- LSU and Tennessee should be the most worried after Week 1 disappointments as both could fall far short of their sky-high preseason hype.
It’s easy to overreact to Week 1 performances. Players can be rusty, teams can be still building chemistry or breaking in new starters or sometimes just having a bad day. There are plenty of reasons a team can disappoint in its season opener, and for some teams Week 1 may wind up their worst performance of the season.
Still, sometimes panic is justified. Perhaps strengths that were taken for granted aren’t so solid after all. Or a weakness that was supposed to be addressed has returned worse than ever. There were no shortage of teams who didn’t live up to their preseason hype in their openers. Here are the ones who should worry most:
Lindsay Schnell: LSU
You saw the Tigers' quarterback play, right? Brandon Harris looks to have the same problems as he did last year—in summary: poor decision making. Leonard Fournette is a terrific runner, but any chance he's a good passer, too? Some of us were thinking this might finally be the year the Tigers unseat Alabama and head to the College Football Playoff just one season after an attempted coup almost cost Les Miles his job. That would have been storybook. Right now it looks like a fantasy.
Brian Hamilton: Tennessee
Tennessee scored 13 points in regulation against Appalachian State and needed overtime to win. We can both recognize Appalachian State's capacity for upsets and note that a Volunteers team supposedly poised to infiltrate the national elite shouldn't go to overtime at home against any Sun Belt school. Tennessee better get its act together in the next two weeks because the first four SEC games feature Florida, Georgia, Texas A&M and Alabama. That's a stretch that won't forgive any more uninspiring efforts.
Joan Niesen: LSU
This one, for me, is a no-brainer. Entering the season ranked No. 5 after finishing last year as the AP's No. 16 team (with a pedestrian 9–3 record), the Tigers had big hopes for 2016, hopes that I'm sure included clobbering unranked Wisconsin to open the year. LSU is loaded with talent, but on offense, it still seems to be the Leonard Fournette show—to the detriment of any kind of balance. The team that took the field Saturday didn't look like too far of a cry from the one that got Miles in hot water a year ago, and the kind of silly mistakes that cost it the Wisconsin game, if they continue, could be LSU's undoing. At some point, the Tigers' insane recruiting classes and constant production of NFL players has to turn into more than two- and three-loss seasons. Another down year will likely mean a massive shakeup.
Colin Becht: Tennessee
LSU’s Week 1 performance was the most disappointing, but the concern has to be higher for Tennessee because of the amount of time the Vols have to get back on track. LSU can probably get by on nothing more than Fournette and solid defense (both of which showed up against Wisconsin) until it hosts Ole Miss on Oct. 22 or possibly even until it faces Alabama on Nov. 5. If the offensive line woes that plagued Tennessee against Appalachian State aren’t fixed the quality, the Vols could be in trouble this week against Virginia Tech and certainly in pivotal SEC East showdowns with Florida on Sept. 24 and Georgia on Oct. 1. Time is of the essence for Butch Jones.
Gabriel Baumgaertner: Tennessee
Perhaps we can pin the Vols' poor Week 1 performance on Joshua Dobbs' off night or offensive coordinator Mike DeBord's reluctance to use running back Alvin Kamara. Regardless, they didn't look like a team deserving of their significant preseason hype. Assuming Jalen Reeves-Maybin does not get ejected in the first half again, the defense may be Tennessee's calling card, but Week 1 revealed a host of weak spots.
Chris Johnson: LSU
This Tigers team is more talented than any since the one that reached the national championship game following the 2011 season. Yet its performance against Wisconsin suggested it may not be any better than the cadre of good-but-not-great squads fighting for second place behind Alabama in the SEC West. Offensively, the Tigers have Leonard Fournette...and seemingly not much else. If they can't make strides on that side of the ball in short order, Miles may not be around when Fournette (almost certainly) declares for the NFL draft early next year.