To the big board we go, where the SEC West is a land of turbulence, misery, and fire-breathing frustration... except for the one place where victory is a way of life.
ALABAMA -- There's little to be gained or gleaned from a game against Fresno State. Colorado State -- which has talented receivers -- might offer a slightly more revealing look at the Tide's secondary, which will remain the main pressure point on the defense if only because the front seven is airtight on an even more consistent basis. No stock drop, no stock increase... which is not a problem, because this stock is more valuable than any other in college football.
OLE MISS -- A ho-hum game but a fat point total against an FCS cupcake won't move the needle in either direction. This Saturday's late-night trip to the West Coast (Berkeley, California) will be the first truly revealing Ole Miss game of 2017.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- If scheduling a road game against a Group of 5 team with a decent recent track record (Louisiana Tech), scoring a blowout certainly helps perceptions instead of hurting them. MSU slightly boosted its stock, for what it's worth, but that outcome against one Louisiana-based team will mean very little if Dan Mullen's team gets shredded by LSU in Week 3. The big challenge for Mississippi State is to hold up physically against LSU's offensive line. If it can do that, it can create a close game and own a chance to win in the fourth quarter, which is all Mullen can ask for at this point.
LSU -- The passing game looks great. Related: The passing game hasn't needed to produce anything, given the quality of opposition. That could change at Mississippi State, the first test of Ed Orgeron's coaching chops.
TEXAS A&M -- A struggle against an FCS opponent -- given the deflating nature of the loss to UCLA, the firestorm of uncertainty swirling around Kevin Sumlin, and the appalling treatment of Sumlin and his family -- should not be seen as a surprise. The Aggies need to regroup in a very big way -- mentally more than anything else.
ARKANSAS -- Uh-oh, part one.
Bret Bielema made his name as a head coach by fielding teams with offensive and defensive linemen which would knock the snot out of opponents. Bielema's Wisconsin teams knew how to punch the other team in the mouth. Where is this identity in Fayetteville? It has not existed since Bielema set foot on campus. It was markedly absent from a humiliating and tissue-soft blowout loss to TCU... a team which left points on the field even in a comfortable victory.
Where is this program headed? What is the vision? What is the plan? Bielema, it seems, needs to go back to the Big Ten. If Nebraska goes 4-8 this season, the Huskers could find many worse candidates. This Arkansas adventure seems to have run out of steam.
AUBURN -- Uh-oh, part two.
Let's be reasonable: No one should have expected Auburn to score 30 points on Clemson's defense on the road. That's not the problem. The sacks Auburn allowed to a great Clemson front seven? That's not a problem -- Clemson will feast on sacks all season.
The problem at Auburn is that the defense locked down on Clemson's offense and had nothing to show for it. Gus Malzahn's offense doesn't have to be great, but it does need to be decent and make its fair share of plays amid the sacks and the other deficiencies. Auburn didn't come close to doing anything in the second half. Being that lost in terms of a plan, having no adjustments to offer after halftime, reinforces every negative thing Auburn fans think and feel about Malzahn. The 2013 season isn't walking through that door.
If Auburn had lost a 21-17 game with a punch-counterpunch flavor, Tiger fans wouldn't be so upset. The way Auburn lost -- not just scoring only six points, but not having anything close to a chance of scoring in the game's final 30 minutes -- shows that at least for the time being, Malzahn doesn't have a clue. He failed to fix this offense in 2015 and 2016. This year, he finally got a quarterback of note, Jarrett Stidham... and was very nearly shut out by a good defense. That's a nothingburger from a coach whose reputation is being eroded with each game he coaches.
FLORIDA -- No game in Week 2, which is a concern since Jim McElwain and offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier didn't get a chance to work out kinks and improve communication problems before the huge Tennessee game.
TENNESSEE -- What happened in Week 2 is mere prelude for the trip to The Swamp. Tennessee's loss in Gainesville (to Will Grier) in 2015 might have been the loss Butch Jones never recovered from. A win here would be gigantic for Jones' future and the well-being of the Volunteer program. The game means a lot to a struggling Florida team, but it means even more to the Vols and their coach, who will sweat bullets if he gets drilled by the Gators on Saturday.
MISSOURI -- Firing a defensive coordinator shows how acute the Tigers' problems are, but credit to coach Barry Odom for not waiting to resolve a problem. This seems cruel, but maintaining a pretense that everything is fine is not helpful to an embattled coordinator.
SOUTH CAROLINA -- The Gamecocks did what they had to do against Missouri, but the Tigers are so bad that South Carolina doesn't deserve more than a very slight stock price increase. The Gamecocks' bigger challenges lie ahead, and they need to be more efficient on offense than they were for much of the Mizzou game. The bigger statement made by the Gamecocks remains their win over North Carolina State. A thought to consider: Given how weak the East is, South Carolina could be 9-3 and yet not compare favorably with any other 9-3 team in any other conference.
Another thought to consider: Will Muschamp will take that scenario (and level of status) regardless of the particulars. It certainly seems attainable at the moment.
KENTUCKY: The Wildcats and South Florida are 2-0, and have played poorly in both games. That beats being 0-2 and playing well. However, the Wildcats can't avoid the SEC much longer. Manageable non-conference games give way to reality at some point. It's time for Big Blue to improve, or else the euphoria surrounding the 2016 win over Louisville will quickly fade.
VANDERBILT -- Rolling over a cupcake is better than a narrow win over a cupcake, but that is a prelude to the next act: Kansas State, one of the biggest home-field non-conference games the Commodores have staged in recent memory. A win over Bill Snyder would do for Vanderbilt what South Carolina's win over N.C. State did for the Gamecocks, possibly more.
GEORGIA -- The game against Notre Dame on Saturday night was ugly and uneven. Part of this is the undeniable product of the Jacob Eason injury, but that can't be used as a blanket reason for many of the offense's limitations. What also has to be said is that Notre Dame did not look all that impressive. The Fighting Irish threw a lot of screen and dump-off passes to running backs, failing to feature wide receivers or generate huge plays the way a souped-up offense should.
Georgia played an unfamiliar opponent under inconvenient circumstances and did not lose. The resilience showed by Georgia is encouraging in its own right and on its own terms, but the big key is that it needs to create a surge in confidence which leads to a much higher level of performance down the line. Give Georgia a stock price increase, but the less-than-convincing nature of this win in South Bend suggests that the Dawgs are still a mystery more than a known quantity.