If the 2017 season’s opening weekend marked a triumphant return for SEC football, Week 2 brought the conference back to reality just a bit.
Clemson managed to fend off Auburn on its home turf, thanks to a dominant defense that kept Gus Malzahn’s Tigers out of the end zone. Georgia squeaked past Notre Dame in another defense-heavy affair, and Arkansas floundered in a bad loss to TCU. Texas A&M and Kentucky both struggled to put away FCS foes.
Elsewhere around the country, No. 5 Oklahoma toppled No. 2 Ohio State on the road, No. 6 USC blew by No. 14 Stanford and No. 4 Penn State walloped Pittsburgh.
Here’s how SEC Country expects the College Football Playoff and other postseason matchups to shake out in this week’s bowl projections:
|Sugar Bowl (Jan. 1, New Orleans) — CFP||#1 Alabama||#4 Oklahoma||Top 4, Playoff rankings|
|Rose Bowl (Jan. 1, Pasadena) — CFP||#2 Clemson||#3 Washington||Top 4, Playoff rankings|
|Peach Bowl (Jan. 1, Atlanta) — NY6||Georgia||South Florida||At-large vs. at-large|
|Orange Bowl (Dec. 30, Miami) — NY6||Penn State||Miami||SEC/Big Ten/ND vs. ACC #1|
|Fiesta Bowl (Dec. 30, Glendale) — NY6||Ohio State||USC||At-large vs. at-large|
|Cotton Bowl (Dec. 29, Arlington) — NY6||Auburn||Wisconsin||At-large vs. at-large|
|Wild Wings Bowl (Jan. 1, Orlando)||South Carolina||Louisville||SEC #2 vs. ACC/Big Ten|
|Outback Bowl (Jan. 1, Tampa)||LSU||Michigan||SEC #3-8 vs. Big Ten #3-4|
|TaxSlayer Bowl (Dec. 30, Jacksonville)||Florida||Virginia Tech||SEC #3-8 vs. ACC/Big Ten|
|Liberty Bowl (Dec. 30, Memphis)||Mississippi State||West Virginia||SEC #3-8 vs. Big 12 #5|
|Music City Bowl (Dec. 29, Nashville)||Vanderbilt||Minnesota||SEC #3-8 vs. ACC/Big Ten|
|Belk Bowl (Dec. 29, Charlotte)||Texas A&M||N.C. State||SEC #3-8 vs. ACC #4-7|
|Sun Bowl (Dec. 29, El Paso)||Georgia Tech||Colorado||ACC #4-7 vs. Pac-12 #5|
|Alamo Bowl (Dec. 28, San Antonio)||Oklahoma State||Stanford||Big 12 #2 vs. Pac-12 #2|
|Holiday Bowl (Dec. 28, San Diego)||Iowa||Washington St||Big Ten #3-4 vs. Pac-12 #3|
|Camping World Bowl (Dec. 28, Orlando)||Florida State||Kansas State||ACC #3 vs. Big 12 #3|
|Military Bowl (Dec. 28, Annapolis)||Duke||Navy||ACC #8-10 vs. American|
|Texas Bowl (Dec. 27, Houston)||Tennessee||TCU||SEC #3-8 vs. Big 12 #4|
|Foster Farms Bowl (Dec. 27, Santa Clara)||Michigan State||Oregon||Big Ten #5-7 vs. Pac-12 #4|
|Pinstripe Bowl (Dec. 27, New York)||Notre Dame||Northwestern||ACC #4-7 vs. Big Ten #5-7|
|Independence Bowl (Dec. 27, Shreveport)||**Purdue||BYU||SEC #10 vs. ACC #8-10|
|Cactus Bowl (Dec. 26, Tempe)||Texas Tech||Arizona||Big 12 #5 vs. Pac-12 #7|
|Quick Lane Bowl (Dec. 26, Detroit)||Nebraska||Pittsburgh||Big Ten #8-9 vs. ACC #8-10|
|Heart of Dallas Bowl (Dec. 26, Dallas)||Texas||MTSU||Big 12 #6 vs. C-USA|
|Armed Forces Bowl (Dec. 23, Fort Worth)||Maryland||Army||Big Ten #8-9 vs. Army|
|Birmingham Bowl (Dec. 23, Birmingham)||**Wake Forest||Memphis||SEC #9 vs. American|
|Las Vegas Bowl (Dec. 16, Las Vegas)||UCLA||Colorado State||Pac-12 #6 vs. MWC|
**Asterisks denote a team projected to qualify for a bowl at 5-7.
Week 2 scores that shaped the College Football Playoff race
- Clemson 14, Auburn 6: The story will be about how Gus Malzahn’s offense continues to look awful against top-tier opponents, which is true. Clemson recorded 11 sacks, and quarterback Jarrett Stidham did not play like the savior many expected him to be. But a near-defeat of the defending champs in their own house show us that Auburn is for real — at least on defense.
- Oklahoma 31, Ohio State 16: The Buckeyes flopped at home on both sides of the ball. Sooners quarterback Baker Mayfield torched Greg Schiano’s defense, while JT Barrett generated little in the passing game for Ohio State. Still, this Buckeyes team has the talent to win out, and Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley still has to navigate treacherous waters during Big 12 play.
- USC 42, Stanford 24: The Trojans rebounded nicely from their stinker against Western Michigan, as Sam Darnold, Stephen Carr and Ron Jones II rolled right through a stout Stanford defense. The Cardinal still averaged more than 6 yards per play, but USC blew by them before they could catch their breath.
- Georgia 20, Notre Dame 19: A defensive struggle went the way of the SEC in South Bend, where the Bulldogs picked up a signature win under second-year coach Kirby Smart. Georgia looks like a 9-win team at worst, especially if its offensive line starts playing better. Jake Fromm looked great for a freshman making his first college start at Notre Dame.
- Penn State 33, Pittsburgh 14: If the Buckeyes look as shaky as they did against Oklahoma, Penn State might well be the Big Ten’s playoff representative. Trace McSorley looked good, Sarquon Barkley did his thing and the defense held Pitt to six points through the first three quarters.
How other SEC contenders fared in Week 2
- Alabama: The Crimson Tide steamrolled sacrificial lamb Fresno State 41-10, and got the backups some quality playing time. Jalen Hurts finished 14-for-18 passing for 128 yards, gained 154 yards rushing on just 10 carries and scored three touchdowns. Quarterback controversy, indeed.
- LSU: BYU’s awful offensive performance against Utah makes the Week 1 shutout look less impressive, and DJ Chark accounted for more than 40 percent of the team’s receiving yards in the 45-10 win against Chattanooga. Mississippi State should provide us with a better gauge for Matt Canada’s offense, which one can expect to lean heavily on Derrius Guice as long as Danny Etling remains under center.
- Tennessee: The Vols did what they should against an FCS opponent, beating Indiana State 42-7. Jarrett Guarantano saw some action at quarterback, but this clearly looks like it’ll be the Quinten Dormady show going forward. Tennessee’s mark of 4.3 yards per rush is worrisome, though.
- South Carolina: The Gamecocks once again weren’t perfect, but they did enough to show they were clearly the better team on Saturday in the 31-13 victory over Missouri. Deebo Samuel is a do-it-all game-changer, and the defense has now held two pretty good quarterbacks in check this season.
- Arkansas: If Missouri’s the likely No. 7 team in the SEC East, the Hogs appear on track to earn that dubious distinction in the SEC West following a lifeless performance at home against TCU. The Horned Frogs sacked Austin Allen three times while holding Arkansas to 261 total yards of offense and only seven points. Yikes.
Projected 2017 SEC standings
|SEC East||SEC West|
|Georgia||10-2, 6-2||Alabama||12-0, 8-0|
|Florida||7-4, 6-2||Auburn||10-2, 7-1|
|South Carolina||8-4, 5-3||LSU||10-2, 6-2|
|Tennessee||8-4, 4-4||Mississippi St||7-5, 3-5|
|Vanderbilt||7-5, 3-5||Texas A&M||6-6, 3-5|
|Kentucky||5-7, 2-6||Arkansas||5-7, 2-6|
|Missouri||3-9, 0-8||Ole Miss||5-7, 1-7|
The Bulldogs winning 10 games is not unreasonable. Of course, some might have said that last season after a then-impressive win over UNC. For now, however, there’s little choice but to give them pole position in another weak SEC East.
Elsewhere in that division, Kentucky looks worse than expected, and Vandy’s Kyle Shurmur seems to have shown legitimate improvement as a junior. Alabama, Auburn and LSU remain the clear top dogs in the SEC West.