Two weeks into the delayed SEC schedule, it's basically a three-team race. Try not to act surprised.
Two weeks in, the Crimson Tide are the only undefeated team in the SEC West. Everyone else is 1-1. Try separating them.
The second-best team in the division might be Arkansas, which on Saturday beat Mississippi State, which last week beat LSU. Or if you believe in further transitive properties, go with Ole Miss, which beat Kentucky which lost to Auburn which was routed by Georgia. It can't be LSU, which lost to Mississippi State, which lost to Arkansas on Saturday night. The Razorbacks hadn't won an SEC game since 2017.
It sure as heck isn't Auburn. Not two weeks in. In the biggest SEC game of this young season and the only top-10 matchup to date, Auburn's offense did its best to socially distance from the Georgia end zone.
After a 27-6 loss, it's a shock Gus Malzahn didn't already take over play-calling duties from new offensive coordinator Chad Morris. Seriously, do not be surprised if that actually happens this week. When the going gets offensively tough, Gus typically takes over.
After the game, Georgia coach Kirby Smart was asked if he considered that Stetson Bennett IV could help him win the SEC East back in January. That's when Wake Forest's Jamie Newman transferred in to become the presumed starter.
Smart spent $3.7 million on recruiting in 2019 and brought in two top-tier transfers. He is being bailed out by a 5-foot-11 former preferred walk on. Bennett was so far down the depth chart he could see the scout team. That's exactly where the current junior resided in 2017 when he mimicked Baker Mayfield before a College Football Playoff semifinal.
"Not only was he not the guy," Smart said of Bennett's role this offseason, "he was not getting a lot of reps early in camp."
Anyway, when Newman opted out last month and D'Wan Mathis stunk it up last week against Arkansas, Bennett became the man. That despite USC transfer JT Daniels being medically cleared to play this week.
That means, until further notice, the former walk-on turned JUCO quarterback in 2018 (at Jones County Community College), is the unlikely starter for what might be the second-best team in the SEC.
Which leads us back to January, Newman and the bottomless depth chart.
"I didn't know if [Bennett] was going to be the guy," Smart said. "I certainly brought Jamie in with the idea that he was going to be the starter. I would be lying if I didn't think that."
Bennett played capably on Saturday, completing 17 of 28 passes for 240 yards. Actually, capable is good at this point for Georgia. The six points allowed by the Bulldogs defense were the fewest against a top-10 opponent since 1985. The offense is incredibly balanced. Through two games, the Dawgs have run 85 times and thrown 75.
How does all of it feel to get this chance at Georgia?
"Which time?" Bennett quipped. "My goal is always to start here. That's why I came here in the first place instead of taking a smaller offer where I probably could have started earlier."
Meanwhile, Texas A&M is who we thought it was. Armed with his best team, one loaded with returning starters, Jimbo Fisher and his Aggies couldn't come within four touchdowns of Alabama.
"It was like, 'OK, we can compete with these guys,'" Aggies linebacker Buddy Johnson said of an early 14-14 tie. "I think guys were shocked we were right there with them."
One kind of shock replaced another. Alabama went on a 38-10 run and that very much was that. Fisher is now 0-3 against Alabama at Texas A&M and 0-4 against former boss Nick Saban, who himself improved to 20-0 against ex-assistants. Worse, Fisher hasn't come close to Saban. The Crimson Tide have outscored the Aggies 144-75 in those three games.
Unburdened by those annoying nonconference games, Alabama has jumped into the SEC schedule with both feet and predictably kicked some butt. The Tide only ran 55 plays on Saturday, but 10 of them were "explosive" -- runs of 12+ yards or pass completions of 18+ yards.
Three of those explosive plays were from John Metchie III. The sophomore wide receiver caught five passes for 181 yards and two touchdowns against the Aggies. His five receptions are a slightly higher number than the number of places he's lived -- Taiwan, Ghana, Canada and now Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
Kyle Trask has already 10 touchdown passes for Florida. Tight end Kyle Pitts has caught six of them through two games. The Gators defense may not look great, but will they need worry about that if they simply outscore everyone?
The SEC East could get really good by early November when a certain game formerly known as the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party is scheduled.
Is it already time to look ahead? After Alabama, Florida and Georgia, the only other undefeated SEC team is Tennessee. The Volunteers are at the Bulldogs this week. Georgia plays at Alabama in two weeks. Florida and Georgia matchup on Nov. 7.
It's early, but it's not. Parity has typically taken a holiday in the SEC but seldom this early -- unless you believe the coachspeak emanating from a late-night Zoom with the media at Georgia.
"Maybe," Smart suggested, "Arkansas is better than people think."