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The Official Website of the Southeastern Conference

Barnhart's Five Burning Questions for Week 2

25 days ago
Tony Barnhart | SEC Network
Photo: Kentucky Athletics

Our first Saturday of the 2021 season is in the books and already we've established some very significant story lines for the rest of the year:

Alabama lost 10 NFL Draft choices from its national championship team of 2020. The Crimson Tide looked like it hasn't missed a beat in dominating Miami 44-13.

We thought Georgia's defense would be overwhelming and it was in a 10-3 win over No. 3 Clemson. Could Alabama and Georgia be on a collision course to Atlanta?

Kentucky built what it hoped would be a 21st-century offense and the early returns, with Will Levis throwing for 347 yards and four touchdowns, look good as the Wildcats beat ULM 45-10.

Ole Miss looked like it could make some noise in the SEC West with a 43-24 win over Louisville on Monday night.

Friends, we are just getting started. Here are our Five Burning Questions for Week 2 of SEC football:

1. Am I wrong or is Missouri at Kentucky a really big SEC opener?

This is a HUGE game when you consider what's at stake: These are two teams that are working to get into the SEC East discussion where Georgia and Florida are the favorites. The winner of this game gets into that discussion. The loser has much work to do. Kentucky has Missouri and Florida at Kroger Field and plays Georgia in Athens. Missouri gets Georgia on the road and Florida at home. It's two quarterbacks -- Kentucky's Levis and Missouri's Connor Bazelak -- who know what they're doing. It's the lone conference game on the board. Enjoy.

2. Why is a non-conference game like Texas at Arkansas a really big deal?

Those of us of a certain age remember when this game was a headliner in the old Southwest Conference. We remember that in 1969 Texas (coached by Darrell Royal) and Arkansas (coached by Frank Broyles) played for the national championship. Texas rallied from a 14-0 deficit to win 15-14. Throughout its history, Arkansas has been good when the Razorbacks have recruiting success in the great state of Texas. There is no question that Sam Pittman's program would get a big boost by an upset of Texas. Texas and Arkansas were in the same conference until 1992 when Arkansas joined the SEC. Now, at a date to be determined, they will be in the same conference again.

3. Is Georgia going to have a letdown against UAB?

Is quarterback JT Daniels going to play? I would say Yes and No. After the emotional investment into last week's game against Clemson, there has to be some kind of letdown for the Bulldogs, who are now ranked No. 2 (behind Alabama) in all the major polls. Reports surfaced early in the week that Daniels had suffered an upper body injury and might not be available for Georgia's home opener with the Blazers, who beat Jacksonville State 31-0 in its first game of the season. As of Thursday there was no official word on Daniel's status. If Daniels can't go Georgia will turn to sophomore Carson Beck, who earned the No. 2 job last Spring.

4. Will Florida's Emory Jones start at quarterback against South Florida?

The short answer is yes but stay tuned. That's because in last week's 35-14 win over Florida Atlantic, Jones struggled early, throwing a pair of interceptions. He was replaced by Anthony Richardson, who ran for 160 yards including a 73-yard touchdown run. Florida ran for a total of 394 yards. Jones has played in 25 games for Florida and knows the offense. But Richardson looks like a special talent. This is important because No. 1 Alabama comes to the Swamp on Sept. 18. This should be an easy day for the Gators as USF lost to N.C. State 45-0 last week. But this game is about getting ready for the Crimson Tide.

5. Speaking of the aforementioned N.C. State, can Mississippi State shake off last week's scare as the Wolfpack comes to Starkville?

Last Saturday Mike Leach's Bulldogs woke up in the fourth quarter and found themselves behind Louisiana Tech by 20, 34-14. Then Mississippi Stated rallied by scoring 21 points in just 12 minutes to win 35-34. The Bulldogs turned the ball over four times and committed 12 penalties. Do that again and it will be a long night for Mississippi State.

Bonus question: What is the mood going to be like at Neyland Stadium when Tennessee hosts Pittsburgh?

Some history first: John Majors was a great player at Tennessee (finished second to Paul Hornung for the Heisman Trophy in 1956) who won a national championship at Pittsburgh (1976) as a coach and then returned to his alma mater. Both schools will honor Majors, calling the game "The Johnny Majors Classic." Jackie Sherrill, who served under Majors at Pitt, will serve as the Panthers' honorary captain. Majors died in June of 2020 at the age of 85. The two teams will play again next season at Pittsburgh.