We are having some aggies over for a hog roast on saturday. However from an outsider on this game, The TAMU/ARK has danger written all over it. Arkansas is a dysfunctional mess. They are no longer playing for their coach, or even assistant coaches. However they are that wounded animal and have been backed into a corner. Those animals will do one or two things; Curl up into a fetal position and just hope to ride it out or come out fighting on that crazy B on crack that destroys your car with a baseball bat. Arkansas is going to go Bat S*** crazy on someone this year, the only question is who.
Here’s your weekly rundown of all the SEC action on tap for Week Five of the regular season. (Man, time flies.) As always, you’ll find everything from TV listings to the betting lines to our own predictions.
Enjoy the games, be safe, and best of luck to your favorite school this weekend.
Missouri at Central Florida
12:00pm ET on FSN
Opening Line: Pick
Current Line: UCF -3
Storylines: Mizzou QB James Franklin raised eyebrows this week when he said that shoulder pain is “killing” his confidence as a passer. If the Tigers struggle early — which is possible because UCF is better than many people think — a lot of Mizzou fans will be watching to see if Gary Pinkel makes a call to the bullpen and brings in Corbin Berkstresser to spell Franklin.
Keys for Missouri: Protection and confidence. First, a battered MU offensive line must find a way to protect Franklin (and open holes for a so-so Mizzou rushing attack). The line won’t be facing a defense on par with Georgia or South Carolina this week, so expect some improvement. Second, the Tigers can’t hang their heads after an 0-2 start in their new conference. Pinkel needs to have his bunch ready for a rowdy atmosphere — the Golden Knights don’t get many visits from SEC-caliber teams — or else MU’s season could really start to go downhill in a hurry.
Pick: Missouri 27, Central Florida 24
Arkansas at Texas A&M
12:21pm ET on SEC Network
Opening Line: A&M -11.5
Current Line: A&M -13.5
Storylines: Arkansas turns the ball over too much on offense and can’t force many takeaways on defense. Last week against Rutgers, there were signs of quit from a team that no longer has championships to play for. Toss in a fanbase that wants John L. Smith ousted ASAP and you’ve got a full-on mess. At A&M, the Aggies have been honing their skills against SMU and South Carolina State, but are they ready to record their first SEC victory? Also, Aggie fans will get to experience the “joys” of an SEC Network 11:21am CT kickoff. Whoop?
Keys for Arkansas: Hold on to the football on offense. Take the ball away from A&M on defense. Pretty simple, really. The Hogs need to have something good to happen for them and, to be honest, they’re overdue for some good fortune. Despite the fact that at least three starters are expected to miss tomorrow’s game, expect Arkansas to put up a little more fight this week. If they can force an early break.
Keys for Texas A&M: Effective runner/passer Johnny Manziel should have a field day against an Arkansas defense that’s been absolutely terrible. Still, it’s time for A&M to get over one monster hurdle — the second half. The Hogs might not be playing well, but they’re more talented than SMU or SC State. The Aggies will want to break the Razorbacks’ will early, but even if they do run up a quick lead, A&M can’t let up. It’s time for TAMU to snap a two-year run of come-from-ahead losses in big games.
Pick: Texas A&M 35, Arkansas 27
Tennessee at Georgia
3:30pm ET on CBS
Opening Line: UGA -15.5
Current Line: UT -14
Storylines: Tennessee (#1) and Georgia (#3) feature two of the best passing offenses in the SEC. Their defenses rank last and next-to-last when it comes to giving up plays of 30 yards or more. So this one could feature more fireworks than a roadside “Crazy Dave’s” stand. The Vols are looking for an elusive signature win as well as a bit of redemption after their last failed attempt versus Florida two weeks ago. Meanwhile, the Dawgs are expected to work starters Bacarri Rambo and Alec Ogletree back into their defense which could help cut down on opponents’ big plays.
Keys for Tennessee: The Vols don’t have enough of a running game or defense to win a game against a good foe if Tyler Bray has a bad day. Georgia is a very good foe. Therefore UT’s signal-caller has to remain calm in the pocket and not force passes into coverage. If the Bray from Tennessee’s first two games shows up, expect a shootout. If the Bray from UT’s last two games shows up, expect Georgia to pull away with ease.
Keys for Georgia: Balance. Tennessee will likely be playing more zone defense after moving several new faces into the secondary in recent weeks. The Volunteers haven’t had a great pass rush up front which means Aaron Murray should have plenty of time to throw. If Mike Bobo keeps the Vols guessing run or pass, sooner or later Todd Gurley could turn a five-yard gain into 50.
Pick: Georgia 38, Tennessee 24
South Carolina at Kentucky
7:00pm ET on ESPN2
Opening Line: USC -21
Current Line: USC -21
Storylines: Bluegrass State papers are already writing about what type of coach the Cats could theoretically hire if Mitch Barnhart were to fire Joker Phillips. Teams aren’t aided by that kind of chatter. Maxwell Smith will be back in the lineup and that’s a positive, but his shoulder is still separated (according to the QB). As for the Cocks, there have been two storylines this week. The big one: Steve Spurrier battling back and forth with the media. The smaller one: Steve Spurrier flat-out saying that Carolina is better than UK. If this UK team weren’t so young in the starting lineup and so feeble on defense, we’d say beware of an upset. But the Wildcats are that young and their defense is that feeble.
Keys for South Carolina: Simply stay focused. No one seems to have been talking much about the ballgame this week and this road trip is wedged right between last week’s battle with Missouri and next week’s huge game with Georgia. That makes UK a sandwich game, a classic trap game. But if the Gamecock players have been more focused on Kentucky than Spurrier and the media seem to have been, they’re just too talented on both sides of the ball to allow an upset.
Keys for Kentucky: UK’s offense begins and ends with Smith. No team in the SEC has thrown more on first down than the Cats. In fact, Kentucky is the only squad to have more first-down passes than runs. So the idea of chewing clock and grinding out the game is likely a non-starter. To have any chance for an upset, the Cats will need to somehow keep Carolina’s beastly pass rush from putting a further hurting on Smith’s bum shoulder. Couple that with several forced turnovers and a USC team that’s sleepwalking and this one could be closer than expected. That’s a lot of stuff that has to break UK’s way.
Pick: South Carolina 38, Kentucky 14
Towson at LSU
7:00pm ET on ESPNU
Opening Line: No Line (FCS opponent)
Current Line: No Line (FCS opponent)
Storylines: Here’s a storyline — LSU shouldn’t be playing Towson. How ’bout that?
Keys for LSU: The first key is to keep everyone healthy. The Tigers have lost stars like DB Tyrann Mathieu, OT Chris Faulk, and RB Alfred Blue over the past couple of months. Attrition is becoming a concern. To make matters worse, Blue suffered an ACL tear in the Bayou Bengals’ worthless game against Idaho which just goes to show what these kind of games are good for — absolutely nothing (say it again!). The second key for the Tigers is to cut down on the offensive mistakes. LSU has turned the ball over at an opponent’s goal line three times this season. Red Zone turnovers and penalties will eventually bite Les Miles’ squad if the Tigers don’t start fixing those issues.
Pick: LSU 48, Towson 7
Ole Miss at Alabama
9:15pm ET on ESPN
Opening Line: UA -33
Current Line: UA -30
Storylines: Ole Miss’ fast-paced offense against an Alabama defense that improbably looks just as good as last year’s group. Nick Saban and his defenders have talked about Hugh Freeze’s up-tempo scheme all week. But don’t expect said tempo to provide too much of a scare for the nation’s top-ranked team in Tuscaloosa late tomorrow night. (Gotta hate those after 9pm ET starts.)
Keys for Ole Miss: Protect QB Bo Wallace. The Rebels’ Mr. Everything hurt his shoulder against Tulane last week and Freeze said mid-week that his arm strength still isn’t 100%. To have any chance in this game, Wallace will need to stay healthy. Unfortunately Ole Miss’ signal-caller likes to run with the football (44 carries for 179 yards through four games). If he tries that against Bama, his shoulder could really take a pounding. Freeze needs to give the Tide a steady dose of Jeff Scott (the SEC’s fourth-leading rusher) instead. Unfortunately, the Tide is allowing just 1.98 yards per carry on the season… so it’s right back to protecting Wallace the passer. But did we mention Alabama is tops in the league in pass defense?
Keys for Alabama: If you read the keys for Ole Miss you’ve probably guessed that the first key for Bama is to just show up. Do that and it’s hard to picture anything short of an Alabama turnover-fest allowing Freeze’s paper-thin roster to outplay, outwit and outscore Saban’s fully-stocked roster. The Rebels’ hurry-up offense might give the Tide a challenge it hasn’t faced yet, but we just can’t see anyway that this one ends close. Not when Texas blasted UM 66-31 in Oxford.
Pick: Alabama 44, Ole Miss 14