Look, there are higher-stakes games involving SEC teams this weekend — Tennessee at Florida and Kentucky at South Carolina will shape the race in the East, while LSU at Mississippi State is the first showdown of the season in the West — but for pure entertainment value, for the sheer aerosol-huffing delirium of it all, Purdue at Missouri is the one to watch.
At 4 p.m. Saturday on SEC Network, two terrible defenses will attempt to stop offenses that combined for 2,140 total yards, 147 pass attempts and 16 passing touchdowns through the first two weeks of the season. The Tigers defense is so bad it already got the coordinator canned, while the Boilermakers have allowed more yards than 105 other FBS teams.
First one to overheat the scoreboard wins — and we predict that’ll be Jeff Brohm’s new Purdue team, which put a scare into Heisman winner Lamar Jackson and Louisville in Week 1. Missouri, meanwhile, continued its recent trend of fainting at the sight of an FBS opponent under second-year coach Barry Odom.
Which means maybe this won’t be a wild shootout after all. Isn’t it odd that Odom threw his defensive coordinator under the bus after an ugly Week 2 loss at South Carolina when offensive coordinator Josh Heupel is the one whose success is all smoke and mirrors?
Consider: Quarterback Drew Lock threw for 521 yards and 7 touchdowns in the opener against Missouri State, then completed just 43.8 percent of his passes for 245 yards, 1 TD and 2 INT last week against the Gamecocks — who don’t even have a good defense!
Since Odom and Heupel took over, Missouri has passed for 1,654 yards (413.5 per game), 19 touchdowns and 1 INT in four games against non-Power 5 opponents … and 2,511 yards (251.1 yards per game), 12 TD and 12 INT in 10 games against major-conference teams. In other words, if you’re looking for a reason to watch Purdue-Mizzou other than its potential to fly completely off the rails, better catch Odom on that sideline while you can. Might not last long.
What else we’re watching and talking about in the SEC …
Big wins and missed opportunities — The league has notched wins over Florida State (Alabama), N.C. State (South Carolina), Georgia Tech (Tennessee) and Notre Dame (Georgia) in the first two weeks. But it whiffed on opportunities against Clemson (Auburn), Michigan (Florida), UCLA (Texas A&M) and TCU (Arkansas).
From those early tests we learned the Crimson Tide is still at the top of the food chain, Kirby Smart’s Bulldogs are legit, and the Gamecocks could challenge in the East. Also that Gus Malzahn’s offense remains broken despite shiny new parts, Jim McElwain has bigger concerns than nude, shark-humping look-a-likes, and Kevin Sumlin is in real trouble.
Remote control rankings — After the car-crash curiosity that is Purdue-Missouri, here are the week’s most intriguing matchups in descending order: No. 23 Tennessee at No. 24 Florida (3:30 p.m. Saturday on CBS); No. 12 LSU at Mississippi State (7 p.m. on ESPN); Kentucky at South Carolina (7:30 p.m. on SEC Network); Ole Miss at California (10:30 p.m. ET on ESPN); and No. 18 Kansas State at Vanderbilt (7:30 p.m. on ESPNU). If you just enjoy watching a hammer pound a nail: No. 1 Alabama vs. Colorado State is at 7 p.m. on ESPN2.
You can almost hear Butch Jones’ excuses now — three games in 13 days, the Gators getting last weekend off because of a silly hurricane, wasting all that time preparing for Georgia Tech’s option offense this summer when the Vols could’ve just not prepared at all and given up roughly the same 535 rushing yards — but if he manages to pull off this one in The Swamp, he might actually get a break from the memes. Stuff them right in his defense’s trash can.
McElwain, meanwhile, would be in serious trouble. Florida heading to Lexington, Ky., next week without a win yet this season and Kentucky fans in a frenzy over the possibility of ending a 30-year losing streak sounds like a recipe for full-blown meltdown mode.
Speaking of, the Wildcats wobbled out of the gate but can prove they are East contenders with a win in Columbia this weekend — and come back home with a full head of steam and confidence for a night kick against the Gators — or Will Muschamp’s Gamecocks can validate their own uprising. They’d be the only team in the SEC with a 2-0 league record.
How about LSU? Are the Tigers for real after outscoring BYU and Chattanooga 72-10? Is Mississippi State a threat in the West after blitzing Charleston Southern and Louisiana Tech 116-21?
To open their encore seasons, Bulldogs QB Nick Fitzgerald has produced 8 total touchdowns and only 1 turnover and Tigers running back Derrius Guice has delivered consecutive 100-yard games. Now both will face their first opponent with a pulse and one will emerge as a viable challenger (maybe) to Alabama.
Stat stuffers — Ole Miss sophomore QB Shea Patterson has put up silly numbers against overmatched South Alabama and UT Martin — 76.9 percent completions, FBS-best 459 passing yards per game, 9 TD and 1 INT — and the Cal Bears (120th in pass defense) aren’t likely to fare much better. … The Commodores have found themselves a QB in Kyle Shurmur (76.1 percent, 498 yards, 7 TD, 0 INT) but K-State will provide a stiffer challenge than Alabama A&M and Middle Tennessee. The Wildcats have allowed only 1 passing touchdown (with 3 interceptions) in two games. … Remember 5-star, woman-hitting Jeffery Simmons? The guy Dan Mullen put his reputation on the line for at Mississippi State? This is why coaches hold their nose and coddle elite talent: Simmons has opened his sophomore season with 10 tackles, a sack, 2 blocked kicks and 2 defensive/special teams touchdowns. On the field, he’s made the most of his second chance. Let’s hope he does the same off it.