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SEC Game Previews – 9/13/13

mrsec game previewTwo weeks in the books and now the big games begin.  Below you’ll find all of our game previews for tomorrow’s action, including the biggie in College Station.

Good luck to your favorite team on Saturday!

 

#7 Louisville (2-0) at Kentucky (1-1)

TV:  12:00pm ET on ESPN

Opening Line:  UL -7.5

Current Line:  UL -14

One To Watch:  Louisville QB Teddy Bridgewater.  The Cardinals’ trigger man has thrown for 250+ yards in 10 straight contests.  In that span he’s thrown 28 touchdowns against just six interceptions.

This And That:

1.  We’ve already mentioned one part of tomorrow’s big equation — Bridgewater.  The other part?  UK’s pass defense.  Better last week against a Miami (OH) squad that threw just 14 passes, the Wildcats allowed Western Kentucky to air them out in Week One.  The Hilltoppers completed 27-of-34 passes for 271 yards and a score (with no picks).  Louisville’s passing game is a lot better than Western’s.

2.  Maxwell Smith is 23-of-36 on the season for 435 yards, four TDs and no INTs.  He’s averaging a robust 12.1 yards per attempt, second only to Georgia’s Aaron Murray in the SEC.  But the Wildcats intend to use Jalen Whitlow as a change o’ pace guy once more.  Here’s why: On the year Whitlow’s rolled up 123 yards rushing on 14 carries with two scores.  I’m not a believer in two-quarterback systems unless one guy is the clear #1 and the other guy excels in a different facet of the game.  That was UK versus Miami (OH).  Louisville will be a tougher test.

3.  With that big #7 stuck out beside Louisville’s name, it’s clear that the top program in the state of Kentucky right now belongs to Charlie Strong’s Cardinals.  And dropping a game to WKU for the second consecutive year makes UK look like the state’s worst program.  An upset — pray for turnovers, Big Blue fans — would do wonders for the perception of Mark Stoops’ program.

Prediction:  Louisville 38, Kentucky 21

 

Southern Miss (0-2) at Arkansas (2-0)

TV:  12:21pm ET on SEC Network

Opening Line:  UA -19

Current Line:  UA -23

One To Watch:  Arkansas RB Alex Collins.  The freshman from South Florida leads the SEC and is ranked sixth nationally in rushing yardage (45 carries for 303 yards).  Good thing Mama finally gave in and let him sign with the Razorbacks.

This And That:

1.  While Collins leads the SEC, teammate Jonathan Williams is currently the league’s third best rusher (35 carries for 277 yards).  The Hogs are top in the conference in rush attempts, rushing yards, and are one of only four league squads averaging more than six yards per carry.  Think Bret Bielema hasn’t already put his stamp on the UA program?

2.  The Razorbacks got a bit sloppy last week against Samford.  But they weren’t as sloppy as Southern Miss has been.  The Golden Eagles have already lost 10 turnovers on the season and are minus-eight in turnover margin.  That’s a recipe for getting blown out at Nebraska (56-13) and for losing to Texas State (15-22).  It’ll also get USM clobbered in Fayetteville if they keep it up.

3.  Granted, the Hogs have played UL-Lafayette and Samford to date, but when was the last time Arkansas ranked in the top five of the SEC in both rush and pass defense?  We wondered before the season if Bielema could take a Bobby Petrino-style roster (lots of passing, little defense) and coax from it his own brand of football (lots of running, solid defense).  So far, so good.

Prediction:  Arkansas 38-16

 

#1 Alabama (1-0) at #6 Texas A&M (2-0)

TV:  3:30pm ET on CBS

Opening Line:  UA -7

Current Line:  UA -8

One To Watch:  You know who.  For Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel, tomorrow will be Comeuppance Day.  Or How-Ya-Like-Me-Now? Day.  The Heisman-winner worked on his pocket passing this offseason and he showed that off last week against Sam Houston State (29-of-42 for 426 yards, three touchdowns, one interception).  But we all know it’s his wheels that will be the difference — one way or the other — on Saturday.

This And That:

1.  So how can Alabama contain/slow/frustrate Manziel?  Obviously, that’s easier said than done.  But the Tide has the athletic talent to match what Florida and LSU did against A&M’s signal-caller last year.  And they did enough against Manziel to up-end the Aggies.  The first step is to create a “mush rush” which basically muddles the middle of the field.  No extra blitzers come in to flush Manziel from the pocket.  No escape lanes are available up the gut.  Then, put a spy on him to track him if he does start to roll left or right.  Nick Saban has said that CJ Mosley could (will) fill that role.  If the Tide’s successful at keeping Johnny Football in the pocket, it’ll be up to the QB to patiently make good decisions and show off his improved skillset.

2.  Yeah, yeah.  We know.  Texas A&M’s defense was missing several suspended starters for its first two games.  But what does it say about the Aggies’ depth that they’ve allowed 546 rushing yards and 353 passing yards to Rice and Sam Houston State combined?  Most of A&M’s defensive starters will be back in action tomorrow and there’s little doubt that unit will improve as the year goes on.  But is Mark Snyder’s defensive crew ready for Alabama now?

3.  Even if Texas A&M’s defense is lacking, it still takes two to tango.  In Bama’s lone game — two weeks ago against Virginia Tech — the Tide offense had plenty of issues and most of them began along the rebuilt offensive line, where chemistry and communication must improve.  On paper, Alabama has the talent to run on the Aggies, control the clock and keep Manziel on the sideline.   But has UA’s O-line been able to fix its issues during an open date?

Prediction:  Alabama 35, Texas A&M 28

 

Tennessee (2-0) at #2 Oregon (2-0)

TV:  3:30pm ET on ABC

Opening Line:  UO -20

Current Line:  UO -28

One To Watch:  Oregon QB Marcus Mariota.  Through two games the Ducks’ Heisman candidate has thrown for 433 yards and three scores (against no picks) while rushing for an additional 235 yards and three more TDs.  Tennessee’s defense hasn’t been tested by anything resembling Oregon’s offense.

This And That:

1.  The Volunteers will be flying 25-hundred miles across the country for this one, stepping into one of college football’s toughest environments.  The Ducks have won 27 of their last 29 at Autzen Stadium.  Since winning the first BCS Championship Game in Tempe, Arizona back in January of ’99, the Vols have lost their last three far West games.

2.  To slow Oregon’s option game, the Volunteers need to get a great performance from their D-line.  Unfortunately for UT, Maurice Couch has been ruled ineligible for tomorrow’s game by the Vols’ compliance department.  Couch was named as a recipient of cash from an agent’s runner in this week’s bombshell Yahoo! Sports report.  If defensive end Jacques Smith returns from injury, it would be a boost to the team.

3.  Through two games with Austin Peay and Western Kentucky, Tennessee ranks just 12th in the SEC in total offense.  So how have the Vols won both games in blowout fashion?  They lead the league in turnover margin at plus-seven.  They’ll likely need to win the turnover battle again Saturday — in big fashion — to hang with the second-ranked Ducks.

Prediction:  Oregon 48, Tennessee 20

 

Mississippi State (1-1) at Auburn (2-0)

TV:  7:00pm ET on ESPN2

Opening Line:  AU -7

Current Line:  AU -6

One To Watch:  Auburn’s secondary.  The Tigers rank 12th in the SEC in total defense (after playing Washington State and Arkansas State) and have allowed 616 yards through the air (which is worst in the league).  Last year’s, MSU’s Tyler Russell lit Auburn up in a 28-10 Bulldog win.

This And That:

1.  Ah, but will Russell play tomorrow?  According to State head coach Dan Mullen, yes, he expects his senior QB to return to action after sitting out last week’s win over Alcorn State due to a concussion.  Russell had a solid, if not spectacular, year for MSU last season.  He was opened 10-of-16 against Oklahoma State in the Dogs’ opener, pre-concussion.

2.  The Bulldogs should also get running back LaDarius Perkins back on the field after he missed last week’s game with a bum ankle.  Perkins was one of eight SEC running backs to top the 1,000-mark last season.  If he and Russell are both healthy, State’s offense should have some balance to it.

3.  Gus Malzahn’s offense needs to find its footing.  With just six plays of more than 20 yards on the season, AU ranks 13th in the SEC in big plays ahead of only Alabama (which has only played one game).  Through two contests, Auburn has run just 135 plays and that’s only the ninth-most in the league.  New quarterback Nick Marshall is still getting himself adjusted to life above the juco level.  What the Tigers can do is run the football.  Currently they’re #2 in the conference in rushing offense (298 yards per game).  Expect the Tigers to pound a Mississippi State defense that allowed 286 yards on the ground to Oklahoma State in Week One.

Prediction:  Auburn 31, Mississippi State 20

 

Vanderbilt (1-1) at #13 South Carolina (1-1)

TV:  7:00pm ET on ESPN

Opening Line:  USC -11

Current Line:  USC -13.5

One To Watch:  The South Carolina sideline.  Last week’s loss at Georgia resulted in assistants Kirk Botkin and Deke Adams nearly coming to blows.  Steve Spurrier promised to give some pointers to defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward.  And defensive end Jadeveon Clowney complained about coaches not putting him in position to make plays.  This one could go one of two ways: The Gamecocks could take out their frustration on Vandy… or Vanderbilt could hang tough and cause further riffs in the Carolina camp.

This And That:

1.  James Franklin has accomplished a great deal in a short time on Nashville’s West End.  But he hasn’t changed the Dores’ luck when it comes to battling ranked opponents.  Vandy has dropped 13 games in a row against nationally-ranked foes.  The obvious next barrier for Franklin to break through is this particular bugaboo.  Upset a ranked opponent and folks across the country will begin to take Vanderbilt even more seriously.

2.  South Carolina running back Mike Davis has done a tremendous job of filling Marcus Lattimore’s shoes through the Cocks’ first two games.  Carries: 28.  Yards: 264.  Average-per-carry: 9.43.  Toss in a pair of touchdowns and four catches for 49 yards out of the backfield and the recipe is clear for Spurrier’s offense — feed Davis and use Connor Shaw’s arm as the change of pace weapon.

3.  Vanderbilt has gone from a run-first team to a pass-first team with Austyn Carta-Samuels behind center.  The Dores’ 573 aerial yards are good for fourth place in the SEC right now.  While Vandy might try to run a bit more to chew some clock tomorrow, the need for Clowney to get some pressure on the Commodore quarterback is obvious.  Will Vandy be able to move the ball in the opposite direction of Clowney, as Georgia did last week?  And if so, how frustrated will Clowney become?  Ward (with tips from Spurrier) needs to keep his guy involved.

Prediction:  South Carolina 30, Vanderbilt 21

 

Kent State (1-1) at #8 LSU (2-0)

TV:  7:00pm ET on ESPNU

Opening Line:  LSU -38

Current Line:  LSU -37

One To Watch:  LSU WR/KR Odell Beckham.  Beckham is coming off a four-touchdown performance last week.  He’s second in the SEC in all-purpose yards (503 total), but that tally doesn’t include a 100-yard missed field goal return against UAB.  Another game like last week’s and Beckham might creep on to some folks Heisman “sleeper” lists.

This And That:

1.  Tiger quarterback Zach Mettenberger appears to be taking quite well to Cam Cameron’s offense.  A year ago he completed 58.8% of his passes for 12 touchdowns, seven picks and a per-attempt average of 7.4.  Through two game this season he’s completed 62.7% of his passes for 533 yards, six scores, no INTs, and a 10.5 yards-per-attempt average.  He’ll face stiffer competition once LSU dives into conference play, but the early returns are positive regarding the Mettenberger/Cameron marriage.

2.  Kent State enters Saturday’s game with zero chance of winning.  Why again are fans expected to pay money to watch these kinds of beatings?  The Golden Flashes are averaging less than five yards per play through two games.  Through two games against Liberty (FCS) and Bowling Green.  What hope do the boys from Ohio have when facing John Chavis’ young but athletic D?

3.  To make matters worse for Kent State, their best offensive weapon — 5-8, 175-pound dervish Dri Archer — will be limited by a balky ankle.  And did we mention that the Flashes are minus-two in turnover margin through two games?

Prediction:  LSU 44, Kent State 10

 

#25 Ole Miss (2-0) at Texas (1-1)

TV:  8:00pm ET on Longhorn Network

Opening Line:  UT -3.5

Current Line:  UT -2.5

One To Watch:  Ole Miss QB Bo Wallace.  As a first-year starter in 2012, Wallace tossed an terrifying 17 interceptions.  Through two games in 2013, he’s thrown zero in 62 attempts.  Despite the difficulties Texas has had on defense this season, the Longhorns are still plus-two in the turnover game.  To win on the road, Wallace must protect the football.

This And That:

1.  Everyone knows the story with Texas.  Defensive coordinator Manny Diaz was reassigned on Sunday, replaced by Greg Robinson after the Horns gave up 550 yards rushing — just rushing, mind you — to unranked BYU.  Texas wasn’t much better last year, allowing 191.3 yards on the ground through 13 games.  Ya know who’s had six rushes of 20+ yards this season and is averaging 239 yards per game?  Yup.  Ole Miss.

2.  Making matters worse for Texas, starting quarterback David Ash is still questionable for tomorrow night’s contest.  Ash suffered a mild concussion in the Horns’ loss to BYU.  If he can’t go, senior Case McCoy will get the start.  Ash is 39-of-62 on the year for 594 yards, six touchdowns and two picks.  McCoy is seven-of-12 for just 75 yards, but he did see action in nine games last season.

3.  This one’s an odd one.  Texas smoked Mississippi last year 66-31 in Oxford.  But the Longhorns have had to change coaches midseason.  Will they rally or will they crumble?  Ole Miss, meanwhile, is back in the national rankings for the first time in a couple of years.  Will they look at their ranking and Texas’ woes and enter Darrell K. Royal Stadium overconfident?

Prediction:  Texas 34, Ole Miss 33

 


3 comments
HoustonVol
HoustonVol

I cannot remember being that large of a dog either. I know that usually when we have been double digit dogs on the road, we surprise people. I think we cover the spread and make Oregon sweat, but don't see a win without another visit from the turnover fairy.

Tusk
Tusk

Jeff Scott scores 4 TDs and the Rebs win 38-33.   Can't ever remember UT being a 28 point underdog, wow.  GBO 

UT98BCSChamps
UT98BCSChamps

@HoustonVol I had beers with the turnover fairy last night.  Capricious girl.  UT covers, turnovers or not.  

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