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Arkansas Losing D-Coordinator Ash To Ohio State

chris-ashWhen Urban Meyer arrived at Ohio State two seasons ago, he ruffled the feathers of then-Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema by attempting to woo committed prospects from the Badgers to the Buckeyes.  Wonder how Bielema feels today knowing that Meyer has lured away his defensive coordinator?

Chris Ash — named the Hogs D-coordinator in December of 2012 – is pulling up stakes and joining Ohio State’s staff as co-defensive coordinator.  Ash is the second key coach to leave Arkansas’ defensive staff this offseason.  Charlie Partridge became the head coach at Florida Atlantic.

Here’s the irony in UA losing two coaches from it’s defense — it’s defense struggled in 2013.  The Razorbacks ranked 12th in the SEC in scoring defense (30.8 points per game allowed), 9th in total defense, 11th in rushing defense, and 11th in passing defense.

Bielema attempted to calm any Razorback fan who might be concerned that their defensive coordinator had bolted after one year by tweeting the following: “Have always felt transition on my staff has allowed us to get even better.  Have had success hiring right people and will again.”

He then added: “Very happy for former coaches that decide to move to new challenges, the respect our staff gets nationally will continue to grow.”

Sounds good, but Bielema has previously stated that one of the main reasons he left Wisconsin — in addition to coaching in Barry Alvarez’ shadow — was that school’s unwillingness to pony up big cash to retain assistants.  One can’t blame Partridge for taking a head coaching job, but Ash’s move is different.  Granted, Ohio State is closer to a national title right now than Arkansas, but the Razorbacks — as Bobby Petrino proved — are capable of competing at an awfully high level, too.  And Ash will be moving from a coordinator position to that of a co-coordinator.  In other words, it’s likely the Buckeyes offered the ex-Hog coach more money.

This leaves Bielema in the position of trying to find a new coordinator.  Or does it?  Former Miami (FL) and NFL defensive coordinator Randy Shannon is already on the Arkansas staff, serving in the role of linebackers coach.  Ash worked with the safeties at Arkansas so there is some wiggle room if Shannon fills the coordinator slot.  Taver Johnson, cornerbacks coach, could take over the secondary in full, leaving room for a new linebackers coach to be filled.  Or Shannon could continue to work with the linebackers as coordinator and Bielema could hire another safeties coach.  Or he could just bring in a new coordinator altogether.

One name to keep an eye on?  The once rising star, Manny Diaz.  Diaz has coached safeties and linebackers and became a hot name nationally while briefly serving as Mississippi State’s defensive coordinator.  Mack Brown tossed him overboard midseason in 2013.  He should have recruiting ties to the Lone Star State after three years on the Longhorn staff.

Bielema hired Samford defensive line coach Rory Segrest to replace Partridge.

Ash had worked for Bielema for four seasons, including the coach’s final three years at Wisconsin.

 

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Malzahn On Auburn: “We Have Not Arrived”

gfx - they said itThe Auburn Tigers are coming off a surprise 45-41 victory over Texas A&M in College Station.  Gus Malzahn’s squad is now 6-1 overall, 3-1 in the SEC West and ranked #11 in the current BCS standings.

But the coach doesn’t want his players reveling too much in their successes so far:

 

“We’re happy that people think that highly of us.  But we’re onto next week.  That’s our only focus…

The only thing we talked about is this week and Florida Atlantic.  We’re not talking about anything else or thinking about anything else.  We’re going to keep the same approach.  That’s what’s got us here so far.  We have not looked ahead, we have not talked about anything else.  We’re playing an opponent that is a solid opponent this week…

I think the mental aspect of college football is very important and I’m happy with where we’re at, but I’m going to say it again, we have not arrived.  We’re going to take it one game at a time.  We need to keep improving.”

 

Don’t tell Malzahn that we said this, but Auburn’s upcoming schedule isn’t too daunting.  After Saturday’s date with FAU, Auburn will travel to Arkansas.  The Razorbacks are currently on a five-game losing streak.  Next comes a visit to improving Tennessee, but the Vols are nowhere near being ranked.  Back-to-back SEC road games could be troublesome for the Tigers, however.  After all, South Carolina won at Arkansas and then faltered at Tennessee the next week.

Auburn should be favored in all three of those contests which leaves only the Tigers’ two biggest rivals: Georgia and Alabama.  Both games are at home.

It’s not that farfetched to imagine an undefeated Alabama and a once-beaten Auburn squaring off a Jordan-Hare in this year’s Iron Bowl.  Just sayin’.

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You Watching, SEC? The Big Ten Gets It Right On Scheduling

gfx - honest opinionYesterday the Big Ten officially announced its new divisions, its new division names (thankfully), and its new scheduling plan.  While not perfect — three of the league’s 13 “trophy games” will be lost as annual tilts — Jim Delany’s plan could provide Mike Slive and his conference with one very good idea.

Beginning in 2016, the Big Ten will feature a pair of seven-team divisions under simple East and West banners, just as the SEC currently boasts.  The league will begin playing a nine-game conference schedule as well.  And for those SEC fans who’ve barked about an uneven number of home and road games being the signature feature of a nine-game slate, the Big Ten came up with a pretty straight-forward remedy.  In even-numbered years, teams from the East Division will play five home games and four road games.  In odd-numbered years, all the West Division teams will host five league games and travel to play four.

In other words, no team within a division will hold a home/road advantage over another team in its division.  Ever.

Problem solved.

We believe that a nine-game slate with a 6-1-2 format still is the safest bet for the SEC moving forward.  (Short of that, the league should adopt an eight-game conference schedule without divisions and simply ask the NCAA for a waiver regarding its championship game in Atlanta.)  Currently, no one knows who will be picking the teams for the new College Football Playoff or what criteria they will use to do so.  If schedule strength is as big a component as expected, the question then becomes a matter of personal opinion.  And with just about everyone outside of the SEC footprint completely and totally exhausted by the SEC’s dominance, it’s not hard to imagine Slive’s conference getting the short end of the stick if its teams don’t play each other “enough.”  What “enough” is will depend on those individual voters, of course.

So why not just go ahead and make the move that will someday be required?  Eventually, a nine-game conference schedule will come to pass.  The league will make more money with better inventory on its soon-to-launch network.  Playing another game inside the league will also help negate any possible charges from selection committee members that Big Ten, Pac-12, and Big XII teams play nine conference games while SEC teams play eight and four patsies.  There’s also the added benefit of keeping more SEC rivalries alive.

Some claim that an added SEC game would lead league schools to stop scheduling quality non-conference foes.  Well, if those programs want to be taken seriously, that won’t be the case.  It appears — though we won’t know for sure for a couple more years — that most conferences are planning to have their teams play 10 quality foes per year (nine conference games, one good non-conference game).

But most SEC teams currently play only nine quality games per season (eight league games, one good non-conference foe, and three creampuffs).  The league’s 2013 schedule shows SEC teams squaring off against Georgia State, Chattanooga, Louisiana-Lafayette, Samford, Arkansas State, Western Carolina, Florida Atlantic, Toledo, Georgia Southern, North Texas, Appalachian State, Miami (Ohio), Alabama State, Kent State, Furman, Alcorn State, Troy, Bowling Green, Murray State, Southeast Missouri State, Idaho, Coastal Carolina, Austin Peay, South Alabama, Sam Houston State and UMass.

If you are interested in paying money to see any of those teams play an SEC school then you should look up a famous quote often attributed to PT Barnum.  Keyword: Sucker.

Nine is coming.  Sooner or later.  The new playoff and push toward strength of schedule should allay fears that SEC teams will drop good nonconference foes to make room for the added league game.  And the Big Ten just easily swept aside the overblown argument that some teams would hold an advantage over their division foes when playing five home games in a year.

Next argument?

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WOW Headlines – 11/14/12

Vanderbilt AD David Williams says VU is “prepared to do what we need to do” to keep James Franklin as head coach
Auburn defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder on whether he’ll be back next year: “I don’t know that I can say that I’m confident.”
Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze isn’t happy with the way SEC officials spotted the ball during Vanderbilt’s game-winning drive on Saturday
Texas A&M DT Spence Nealy on last weekend’s upset of Alabama: “I still can’t believe we won.”
Georgia players aren’t looking forward to back-to-back games with triple-option teams Georgia Southern and Georgia Tech
Florida QB Jacoby Brissett will start against Jacksonville State due to QB Jeff Driskel’s sprained ankle
A newspaper report suggests Kentucky’s football revenue is off by at least $5 million due to poor attendance
Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari caused a stir by saying Duke was “flopping all over the place” in a 75-68 Blue Devil win last night
Mississippi State guard Jalen Steele received 8 stitches in his head and injured his wrist in a fall during last night’s 78-58 win over Florida Atlantic
Follow the SEC year-round on MrSEC.com and twitter.com/mrsec

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UGA’s Murray Has His O-Line Playing For Ice Cream

Aaron Murray knows how to get the attention of an offensive lineman — offer him food.  And that’s just what Georgia’s quarterback did after being sacked five times in the Bulldogs’ first two games.

Before facing Florida Atlantic in Week Three, Murray promised his protectors that he’d take them out for ice cream if they kept his jersey clean.  He’s only been sacked once in two games since and he blamed that one on himself for holding onto the ball too long.

Left tackle Kenarious Gates — all 318 pounds of him — had this to say on the matter:

 

“It’s motivated us.  We’re playing for each other, and you always have that ice cream in the back of your head.”

 

Murray said last week’s ice cream trip went on his mom’s credit card to the tune of 50 or 60 dollars.  Which means UGA fans can start worrying about an NCAA investigation… now.  (Kidding.)

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Game Roundup: UGA And USC Thrive, Arkansas Dives,

Here’s your Monday breakdown of all the SEC action from the weekend.  These are the key stats from and our impressions of each ballgame.

All in one great big post.

Enjoy…

 

Florida 38, Kentucky 0 in Gainesville

Key Stat:  60 yards.  Kentucky came into the game boasting the SEC’s best pass offense.  But with starting QB Maxwell Smith on the shelf with a bum shoulder, backup Morgan Newton had to fill his shoes.  He couldn’t.  In fact, Newton finished just 7-of-21 for 48 yards passing, no touchdowns and three interceptions on the day.  I suspect even some Gator fans felt sorry for UK’s signal-caller.

Quick Takes:

*  The win was the 26th in a row for Florida over Kentucky.  That’s the longest active streak going in the Southeastern Conference.

*  Florida isn’t exactly fast out of the gate.  Through four games the Gators have scored just 17 first-quarter points.  They’ve scored 105 points in the the other 12 quarters combined.  How far things have come for Will Muschamp since halftime of the Texas A&M game, too.  At that point, the Gators looked like an extension of last year’s 7-6 team.  But since then, UF has moved to 4-0 and jumped all the way to #12 in one poll, #11 in the other.

* Woe is Joker Phillips.  It’s pretty hard to imagine him surviving the season.

 Florida – Kentucky Video Highlights

Ole Miss 39, Tulane 0 in New Orleans

Key Stat:  3-1.  That’s Ole Miss record through four games and that’s one more win than the Rebels notched in 2010 and in 2011.  Hugh Freeze has done more than we at MrSEC.com expected with a withered roster.  Unfortunately, conference play begins with a game at Alabama on Saturday and reality might set in when Mississippi starts tangling with SEC defenses.  Whether that’s the case or not, Freeze deserves credit for some fine early work.

Quick Takes:

*  If we hadn’t gone with UM’s record as our key stat, we’d have used this one: 304-14.  That was the rushing advantage Ole Miss held over Tulane at game’s end.  The Rebels averaged 5.7 yards per carry on Saturday.  The Green Wave?  Try 0.5 yards per carry.  Fourteen yards on 29 rushes.

 Ole Miss Video Highlights

South Carolina 31, Missouri 10 in Columbia (SC)

Key Stat:  20-of-21.  When you complete 20 passes in a row, you’re entering record-setting territory and that was the case for Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw.  Not bad for a guy with a bum shoulder.  Shaw’s 20-of-21 performance for 249 yards and two touchdowns squelched the tiny blip of a quarterback controversy that arose when some Cock fans began to see Dylan Thompson as the passer, Shaw as the runner.  Well, Carolina’s running quarterback was so consistent on Saturday that he’ll have a chance to set a new SEC record for consecutive completions over multiple games next week in Lexington.  If he completes five passes to start the game, he’ll move past ex-Tennessee quarterback Tee Martin who set the mark at 24 back in 1999.

Quick Takes:

*  Marcus Lattimore — just a junior — moved past Harold Green and former Heisman Trophy winner George Rogers on USC’s all-time rushing touchdown leaderboard.  He now owns the school record with 33 TDs on the ground.  He’s managed to accomplish that feat in just 24 ballgames as well as he missed one game in 2010 and about half the season in 2011 due to injuries.

*  Missouri is learning the hard way that the SEC really is a different league than the Big XII.  Granted, they’ve played two of the best defenses in the conference so far in Georgia and Carolina, but the disrespect mantra Tiger players and coaches have been repeating all offseason must be giving way to a sense of reality.  Gary Pinkel will need to recruit bigger linemen.  They’ll need a top-notch SEC running back.  His systems won’t need to change, but his personnel will.  There’s a reason the SEC has produced more NFL draft picks than any other conference over the last 25 years.

* When this writer first blasted Missouri’s new Nike uniforms — especially the Tigers “paintball” helmet — I was told to hush up because that black-with-big-yellow-splat/Tiger-on-it number would only be worn once a year.  So far, it’s been worn in both of Mizzou’s SEC contests.  And it’s still ugly.

South Carolina – Missouri Video Highlights

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Wow Weekend Headlines

Saturday SEC Football Scores
Ole Miss 39 – Tulane 0
Florida 38- Kentucky 0
South Carolina 31 – Missouri 10
Alabama 40 – Florida Atlantic 7
Rutgers 35 – Arkansas 26
LSU 12 – Auburn 10
Mississippi State 30 – South Alabama 10
Texas A&M 70 – South Carolina State 14
Tennessee 47 – Akron 26
Georgia 48 – Vanderbilt 3

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SEC Gameday Links: Afternoon Kickoffs

Ole Miss at Tulane

1. Ole Miss offensive tackle Emmanual McCray: ”Some of these SEC teams haven’t turned out to be what everybody thought they’d be so our schedule is looking lighter than before.

2. The Rebels offense goes up against a Tulane defense that has yet to record a sack and has forced only two turnovers.

Kentucky at Florida

3. In the last four games of this series – Florida has outscored Kentucky 94-3 in first quarter.

4. In general, Wildcats not good early.  Outscored 109-28 in first quarter of last 16 games.

5. Goal for Florida? “Today’s storyline is about getting better…”

6. Kentucky has lost 25 straight to Florida but last year’s victory over Tennessee gives the Wildcats faith that all things eventually end.

Missouri at South Carolina

7. These two teams have met twice in bowl games – but this will be the first regular season matchup. 

8. Look for the Gamecocks to start relying more on the running game.

9. Missouri’s offensive line will have it hands full. “There’s a lot of bests in this conference.”

10.A big concern for the Tigers – poor special teams play

Florida Atlantic at Alabama

11. Can the Tide make it three shutouts in a row?  An Alabama defense hasn’t done that since 1966.

12. “According to the archives at covers.com, Alabama coach Nick Saban never has coached a team that has entered a game as such a big favorite.”

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Wow Evening Headlines 9/21/2012

Saturday SEC Football
Ole Miss at Tulane MrSEC’s Pick:  Ole Miss 34, Tulane 17
Kentucky at Florida. MrSEC’s Pick: Florida 38, Kentucky 14
Missouri at South Carolina. MrSEC’s Pick:  South Carolina 27, Missouri 14
Florida Atlantic at Alabama. MrSEC’s Pick:  Alabama 42, Florida Atlantic 6
Rutgers at Arkansas. MrSEC’s Pick:  Arkansas 35, Rutgers 20
LSU at Auburn. MrSEC’s Pick:  LSU 40, Auburn 10
South Alabama at Mississippi State. MrSEC’s Pick:  Mississippi State 42, South Alabama 10
South Carolina State at Texas A&M. MrSEC’s Pick:  Texas A&M 52, South Carolina State 9
Akron at Tennessee. MrSEC’s Pick:  Tennessee 41, Akron 20
Vanderbilt at Georgia. MrSEC’s Pick:  Georgia 31, Vanderbilt 13

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SEC Game Previews – 9/21/12

Here’s your weekly rundown of all the SEC action coming your way in Week Four of the regular season.  As always, you’ll find everything from TV listings to the betting lines to our own predictions.

Enjoy the games, be safe, and best of luck to your favorite school this weekend.

Here goes…

 

Ole Miss at Tulane

12:00pm ET on FSN

Opening Line:  UM -15

Current Line:  UM -18.5

Storylines:  The Rebels will be trying to bounce back from a thrashing at the hands of Texas last week.  UM’s shorthanded defense gave up 676 yards to the Longhorns.  On offense Bo Wallace finally had a tough day at the office.  But Tulane’s not Texas.  This is, however, the Green Wave’s first game since safety Devon Walker fractured his spine during a game two weeks ago.  Tulane’s emotional state could play a factor in this one.

Keys for Ole Miss:  Hugh Freeze’s team needs to win the turnover battle and with Tulane starting a freshman at quarterback, it can.  A fast start from the Rebel offense could also cause the Green Wave to hang their heads.

Pick:  Ole Miss 34, Tulane 17

 

Kentucky at Florida

12:21pm ET on SEC Network

Opening Line:  UF – 23.5

Current Line:  UF -23.5

Storylines:  Joker Phillips is struggling to keep his job (unlikely) and will try to do by snapping Florida’s 25-game win streak over the Cats (even more unlikely).  Jeff Driskel put on a “where’d that come from?” performance against Tennessee last week.  As poor as Kentucky’s run defense has been, expect the Gators to run, run and run some more.

Keys for Florida:  Did I mention run, run and run some more?  UK has already allowed nine rushing touchdowns on the year and their opponents have been Louisville, Kent State and Western Kentucky.  The best hope for UF is to build an early lead and pull the starters in order to avoid injuries.

Keys for Kentucky:  The Cats’ best weapon is quarterback Maxwell Smith, but if he has to throw 60 times — as he did in last week’s loss to WKU — the youngsters around him on Randy Sanders’ offense could get him killed.  And if he does manage to stay upright, Smith can’t throw four picks.  To have any chance whatsoever the Wildcats must force turnovers by the bushel.

Pick: Florida 38, Kentucky 14

 

Missouri at South Carolina

3:30pm ET on CBS

Opening Line:  USC -9

Current Line:  USC -10.5

Storylines:  Welcome to the big time, Mizzou.  This is the first 3:30pm ET game on CBS for one of the SEC’s two new members and it’ll be quite a test for the Tigers.  James Franklin and Connor Shaw are both banged up, though both are expected to start.  If the backups are forced to play, give the advantage to Carolina because Dylan Thompson would have Marcus Lattimore in his backfield… Corbin Berkstresser would not.

Keys for Missouri:  Protect James Franklin.  Jarvis Jones and Georgia’s defense had a field day in the final quarter of their blowout win at Mizzou two weeks ago.  Now a makeshift MU offensive line will have to fend off Jadeveon Clowney and company.  T-R-O-U-B-L-E.

Keys for South Carolina:  Beware of turnovers.  The Tigers are plus-six on the season and only five teams in the SEC have turned the ball over more than Carolina.  Freshman TJ Gurley will take the place of suspended veteran safety DJ Swearinger.  Expect Mizzou to try to take advantage.  The best way for USC to protect its defense from Gary Pinkel’s hurry-up system?  Hand the ball to Lattimore.  A lot.

Pick:  South Carolina 27, Missouri 14

 

Florida Atlantic at Alabama

4:00pm ET on Pay-per-view

Opening Line:  UA -51

Current Line:  UA -49.5

Storylines:  Another cupcake game in the SEC.  The Tide opened as a 51-point favorite — which Nick Saban can’t like — but an FAU defensive end got lippy and claimed that Bama can be beaten.  Not a wise statement, young man.

Keys for Alabama:  To quote Russell Crowe in “Gladiator,” “At my signal… unleash Hell.”  Bama just needs to make sure everyone stays healthy.

Pick:  Alabama 42, Florida Atlantic 6

 

Rutgers at Arkansas

7:00pm ET on ESPNU

Opening Line:  Pick

Current Line:  UA -8.5

Storylines:  Razorback fans abandoned ship last week as Alabama slaughtered their team 52-0.  Couple that with an upset loss to Louisiana-Monroe a week earlier and the attendance might be the real storyline in Fayetteville.  Luckily for John L. Smith — the L. stand’s for “Let’s smile!” — Tyler Wilson will be back at quarterback for the Hogs after missing a week-and-a-half with a concussion.

Keys for Arkansas:  Build a wall around Wilson and let no Scarlet Knight come near his noggin.  Just having Wilson back on the field should refuel the Hogs’ once-potent aerial attack.  Running the football would limit the QB’s exposure to hits, too.  Most importantly, however, is fixing all that’s broken on the defensive side of the ball.  Paul Haynes’ new unit hasn’t gotten much help from the offense the last couple of weeks, but no one expected UA to rank 95th in the nation in total defense after three games.

Pick:  Arkansas 35, Rutgers 20

 

LSU at Auburn

7:00pm ET on ESPN

Opening Line:  LSU -18.5

Current Line:  LSU -20.5

Storylines:  The temperature of Gene Chizik’s seat is one storyline.  An overtime win at home over ULM last week didn’t do much to cool things for the fourth-year coach who’s offense and defense both lack playmakers.  For LSU, going on the road in the SEC will be a good test for the Tiger D and new quarterback Zach Mettenberger.  It’s one thing to crush Washington, Idaho and the like at home.  It’s another to go into Jordan-Hare, regardless of how good or bad Auburn might be.

Keys for Auburn:  Simple.  Chizik’s set of Tigers have to run the football effectively.  They have to run the football to take pressure off of quarterback Kiehl Frazier who Chizik admits isn’t read to carry the team just yet.  And they have to run the football to take time off the clock, limit LSU’s touches, and protect a defense that has a hard time, you know, actually tackling ballcarriers.  And that’s kind of a biggie in football.

Keys for LSU:  For Miles’ set of Tigers, their run game should have little trouble with an Auburn defense that ranks #109 out of 124 schools nationally in rush defense.  Expect John Chavis to dial up some new looks for Frazier as well.  If he thought the Louisiana school from Monroe was tough, wait’ll he sees the bunch from Baton Rouge.  About the only way LSU can lose this one is to turn the ball over.  That means no interceptions at the opponent’s goal line, Mr. Mettenberger.

Pick:  LSU 40, Auburn 10

 

South Alabama at Mississippi State

7:00pm ET on Pay-per-view

Opening Line:  MSU -32.5

Current Line:  MSU -34.5

Storylines:  More creampuffery.  I think if MSU could have scheduled the University of North Carolina at Winston-Marlboro Scott Stricklin would have done it.  Last week, the Bulldogs apparently missed their wake-up call and sleepwalked through a 30-24 tighter-than-expected win at Troy.  Troy is 4-11 in its last 15 games, by the way.

Keys for Mississippi State:  USA likely won’t provide much of a test, but Dan Mullen’s defense nees to show real improvement over last week’s effort.  The Dogs allowed 572 yards of offense to Troy and the only thing that saved their tails was the gathering in of four more turnovers.  State is plus-11 in turnover margin on the season.  Tyler Russell has yet to throw a pick and if that stats holds true tomorrow, MSU will hit 4-0 and remain ranked in the national polls.

Pick:  Mississippi State 42, South Alabama 10

 

South Carolina State at Texas A&M

7:00pm ET on FSN

Opening Line:  No Line (FCS Opponent)

Current Line:  No Line (FCS Opponent)

Storylines:  Yawn.  The storyline is that fans of all FBS schools should boycott games against FCS opponents.  Who cares?

Keys for Texas A&M:  Work on the run game.  Johnny Manziel has been a pleasant surprise at quarterback, but it’s time to get Christine Michaels and the rest of the Aggies’ deep running back corps rolling.  When A&M faces more SEC competition, they’ll have to run the football better than they have in the middle-of-the-pack start to the season.  (TAMU ranks eighth in the SEC in rushing offense after two games.)

Pick:  Texas A&M 52, South Carolina State 9

 

Akron at Tennessee

7:30pm ET on CSS

Opening Line:  UT -35

Current Line:  UT -33

Storylines:  Over/under 70,000 fans in Knoxville?  Vol fans invested a lot of energy and hope in last week’s showdown with Florida only to find themselves emotionally bankrupted by game’s end.  How much support with UT get in a home game against what’s supposed to be a pastry of a foe?  As for the team, at some point Sal Sunseri’s defense will need to start cutting down on the big plays.

Keys for Tennessee:  About that whole “big play” thing… switching to a 3-4 defense usually starts with busts in Year One, improves throughout the season, and then looks good by Year Two.  But the Volunteers have given up 17 plays of 20 or more yards through three games, more than any other team in the SEC.  Akron has a high-flying offense that might break one or two big ones, but UT has to start making gains in the miscommunication/bust area.  Also, Tyler Bray needs to be patient and smart in the pocket and not keep throwing balls from his back foot as he did time and again last weekend.

Pick:  Tennessee 41, Akron 20

 

Vanderbilt at Georgia

7:45pm ET on ESPN2

Opening Line:  UGA -16

Current Line:  UGA -16

Storylines:  Oh, come on.  This is James Franklin and his mouth going up against Todd Grantham and his antics.  Those two coaches haven’t engendered a lot of good will when it comes to their fellow SEC coaches, but that’s not in their job descriptions, either.  Expect ESPN2 to give you a glimpse or two or 12 at the end of last year’s game.

Keys for Georgia:  We mentioned Tennessee’s need to prevent big plays on defense and the same holds true for UGA.  The Dawgs are the only team in the SEC other than the Vols to have allowed eight plays of 30 or more yards from scrimmage.  Vandy isn’t exactly a quick strike offense, but no one expected Buffalo or FAU to break off some long gains.  They did.  When it comes to winning tomorrow, the Dawgs should if they just take care of the football.  Mark Richt’s team is minus-one in turnover margin on the season and coughing up the football is a sure way to keep Vanderbilt hanging around.

Keys for Vanderbilt:  Last year Franklin said after the Georgia game: “We are not gonna sit back and take stuff from anybody.  Anybody.  No one.  Those days are long gone and they are never coming back.”  But after a pair of close-but-no-cigar losses to South Carolina and Northwestern, Vandy’s coach made a change behind center and promptly crushed Presbyterian.  To insure that “those days” never come back and that folks stop saying “same old Vandy,” Franklin needs for his team to show some real fight at Sanford Stadium.  That will require a ball-control type of offense, no turnovers, and yet another solid outing from his defense (which ranks third in the SEC in total yardage allowed versus FBS opponents).  Unfortunately, Georgia’s offense is tops in the league in total offense against FBS foes.  Vandy needs to prove that a good defense can beat a good offense.

Pick:  Georgia 31, Vanderbilt 13

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