Here are some observations, comments, following the first weekend — a five-day extended weekend of games at that — of college football:
•No one should be surprised Tua Tagovailoa was the starter for Alabama in its season-opener against Louisville, not that he performed well and has already been named the starter for this week’s game against Arkansas State. Simply put, Tagovailoa is the best option at quarterback, which he proved on Saturday. At the same time, Jalen Hurts deserves the respect of all Alabama fans for his play when he held the starting position. He gives Nick Saban a great option at back-up quarterback, to be sure, and if for some reason Tagovailoa is unable to play the offense is still in great hands. The more interesting aspect of this decision comes in Saban’s press conference Monday in which he stated Tagovailoa would be the starter but “we’re gonna use Jalen’s skill set in the future.’’ Not to be a conspiracy theorist or such, but is that a hint Hurts could pop up in the lineup at a position other than quarterback? Or does it simply mean Hurts will be used in games in which the offense will run a package that is more suited toward Hurts’ strengths? I know, shoot me, but the wording is interesting.
•Auburn is pretty good and will likely only get better. There was a lot to like about the Tigers’ play against a very good Washington team in Saturday’s season-opening game. And while Jarrett Stidham looked solid, as did his receivers, there is still some work ahead for the Auburn offense. There were some scoring opportunities that weren’t finished and taking a quick, one-week glance around the SEC West, the Tigers will need to take advantage of each scoring opportunity that comes their way.
•Hello, LSU. We see you. Yep, in preseason I picked LSU to finish with a 6-6 record. The Bengal Tigers have a tough schedule and there wasn’t a lot to get overly excited about at the time, to be fair. But with its win Sunday night over Miami, LSU’s potential gained some luster. The defense was terrific and the play of Ohio State transfer quarterback Joe Burrow was strong as LSU put its best foot forward. Now, the evaluation of LSU could be tainted by the fact Miami played poorly and may not be the team it was projected to be; that certainly seemed to be the case while watching the game. The Miami offense, no doubt influenced by LSU’s strong defensive play, couldn’t get untracked. Maybe it won’t get untracked all season. But one thing is certain: LSU’s visit to Auburn on Sept. 15 got a whole lot more interesting.
•South Carolina and Georgia won games they were expected to win, setting up this week’s matchup between the SEC East foes in Columbia, S.C. It should be a good game, or at least that’s the expectation. Neither team showed much in Week 1 but both will need to be at their best on Saturday. The winner takes the early lead as the team to beat in the SEC East. Is South Carolina really ready to challenge the ever-improving Bulldogs? A Georgia team that is picked by some to return to the College Football Playoffs again this season? Kick-off is Saturday afternoon. Guess we’ll find out pretty quickly.
•Tennessee was the only SEC team to pick up a loss in the opening week of play, and that was expected as West Virginia is a Top 25 team and the Vols are rebuilding under new head coach Jeremy Pruitt. What the game demonstrated is Pruitt and his coaching staff have a lot of work ahead of them and this is not going to be an overnight transition, if indeed it takes. Tennessee showed some signs of improvement — how could it not after the disaster that was the Butch Jones Era? — and there can be reason for a bit of optimism from Tennessee fans. But a bit of caution would also be advisable, not to mention a good dose of (continued) patience.
•How about those Ole Miss Rebels or Landsharks or whatever? They certainly looked better than advertised and better than expected against a quality opponent in Texas Tech. Matt Luke and his staff had the Rebels ready to play and although there were moments when they could have stumbled, perhaps giving up the lead, they did not. Instead, at those moments Ole Miss buckled down and held on to its lead and the momentum it had built. This was a very positive first step for a team that has received little attention in the preseason.
•Mississippi State didn’t damage the belief by some (I’m included) who suggest this is a team that will have something to say as to how the SEC West race shakes out this season. With a ton of starters back and the energy being created by new head coach Joe Moorhead and his staff, the Bulldogs are a quality team with experience. Even with a pair of Top 10 teams in its division (Alabama, Auburn), a Top 25 team (LSU as of this week) and a Texas A&M team that played well in waxing Northwestern State, the division has a lot of talent and talented teams. Ole Miss’ improvement and that of Arkansas sets the stage for quite a race.
•OK, they didn’t play the most challenging of opening games, but there has to be a little giddiness for fans of Florida football. Again, the Gators need to be tested by a more challenging opponent than Charleston Southern, and that will happen soon — they visit Mississippi State on Sept. 29, followed by an Oct. 6 game at home against LSU — but the return of Dan Mullen to Gainesville seems to have had a positive effect on the team’s offensive fortunes.
Tommy Hicks, a Phenix City native, has covered sports in Alabama for more than 40 years. Contact him at