1st, where are the brakes on this season, going by way too fast. Second, 51-24?! Wow, we suck, but not that level of suck. Realist says take the lumps, work on getting to a bowl, and out of the esteemed basement contender category. Unrealistic, crazy Vol fan says we win like 2004 baby!! Go Vols!!
Ready or not, our weekly game previews are below, complete with opinions and stats on every contest involving an SEC squad.
Good luck to your favorite team this weekend…
Georgia State (0-4) at #1 Alabama (4-0)
TV: 12:21pm ET on SEC Network
Opening Line: UA -56
Current Line: UA -55
One To Watch: The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. If the first-year-in-the-FBS Panthers spring an upset in this one, it’ll be a clear sign that the end is near.
This and That:
1. For Alabama, the month of October kicks off with a pair of major goals: Stay healthy and improve. You don’t want to go losing key starters to injury against cupcakes like GSU, but that’s usually just about the only thing these types of games are good for. Bama also needs to find a consistency on both offense and defense that’s been lacking so far in 2013. Of course, Georgia State is so outmanned that no one will know if UA has improved or not. Kudos to Alabama for playing a neutral site, non-conference game with Virginia Tech earlier in the year, but scheduling Georgia State is ridiculous.
2. Alabama is allowing 14.5 points per game. Georgia State is allowing 36.5. To date the Panthers have played Samford (21-31 loss), Chattanooga (14-42 loss), West Virginia (7-41 loss), and Jacksonville State (26-32 loss in overtime). Nuff said.
3. The biggest challenge facing the Crimson Tide this week comes from off the gridiron. With the news that an assistant strength and conditioning coach loaned money to safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix comes a major distraction. Clinton-Dix, a key starter, is suspended indefinitely. The strength coach in question is on administrative leave. With this coming on the heels of the Yahoo! Sports report that ex-Bama player DJ Fluker was given impermissible benefits during his playing career by a runner (another ex-Bama player) on behalf of an agent (who happens to be a Bama fan), Tide fans can feel free to fret a bit.
Prediction: Alabama 50, Georgia State 3
#6 Georgia (3-1) at Tennessee (3-2)
TV: 3:30pm ET on CBS
Opening Line: UGA -10.5
Current Line: UGA -10.5
One To Watch: Georgia RB Keith Marshall. With Todd Gurley nursing a bum ankle, his backup figures to take center stage in Knoxville tomorrow. Vol fans should remember him. His career-best game came against Tennessee last season (10 rushes, 164 yards, two touchdowns).
This and That:
1. The Volunteers have to hope that UGA — on the road after an emotional win over LSU — sleepwalks into tomorrow’s ballgame. It’s happened before. Mark Richt’s program got smacked around by a combined 47 points in Neyland Stadium in 2007 and 2009. Having said that, with ex-Georgia coaches John Jancek and Willie Martinez now on UT’s staff, some Bulldog veterans will likely have a little added motivation tomorrow. And Vol quarterback Justin Worley might’ve given UGA some bulletin board material when he said of the Dawg defense: “There are holes there, but you’ve got to find ‘em and execute when opportunities are presented.” Here’s guessing Todd Grantham has shared only the first part of that quote with his defenders.
2. The Bulldogs could be without starting safety Tray Matthews tomorrow. The freshman “tweaked” a hamstring in practice this week and Georgia’s defense hasn’t exactly been a impenetrable wall with him. Take a key cog away and there might be one or two more “holes” in the Dawgs’ spotty D.
3. Georgia has scored 35 or more points in every game this season. Three of those games were against top 10 teams. In case you haven’t been keeping up, Tennessee is not a top 10 team. The Volunteers lack of depth has been exposed and Butch Jones referenced that fact this week. Against South Alabama last week, for example, UT had two cornerbacks play every… single… snap. The guys in the new “Smokey” gray uniforms figure to be worn down by an offense that’s just a few hundred times better than South Alabama.
Prediction: Georgia 51, Tennessee 24
#24 Ole Miss (3-1) at Auburn (3-1)
TV: 7:00pm ET on ESPNU
Opening Line: UM -1
Current Line: UM -3
One To Watch: The coaching matchup. One was coaching high school ball earlier this decade. His no-huddle spread attack has brought hope to his team’s fanbase. The other was coaching high school ball earlier this decade. And his no-huddle spread attack has brought hope to his team’s fanbase. Well, you get the picture. There also happens to be a pretty good friendship between Gus Malzahn and Hugh Freeze to boot.
This and That:
1. Want an interesting stat? Here’s one: Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace has thrown for 807 yards on the season while Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall has thrown for 809. Both starters have tossed four TD passes, too. But there is a difference between the Rebels’ second-year starter and the Tigers’ juco transfer. Wallace hasn’t been picked off in 2013; Marshall has thrown four INTs. Auburn is minus-two in turnover margin on the season. AU’s got the homefield advantage, but turning the ball over could negate that in a hurry.
2. While the focus will be on the two similar offenses, the real difference in this one — if it isn’t turnovers — will likely be defense. The Tigers and Rebels are within 20 yards of one another in terms of total offense per game. But UM holds a sizable advantage in total defense allowing 358 yards per game to Auburn’s 439.5. Both teams can move the football, but Ole Miss has been able to stop the other team on occasion, too.
3. The Rebels need to get the focus back onto their gridiron work. Last week, Bo Wallace flapped his gums in the run-up to the Alabama game (only to have it glued shut in a 25-zip loss). Late this week, UM players were accused of hate speech while attending a play based on the 1998 murder of Matthew Shepard, a homosexual. When the Rebs stick to football, they shine a good light on their school. When they start boasting or making news off the field — sorta/kinda like an Ole Miss hoops player we all know — they make it tougher to root for them.
Prediction: Ole Miss 31, Auburn 30
Arkansas (3-2) at #18 Florida (3-1)
TV: 7:00pm on ESPN2
Opening Line: UF -12.5
Current Line: UF -11.5
One To Watch: The interior of Florida’s defensive line. With no Dominique Easley in the middle, youngsters and newcomers (like sophomore Jonathan Bullard last week) will have to pick up the slack. And Arkansas’s 1-2 running back punch of Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams should provide a hearty challenge. UA is averaging 237 rushing yards per game. UF is allowing just 53 yards on the ground, tops in the nation. This one will be trench warfare, folks. (No word on whether the teams will wear spiked helmets.)
This and That:
1. What can Florida accomplish in 2013? Featuring a top-flight defense and a top 20 ranking, the Gators were expected to compete for the East Division title. Then came a bungling loss at Miami that was followed by the losses of Easley and starting quarterback Jeff Driskel. If UF is too keep on keepin’ on without Driskel, the Gators can’t afford to stub their toes against the upstarts of the league. This one is supposed to be a win.
2. While Florida boasts the nation’s best run defense, Arkansas’ own work had been pretty solid, too. Emphasis on had. Last week the Razorbacks allowed Texas A&M to crank out 262 yards and three touchdowns on the ground. Murphy doesn’t provide the passing threat of a Johnny Manziel — which likely opened things up for the A&M rushing attack — but the UA run defense suddenly looks suspect.
3. This one figures to be the opposite of the Auburn/Ole Miss game. Lots of rushing. Little hurry-up. Clock constantly rolling. This one has all the makings of an old-fashioned 17-14 or 14-10 type slobberknocker. (And, yes, just typing that guarantees a 35-34 shootout.)
Prediction: Florida 21, Arkansas 17
#10 LSU (4-1) at Mississippi State (2-2)
TV: 7:00pm ET on ESPN
Opening Line: LSU -9.5
Current Line: LSU -9.5
One To Watch: Mississippi State QB Tyler Russell. Dak Prescott has filled in admirably for Russell, who’s been out since Week One with a concussion. But Dan Mullen has suggested Russell will start tomorrow. If the Dogs falter with Russell back at the wheel, expect the head coach to take some heat for benching a guy who pleased fans in blowout wins over Alcorn State and Troy.
This and That:
1. If we told you that one of these squads had a much better defense on paper, you’d expect that team to be LSU, right? Wrong. Mississippi State is #2 in the SEC with a 310 yards-allowed-per-game average while the Bayou Bengals rank fifth (346.8 yards-allowed-per-game). But dig a bit further and you’ll find that MSU is allowing 445.5 yards per game to BCS foes while LSU is yielding 396.7. And LSU’s number includes a date with Georgia, perhaps the best offense this side of Pacific Northwest.
2. Like Georgia, Louisiana State will have to go on the road after a hard-fought, emotionally-draining contest last week. Only LSU lost that game. So while the Georgia must guard against a letdown at Tennessee, the Tigers have to worry about a hangover at Mississippi State. Will Les Miles’ club drop their heads or will they use last week’s loss as motivation? Here’s guessing the latter.
3. Excluding Ole Miss, Mullen’s record against the SEC West has been abysmal. The Dogs have gone just 2-16 against their non-Magnolia State division rivals. A win over a top 10 LSU team would get some dissatisfied fans back on the coach’s side in a hurry.
Prediction: LSU 34, Mississippi State 24
Missouri (4-0) at Vanderbilt (3-2)
TV: 7:30pm ET on CSS
Opening Line: VU -2.5
Current Line: VU -1
One To Watch: Missouri QB James Franklin. Against non-SEC competition the Tiger quarterback has looked like his old self in leading Mizzou to a 4-0 start. Franklin ranks third in the SEC in total offense behind Johnny Manziel and Aaron Murray. That’s not bad company to keep. (And, yes, it will be up to Vandy’s James Franklin to cook up a way to slow Mizzou’s James Franklin.)
This and That:
1. Missouri can lay claim to owning the SEC’s best rushing offense (262.2 yards per game) after one month of football has been played. Vanderbilt ranks 14th out of 14 squads in that category (157.6 ypg). The Commodores have shown some explosiveness on offense, but if this game turns into a rain-soaked run fest (30% chance of storms in Nashville at kickoff) it could be a big plus for the visiting Tigers.
2. To win tomorrow and shut down Mizzou’s Franklin, Vandy will need to do something they haven’t done so far this season — keep an SEC quarterback from running on them. In VU’s loss to South Carolina, Connor Shaw rushed 19 times for 84 yards. In their season-opening loss to Mississippi, the Commodores gave up 48 yards and two touchdowns to Bo Wallace on 18 carries. To get off the mat in the SEC East, Vanderbilt needs to keep Missouri’s quarterback from getting to the edge against them.
3. Are the Tigers for real? Can the Commodores make another bowl? Tomorrow’s game should help answer some big-scale questions about both programs and the directions they’re headed in. Mizzou has looked more like the team everyone expected to see enter the SEC last season. Vandy hasn’t shown the moxie displayed by Franklin’s 9-4 squad of a year ago. It’s litmus test time.
Prediction: Missouri 34, Vanderbilt 31
Kentucky (1-3) at #13 South Carolina
TV: 7:30pm ET on FSN
Opening Line: USC -21
Current Line: USC -21
One To Watch: South Carolina QB Connor Shaw.
This and That:
1. Over-hyped defensive end Jadeveon Clowney — and that’s no knock on him; the media built him up to be super-human — missed practice yesterday due to bruised ribs. Defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward says his star will play. If he does, he’ll likely limit what Kentucky plans to do on offense. Teams have repeatedly gone where Clowney isn’t this season, much to the junior’s chagrin.
2. What do fans not want to hear as their team readies for a contest at Williams-Brice Stadium? That their players appear to be hanging their heads. UK coach Mark Stoops let loose on his team for its poor Wednesday practice. “Preparation wasn’t good enough, effort wasn’t good enough, attitude wasn’t good enough. Not good. Very frustrated. Some guys looking for a rock to hide under. It’s going to be a very difficult and tough game and I don’t know if we’re ready for it.” Whether the Cats respond positively to that tongue-lashing will go a long way toward determining just how long this one remains a contest.
3. Here’s the blueprint for a Carolina win: Hand the ball to Mike Davis again and again and again. Simple, huh? If Steve Spurrier — who can’t seem to help himself — can avoid throwing 10 straight time, he’ll protect Shaw and his shoulder from a pass rush and from himself. Remember, dropping Shaw back opens the door for him to tuck it and run. No need to further injure him. Give the dang ball to Davis (as the Cocks finally decided to do in the second half of last week’s come-from-behind win over UCF) and the Ol’ Ball Coach should be able to enjoy a few victory brews tomorrow night.
Prediction: South Carolina 38, Kentucky 14