Tony's Top 10: SEC newbies make debuts; Stanford, South Carolina could stumble


So many storylines and so little time. So without further delay, here are Tony's Top 10 for the second week of the season:

1. Georgia brings "Old Man Football" to Mizzou: Missouri has yet to play its first SEC game but already some of the Tigers are feeling a bit frisky. Defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson believes the vaunted defenses in the SEC will be no match for Missouri's spread offense. Georgia, which returns 10 starters from the nation's No. 5 defense a year ago, head to Faurot Field on Saturday night for Missouri's inaugural SEC game.

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"If we execute it right, nobody can stop us," he said. He also said the teams in the SEC played like those in the Big Ten, calling it "Old Man Football." Actually, Sheldon, it's called Big Boy Football, where large, fast defensive linemen make life uncomfortable for the quarterback and those around him. I would suggest you reference last Saturday's Alabama-Michigan game. One caveat: Georgia might be without four defensive starters due to suspensions.

2. Coach Saban Media Seminar, Part I: Alabama coach Nick Saban got a little terse with the media this week, suggesting they were not giving Western Kentucky, a 40-point underdog, the proper amount of respect while overstating the importance his team's 41-14 victory against Michigan. Understand that the head coach of the Crimson Tide was conducting a pre-emptive strike, hoping that his team does not come out flat against the Hilltoppers. He has seen it before. It happened in 2008 against Tulane (20-6), after Alabama opened the season with a beatdown of Clemson. It happened again in 2009 when Alabama opened with 34-24 victory against Virginia Tech and then struggled early against FIU, trailing 14-13 before winning 40-14. But keep this stat in mind: Since the start of the 2008 season, Alabama is 26-2 at Bryant-Denny. In that stretch, the Crimson Tide has scored 61 rushing touchdowns while allowing only three.

3. A learning curve for Mettenberger: LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger is big (6-foot-5) and has a lively arm. But there is still a steep learning curve as he moves from junior college to the SEC. He took one under the chin against North Texas last Saturday because he didn't feel the defensive back coming on the blitz. He returned to the game to complete 9 of 10 passes. He'll get a little stronger test on Saturday against a Washington defense that was awful a year ago but converted two turnovers into 14 points in beating San Diego State. It doesn't matter that Washington coach Steve Sarkisian brought his own version of Mike the Tiger, LSU's real live mascot, to practice this. Unless that Tiger suits up for U-Dub, LSU is going to boat-race the Huskies.

4. Did it help the Aggies NOT to play? Texas A&M was supposed to open Sept. 30 at Louisiana Tech, but Hurricane Isaac had other plans. So new Aggies coach Kevin Sumlin and new quarterback Johnny Manziel have to make their Texas A&M debut, and their SEC debut, against the Florida Gators, who were less than impressive in beating Bowling Green in the Swamp. Is it better for the Aggies that the Gators don't have tape of what they wanted to do on offense? Or would have it been better for Manziel to get a little work before facing the nation's No. 8 defense from a year ago? "With a new quarterback, you always want him to play and find his comfort level," Sumlin said. "We have to find a way to help him." Jeff Driskel will get the start at QB for Florida.

5. Can Duke beat Stanford? OK, OK. Hear me out on this one. The Cardinal clearly missed Andrew Luck last week as they struggled through a 20-17 victory against San Jose State. Duke, meanwhile, beat a pretty good Florida International team 46-26. Duke has a veteran quarterback in Sean Renfree and the best wide receiver you have never heard of in Conner Vernon (10 catches, 180 yards last week). I know Stanford has a nasty front seven on defense and Stephan Taylor, who needs only 55 yards to post the third-best rushing total in school history. What the heck. Let's go with Coach Cut and Duke to get the upset. The Blue Devils haven't beaten a ranked team since 1994, the year they started 7-0.

6. Look out for the Pirates: South Carolina has won 12 consecutive nonconference regular-season games as the Gamecocks prepare to welcome East Carolina at Williams-Brice Stadium. We don't know if quarterback Connor Shaw is going to play, because earlier in the week he couldn't lift his right arm above his head. If Shaw can't go, it means that Marcus Lattimore will have to carry even more of the load. He had 110 yards against Vanderbilt in his return after a knee injury but he still looked a little rusty. East Carolina, located in Greenville, N.C., is 3-2 in its past five meetings with South Carolina but gave up 419 yards last week in a 35-13 victory against Appalachian State.

7. Hurricanes go to the Little Apple: The ACC got a much-needed high-profile victory last Saturday when Clemson, the defending conference champion, rallied in the fourth quarter to beat Auburn 26-19 in Atlanta. When you're 2-13 in BCS games like the ACC, you need all of the quality nonconference victories you can get. Another such opportunity will present itself Saturday when Miami (Fla.) (1-0) goes to No. 22 Kansas State (1-0). Miami earned kudos for rallying from a 14-0 deficit to beat Boston College 41-32 in Chestnut Hill. But Kansas State continues to be a team where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. Quarterback Collin Klein is only 12 touchdowns away from the school record of 45 set by Darren Sproles (2001-04). He needs seven touchdowns rushing to break the school record for a quarterback held by Ell Roberson (2000-03).

8. A shootout in the desert? Now that Oklahoma State has beaten up on hapless Savannah State (84-0), it's time to start focusing on real football as the Cowboys go to Arizona (1-0). RichRod and the Wildcats won a thriller in his Arizona debut, beating Toledo (24-17) in overtime. Senior quarterback Mike Scott passed for 387 yards, including the winning touchdown in overtime. Arizona had 623 yards of total offense. There could be 1,000 yards of total offense in this one.

9. Can Taylor Martinez keep the hot hand? I thought it was a typo when I read that Taylor Martinez of Nebraska threw for 354 yards and five touchdowns against what I think is a pretty good Southern Miss team. Part of what makes Martinez effective is having RB Rex Burkhead back there to take some of the pressure off. Burkhead (sprained ACL) might not be able to answer the bell when Big Red goes to UCLA. But the fact remains that nine different players carried the ball and 10 different players caught passes against Southern Mississippi. The Bruins have some offense, too, rolling up 646 yards against Rice.

10. Numbers, numbers, numbers: Here is why Gene Chizik and Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen need to win Saturday when the two teams meet in Starkville. Chizik is in his fourth season as the head coach at Auburn. After losing to Clemson last week in Atlanta, Chizik is 14-0 with Cam Newton as his quarterback and 16-11 without him. His defense, led by new coordinator Brian VanGorder, gave up 528 yards -- 320 on the ground.

Mullen, in his fourth season at Mississippi State, has done a good job of breathing life into the program. The game against Auburn will be the 24th consecutive sellout at Davis Wade Stadium. But against the SEC West, the toughest division in football, Mullen has struggled. He is 3-0 against Ole Miss, but 0-12 against Auburn, Alabama, LSU and Arkansas. That o-fer will go away Saturday.

Watch The Tony Barnhart Show on Tuesday at 9 p.m. on The CBS Sports Network.

Tony Barnhart is in his fifth season as a contributor to He is a college football analyst for CBS Sports and The CBS Sports Network. Prior to joining CBS he was the national college football writer for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution for 24 years. He has written five books on college football.

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