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SEC Game Previews – 8/30/13

mrsec game previewTwo games down, 111 left to play until an SEC champion is crowned.  Today, we bring you the rest of our Game Preview capsules, a feature we’ll be bringing you each week throughout the season…

 

Toledo (0-0) at #10 Florida (0-0)

TV:  SEC Networwk, 12:21pm ET

Opening Line:  UF -21

Current Line:  UF -23.5

One To Watch:  He should have a strong defense and a tailback by committee to back him up, but the man to watch is Gator QB Jeff Driskel.  He says he’ll do less running this year which means his passing will need to improve.

This And That:

1.  Speaking of throwing the ball… the Gators finished dead last in the 14-team SEC in passing offense last year.  If UF hopes to compete for championships this fall, they’ll need average more than 146 yards per game through the air.

2.  Toledo will be a good early-season test for Will Muschamp’s defense.  The Rockets piled up more than 57-hundred yards of offense last season.  Against BCS foes, they lost at Arizona by seven and they upset Cincinnati by six.  Anyone forgotten the scare Louisiana-Lafayette gave Florida last year?

3.  With starter Matt Jones out, UF will likely stick behind the first running back to find a rhythm.  Mack Brown, Mark Herndon and Valdez Showers should all get some carries.

Prediction:  Florida 33, Toledo 17

 

Rice (0-0) at #7 Texas A&M (0-0)

TV:  ESPN, 1:00pm ET

Opening Line:  A&M -28

Current Line:  A&M -27

One To Watch:  Uh, who do you think?

This And That:

1.  Johnny Manziel will ride the pine in the first half due to an NCAA suspension.  This makes for two interesting angles to watch.  First, just how well will Kevin Sumlin’s offense operate without #2 on the field…

2.  And second, how will a fresh and rested Manziel look against a Rice defense that could already by tuckered out by halftime?  We’ve heard more about Johnny Football’s off-field exploits than his pass game this summer, but the QB has worked to improve himself as a pocket passer.  Will that show against the Fighting Pilafs?  I mean Owls.

3.  Texas A&M was minus-five in turnover margin for 2012.  Yet, thanks to the magic of a certain Heisman-winner, they still defied the odds to win 11 games.  Just to be safe, the Aggies need to break the turnover habit in 2013, starting tomorrow.

Prediction:  Texas A&M 44, Rice 20

 

Mississippi State (0-0) vs #13 Oklahoma State (0-0) at Houston

TV:  ABC/ESPN2, 3:30pm ET

Opening Line:  OSU -13

Current Line:  OSU -13

One To Watch:  Keep an eye on MSU corner Jamerson Love, the only DB in State’s top four cornerbacks to have started a game for the Bulldogs (and he’s started just two).  The entire secondary is really the one to watch, but if we’re narrowing things down, we’ll go with the, ahem, veteran.

This And That:

1.  Since arriving in Starkville, Dan Mullen record against non-conference BCS-level foes is 2-2 and two of those games were bowls.  The Dogs have avoided big-time foes while Mullen laid the groundwork for his program.  Now comes a “prove it” game against a ranked opponent to start the season.  This could be a very big one for Mullen.

2.  After a 7-0 start last season, MSU lost five of its last six games with four losses coming against ranked foes.  In four seasons under Mullen the Bulldogs are just 2-16 against ranked opponents, 0-8 the last two years.  Did we mention that this one could be a big game for Mullen?

3.  Oklahoma State’s pass offense ranked #7 in the nation last year and tomorrow they’ll face an MSU cornerback quartet that features a junior with two starts, a sophomore, a juco transfer and a redshirt freshman.  States new DBs are in for a baptism by fire.

Prediction:  Oklahoma State 37, Mississippi State 20

 

UL-Lafayette (0-0) at Arkansas (0-0)

TV: Fox Sports Net, 4:00pm ET

Opening Line:  UA -14

Current Line:  UA -10.5

One To Watch:  New starting quarterback Brandon Allen.  He’ll need help from his offensive line because his receiving corps is thin and green.

This And That:

1.  One of the SEC’s most fascinating storylines entering 2013?  Bret Bielema likes to run the football while offensive coordinator Jim Chaney is flat-out pass happy.  How will these two mesh and what will the Hogs’ offense really look like?

2.  Arkansas was 14th out of the 14 schools in the SEC in rushing offense a season ago.  But as dangerous as UL-Lafayette was last year — they lost to Florida in Gainesville on a blocked punt returned for a touchdown — they allowed more than five yards per carry against the BCS foes on their schedule (Florida and Oklahoma State).

3.  The Razorback defense — 12th in the SEC in total defense a year ago — will have to slow dual-threat quarterback Terrance Broadway and a Ragin’ Cajuns offense that ranked 24th in the nation in scoring last season (35.5 points per game).

Prediction:  Arkansas 31, UL-Lafayette 23

 

Virginia Tech (0-0) vs #1 Alabama (0-0) at Atlanta

TV:  ESPN, 5:30pm ET

Opening Line:  UA -18

Current Line:  UA -20.5

One To Watch:  Virginia Tech QB Logan Thomas.  The Hokies are beat to hell at almost every position and if they’re to spring an upset, their 6-6, 250-pound dual-threat quarterback will need to work a little one-man magic a la Johnny Manziel.

This And That:

1.  Bama will be breaking in three new starters on its offensive line — Ryan Kelly, Arie Kouandjio, and Austin Shepherd.  The talent is there, but will the chemistry follow… especially early in the season?

2.  Alabama will get another shot at Scot Loeffler.  Virginia Tech’s new offensive coordinator was part of the trainwreck that was Auburn’s 2012 season.  Granted, Loeffler’s got a better signal-caller this time around, but the last time he saw the Crimson Tide his offense got stymied 49-0.

3.  Alabama was plus-14 in turnover margin a year ago.  Virginia Tech was minus-five.  New year, new teams, but if AJ McCarron, TJ Yeldon and crew take care of the football, this probably won’t be close.

Prediction:  Alabama 41, Virginia Tech 21

 

Austin Peay (0-0) at Tennessee (0-0)

TV:  Pay Per View, 6:00pm ET

Opening Line:  No Line, FCS

Current Line:  No Line, FCS

One To Watch:  New Vol QB Justin Worley.  If he takes care of the football and moves the Vol offense, a lot of doubt may be eased (at least for a week).

This And That:

1.  What tempo will Tennessee be able to play at?  Butch Jones and offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian like to push the pedal to the metal, but is a young Vol squad still just learning the system really ready to push it?

2.  The Volunteer defense was the worst in school history a year ago.  Even defensive coordinator John Jancek has wondered how they will respond to adversity.  When the Governors break a big one, will the Vols flashback to last season or fight through it?

3.  The offensive line is the strength of UT’s team.  But running backs Rajion Neal and Marlin Lane didn’t frighten any opponents last season.  Look for Tennessee to try to get those backs some confidence tomorrow night.

Prediction:  Tennessee 42, Austin Peay 17

 

Washington State (0-0) at Auburn (0-0)

TV:  ESPNU, 7:00pm ET

Opening Line:  AU -13.5

Current Line:  AU -15.5

One To Watch:  New Tiger QB Nick Marshall.  The juco transfer whipped two veterans and a true freshman to claim the starting gig.  Can he provide the giddy-up Gus Malzahn needs to make his offense go?

This And That:

1.  Speaking of Marshall, on Auburn’s way to a 3-9 season last year, the Tigers finished minus-12 in turnover margin.  At Garden City Community College last season, Marshall tossed 18 touchdowns and a whopping 20 interceptions.  Malzahn says his QB’s accuracy is fine, but an 18-to-20 TD-to-INT ratio in the juco ranks is reason for concern.

2.  New defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson will be breaking in his new 4-2-5 defense.  Typically, defenses married to up-tempo offenses aren’t the stiffest of units.  Given this is Game One for the new system, with Malzhan going hurry-up, and offensive guru Mike Leach on the other side of the field… sparks could fly.

3.  Malzahn says he’ll be willing to slow things down to help his defense if that’s what the game dictates.  Yeah, but does he mean it?

Prediction:  Auburn 37, Washington State 21

 

Western Kentucky (0-0) vs Kentucky (0-0) at Nashville

TV:  ESPNews, 7:00pm ET

Opening Line:  UK -3

Current Line:  UK -4.5

One To Watch:  Whoever starts at quarterback for the Wildcats.  And then whoever comes in after him.

This And That:

1.  Either Max Smith or Jalen Whitlow will take the first snap of the season — barring some gimmickry — for Kentucky tomorrow.  You can be sure that Mark Stoops and offensive coordinator Neal Brown hope that one of those guys latches on to the QB jobs and holds onto it for dear life.

2.  Bobby Petrino will unveil his offense at WKU and wherever he’s gone in the past, the man has gotten immediate results.  Toss in the fact that he looks to have a bit better roster returning than UK and this one has upset written all over it.  Oh, and in case you’ve forgotten, Kentucky could have hired Petrino.  Here’s guessing he hasn’t forgotten that.

3.  But would it be an upset?  The Hilltoppers went bowling a year ago; the Cats did not.  WKU won 32-31 in Lexington last season, too.  Petrino’s players may have gotten too lippy for their own good this week, but if his team can win, suddenly the state of Kentucky will look like a three-way football competition rather than just a two-team race (UK and Louisville).

Prediction:  Western Kentucky 28, Kentucky 27

 

Murray State (0-0) at Missouri (0-0)

TV:  Pay Per View, 7:00pm ET

Opening Line:  No Line, FCS

Current Line:  No Line, FCS

One To Watch:  Missouri QB James Franklin.  His physical health is good but what’s his mental health after a trying 2012 campaign?

This And That:

1.  Gary Pinkel had his team do less hitting in fall camp in an effort to keep his squad healthy.  Mission accomplished on that front.  But will his team be tough enough when the SEC schedule kicks off?  Murray State shouldn’t provide a test on that front.  Shouldn’t.

2.  We mentioned Franklin above because he is the key to Mizzou’s offense.  Last year, he accounted for 1,684 yards.  The year prior he registered 3,853 total yards.  If he’s ready to pass and run as he did two years ago, the Tigers will be a much more difficult team to defense this season.

3.  Almost two years after a devastating knee injury, RB Henry Josey will be back on the field for MU.  If he shows anywhere near the talent he displayed in 2011 he’ll be a valuable addition to Pinkel’s arsenal.

Prediction:  Missouri 41, Murray State 14

 

#5 Georgia (0-0) at #8 Clemson (0-0)

TV:  ABC, 8:00pm ET

Opening Line:  CU -2

Current Line:  UGA -1.5

One To Watch:  We’re gonna cheat and say the one starting quarterback for each squad.

This And That:

1.  Clemson QB Tajh Boyd and Georgia QB Aaron Murray could find themselves in the Heisman picture and in the national championship race come November.  If either guy stubs a toe in such a high-profile, head-to-head matchup, Heisman voters will likely remember it.

2.  Dabo Swinney will try to control the game’s tempo and create a track meet.  To counter, Georgia will need to feed the ball to running backs Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall.  If they can gain yards and — by default — chew clock… the advantage goes to Georgia.

3.  But the Bulldogs could be breaking in as many as 11 new starters tomorrow night.  On national television.  In one of the most hostile atmospheres in college football.  That could easily prove to be too tall an order.

Prediction:  Georgia 34, Clemson 31

 

#20 TCU vs #12 LSU at Arlington

TV:  ESPN, 9:00pm ET

Opening Line:  LSU -5

Current Line:  LSU -4

One To Watch:  Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron.  If the Tigers start airing it out with QB Zach Mettenberger, we’ll know that Les Miles really has given him the keys to the offense.  If not…

This And That:

1.  LSU’s defense will feature eight new starters, but the Tigers have stockpiled so much talent over the years that it might not even matter.  By year’s end, we expect John Chavis to have his defense purring like a Bayou Bengal.  But if they’re going to struggle it would figure to come early.

2.  Whenever a low-scoring affair is predicted, a relay race ensues.  But in this case, good defense is in the DNA of both of these squads.  Last season LSU finished 8th in the nation in total defense.  TCU finished #16 in total defense while playing in the offense-first Big 12.

3.  Miles knows how to win these kinds of games.  The Tigers haven’t dropped a non-conference regular-season game since way back in 2002 under Nick Saban.  A big game?  SEC versus Big 12?  Primetime?  The smart money goes on LSU

Prediction:  LSU 24, TCU 14

 


2 comments
BrentBroyles
BrentBroyles

I am liking your prediction except for WKU vs. Kentucky. Kentucky wins 31-3. There is no way they will lose to WKU again!

5LittlePiggies
5LittlePiggies

Can't really argue with any of those.  I think the final score on the Georgia/Clemson game could be interchangeable.  However, last year Georgia was +11 on turnovers, Clemson only +2.  I think Georgia comes up in the + category on Saturday and wins.  

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