A common expression in sports is, "Every game matters." In no sport is that more true than college football, where even a single loss -- especially if it's to the wrong team -- can knock you out of championship contention.
But when it comes to individual honors, we often fall into a tendency to reward players anecdotally. Leonard Fournette was amazing in 2015, but look at what his performance versus Alabama did to his Heisman hopes. Voters were completely unwilling to overlook his 19 carries for 31 yards after that game, and while he was still invited to New York, everyone knew he wasn't actually going to win.
So what if we had a system that took that saying -- every game matters -- and applied it, narrowly to each week's SEC slate? The hope would be that that would be a more "fair" way to do awards voting.
Each week this season, I'm going to try and fill out an All-SEC ballot using just that week's games, including an offensive and defensive player of the week. As the season progresses, we'll be keeping a tally of who shows up on my lists the most, and when we get to the end of the year I'll use those totals as my official Team Speed Kills ballot.
For example, the quarterback who shows up on the most weekly ballots -- thereby earning the most (arbitrary) points -- will be my All-SEC quarterback at the end of the season. At the very least, my hope is that this "every game matters" exercise will be a fun comparison to the real end-of-season awards.
A first team appearance will count for two points, while a second team appearance will count for one. The offensive and defensive player of the week will each earn an extra point. A couple of caveats before I break down week one:
Opponent matters. If two players at the same position have similar stats, the tie is going to the player who played the tougher team. 300 yards passing against Alabama carries more weight than 315 yards against an FCS school.
At the end of the season, if two players have shown up on the same number of ballots the tie will go to the player who had the most appearances against ranked teams. If there's still a tie, it will go to the most appearances against SEC opponents. If, god dammit, there's still a tie after that, I'll use something completely arbitrary that I'll decide if/when we get there.
I'm not doing offensive linemen. I'm sorry, that's just too much to ask. At the end of the season when I submit my ballot, I'll pretend to know who's good and who's not, just like everyone else.
So, on to week one:
Jalen Hurts, Alabama -- 6 for 11, 118 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT (passing) / 9 attempts, 32 yards, 2 TD (rushing)
Four total touchdowns in your first collegiate game isn't a bad way to start a career.
Drew Barker, Kentucky -- 15 for 24, 323 yards, 4 TD, 1 INT
Yes, Kentucky lost, but it wasn't because of Barker. They did themselves no favors by only having him throw five times in the second half.
Nick Chubb, Georgia -- 32 carries, 222 yards, 2 TD
I have to admit I was skeptical we'd see the old Chubb this quickly after last year's knee injury. Safe to say he's all the way back.
Leonard Fournette, LSU -- 23 carries, 138 yards / 3 receptions, 38 yards
After struggling in the first half, Fournette was back to his old ways in the second, racking up over 100 yards in the final 30 minutes. Unfortunately, it wasn't enough to leave Wisconsin with a victory.
Garrett Johnson, Kentucky -- 6 receptions, 143 yards, 2 TD
Like Barker, Johnson had a great first half before fading. Even still, he was the most productive SEC receiver in week 1.
ArDarius Stewart, Alabama -- 4 receptions, 113 yards, 2 TD / 1 carry, 17 yards
In week 1, it was Stewart, not Calvin Ridley, who looked like the Tide's most dangerous playmaker.
Isaiah McKenzie, Georgia -- 6 receptions, 122 yards, 1 TD / 1 carry, 4 yards
McKenzie is probably more famous as a return man, but he emerged as UGA's go-to guy in week 1.
Chris Black, Missouri -- 6 receptions, 102 yards, 1 TD
Black did almost all of his damage in garbage time, which probably says more about this week's receiver performances than it does the Alabama grad transfer.
Evan Engram, Ole Miss -- 9 receptions, 122 yards, 1 TD
Perhaps the easiest call on this list, there's little argument to be made that Engram is the best tight end in the SEC.
Ethan Wolf, Tennessee -- 4 receptions, 40 yards
Wolf had a decent game, but this was not a great week for SEC tight ends.
AJ Jefferson, Mississippi State -- 7 total tackles (5 solo), 2 TFL, 2 sacks
Losing to South Alabama was a disaster, but Jefferson did all he could to prevent it from happening.
Jonathan Allen, Alabama -- 4 total tackles (4 solo), 2 sacks, 2 PBU
Allen picked up right where he left off in 2015. This won't be the last time he makes this list.
Arden Key, LSU -- 6 total tackles (3 solo), 2 sacks
LSU's defense had a good day despite the loss, and Key was a big reason why.
Courtney Miggins, Kentucky - 3 total tackles (2 solo), 2 TFL, 1 PBU, 1 FF
Miggins did a little bit of everything for Kentucky in week 1.
Denzil Ware, Kentucky -- 4 total tackles (2 solo), 1 TFL, 1 sack
One of the most high profile signings Kentucky has had in recent years, Ware flashed the natural ability that made him a top recruit against Southern Miss.
Jabari Zuniga, Florida -- 4 total tackles (4 solo), 2 sacks
Yes, it was against UMass but this is a great start for the Gator true freshman.
Davon Godchaux, LSU -- 9 total tackles (4 solo)
No SEC defensive lineman made more tackles in the opening weekend than Godchaux.
Derek Barnett, Tennessee -- 7 total tackles (3 solo), 1 TFL, 1 QB hurry
Even without a sack, Barnett was able to make his presence felt against App State.
Jordan Jones, Kentucky -- 19 total tackles (13 solo), 2 TFL, 1 sack, 1 QB hurry
Jones was absolutely everywhere against Southern Miss, setting a new career high in tackles.
DeMarquis Gates, Ole Miss - 7 total tackles (4 solo), 2 sacks, 1 PBU
Though it wasn't enough to get the victory, Gates did a nice job getting consistent pressure against Florida State.
Zach Cunningham, Vanderbilt -- 12 total tackles (6 solo), 3 TFL
Cunningham might be the most underrated player in the SEC. All he does is make tackles.
Josh Allen, Kentucky -- 9 total tackles (4 solo), 1 sack, 1 FF
Lots of nice individual performances by Kentucky defenders, even as the defense struggled as a whole.
Michael Scherer, Missouri -- 10 total tackles (10 solo), 1 TFL
Missouri's defense did not look as good as expected, but Scherer remains rock solid in the middle.
Leo Lewis, Mississippi State -- 9 total tackles (5 solo), 2 TFL
A top 50 recruit in the class of 2015, Lewis had an excellent debut.
Marlon Humphrey, Alabama -- 2 tackles (1 solo), 1 TFL, 1 INT, 1 TD
Humphrey's pick six signaled the end of Alabama-USC as a one-possession game. He also did a nice job helping to limit potential All-American WR JuJu Smith-Schuster.
Tre'Davious White, LSU -- 4 tackles (1 solo), 1 PBU, 1 INT, 1 FR, 1 TD
On a day that LSU's offense struggled to do much of anything, White was able to put some points up on the board with his own pick six.
J.D. Harmon, Kentucky -- 8 tackles (3 solo), 1 PBU, 2 INT
Again, Kentucky's defense was not good, but 8 tackles and two picks will get you noticed.
Joshua Holsey, Auburn -- 3 tackles (3 solo), 1 INT
Yes, Clemson's Mike Williams had a big day, but Holsey played a large role in holding Deshaun Watson in check, including an interception off the Heisman candidate.
Justin Evans, Texas A&M -- 8 tackles (2 solo), 1 PBU, 2 INT
With the exception of the 12th Man, nobody did more to rattle UCLA QB Josh Rosen more than Evans and his two interceptions.
Nick Ruffin, Auburn -- 10 tackles (7 solo), 1 QB hurry
Like Holsey, Ruffin was a key figure in slowing down Deshaun Watson, which is an accomplishment even when it doesn't lead to victory.
Micah Abernathy, Tennessee -- 8 tackles (7 solo), 1 TFL, 1 PBU
Abernathy had a nice game as Tennessee barely squeaked by App State.
Priest Willis, Texas A&M -- 6 tackles (4 solo), 1 PBU, 1 INT
The former 5-star recruit and UCLA Bruin got some revenge against his old team in Saturday's big win.
Elliott Fry, South Carolina -- 2-2 FG, 1-1 XP
Fry's 55 yarder with less than a minute to go got the Muschamp era off to a nice start against Vandy.
Eddy Pineiro, Florida, -- 3-3 FG, 1-1 XP
2016's top place-kicking recruit, Pineiro's career got off to a flawless start.
Trevor Daniel, Tennessee -- 6 punts, 49.2 average
Question: Do you care about these punter blurbs?
Shane Tripucka, Texas A&M -- 47.3 average
Answer: No you don't.
Offensive Player of the Week
Nick Chubb, Georgia
Defensive Player of the Week
Jordan Jones, Kentucky