Texas football is ba- ... bad? Arkansas showed Longhorns they aren't SEC ready | Toppmeyer
This the "Topp Rope," a biweekly SEC football column from the USA TODAY Network's Blake Toppmeyer.
Texas is ba- … bad?
The 15th-ranked Longhorns received a rude early welcome to the SEC from Arkansas on Saturday night.
First, the Razorbacks whipped the Longhorns at the line of scrimmage throughout a 40-21 victory at Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Then, they reveled in the triumph by flashing Horns Down on the stadium videoboard as Razorbacks fans stormed the field to celebrate a victory against their former Southwest Conference rival.
Is it too late for Texas to back out of its commitment to join the SEC in 2025? I heard the American Athletic Conference is seeking new members.
In seriousness, Saturday’s result doesn’t necessarily portend an overmatched entry into the SEC for Texas four years from now. If Missouri and Texas A&M can adapt to the SEC, there's no reason Texas can't. But Saturday revealed Texas must improve its talent up front on both sides of the ball.
Anyone who has coached both inside and outside the SEC will tell you that the play at the line of scrimmage separates this conference from its peers.
Arkansas outgained Texas 333-138 on the ground and limited Longhorns star running back to Bijan Robinson to 69 yards on 19 carries.
The way Arkansas’ defense performed, Razorbacks defensive coordinator Barry Odom looked like he’s worth his lofty $1.75 million salary.
Odom previously excelled as a defensive coordinator at Memphis and Missouri before struggling as the head coach at Missouri, where he didn't recruit well enough. He’s proof that some guys are best suited for life in the co-pilot’s seat. Nothing wrong with that, especially as far as Arkansas is concerned.
And how about Sam Pittman? He now has three SEC victories plus a win against the program’s top rival through 12 games as Arkansas’ coach. That exceeds any reasonable expectation that was set for Pittman after he took over a program that lost to San Jose State and Western Kentucky in the season before his arrival.
A standing-room-only crowd celebrated the first installment of this rivalry since 2014.
The SEC hasn’t revealed how it will construct scheduling after Texas and Big 12 peer Oklahoma join the conference, but however the divisions or pods are aligned, Arkansas-Texas needs to become an annual staple.
A banner day for the SEC West
SEC West teams went 7-0 on Saturday. That included four wins against FCS foes, but it also featured victories by underdogs Arkansas and Mississippi State.
Arkansas was picked to finish sixth in the SEC West in the preseason media predictions, while Texas was picked to finish third in the Big 12.
Meanwhile, Mississippi State was pegged last in the West, and North Carolina State was picked to finish second in the ACC’s Atlantic Division.
A bold fourth-down move by Mike Leach helped Mississippi State retain control.
The Bulldogs led 7-3 while facing fourth-and-7 in the second quarter from NC State’s 39-yard line. MSU’s defense had dominated the half. The safe move would have been to punt to ensure a halftime lead, rather than risk giving the Wolfpack good field position.
Instead, Leach opted for aggression. Will Rogers completed a pass to Makai Polk for a first down. Two players later, the Bulldogs were in the end zone.
SEC has quarterback drama after little in the preseason
The SEC’s quarterback battles were settled without much drama ahead of the season openers, but just two weeks in, the league's quarterback situation carries more intrigue.
Texas A&M pulled out a 10-7 victory at Colorado behind Zach Calzada after Haynes King exited with a lower body injury. If King is forced to miss extended time, the Aggies risk their spot as the SEC West's projected No. 2 team behind Alabama.
Former Georgia starter Stetson Bennett thrived in place of injured JT Daniels in the Bulldogs' 56-7 victory over UAB, but anyone who watched last season should know Daniels gives Georgia the best chance at a national title. Daniels should regain the job when healthy.
Tennessee backup Hendon Hooker outplayed Joe Milton in a 41-34 loss to Pittsburgh. Vols coach Josh Heupel said he'll evaluate the quarterback situation ahead of Saturday’s game against Tennessee Tech.
Florida quarterbacks Emory Jones and Anthony Richardson combined for 196 rushing yards in a 42-20 win over South Florida. Next up, that two-quarterback system will face No. 1 Alabama.
Expect to hear plenty of talk leading up to Saturday about how dual-threat quarterbacks pose problems for Nick Saban, despite Alabama usually winning such matchups.
Vintage Mark Stoops
Kentucky's Will Levis looks like he could be the best quarterback of the Mark Stoops era. Granted, that’s a low bar, but for the Wildcats to have hope of contending with East favorites Georgia and Florida, they can’t be one-dimensional.
Nonetheless, the ground attack remains the backbone of UK's offense, as evidenced by Chris Rodriguez Jr. rushing for 206 yards in a 35-28 victory over Missouri.
Kentucky ran the ball 18 straight times at one point and had back-to-back touchdown drives in which it never threw the ball.
The game didn’t unfold as a heavyweight bout, but it did look like two teams vying to finish at least third or better in the East.
Rat poison isn't Alabama's only issue
Last week, Saban reprised his concern about rat poison affecting his team, but he should be more concerned about injuries.
Alabama lost linebacker Christopher Allen to a potential season-ending injury in Week 1. Then linebacker Will Anderson Jr. exited with an apparent knee injury Saturday against Mercer.
Auburn's first-year coach Bryan Harsin hasn’t faced a challenging opponent yet, but a 122-10 margin of victory through two weeks looks good no matter the opponent.
He said it
“If it stinks, it stinks. It smells bad for everybody. Did it smell bad for you? Yeah.” – Saban, on Alabama not scoring on its first two offensive possessions vs. Mercer
Blake Toppmeyer is an SEC Columnist for the USA TODAY Network. Email him at BToppmeyer@gannett.com and follow him on Twitter @btoppmeyer. If you enjoy Blake’s coverage, consider a digital subscription that will allow you access to all of it.