The early returns are in from the Southeastern Conference, and now it looks even more likely that Alabama and Florida, the preseason divisional favorites, will be the participants when the league holds its first postseason championship game, on Dec. 5 in Birmingham. The Crimson Tide won its second conference game, allowing Southern Mississippi only 58 yards in an ugly 17-10 victory, and the defending SEC champion Gators opened their season with a 35-19 win over Kentucky.
Both SEC favorites received a boost when the teams that were supposed to be their closest rivals, Mississippi State in the West division and Georgia in the East, were upset. The more shocking of the two losses was Mississippi State's 24-3 defeat at Louisiana State. It may have been that the Bulldogs just weren't as inspired against LSU as they had been the week before when they beat Texas 28-10. On the day before the Longhorn game, a local rancher had brought a bull onto Mississippi State's practice field. Then, to "motivate" the players, the bull was castrated by a vet while the team looked on. Coach Jackie Sherrill defended the action, saying, "I don't think that calf was embarrassed."
In Athens last Saturday, Georgia piled up 569 yards in total offense but lost 34-31 to Tennessee. The Bulldogs were done in by six turnovers and a porous defense of their own, which couldn't contain Heath Shuler, the Volunteers' sophomore quarterback.
Tennessee's 2-0 start has been surprising; coach Johnny Majors missed both games while recovering from heart-bypass surgery, and the team was so decimated by graduation and the pro draft that it has had to play eight true freshmen.
The Vols host Florida on Saturday, and Gator coach Steve Spurrier will undoubtedly remind his players that two years ago—the last time Florida played at Tennessee—the Vols put a 45-3 licking on the Gators. Incidentally, that's the last time an SEC team beat the Gators, who have an 11-game winning streak in a league that's supposed to be impossible to dominate.
Bravo for New Mexico State, which we described in our college football issue (Aug. 31) as having the worst Division I program in the nation. The Aggies responded to our evaluation in two ways: First, they put black "107" decals on their helmets, referring to both the number of teams in Division I and their ranking among them, according to SI; and then they won their first two games for the first time since 1978. In a 42-39 victory over New Mexico last Saturday, Aggie running back Ray Washington ran for three touchdowns and quarterback Charles Puleri threw for 314 yards.
You can take off the decals, guys. Number 107 no longer applies to you. But that raises a question: Who's 107th now?
TIE ONE FOR THE GIPPER