** An e-mail conversation between two members of the crack SB Nation Dallas editorial staff.
Jonathan Tjarks: Neither Missouri nor Texas A&M were able to win their first games in the SEC, but both had chances to win well into the second half. They certainly didn't seem like they were overmatched from a talent perspective. Alabama and LSU are great, but Tim Tebow ain't walking through the door in Florida and neither is Cam Newton in Auburn. Both newcomers are state schools in the South; they've got NFL guys on their lines and athletes up and down their roster. I don't know that they'll win many conference titles in the SEC, but it's not like they were doing that in the Big 12 either (despite what A&M might tell you).
Willie Funk: A&M looked great. I think what that game revealed as much as anything is how close Will Muschamp is to getting fired. I see him on the Ron Zook Florida hot seat next year when he can't win with great talent. He can't find a quarterback, but it's not like the rest of the SEC is putting it all on their quarterback to win. And he's a "renowned" defensive coach. Sumlin will last twice as long as him in the SEC. Speaking of Sumlin and his Aggies, the freshman quarterback Maziel looked great. You knew he had the swag to lead a college team as a freshman when he dropped the top for his police photos over the summer, but he showed he had the speed and skills to compete in the SEC on Saturday. Really a pretty impressive display. Missouri put up a fight, but it was at home, and they just weren't on Georgia's level. In other SEC news, John L. Smith's season took a worse turn than anyone could have anticipated against Louisiana Monroe at home. That first signature conference game of the season with them and Alabama next week just lost a lot of luster.
Tjarks: Speaking of SEC coaches on the hot seat, Gene Chizik's record at Auburn w/o Cam Newton is 16-12. To be fair, you could have said many of the same things about Mark Richt's job security before the 2011 season began. Now, Georgia's got an experienced QB, a big-time NFL prospect at each level of the defense (John Jenkins, Jarvis Jones and Bacarri Rambo -- when he's back from suspension) and a ridiculously soft schedule. At South Carolina will be tough, but they don't play Alabama or LSU and have Tennessee and Georgia Tech at home. What are the odds they make it to the SEC title game at 12-0?
Funk: I'd actually give Georgia a pretty good chance of getting there undefeated. It would be a smoke and mirrors 12-0, but I'd go as far as to predict it. They struggled a little at Mizzou, but it was their first real game of the season, and it was on the road in a hostile environment. As far as South Carolina, they don't strike me as a particularly dangerous team. Ja'Daveon Clowney is an other worldly talent, but I'm just not a huge proponent of the Connor Shaw machine on the other side of the ball. When him running the ball is a serious part of the offense (as it was against Vandy), you've got problems. And regardless of what Head Ball Coach has to say, Marcus Lattimore isn't 100%. He doesn't have that quick burst explosiveness between the tackles and he isn't cutting with conviction. It was kind of evident in their first game against Vanderbilt, but this last week, his stats bore out that wasn't just first game jitters. Unfortunately for him, his stock is sliding, and he needs to trust his knee, and soon -- for him and the team. Outside of the SEC, Miami got embarrassed at Kansas State. I was, and still am, a real critic of designer Calvin's son at quarterback, but the Bill Snyder way (convicts and juco transfers) seems to have brought K-State back to relevance.
Tjarks: You've got to give Kansas State credit for at least not scheduling a bunch of tomato cans non-conference. Was anything really learned this week about Texas (New Mexico), TCU (Grambling) or OU (Florida A&M)? I'm not a big fan of the playoff system, but if it will encourage teams to start playing legitimate teams OOC I might change my mind. In general, there was very, very little intrigue headed into Week 2 around the country -- I'd like to see every big school schedule at least one marquee opponent a year like Alabama does. And no, Texas, Ole Miss doesn't count. The Longhorns may not be tested until Oklahoma State in a few weeks and who knows how good they are after they lost to the fighting Rich Rod's on Saturday.
Funk: We didn't learn a thing about those teams. Of the lot, I think OU made the most progress. They needed to find a game rhythm on offense and they did. It was a low level opponent, but they established what they needed to. Texas certainly isn't doing much to sell their Longhorn Network -- and I'm not referencing their David Ash-led offense. Kansas State has a good competitive culture (a la old USC under Pete Carrol) with Snyder, and you have to respect their willingness to see what they have early in the year. Oklahoma State was a victim of their own cupcake scheduling after the Savannah State debacle last week, but they may just not be that good. To have them in the preseason Top 25 after all they lost was fairly surprising. They have recruited well, but I don't know that they are quite there as a reload program. Interesting to see what the Rich Rods can do out West though, where there are only two legitimate teams. Stanford surprised me with a beatdown of a decent Duke team, and showed their first game may have merely been the result of rust. The Pac-12 may end up being the most unknown conference with the most fireworks. A lot of unknowns out there.
Tjarks: They racked up a bunch of non-conference victories this week -- on top of Stanford and Arizona winning, Oregon State beat Wisconsin, UCLA beat Nebraska and Arizona State beat Illinois. There's a lot of new offensive-minded coaching blood in that conference -- Rich Rod, Mike Leach, Todd Graham -- so maybe this is the start of a rebirth for them. The oceans of money the Pac-12 network is going to give them should help as well. If I'm an AD out there, the success of a school like Boise (with a bunch of West Coast recruits) would infuriate me. That's a private school in Idaho! On a darker note, it's hard to talk about Week 2 without mentioning the Tulane player who had to have an emergency tracheotomy on the field. Seems like a matter of time until someone -- in either college or the NFL -- dies playing football. I guess people still watch NASCAR after Dale Earnhardt, so who knows if that will change anything.
Funk: I think we both know it won't. It's undeniably tragic, but it's the nature of the game. Any conversation about the fate of college football has to be one of greater breadth -- can this game survive with the inherent health risks that are becoming more and more publicized to the general public? Who's to say, but my money is on the game surviving. The masses that worship the gridiron gladiators are the same ones that fueled the ancient gladiator games; people haven't changed that much. But as to your first point, the Pac 12 showed well this week, but the story of that Oregon State game has to be Wisconsin. An apparent mainstay at the top of the Big Ten has looked shaky at best during the first two weeks of the season. Whether that is a greater trend in the conference (Michigan struggling again against Air Force after their JerryWorld shellacking) is becoming a real question. It makes you wonder if they have the athletes to compete with the SEC and the increasingly bigger money conferences. I just don't know that the midwest has the speed and talent to keep up. One thing is certain, it'll be interesting to monitor the rest of the season.