At this time a week ago, with the SEC still licking its wounds from a rough opening weekend, the media didn’t hold back any punches.
"The SEC didn’t live up to its billing."
"It was a humbling opening for the big, bad SEC."
"Oh, how the mighty have fallen."
To be fair, the conference didn’t meet expectations in Week 1. LSU and Ole Miss both stumbled against Power 5 opponents on national television. Mississippi State and Kentucky lost at home to South Alabama and Southern Miss, respectively. Even in games they won, Tennessee, Arkansas and Florida didn’t look all that impressive.
Week 2 offered the SEC a chance to save face, a chance to turn the page. It was never going to erase what happened in Week 1, not with all of the FCS opponents on the slate, but there were still opportunities to make a statement and gain back some of the respect that was lost.
The first statement came Saturday evening when Arkansas went on the road and stunned No. 15 TCU in double overtime. This was a TCU team many experts picked as a possible darkhorse to reach the College Football Playoff, and they were beaten by a Razorbacks squad picked to finish towards the bottom of the SEC West. Maybe Bret Bielema knew something we didn’t.
"Glad to represent the SEC today," Bielema said after the win.
Then, maybe an hour after the Arkansas win, Tennessee closed out a 45-24 victory against Virginia Tech at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Don’t get me wrong. Tennessee was expected to win the game. But after a sluggish first quarter, following a sluggish first game, the light switch finally turned on for the Volunteers. Quarterback Joshua Dobbs accounted for five total touchdowns. The defense forced five turnovers. And you could start to see why this was a Top-10 team in the preseason.
The SEC needed those two wins, and both Arkansas and Tennessee delivered. But it was also a good week for teams like Auburn, LSU and Florida.
Auburn got back on track offensively, totaling more than 700 yards against Arkansas State. LSU might have found a solution to its quarterback problem thanks to an appearance from Danny Etling. And Florida looked utterly dominant against fellow SEC opponent Kentucky, though the poor play by the Wildcats was the low point for the conference Saturday.
As a whole, the SEC went 12-2 and 10-0 in non-conference games. Opponents aside, that’s a drastic improvement on the 7-7 mark from Week 1.
Not every team was perfect. Georgia was a 55-point favorite against Nicholls on Saturday, and somehow the Bulldogs managed to barely squeak by with a 26-24 win at home. Between the turnovers and the issues on the offensive line, it wasn’t their finest performance.
But there’s optimism for the SEC. Last week, it was Alabama and everybody else. And maybe it still is. The Crimson Tide are ranked No. 1 for a reason, and until somebody unseats them, they’re the SEC’s best chance at making the playoff. However, if Week 2 proved anything, it's that maybe there are other playoff contenders in the conference.
If TCU was a darkhorse team to make it in, why can’t Arkansas be the same? The Razorbacks do get Alabama at home this year.
Both Florida and Tennessee returned to form Saturday, setting up a classic in two weeks. Why can’t the winner of that game make a run?
And we’ll know more about Texas A&M after a trip to Auburn on Saturday.
The SEC might have stumbled the first weekend, but maybe it’s a little early to go writing off the entire conference with the exception of Alabama.