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Week Three On The SEC Hot List

Off the top, I have a hard time believing that the INXS song “What You Need” is now a quarter-century old.  I also have a hard time believing that people in the mid-80s actually thought this music video was cool.

I guess I’m just getting old. 



Yep, I’m getting old. 

So why bring up this pop hit?  Because today we’re delivering what each program in the SEC needs.  Specifically, what they need to hear… not necessarily what they want to hear.  Be prepared.


The SEC Hot List


1.  Alabama

The Crimson Tide will face Duke in Durham tomorrow and there’s no chance the Blue Devils spring the upset over a #1 ranked team that’s getting two of its best players back.  But that doesn’t mean someone down the road can’t shock Bama.  There’s a growing cockiness in Alabama following the Tide’s thumping of Penn State.  Remember: Ole Miss upset the 2008 national champion Florida Gators in The Swamp.  In the SEC, they don’t hand out trophies in mid-September.


2.  Florida

The Gators — as currently constituted — have five games on their schedule that could turn into losses: at Alabama, LSU, Georgia (in Jacksonville), South Carolina and at Florida State.  If Florida’s offense does not become more consistent, even its great defense and special teams won’t be able to save it every week.  Time to start putting some drives together against Tennessee and Kentucky the next two weeks.  (And for the record, those are five games UF could lose… not a prediction for a 7-5 season.)


3.  South Carolina

We’ve been down this road before, Gamecock fans.  Carolina gets off to a hot start.  Everyone says, “This is the year!”  And then the late-season swoon begins.  This team looks to have more up front than previous squads.  It also has Marcus Lattimore.  As long as Steve Spurrier keeps feeding Lattimore, the chance of collapse is smaller than in past years.  Games at Auburn (next week) and then at home against Alabama (October 9th) will tell us a lot more.  That said, things look good so far.


4.  Georgia

Does anyone overreact like a Georgia fan?  And that’s a heckuva question to ask in the football-crazy SEC.  Contrary to popular belief, the season didn’t end in Columbia last weekend and it might not even end with a loss against Arkansas tomorrow.  UGA could start 0-2 in the conference… and still see Florida lose to Alabama and LSU, and South Carolina lose to Alabama, Florida and either Auburn or Arkansas.  In that no-so-far-fetched scenario, the Dawgs’ game with Florida might still be a de facto East Division title game.  No one wants to start in an 0-2 hole, but one out of every three teams to have reached the SEC title game has had two league losses or more.


5.  Arkansas

This is it.  Time to prove two things.  First, is the defense really improved.  The Razorbacks rank #4 in the nation on that side of the ball, but opponents like Tennessee Tech and Louisiana-Monroe might have more to do with that than Arkansas.  Across the line of scrimmage, Ryan Mallett must prove that he can put up big numbers in an SEC road stadium.  If Arkansas leaves Georgia with a good showing (even in a loss), the folks in Hog hats can talk about moving up in the world.  But if the defense and/or Mallett struggle, don’t get mad when everyone says, “Same ol’ Razorbacks.”


6.  Auburn

In Week One, Gus Malzahn’s offense saved Ted Roof’s defense.  Last week at MSU, the roles reversed.  Facing a pretty good Tiger team (we guess they’re pretty good, but the ACC has looked crummy so far), we’ll get a better handle on just what Auburn’s all about in its second year under Gene Chizik.  Currently, I have absolutely no clue whether the Tigers are better than the 2009 squad or about the same.  Thus the middle of the pack ranking.


7.  LSU

LSU almost lost in Starkville last year.  They’ll be playing at home and their fans’ throats (and livers) will be well-lubricated.  There’s no reason the Tigers should struggle with a Mississippi State team whose passing game looked non-existent last week.  If Jordan Jefferson and the offense bog down (again), there’s no Ryan Perrilloux excuse to toss out.  Jefferson’s been on campus for three years now… and Perrilloux would have been gone this year anyway. 


8.  Kentucky

If Randall Cobb played for Florida, he would be in the Top 3 on most Heisman lists right now.  He would be starring in the Percy position… running, catching, throwing, returning.  He would be on the cover of Sports Illustrated.  His name would be known to all.  But alas, he’s playing for a traditional also-ran and not for a Top 10 team.  He’s seen more on ESPN “The Ocho” than he is on CBS or the ESPN mother ship.  It’s not fair — and it’s also one of the many reasons I pay no attention to the Heisman race — but it’s a fact.  Cobb is electric.  But he’s playing in the dark.


9.  Mississippi State

Last week I was waiting to see if Dan Mullen had his offense ready to step forward in his second season.  The answer was a resounding “nope.”  For now, quarterback Chris Relf gives the Bulldogs their best chance to win because he can at least run.  Without Anthony Dixon, the Dogs need someone who can gain yards on the ground.  Tyler Russell needs experience to develop as a passer, but he’s not a runner.  So when he goes in — until a replacement for Dixon is found — the MSU offense becomes easier to stop.  Mullen will continue to rotate his QBs, but it looks like State is headed for another 5-7 record with another so-so offense.  That’s okay, he needs time to build.


10.  Ole Miss

Blah.  Ole Miss has been blah in its first two games.  One blah performance resulted in a loss to Jacksonville State.  The other resulted in a ho-hum win over Tulane.  When Jeremiah Masoli came onboard, expectations rose from five or six wins to seven, eight or nine.  But if the Rebels don’t show serious improvement on the offensive line and on defense, it looks like the initial five- or six-win predictions will indeed be accurate.  Bad start in Oxford.


11.  Tennessee

Derek Dooley suggested that his team panicked and quit during an Oregon blitzkrieg last week.  What’s he supposed to say?  “Our guys are thin and inexperienced and therefore we’ll likely get crushed in the fourth quarter a lot this year.”  No coach wants his team thinking like that.  But that is the likely reality of the situation.  When you don’t have much depth to begin with and your two-deep features 18 freshman, you’re going to fall apart late in games.  To blame it on “quit” is just the fans’ way of saying, “We’ve still got talent.”  Look at the roster.  Count the players.  Quit’s got little to do with it.


12.  Vanderbilt

I guess I have to write something about Vandy.  Uh, your offense stinks and you have no passing game.  How’s that?  Matter of fact, I can probably just go ahead and put that synopsis on my clipboard for next season, too.  Someone wake me when the Commodores find a quarterback who can throw the football in an SEC game (or a line that can block for him or a receiver who can catch his passes).  Seventy yards of passing won’t get it done in the SEC.

 


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  1. [...] on the road to play Alabama.  Jax could still be the scene where the SEC East gets decided.  As John Pennington notes, “(n)o one wants to start in an 0-2 hole, but one out of every three teams to have reached [...]



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