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SEC Game Previews – 11/15/13

mrsec game previewIt’s a light weekend for the SEC with only five games on the schedule.  But with four league-vs-league games on the slate, hopefully the action we do get will at least be interesting.

Below is our usual roundup of TV times, betting odds, players to watch, game keys, hidden stats and predictions.

Best of luck to your favorite team tomorrow!


Troy (5-5) at Ole Miss (6-3)

TV:  12:00pm ET on ESPNU

Opening Line:  UM -28

Current Line:  UM -28

One To Watch:  Troy QB Corey Robinson.  Let’s face it, the Trojans’ chances of victory are pretty slim.  This is a team that Mississippi State crushed 62-7 back in September.  To pull the upset, Troy will need a lights-out performance by its quarterback.  In his team’s wins this year, Robinson has completed 74% of his passes with a TD-INT ratio of 11-to-three.  In Troy’s losses he’s completed just 62% of his passes with eight TDs and five INTs.

This And That:

1.  There was a time when Troy could give an SEC foe a scare.  Those days are gone.  Larry Blakeney’s program has fallen off a bit as evidenced by losses to Arkansas State, Duke, UL-Monroe and UL-Lafayette (in addition to the MSU loss mentioned earlier).  The Trojans are allowing 462 yards per game (seventh in the eight-team Sun Belt Conference) against a schedule that’s included Savannah State, Georgia State and South Alabama.

2.  Turnovers are upset fuel.  If the Rebels slip tomorrow, they will have given the ball away multiple times.  But that has not been their DNA so far in 2013.  The Rebels are plus-two overall in turnover margin (fifth best in the SEC) having lost six fumbles and seven interceptions.  Credit quarterback Bo Wallace for greatly improving his accuracy/decision-making from a year ago.  Troy, on the other hand, is minus-eight on the season and — not surprisingly — they’re minus-six in their losses.

3.  Speaking of Wallace, did ya know that he now ranks fourth in the SEC in passing yardage (265.8 per game)?  Only Johnny Manziel, Aaron Murray and Zach Mettenberger have been more prolific through the air.

Prediction:  Ole Miss 52, Troy 14


Kentucky (2-7) at Vanderbilt (5-4)

TV:  12:21pm ET on SEC TV

Opening Line:  VU -13.5

Current Line:  VU -12.5

One To Watch:  Kentucky QB Jalen Whitlow.  The Wildcat signal-caller has seized the starting role and kept himself healthy the last two weeks (despite being sacked 10 times).  He’s rolled up 600+ yards of offense (not counting the lost sack yardage).  Whitlow, once viewed as “the running quarterback” in UK’s system, has improved his accuracy, too.  In his last three starts (versus the defenses of South Carolina, Alabama and Missouri), Whitlow has completed 50-of-77 passes with four touchdowns and no interceptions…

This And That:

1.  The problem has been a lack of playmakers around him in Neal Brown’s Air Raid attack.  Whitlow’s 7.6 yards-per-attempt average in those three starts would rank just ninth in the SEC.  A rash of injuries at the receiver spot hasn’t help the Cats when it comes to creating big plays through the air.  Which means you should expect to see Whitlow use his legs quite a bit versus Vandy.  The Commodores are giving up 148 yards per game on the ground.  Kentucky will try to take a run-first approach.

2.  Everyone knows the old statement: “They remember what you do in November.”  Well, that’s certainly becoming the case in Nashville where James Franklin has led the Commodores to an impressive 7-2 November record during his three-year stint on the West End.  With Kentucky, Tennessee and Wake Forest ahead, it’s not inconceivable that the Dores could once again sweep through the month (they already beat Florida last week), finish 8-4 and go bowling for a third straight year.  Vandy, it’s said, ain’t a team that’ll play dead when the skies of November turn gloomy.  (A nautical song, Commodores, Anchor Down… whaddya want it’s a free site.)

3.  Vanderbilt hasn’t exactly been tearing it up on offense since losing starting quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels against Georgia.  Last week’s big road win at Florida was the result of some good defense and an opportunistic offense that scored on three post-turnover drives of less than 22 yards.  This week, however, VU will face the league’s 12th best team in total defense… not the league’s best (Florida).  Keep an eye on quarterback Patton Robinette and his ability to protect the football (three picks in 45 passes over his last three games).

Prediction:  Vanderbilt 34, Kentucky 21


#25 Georgia (6-3) at #7 Auburn (9-1)

TV:  3:30pm ET on CBS

Opening Line:  AU -3

Current Line:  AU -3.5

One To Watch:  Auburn QB Nick Marshall.  Once dismissed from the Georgia football program, the juco transfer will look to keep his impressive run going as he matches up with his old coach and old teammates.  Tiger O-coordinator Rhett Lashlee even admitted that Marshall “may have a little added incentive” this week.  That could be bad news for UGA’s defense as Marshall has run for 734 yards on the year (including 214 last week), and thrown for another 13-hundred.

This And That:

1.  Take in the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry while you can, folks.  With 116 games played dating back to 1892, there aren’t many rivalries that can match this battle of border rivals.  But if the folks at LSU have their way, this one — along with fellow ancient feuds Alabama/Tennessee and Ole Miss/Vanderbilt — will go the way of the dodo bird in order to ensure that the Bayou Bengals won’t have to face big, bad Florida (currently 4-5) every year.

2.  This year’s installment looks to be a fireworks display.  Against SEC foes, Auburn’s defense is allowing 26.3 points per game.  Georgia is surrendering 32.3.  Auburn’s ground game — the Tigers have scored 80 points while throwing the ball just 16 times the past two weeks — is a well-known commodity.  Thanks in large part to it, the Tigers are averaging 35.0 point per league game.  Georgia averages 32.5 and will welcome back receiver Chris Conley and tight end Arthur Lynch to an offense that’s already been strengthened by running back Todd Gurley’s return.  Famous last words, but expect a helluva lot of offense in this one.

3.  Both teams are battling to keep pace in their divisions.  A win will send Auburn into its Iron Bowl clash against Alabama with a shot to tie for the West Division crown.  A win over Bama would gain AU the trip to Atlanta based on the head-to-head result.  Georgia needs to beat Auburn and Kentucky while Missouri loses to both Ole Miss and Texas A&M if its to reach Atlanta.  That’s not likely, but it is possible.  So this one’s a must-win game for both squads.

Prediction:  Auburn 38, Georgia 35


Florida (4-5) at #10 South Carolina (7-2)

TV:  7:00pm ET on ESPN2

Opening Line:  USC -11

Current Line:  USC -13

One To Watch:  Florida QB Skyler Mornhinweg.  Poor Will Muschamp.  As if injuries hadn’t taken enough of a toll on his squad, now it looks like he’ll have to break-in the Gators’ third-string quarterback at South Carolina.  In case you haven’t been keeping track, the Gamecocks have won 15 in a row at home dating back to an October 1st, 2011 loss to Auburn.  There’s still a chance Tyler Murphy will play with a shoulder injury, but Mornhinweg appears to be the guy as of this morning.  Williams-Brice Stadium is no place to make your first start.

This And That:

1.  If your offensive line is battered and bruised, you probably don’t want to see South Carolina’s D-line starting back at you.  But that’s exactly what Florida will face tomorrow night.  The Gators have used six different combinations up front already and just one player — center Jon Harrison — has started every game at the same position.  Now come Kelcy Quarles and Jadeveon Clowney to wreak a little havoc.  Vanderbilt sacked Tyler Murphy five times last week.  What kind of success might Carolina have against Mornhinweg or an injured Murphy?

2.  In the Gators’ first four games they allowed just 2.43 yards per rushing attempt to Toledo, Miami, Tennessee and Kentucky.  In their last five games, they’ve allowed 4.2 yards per carry (including 4.4 to LSU, 5.5 to Missouri, and 4.4 to Georgia).  Tomorrow they’ll try to stop or slow the SEC’s top rusher in Mike Davis.  Already over 1,000 yards for the season, Davis is averaging 18 carries and 117 yards per game.  If Steve Spurrier’s smart, he’ll give the rebuilt UF defensive line a steady dose of #28.

3.  A win by Carolina tomorrow would be a big step toward the SEC Championship Game for the Gamecocks.  With a victory they would move to 6-2 in the league.  If Missouri loses just one more game — to either Ole Miss or Texas A&M — the Tigers would fall into a first-place tie with USC and the Cocks hold the head-to-head tiebreaker in that scenario.  Carolina also needs for Georgia to lose on more game to ixnay the possibility of a three-way tie (that would go to Missouri).  This one’s a biggie for Spurrier’s gang.

Prediction:  South Carolina 27, Florida 7


#1 Alabama (9-0) at Mississippi State (4-5)

TV:  7:45pm ET on ESPN

Opening Line:  UA -24.5

Current Line:  UA -24.5

One To Watch:  Alabama’s Attitude.  Nick Saban really liked what he saw from his team during the second half of last week’s 38-17 win over LSU.  All week he’s spoken of his team’s need to maintain the attitude it displayed in shutting out the Tigers 21-0 over the game’s final 25 or so minutes.  Put simply, he wants them to be aggressive.  If they are, it will likely be very bad news for Mississippi State.

This And That:

1.  Once believed to be a strength of the team, MSU’s defense has been unable to deal with the big boys since October rolled ’round.  LSU scored 59 on the Dogs.  South Carolina and Texas A&M combined for 85 more points the past two weeks.  The Aggies put seven touchdowns on the board and the Tigers eight.  Both LSU and A&M topped the 500-yard mark.  You get the picture.  And now… Bama.  As we showed you this week, no SEC team has scored with more ruthless efficiency than the Tide.

2.  In league play, no school has been popped for more pass yardage then State.  The Bulldogs’ 166.8 yards-allowed-per-game average ranks dead last in the SEC.  SEC foes have thrown for 14 touchdowns while having just six passes picked off by MSU defenders.  Saban doesn’t usually worry much about individual honors, but it will be interesting to see if a few more passes are called this week in an effort to pad AJ McCarron’s stats and ignite a late Heisman push.

3.  Alabama has been busy preparing for both Dak Prescott and Tyler Russell to play at quarterback for the Bulldogs.  Prescott injured his elbow last weekend and Dan Mullen has said his status is up in the air.  Russell was MSU’s starter to open the season, but a concussion cost him three games.  While Russell has played in four of the Dogs’ last five games since being cleared, Prescott has easily become the biggest threat on Les Koenning’s offense (1,542 yards passing, 722 yards rushing, 17 TDs total).  If Prescott can’t go, tomorrow night could go from bad to worse for Mississippi State

Prediction:  Alabama 45, Mississippi State 10



OK. It seems quite unlikely Florida can beat South Carolina. Georgia plays its game before South Carolina. So, I will be rooting for Georgia in their game. Missouri could, theoretically, clinch the East (I believe) if both South Carolina and Georgia lose their games. Missouri just might play their last 2 games more loose if there was less pressure.


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