defense keep an explosive Ole Miss offense in check?

Kentucky was ranked 12th nationally in scoring defense last season, giving up just 18.4 points per game. Seven of the top nine tacklers on that unit return for 2020.

Kentucky, which gave up 29 points to Auburn last week, has allowed 30 points or fewer in 18 straight games and 27 of its last 28.

Needless to say, the Wildcats will be tested on defense by Ole Miss.

Last week, Ole Miss put up 613 yards (443 passing) and scored 35 points against Florida. Its 13.4 yards per passing attempt leads the nation.

If Kentucky can hold Ole Miss to under 30 points, the Wildcats have a chance to win.

Can the Gators keep their offense rolling against South Carolina?

Think about all the great offenses that have been put together at the University of Florida. Steve Spurrier’s Fun ‘N Gun was the dominant offense in the SEC for most of his 12 seasons as head coach (1990-2001).

The 1969 Gators featuring John Reaves and Carlos Alvarez was among the most explosive in school history.

But none of those offenses ever hung 642 total yards on an SEC opponent in a game, which is what the Gators did to Ole Miss last Saturday. That broke the record of 640 set against Mississippi State in 2001, Spurrier’s last season at Florida.

Keep your eye on Florida quarterback Kyle Trask, who completed 30 of 42 passes for 416 yards and six touchdowns against Ole Miss.

South Carolina coach Will Muschamp will be making his third trip back to Florida, where he was head coach from 2011-2014. He is 1-3 against the Gators, the only win coming in 2017 (28-20) in Columbia.

Can Tennessee keep its winning streak going against Missouri?

Remember that last season Tennessee started 2-5 and then closed out the season with six straight wins, including a 23-22 win over Indiana in the Gator Bowl. After last week’s 31-27 win over South Carolina in Columbia, the Volunteers (1-0) bring a seven-game winning streak into Saturday’s home opener with Missouri (0-1), which lost 38-19 to Alabama.

Tennessee has the third-longest winning streak behind Air Force (8) and Notre Dame (8). The Volunteers have won five straight games against SEC competition.

Quickie bonus questions:

Nick Saban doesn’t lose many home openers, right?

That is right. Saban is 22-2 in home opening games in his 24 years as a head coach in four different stops. In case you are wondering, Saban is 12-1 in SEC home openers as the head coach at Alabama. The lone loss was to Ole Miss 43-37 in 2015. Alabama hosts Texas A&M on Saturday.

Would you say that this is not a good week to be playing LSU?

Yes, we would. The defending national champions lost their opener to Mississippi State last week in Baton Rouge. Expect the Tigers (0-1) to take their frustration out on Vanderbilt (0-1) in Nashville.

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