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SEC Game Previews – 11/1/13

mrsec game previewOK, so the Week 10 SEC schedule isn’t exactly sterling.  In fact, there are only two matchups in which the Vegas line is less than 10 (which tells us that most desert bettors are anticipating blowouts tomorrows).

As usual, we break down the bad with the good.  All six games and the key points you need to know about each are right below.

Good luck to your favorite team this weekend!

 

Mississippi State (4-3) at #14 South Carolina (6-2)

TV:  12:21pm ET on SEC TV

Opening Line:  USC -11.5

Current Line:  USC -12.5

One To Watch:  South Carolina QB Connor Shaw.  Shaw entered last week’s game at Missouri and promptly rallied his troops like the Palmetto State’s fictional Benjamin Martin in “The Patriot.”  Without him… offense lifeless.  With him… offense darn near impossible to stop.  This week Shaw battled back from an illness and is expected to be good to go tomorrow.  If he’s not, might USC’s offense drift off to Sleepytown again?

This And That:

1.  Both the talent on the two teams’ rosters and MSU’s history under Dan Mullen suggest that this one should be a rather easy victory for Carolina.  But the Gamecocks’ offense has a bad habit of turning the ball over.  Currently they’re minus-four on the season (12th in the SEC), having given the ball away 15 times.  Mississippi State is plus-four in turnover margin, third-best in the league.  If you want a prescription for an upset it’s turnovers plus…

2.  Emotion.  The Gamecocks are coming off a heart-pounding come-from-behind win at Missouri.  Now they get a 4-3 State team at home.  USC has been up and down all season — whipping North Carolina, losing at Georgia, letting Vanderbilt back into a game, struggling at UCF, letting Kentucky back into a game, crushing Arkansas, losing at Tennessee, and then last week’s late-game turnaround.  We’re not just talking about the 12:21pm start time when we say the Cocks had better have their alarm clocks set properly.

3.  Mississippi State’s rush defense versus BCS opponents ranks just 11th in the SEC as it’s allowed 197.2 yards per game.  This week the Bulldogs will face the league’s leading rusher in Mike Davis (116.2 yards per game).  But Davis put the ball on the ground twice last week and we all know of Steve Spurrier’s lust for aerial yards.  Will he ride Davis — who is listed as A-OK after narrowly dodging a broken leg last week — or will the Ol’ Ball Coach try to wing the ball all over the yard?  In some of those games we mentioned above, Carolina’s offense sputtered as Spurrier relied too heavily on his passing game.

Prediction:  South Carolina 34, Mississippi State 20

 

Georgia (4-3) vs Florida (4-3) at Jacksonville

TV:  3:30pm ET on CBS

Opening Line:  UGA -2.5

Current Line:  UGA -3

One To Watch:  Florida QB Tyler Murphy.  The redshirt junior made his debut against Tennessee after an injury to Jeff Driskel.  Against the Vols, Kentucky and Arkansas, Murphy averaged 221 yards per game of total offense.  He averaged 8.5 yards per play.  But in UF’s last two games, Murphy has turned into a pumpkin: 74.5 yards of total offense per game and just 2.0 yards per play.  That 2.0 yard-per-play number includes passes, folks.  Murphy will have to play better for Florida to win tomorrow.

This And That:

1.  It’s not all on Murphy, though.  He lost 58 yards versus LSU and Mizzou in part because his O-line couldn’t protect him.  And as we’ve been asking for years now — literally, years — where are the skill position players who should be lined up around Florida’s quarterback?  From Steve Addazio to Charlie Weis to Brent Pease, it’s been a while since a Gator offensive coordinator had at his disposal a single running back or receiver who struck fear into the hearts of opposing defense coordinators.  UF will face a Georgia defense that’s actually sixth in the SEC versus BCS-level foes (a surprising number, no?).  Can the Gators generate enough offense?

2.  Both teams have seen their championship hopes severely damaged by injury.  The difference tomorrow, however, could actually be a key player who’s returning to action.  UGA’s electrifying running back Todd Gurley will finally be back after a three-game absence.  He registered 154 yards against Clemson, 132 against South Carolina, 91 against North Texas (before being pulled), and 73 in a half against LSU.  His big-play ability has been missing from UGA’s attack in an overtime win over Tennessee and back-to-back losses to Missouri and Vanderbilt.  Meanwhile, Florida’s rush defense has gotten progressively worse as injuries have mounted.  Over the last four weeks their opponents’ yards-per-rush average has gone from 2.29 (vs Kentucky) to 3.83 (vs Arkansas) to 4.49 (vs LSU) to 5.54 (vs Missouri).  If Gurley thrives, it’s going to be very hard to Florida to win.

3.  Tomorrow’s contest will basically be an elimination game in the SEC East race.  Georgia’s Mark Richt will also be trying to notch a third victory in a row over Florida, something UGA hasn’t done since 1987-1989.  But — as is the case in so many games — keep an eye on the turnover battle.  Florida isn’t bad at plus-one.  Georgia is 13th in the SEC at minus-five.  To stay alive in the East and remain in the catbird seat in this rivalry, the Dawgs will have to protect the football.

Prediction:  Georgia 24, Florida 17

#Auburn (7-1) at Arkansas (3-5)

TV:  6:00pm ET on ESPN2

Opening Line:  AU -7.5

Current Line:  AU -8

One To Watch:  The scoreboard.  Bret Bielema has made it abundantly clear that he’s no fan of Auburn’s Gus Malzahn.  Malzahn — leading a much better team — might take the opportunity Saturday to remind Bielema not to ever publicly accuse him of misconduct (as he did in this week’s game tape kerfuffle).  The Natural State native son might also want to let the Razorback administration know that he should be coaching in Fayetteville not Auburn.  If he gets the chance, how much will Malzahn pour it on?

This And That:

1.  Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall is listed as day-to-day for the Tigers.  According to Malzahn, backup Jeremy Johnson has taken “almost equal reps” with the first team offense this week.  No QB announcement is expected before gametime.  Marshall — who has an injured throwing shoulder — ranks 10th in the SEC in total offense with a sizzling 461 yards gained on the ground.  As a passer he’s completing 57.6% of his tosses.  Marshall’s the runner.  Johnson’s strength is in the passing game.  He’s completed 69.2% of his passes and thrown six TD passes in just three games of work.  Johnson has rushed just seven times for 47 yards.  Arkansas will have had to prepare for two distinctly different styles of quarterbacks.

2.  Like Auburn (tops in the SEC), Arkansas (fourth in the SEC) loves to run the football.  But unlike the Tigers, the Razorbacks haven’t had enough success throwing the ball to keep defenses honest.  The Hogs rank 14th in the league in passing yards per game (146.6) which is right at 50 yards per game less than Auburn’s aerial output.  Against SEC foes, Brandon Allen has completed just 39.5% of his passes, throwing three TDs and six picks.  But only Missouri allows more passing yards per game than Auburn, so keep an eye on Allen’s ability to supplement Arkansas’ ground attack.  If he can, the Hogs could hang around on their homefield.  If he can’t, this could be a slaughter.

3.  Just how good is Auburn’s rushing attack?  Its 315.3 yards-per-game average is best in the SEC and fifth best in America.  The Tigers have had four different players rush for 100+ yards in a game this season (Marshall and running backs Tre Mason, Cameron Artis-Payne, and Corey Grant).  The combination of up-tempo speed and Malzahn’s gap run schemes is once again proving extremely difficult to defend.

Prediction:  Auburn 44, Arkansas 27

 

Tennessee (4-4) at #9 Missouri (7-1)

TV:  7:00pm ET on ESPN

Opening Line:  MU -13

Current Line:  MU -11

One To Watch:  Missouri’s attitude.  Last week the Tigers let a #5 national ranking and an undefeated record slip away as its offense, defense and special teams units all sputtered and eventually failed against South Carolina.  Gary Pinkel asked this week, “What team do you want to be?  Your choice.”  If the Tigers get over their hangover, they shouldn’t have too much trouble with an overmatched Tennessee team.  That’s if they’re over their hangover.

This And That:

1.  Just who’ll be on offense for the Tigers?  James Franklin was upgraded to questionable this week, but it’s expected freshman Maty Mauk will again get the start at quarterback.  At running back, Henry Josey was listed as questionable this week, too (which constitutes a downgrade in his condition).  And fellow running back Russell Hansbrough has been battling turf toe.  Now, even if Mizzou isn’t at full strength, the Tigers still figure to have more depth than a banged up Volunteer squad.  But make no mistake, Missouri is better with Josey (71.6 yards per game) and Hansbrough (56.1 yards per game) on the field.

2.  The battle between UT’s pass offense and MU’s pass defense should be fascinating to watch.  The Tigers have the nation’s leading sack man in Michael Sam (10.0 sacks, 1.25 per game).  Fellow D-linemen Shane Ray and Kony Ealy have three sacks apiece while Markus Golden has 2.5.  Tennessee’s offensive line ranks #4 in the SEC in sacks allowed, giving up just eight on the season.  On the back end of things, despite the good pass rush, the Tigers have struggled.  Their 284.3 yards allowed per game ranks dead last in the Southeastern Conference (though they lead the league with 15 interceptions).  They will get senior corner EJ Gaines back from injury this week and that should help cut down on the yardage allowed.  But there’s one last wild card in this battle…

3.  True freshman Josh Dobbs will be making his first start at quarterback for the Vols.  He’s got a better arm and — from the looks of his second-half debut against Alabama — more confidence than Justin Worley, who’s out after thumb surgery.  Dobbs is also more athletic than Worley and he could possibly add a rushing dimension to Butch Jones’ spread offense.  How much Dobbs will run, however, is anyone’s guess.  The Volunteers don’t have a 100% healthy QB behind him.  If UT catches lightning in a bottle with Dobbs, look out.  If not, well, Mizzou’s got the better all around roster.

Prediction:  Missouri 38, Tennessee 24

 

Alabama State (6-2) at Kentucky (1-6)

TV:  7:30pm ET on CSS

Opening Line:  UK -28

Current Line:  UK -27.5

One To Watch:  Anything else on television.  Sorry, but these games against FCS opponents are an embarrassment to the league.  And when it’s a 1-6 SEC team playing an FCS foe there’s absolutely zero interest on this side of the keyboard.

This And That:

1.  Kentucky’s back-and-forth at quarterback continues this week as Jalen Whitlow will get the start.  Whitlow played sparingly at Mississippi State last week due to an injured ankle.  His shoulder is also “a little dinged up.”  Maxwell Smith started last week, but he’s had shoulder issues of his own all year and true freshman Reese Phillips might even supplant him as UK’s backup tomorrow.  So what does Mark Stoops want to see happen at his QB position?  “It would be really nice to have (Whitlow) start a game and finish a game unless we decide to take him out for good reasons.”  Wouldn’t it, though?

2.  Stoops is doing a terrific job on the recruiting trail this season, but his roster — in its current form — just isn’t good enough to compete in the SEC.  The Wildcats rank 13th in scoring offense, 13th in rushing offense, 10th in passing offense, 13th in total offense, ninth in scoring defense, 13th in rushing defense, ninth in passing defense, and 13th in total defense.  Blame it on the previous regime, roster attrition, the switch to new offensive and defensive systems, or all of the above, but Kentucky’s 2013 season is looking more and more like a 2-10 season.

3.  After tomorrow’s game with the FCS-level Hornets — again, who cares? — UK will host Missouri, travel to Vanderbilt and Georgia, and then welcome Tennessee to Commonwealth Stadium.  The Vandy and Tennessee games could be competitive, but right now, it would be difficult to pick the Cats to win any of their last four contests.

Prediction:   Kentucky 41, Alabama State 13

 

UTEP (1-6) at #12 Texas A&M (6-2)

TV:  9:00pm ET on ESPN

Opening Line:  A&M -45.5

Current Line:  A&M -47

One To Watch:  Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel.  Johnny Football threw the ball well last week in a rout of Vanderbilt.  But how much he’ll play in what should be a non-conference rout is up in the air.  Manziel makes the Aggie offense go, so it might be smart for Kevin Sumlin to lift him as early as possible.  No need to injure the TAMU engine against a 1-6 UTEP club.

This And That:

1.  Texas A&M has hung points on everyone — 52 on Rice, 65 on Sam Houston State, 42 on Alabama, 42 on SMU, 45 on Arkansas, 41 on Ole Miss, 41 on Auburn, and 56 on Vanderbilt.  Well guess whose defense ranks 117th out of 125 FBS defenses in points allowed.  Yup.  UTEP has surrendered 38.7 points per game against a schedule featuring New Mexico, New Mexico State, UT-San Antonio, Colorado State, Louisiana Tech, Tulsa and Rice.  This could be a “name your score” type of game for the Aggies.

2.  Meanwhile, this one should provide A&M a chance to improve its defensive numbers.  Last week’s date with Vanderbilt — and first-time starting quarterback Patton Robinette — looked like a tiny step in the right direction for a squad that’s last in the league in first downs and yards allowed.  The Aggies are also 13th in the league in points allowed.  Defensive coordinator Mark Snyder said last week’s game was “a good confidence builder” for his unit.  This game should be more of the same.

3.  One thing that might have made this game interesting — former A&M quarterback Jameill Showers’ return to Kyle Field — has been scrapped due to his separated shoulder.  So unless you’re just interested in watching Sumlin’s pinball-on-grass offense light up an inferior foe, this one figures to be a real dud.

 Prediction:  Texas A&M 62, UTEP 17

 


9 comments
mborokyvol
mborokyvol

Look out for JDobbs  tonight. Mizzou's defense has no way to prepare for him unless they watch some high school tape. He looked good against bama and Mo. is no bama! Look for the Vols to keep it close and look for a whole lot of running for both teams. I believe JDobbs will prove to be a better passer than MMk.

BillRauhuff
BillRauhuff

I am not 100% sold that Missouri will beat Tennessee and if they do by how much. Tennessee is hungry to get back to a bowl game and Butch Jones is the best coach Tennessee has had since the firing debacle of Phillip Fulmer. Tennessee could come into Columbia Missouri loose with nothing to lose and upset Missouri. I do believe Tennessee goes bowling this year. If they get on a roll they could finish out with 4 straight wins and go 8-4 and make it to a bowl like the Gator Bowl or win the last 2 games and go to the Liberty, Music City, Independence or the BBVA Compass Bowl. The Gator Bowl and 8-4 sounds better to me. We shall see.

HoustonVol
HoustonVol

Those ranking pull in the end of Fulmer and Kiffin's two classes. Most of Kiffin's classes are not on campus so toss out those records. Dooley recruited well, but his stars have not panned out either. So the question is if TN can put together another great game like they did against UGA and USCe. Or will TN have a Bama hangover after feeling excited to play, just to have Bama remind them of how far they have to go. I think the offense will be more productive with Dobbs. As long as he does not panic like Peterson did at Florida, he should be fine. He did fine at Bama, and Mizzou is less intimating. So we will see. It would be great to catch a pair of Tigers over the coming two weeks.  

VictorCoile
VictorCoile

Alabama fan here but I do have a question. You state that Missouri shouldn't have a problem with an (your words) "overmatched Tennessee team" yet Tennessee has beaten Missouri in recruiting over the last four years. So TN should have superior talent compared to UM. 

Scout Recruiting Rankings: 2013 (UT 33 UM 36) 2012 (UT 22 UM 34) 2011 (UT 10 UM 20) 2010 (UT 16 UM 27). 

Sheizman
Sheizman

@mborokyvol Your prediction was spot on---if we lived in Opposite World! At least the Vols got a FG. Good job by you!

MizSec1911
MizSec1911

@VictorCoile Scout Recruiting Rankings do not provide the whole picture.  Gary Pinkel never had an abundance of blue chip talent, but has done an excellent job of retaining players and developing them into great football players.  Only Alabama and Florida have more first round draft picks than Missouri. Additionally, Coach Pinkel frequently puts two and three star high school athletes in the NFL.

VictorCoile
VictorCoile

@MizSec1911 @VictorCoile So what you are saying is UT is overmatcched in the area of player developement and coaching. Makes since when you look back on the coaching debacle that UT has had over the last four years. Thanks for the response. I enjoy your web site. Keep up the good work. 

John at MrSEC
John at MrSEC moderator

@VictorCoile @MizSec1911 

Actually, MizSEC1911 has nothing to do with the site and wasn't speaking for me.

Compare Tennessee's current roster to those signing day lists and you'll find that an enormous chunk of players have either been dismissed, transferred, dropped out or left for the NFL early (Tyler Bray, Cordarrelle Patterson, Justin Hunter) last year.  

When you have three coaches in a five-season span, the attrition is incredible.  So that's actually why I said Missouri has a deeper, more talented roster than Tennessee.  

Thanks for reading the site,

John

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