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SEC Game Previews – 9/27/20

mrsec game previewThe final weekend of the first month of the season is upon us.  That means it’s time for Game of the Year II.  This time it’s a clash between Georgia and LSU in Athens.  We provide you with our own views on that game and the other seven SEC contests below.

Good luck to your favorite team on Saturday.

 

#12 South Carolina (2-1) at UCF (3-0)

TV:  12:00pm ET on ABC

Opening Line:  USC -7.5

Current Line:  USC -7

One To Watch:  South Carolina DE Jadeveon Clowney.  It’ll be 80+ degrees and humid in Orlando.  You can bet Clowney’s conditioning will be mentioned by the ABC broadcast team.  Steve Spurrier even joked about it this week.  In truth, this is the kind of game where Clowney could wreak a bit of havoc at the line of scrimmage.

This and That:

1.  Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw has gotten off to a strong start to the season, but it’s the quarterback of the other team who’s got the better numbers.  Blake Bortles is 50-of-70 for 816 yards, seven TDs with just one interception.  His passer rating — and that 71.4% completion percentage helps — is the fifth best in all of college football.

2.  South Carolina has developed a bad habit of going to sleep at halftime.  Georgia and Vanderbilt combined to outscore the Cocks 32-13 in USC’s last two games.  Even in a season-opening win over North Carolina, Spurrier’s crew managed but one touchdown in the second stanza.  That issue needs to be taken care of as USC will play four of its next five games away from Williams-Brice Stadium.

3.  While on the topic of road games, Carolina needs to take care of business away from home.  Since 2009, the Gamecocks are 33-10 overall.  But their record in true road games during that stretch is just 9-6.  This game at Orlando could be closer than most folks expect.

Prediction:  South Carolina 30, UCF 21

 

South Alabama (2-1) at Tennessee (2-2)

TV:  12:21pm ET on SEC Network

Opening Line:  UT -19

Current Line:  UT -19.5

One To Watch:  Tennessee’s QB rotation, if there is one.  Nathan Peterman got the start over Justin Worley last week at Florida (with disastrous results).  With Peterman out with an injury, Worley will get his old job back.  But will the Volunteers take the bubble wrap of freshmen Josh Dobbs and/or Riley Ferguson?  With a brutal schedule coming up, now’s as good a time as any to get them some in-game experience.

This and That:

1.  The Volunteers have gotten a wake-up call the past two weeks, losing by a combined 90-31 at Oregon and at Florida.  Butch Jones inherited a roster devoid of talent and depth.  Other than that, his job’s not so tough (sarcasm).  At least Jones’ predecessors left Neyland Stadium intact.

2.  The Vol defense is allowing about 50 yards less per game than last year’s historically bad unit.  But that improvement has been nullified by a woeful offensive attack.  Lacking a skilled quarterback and playmakers around him, Tennessee’s offense ranks dead last in the SEC in yards per game (341.3) and yards per play (5.23).

3.  The biggest disappointment in Knoxville has been in the run game.  An offensive line filled with preseason All-SEC picks has underperformed.  They haven’t been helped by a pair of average running backs in Rajion Neal and Marlin Lane, but if the Vols O-line were as good as touted, they should have been able to line up and bust some holes against someone this season.  Will this be the week the Vol ground game turns things around?  South Alabama is ranked #2 in the Sun Belt against the rush.

Prediction:  Tennessee 37, South Alabama 14

 

#6 LSU (4-0) at #9 Georgia (2-1)

TV:  3:30pm ET on CBS

Opening Line:  UGA -3

Current Line:  UGA -3

One To Watch:  LSU QB Zach Mettenberger.  His mother works for the Georgia football department.  He grew up a Georgia fan.  He was dismissed by the Dawgs following a 2010 arrest.  Now thriving at LSU, Mettenberger says he expects a rude reception from Bulldog fans tomorrow.  Add all that up and LSU’s quarterback is going to be fighting some serious emotions tomorrow.  Some thrive under that kind of heat.  Others melt.  We’ll see which group Mettenberger belongs to tomorrow.

This and That:

1.  The stakes are higher for Georgia than for LSU.  The Bulldogs have already lost one game at Clemson and another loss would almost certainly eliminate them from BCS championship contention.  Worse, a Bulldog loss would propel South Carolina — by virtue of a weaker remaining schedule on paper — right back into the SEC East race.  For LSU, a road loss at #9 Georgia would hardly be a season-wrecker.

2.  We mentioned Mettenberger above, but the quarterback duel between the two former teammates looks to be a must-watch event.  Georgia’s Aaron Murray leads the SEC in passer rating.  Right behind him in the #2 slot is Mettenberger.  The latter has a better TD-to-INT ratio (10-to-1 compared to 7-to-2), but the former has gone up against stiffer competition (Clemson on the road and South Carolina at home).  Interceptions could be deadly in what figures to be a shootout tomorrow.

3.  Both teams feature young defenses.  LSU’s has been much better so far, but again, Georgia’s has run up against better offenses.  The key to Saturday’s contest could be which inexperienced D can better stuff the other team’s rushing attack.  LSU (221 yards per game) and Georgia (213 yards per game) both like to run the ball to set up the pass.  If either of the two defenses can shut down their opponent on the ground and force them into a one-dimensional passing frenzy, it could be the difference in the game.

Prediction:  Georgia 37, LSU 34

 

#21 Ole Miss (3-0) at #1 Alabama (3-0)

TV:  6:30pm ET on ESPN

Opening Line:  UA -16.5

Current Line:  UA -14.5

One To Watch:  Ole Miss QB Bo Wallace.  Last year, Wallace threw 17 interceptions on the season (one every 21.6 passes).  This season he’s put the ball in the air 87 times without a pick.  His improved ball security is one big reason for the Rebels’ perfect start.  Unfortunately, UM’s quarterback decided to pop off about the “drop off” in Alabama’s secondary, also stating that his team can put up points against the Tide.  Maybe they can.  Maybe they will.  But why say that?

This and That:

1.  When was the last time Alabama ranked dead last in the Southeastern Conference in rushing offense?  Yet through three games that’s exactly the Tide’s predicament.  So far, Bama averaged just 2.5 yards per carry against Virginia Tech and just 3.1 yards per carry against Colorado State.  But against Texas A&M, Nick Saban’s group churned at 234 yards on the ground with a 6.3 yards-per-carry average.  Is it a question of motivation?  Or is A&M’s run defense just that terrible?  We’ll find out tomorrow.  Ole Miss’ rush D ranks third in the SEC.

2.  Aside from Bo Wallace taking care of the football, another big reason for Ole Miss’ surprising start is running back Jeff Scott.  Last season he cranked out 850 yards in 12 games of action.  This year he’s already gained 330 through three contests.  His per-carry average has ballooned from 4.3 to an insane 9.4.  Keep an eye on Scott.  Bama’s rush defense has slumped along with its rush offense.  If the Crimson Tide can’t slow Scott, UA could be in for an unhappy surprise.

3.  By now everyone is well aware of Saban’s disdain for hurry-up offenses.  With good reason.  Alabama is 16-1 in its last 17 games.  Against Ole Miss last season, Texas A&M in both 2012 and 2013, and against a Georgia team that sped things up in the SEC title game, Bama has allowed 113 points and 414 yards per game.  In those other 13 contests the Tide has allowed just 98 points combined and an average of 227 yards per contest.  If a team plays no-huddle and has the weaponry to be two-dimensional, Bama’s defense can be had.  Whether or not Ole Miss fits that bill we’ll find out tomorrow.

Prediction:  Alabama 31, Ole Miss 24

 

#10 Texas A&M (3-1) at Arkansas (3-1)

TV:  7:00pm ET on ESPN2

Opening Line:  A&M -3

Current Line:  A&M -15.5

One To Watch:  Arkansas QB AJ Derby.  In two games filling in for injured stater Brandon Allen, Derby has completed 18-of-32 passes for 173 yards, one TD and no interceptions.  But his yards-per-attempt average is a measly 5.4 clip.  Allen isn’t expected to play on Saturday.  Which means it will be up to Derby to create some sort of vertical passing threat to keep Texas A&M’s defense honest.

This and That:

1.  Following up on the “keep ‘em honest” note, check out Arkansas’ rushing numbers so far this season — 292 versus UL-Lafayette, 333 versus Samford, 258 versus Southern Miss and just 101 versus Rutgers.  Sure the Scarlet Knights have one of the nation’s best run defenses, but we don’t think that’s the only reason the Hogs’ ground game ground to a halt when Derby stepped in as starter.

2.  With the specter of Johnny Manziel and receivers Mike Evans and Malcome Kennedy looming in front of them, last week was no time for the Razorback secondary to implode.  But Rutgers scored 14 fourth-quarter points on touchdown passes and tallied 346 yards through the air total.  If Rutgers can do that to Arkansas…

3.  Clearly, the Hogs best hope is kickstart its run game, eat the clock, keep Kevin Sumlin’s offense off the field, and do unto the Aggies what others have already done — pulverize their D-line.  A&M is 14th in the SEC rush defense after allowing 306, 240, and 234 yards rushing to Rice, Sam Houston State and Alabama respectively.  Defensive coordinator Mark Snyder feels better about his group after they held SMU and June Jones’ Run N’ Shoot offense to 93 yards on the ground.  The Razorbacks will be a much greater challenge.

Prediction:  Texas A&M 45, Arkansas 21

 

#20 Florida (2-1) at Kentucky (1-2)

TV:  7:00pm ET on ESPNU

Opening Line:  UF -14

Current Line:  UF -13

One To Watch:  New Florida QB Tyler Murphy.  The redshirt junior struggled early but looked good in last week’s second half against Tennessee.  With Jeff Driskel done for the year, the Gator offense appears to be Murphy’s the rest of the way.  The hype is already building around him as one national writer compared him to Tim Tebow.  We still wonder why he’s been used so sparingly — and why he was used at wideout last year — if he’s all that and a bag of chips.  If he does become a success, expect some questions to be asked of Will Muschamp and Brent Pease.

This and That:

1.  Not only did the Gators lose Driskel this week, but they also lost their top defensive star Dominique Easley.  Three freshmen — Jay-Nard Bostwick, Joey Ivie, Caleb Brantley and Bryan Cox Jr. — will be in the mix to replace Easley.  While they may fill the void at defensive tackle, they lack the experience and leadership that Easley brought to the game.

2.  Running against that rebuilt Florida D-line will be true freshman UK running back Jojo Kemp.  He gained 80 yards on five carries against Louisville and could start tomorrow in Lexington.  He should be motivated.  A native of the Sunshine State, Kemp wasn’t offered a scholarship by Muschamp and the Gators.

3.  A former Kentucky player, assistant coach, and head coach will be returning to Commonwealth Stadium tomorrow.  But Joker Phillips will be decked out in orange and blue and standing on the Gator sideline as UF’s receivers coach.  His Florida troops might be motivated to win one for the Joker as well.  If this turns out to be the year the Cats snap the Gators 26-game winning streak, you can bet Phillips will feel like a cursed man.

Prediction:  Florida 24, Kentucky 10

 

Arkansas State (2-2) at Missouri (3-0)

TV:  7:30pm ET on CSS

Opening Line:  MU -20

Current Line:  MU -21.5

One To Watch:  Missouri QB James Franklin.  (By the way, have you spotted the theme for the week?  Quarterback, quarterback, quarterback.)  Gary Pinkel says his quarterback has learned what it means to play that position.  Meaning he’s learned to deal with criticism and scrutiny.  He’s also healthy with a healthy offensive line in front of him.  Last year that was far from the case.  Franklin is second only to Johnny Manziel in terms of total offense in the SEC.  If he’s healthy throughout the SEC season, Mizzou could turn out to be the dangerous team everyone expected to see in 2012.

This and That:

1.  Here’s a stat to watch — conversions on third down.  If you thought Johnny Football and A&M would be leading the league in that area think again.  Missouri is converting 59.5% of their third downs which is a couple of percentage points better than the Aggies.  Toss in the fact that Mizzou also leads the SEC in turnover margin (plus-four) and it’s not hard to decipher why the Tigers remain unbeaten.

2.  Arkansas State clearly isn’t the bowl-bound bunch of a year ago.  They’ve been whipped by their former coach Gus Malzahn in a game with Auburn and last week they were put to the sword 31-7 by previously winless Memphis.  They’re also averaging just eight points per game on the road.  The defending Sun Belt champs aren’t what they used to be.

3.  To stamp out any chance for an upset, Missouri’s run defense needs to be at its best.  The Red Wolves are averaging 240 yards per game on the ground.  That despite a 74-yard effort at Memphis last weekend.  They did manage 150 rushing yards at Auburn in their 38-9 loss on the Plains.  Mizzou currently ranks fourth in the SEC in run defense.  If Arkansas State can’t run the ball — and if the Tigers don’t turn it over a three or four times — this one looks to be a solid MU win.

Prediction:  Missouri 44, Arkansas State 17

 

UAB (1-2) at Vanderbilt (2-2)

TV:  7:30pm ET on FSN

Opening Line:  VU -20

Current Line:  VU -20

One To Watch:  Vanderbilt WR Jordan Matthews.  The senior has 32 catches on the season.  No one else in the SEC has more than 24.  His 471 yards receiving are second to Texas A&M’s Mike Evans.  He’s averaging 117.8 yards per game receiving.  And he’s doing all that against opposing defenses that know he’s Austyn Carta-Samuels favorite target.  Watch him while you can because there’s a good chance the senior will hold the SEC career marks for catches and receiving yards at season’s end.

This and That:

1.  Vanderbilt is in serious need of a get-well game.  The Commodores are just 2-2 overall, 0-2 in the SEC, and they struggled more than the final score indicated in a 24-7 win at horrible UMass last Saturday.  Did expectations rise too quickly?  Has an offseason sexual assault case served as a major distraction?  Are teams not overlooking the Dores?  Whatever the reason it might be time for James Franklin to rip a page from last year’s coaching book.  After Vandy got off to an 0-2 start, Franklin told this team “the season starts now” before Week Three.  From that point on, VU went 9-2.

2.  One area for concern is Vandy’s inability to stop opponents on third down.  The Commodores rank 14th in the 14-team SEC in that category, allowing foes to convert 45.9% of the time.  That’s just not good enough for a Vanderbilt team that still has little room for error when facing big-time opponents.  (Of course, UAB is not a big-time opponent.)

3.  UAB’s hopes would seem to hinge on two things — turnovers and time of possession.  The Blazers are plus-two in turnovers; Vandy is minus-two.  The Blazers boast Conference USA’s best running back in Darrin Reaves (122 yards per game).  Vandy is 10th in the SEC rush defense having allowed Ole Miss 206 yards and South Carolina 220 yards.  Even winless UMass mustered 99 yards on the ground versus Vanderbilt.  If VU sleepwalks through this one things could be tighter than they were against Minutemen.

Prediction:  Vanderbilt 34, UAB 14

 


4 comments
HoustonVol
HoustonVol

Chavis had his chances at TN to become a HC. He has commented on this many times. When he was interested in being a HC, the only opprotunities were hopeless cases that had a greater chance of failing than being successful. So he waited for the right place to come open. While he was waiting he saw all of the "poop" that HC had to deal with and decided he liked the view from where he was and that he was to old to deal with the poop of a head coach. Which is why he is not a head coach. Bud Foster is different. He has interviewed several times. Like Chavis, he does not want to step into a dire situation. Unlike Chavis, he will succeed Beamer at VT. Beamer probably has just a season or two left before he steps aside. When he does, Foster will be promoted to Head Coach.

Tusk
Tusk

Holy cow there are some great games this weekend, TGIF.  I also think LSU wins a close one, the Chief's D seals it late (how is it Chavis and Bud Foster have never become HCs?).  Can't wait to see Bortles and Shaw, should be a heck of a game.  

MoKelly1
MoKelly1

I love these analyses each week. I am with you on all the games except Georgia --- I think (and will put in a small bet) that LSU will win the game by a touchdown.

Happy Saturday.

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