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SEC Game Previews – 10/11/13

mrsec game previewWeek Seven of the SEC season is upon us and appropriately enough there will be seven games involving SEC squads.  Below is our usual game previews complete with stats, opinions, TV listings, up-to-date odds and predictions.

Good luck to your favorite team this weekend…

 

#25 Missouri (5-0) at #7 Georgia (4-1)

TV:  12:00pm ET on ESPN

Opening Line:  UGA -11

Current Line:  UGA -8

One To Watch:  Georgia QB Aaron Murray.  With so many of the playmakers who surround him down for the game or down for the season, there will be more pressure than ever on Murray to carry his Dawgs to victory.

This And That:

1.  James Franklin currently rates as the SEC’s fourth-best passer.  It’s his running, however, that’s been the X factor for Mizzou this season.  Once again healthy, Franklin has carried the ball 53 times for 278 yards and two touchdowns.  Against Georgia, Clemson’s Tajh Boyd ran for 42 yards and two scores while South Carolina’s Connor Shaw logged 75 yards.  Franklin can move the Tigers with his arm, but UGA defenders had better be wary of his legs as well.

2.  Starting running back Todd Gurley is likely to miss his second straight game with an ankle injury.  Backup Keith Marshall was lost for the season in last week’s win over Tennessee.   That leaves offensive coordinator Mike Bobo to lean on freshmen JJ Green (17 carries for 129 against the Vols) and Brendan Douglas (10 for 25) in UGA’s ground game. Keep in mind, Mizzou’s run defense currently ranks third in the Southeastern Conference…

3.  But.  If Murray can quickly develop some chemistry with his new receivers — his top three pass-catchers are out of action — it could be a long day for the Tiger secondary.  Missouri ranks dead last in the SEC in pass defense, allowing 293.8 yards per game through the air.  Against BCS-level foes, MU’s secondary has been gutted for 357.5 yards per contest.

Prediction:  Georgia 37, Missouri 34

 

#14 South Carolina (4-1) at Arkansas (3-3)

TV:  12:21pm ET on SEC TV

Opening Line:  USC -7

Current Line:  USC -6

One To Watch:  South Carolina DE Jadeveon Clowney.  Will the man hyped as the SEC’s best defender actually suit up this week?  The star’s status is still questionable due to a muscle strain.  He did practice this week which is a good sign for the Gamecocks.  If he plays, expect the Razorbacks to run it where he ain’t.

This And That:

1.  Also keep an eye on what Hog offensive coordinator Jim Chaney does tomorrow.  He’s leaned on the run game so far and quarterback Branden Allen had his struggles last week at Florida.  Carolina, however, does not have Florida’s defense.  And Chaney’s Tennessee offense a year ago lit up USC for 472 yards — 381 through the air — in a 38-35 failed upset bid in Columbia.  Might the Razorbacks try to open up the passing game?

2.  Though Clowney is the most well-known pass rusher in this game — if he plays — it’s actually the Arkansas pass rush that’s performed better this season.  The Razorbacks have recorded a league-leading 17 sacks through six games.  Carolina defenders have sacked opposing QBs 14 times through five games.

3.  Will Bret Bielema drop a fourth straight game.  His current three-game losing skid is just the second such streak of his coaching career.  Carolina has gotten into the bad habit of letting foes creep back into games in the second half.  On the road at Arkansas, the Gamecock might finally pay a price for nodding off post-halftime.

Prediction:  South Carolina 31, Arkansas 24

 

Western Carolina (1-5) at Auburn (4-1)

TV:  2:00pm ET on Pay-per-view

Opening Line:  AU -44

Current Line:  AU -43

One To Watch:  Auburn QB Nick Marshall.  The Tigers’ starter has developed into a pretty good running threat.  Though he ranks ninth in the SEC as passer, Marshall is the #3 rushing quarterback in the league behind only Dak Prescott and Johnny Manziel.  Unfortunately, he hurt his knee late in last week’s game against Ole Miss.  He’s expected to play tomorrow, but there are no guarantees he’ll start (or finish) the contest.

This And That:

1.  Yet another game that should not have been scheduled.  SEC administrators can whine and fret about dropping attendance numbers all they like.  They’re partially responsible for lagging ticket sales due to their insistence in playing not only FCS squads, but bad FCS squads.

2.  The only thing these types of games seem to be good for are injuries.  With that in mind, Gus Malzahn might want to think about sitting Marshall even if he is healthy enough to play.  Why put your starting quarterback at risk when a backup quarterback — or a hot dog vendor from the out of the stands — can lead the Tigers’ up-tempo attack to victory against WCU?

3.  Auburn’s offense has turned the ball over 10 times through five games.  Only Tennessee with 13 giveaways ranks worse in the SEC.  If nothing else, tomorrow’s game could be an exercise in ball security for the Plainsmen.

Prediction:  Auburn 52, Western Carolina 10

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SEC Game Previews – 10/4/13

mrsec game preview (2)Ready for Week Six of the college football season?  Or are you like us and still baffled by how quickly we’ve arrived at Week Six?

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

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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

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Schools’ Greed Damaging The Future Of College Football

empty-bleachersIf a college football game were played and there was no one on hand to see it, would it actually be played?  That’s the somewhat discouraging outlook for college football as fewer and fewer students are attending games.

Watching the Georgia/North Texas game last Saturday on television, it was alarmingly clear that Sanford Stadium had large swaths of empty seats.  Interestingly, The Wall Street Journal picked that game — and its lack of attendance — as a launch point into the obstacles now popping up between schools and their students when it comes to college football attendance.

According to The Journal, the major problems are (and you’ve heard these all before):

 

*  Cellular reception at the stadium is bad and 18- to 22-year-olds can’t watch a game without texting, tweeting or communicating in some other cell/internet fashion.

*  Students have lost interest in seeing their school’s team beat up on sub-par opponents.

*  High-definition television has made watching games from homes and bars infinitely more enjoyable.  (We at MrSEC.com would add that the explosion in the number of games now televised also plays a factor.  Not only do the games look better on TV, but now students and adult fans can watch their school’s game as well as dozens of others from their couches and bar stools.)

 

The Journal quotes Mississippi State athletic director Scott Stricklin as saying, “We can’t afford to lose a generation.”  That’s frighteningly true.  If the students of today aren’t the hardcore fans of tomorrow, who’ll be making donations for facility upgrades or purchasing season-tickets in the years to come?

The Southeastern Conference is — like just about every other college conference or professional league out there — trying to get in front of the problem.  As noted during SEC Media Days in July, the league has hired a market-research firm that will “spend this season traveling to SEC stadiums, visiting fans watching at home to gather their opinions before presenting its findings after the regular season.”

Another problem in terms of student attendance is ticket price.  As in “there is a price.”  Though most schools charge only a small amount for student tickets, they are charging something.  And while many SEC schools offer up more than 10,000 seats for students (and charge a small activities fee as well as discounted ticket prices), it might be a better idea to offer fewer seats (a trend that’s spreading across the country) to students for free.  That’s right, let the students in free.  In other words, lure them in and then hook them for the future.

The issue of student attendance is a large one to be sure, but attendance is dropping seat by seat across the Southeastern Conference and the nation.  Aside from winning programs playing against name opponents or schools hosting games in small stadiums (Scott Field at Mississippi State, for example), you don’t see many sell-outs in college football anymore.  And that reflects only the number of tickets sold.  Check the upper decks of SEC stadiums while watching on TV (from your couch or bar stool) this Saturday and you’ll likely see plenty of empty seats.  Even those tickets that have been purchased aren’t always used.  Which cuts down on the amount of concessions sold on gameday.

In a sluggish economy, schools are looking to make every dollar they can.  This is where ticket pricing becomes more than just a student issue.  Most schools are increasing the amount of cash you have to spend to procure a ticket.  Concession costs are consistently on the rise as well.  Where they’re not going up, they’re flat-lining.  Good luck finding a school out there that is actually cutting down on its ticket and concession prices.

Unfortunately, this has more to do with greed than it does with the aforementioned sluggish economy.

Think of college football attendance as a circle of life.  At one point, stadiums were built bigger and bigger and ticket prices were set higher and higher.  Schools made the majority of their cash from the tens of thousands of fans who made the trek and paid the fees to enjoy the in-stadium experience.

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SEC Game Previews – 9/20/20

mrsec game previewThree weeks of the 2013 season are already history.  As we enter Week Four we bring you our weekly game preview section.  Enjoy.

And good luck to your favorite team this weekend!

 

Vanderbilt (1-2) vs UMass (0-3) at Foxboro, MA

TV:  12:00pm ET on ESPNews

Opening Line:  VU -36

Current Line:  VU -31.5

One To Watch:  Vanderbilt’s confidence.  The Commodores dealt with major distractions off the field as the season dawned.  They lost at home to Ole Miss.  Last week they fell to 0-2 in the SEC with a loss at South Carolina.  This has the makings of a get-well game for Vandy.

This And That:

1.  Speaking of distractions, receiver Chris Boyd was officially dismissed from the Commodore squad this week.  Also, starting quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels continues to be mentioned in connection with the rape case that’s already cost VU five players.  How will Carta-Samuels perform tomorrow?

2.  Massachusetts has lost it first three games by a combined total of 106-21.  They rank #124 out of 125 FBS teams in rushing defense (allowing 323.0 yards per game and 7.18 yards per carry).  Vandy ranks last in the SEC in rushing offense.  That could change tomorrow.

3.  Saturday’s game between the Dores and Minutemen will be played at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts rather than on the UMass campus in Amherst.  It’s the first time an SEC squad has traveled to UMass for a game.

Prediction:  Vanderbilt 52, UMass 14

 

North Texas (2-1) at #9 Georgia (1-1)

TV:  12:21pm ET on SEC Network

Opening Line:  UGA -36.5

Current Line:  UGA -33

One To Watch:  The injury bug.  Georgia faces a major test from visiting LSU a week from tomorrow.  If the Dawgs can build a good lead, expect Mark Richt to call off his starters as early as possible.

This And That:

1.  Through two games Georgia’s defense has been porous to say the least.  UGA ranks 13th in the SEC in rush defense and 11th in pass defense.  Todd Grantham’s bunch is young and should improve.  But if Georgia is to keep its BCS title hopes alive, they’ll fix the D.  Soon.

2.  North Texas enters tomorrow’s game averaging 31.7 points per game.  Against Idaho, Ohio and Ball State — gotta keep that in mind — the Mean Green has averaged 465.0 yards per contest.  For that reason, North Texas might not be a total tomato can.

3.  As good as Georgia’s offense has been — and it’s been good — the Dawgs have struggled on third downs.  Aaron Murray and crew have converted just 10 of 28 third downs this season (35.7%), which is 12th best in the SEC.  It’s unlikely they’ll face enough third downs tomorrow to worry about it.

Prediction:  Georgia 47, North Texas 16

 

Tennessee (2-1) at #19 Florida (1-1)

TV:  3:30pm ET on CBS

Opening Line:  UF -15.5

Current Line:  UF -17

One To Watch:  The rushing totals.  Nineteen of the last 20 years, the team that’s collected the most rushing yards has won this game.

This And That:

1.  To snap an eight-game losing streak to Florida, Tennessee must have some sort of success through the air.  The Gators rank #3 in the nation against the run, so it’s hard to imagine the Vols accomplishing much on the ground.  Last week at Oregon, UT’s pass game was anemic.

2.  To win it’s ninth in a row against the Vols, Brent Pease’s offense will need to protect the football.  Tennessee is top o’ the league in turnover margin (plus-six) while Florida is dead last (minus-four).  If the Gators avoid the dropsies, this one should be an easy win.

3.  What will UT coach Butch Jones do at the quarterback position.  He said this week that if need be, he would use his true freshman Josh Dobbs and Riley Ferguson.  A Swamp is no place for a baptism.

Prediction:  Florida 30, Tennessee 13

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SEC Headlines 9/18/2013

headlines-wedSEC Football

1. The two best red zone offenses in the SEC this year will meet on Saturday – Auburn and LSU.

2. Three of the next five weekends, LSU faces “teams with head coaches who were lovin’ no-huddle offenses before lovin’ no-huddle offenses was cool.” And also this: “No team is involved in more big-time matchups than LSU, which plays a ranked opponent in five of its final nine games.”

3. Early read on Auburn’s defense – bends but doesn’t break.  Tigers giving up yards but not many points.

4. Tennessee coach Butch Jones counted 16 missed tackles from the Vols defense against Oregon.

5. Ole Miss strength and conditioning coach Paul Jackson on the Rebels freshman class: “I think we got a bunch of NFL guys in that class.” Are the Rebels ready to challenge for the SEC West title?  Pat Dye gives his thoughts.

6. How young is Texas A&M’s defense?  10 of the 27-man defensive depth chart for Saturday’s game against SMU are true freshmen.

7. One man’s review of Johnny Manziel: “He is definitely an NFL quarterback in today’s NFL. Ten years ago we might not have had this conversation, but the game has evolved.”

8. After Manziel’s performance Saturday against Alabama, Nick Sabans opens up the competition in the secondary: “We’ve got some younger players that deserve an opportunity to play and we’re going to look at them in practice.”

9. Kevin Scarbinsky: “It’s getting harder to tell the SEC from the Big 12, the Pac-12 or Conference USA.”

10. Missouri linebacker Andrew Wilson will sit the first half against Indiana.  New targeting rule has grabbed the attention of Tiger defenders.

11. Indiana coach Kevin Wilson knows Missouri well.  Went 6-1 against Tigers while an assistant at Oklahoma State.

12. Want evidence of Arkansas running back Jonathan Williams’ big-play ability?  Has runs of 45 or more yards in each of the Razorbacks first three games.

13. Same article – two different headlines.  Want the bad news?  “Georgia’s run defense in shambles.” Too harsh?  How about this one? “Georgia’s run defense a work in progress.”  

Injuries/Practice Reports

14. With Arkansas quarterback Brandon Allen uncertain for Rutgers, Razorbacks rally around backup AJ Derby. “It’s next man in.”

15. Foot injuries make South Carolina defensive ends Jadeveon Clowney and Chaz Sutton day to day the rest of the year. Neither is expected to miss games. Defensive tackle Kelcy Quarles held out of Tuesday’s practice with a sprained neck.

16. Vanderbilt linebacker  Chase Garnham has a leg injury that will sideline him for a while.  Coach James Franklin worried about the position.

17. Florida guard Jon Halapio will return Saturday against Tennessee. Torn pectoral muscle had sidelined him since camp.

18. Bye week has recharged Florida running back Matt Jones - recovering from serious viral infection.

19. A Tennessee secret?  For the first time this year, media not allowed to photograph or video the Volunteers practice on Tuesday.

20. Texas A&M receiver Ricky Seals-Jones may get a medical redshirt this season.

21. Kentucky is banged up following the loss to Louisville but has a week off to get ready for Florida.

22. Alabama receiver Kevin Norwood and cornerback Deion Belue on exercise bikes at Tuesday’s practice.

SEC Basketball

23. Ole Miss has lost forward Terry Brutus for the season.  Tore his ACL in practice.

24. Alabama gets the #3 seed for NIT Season Tip-Off.

25. Tennessee sets TV times for its non-conference schedule. Vols with 18 games on national TV this season.

Extra

26. Texas middle-school football player dies – following an ant attack.

27. Former Nebraska AD Tom Osborne knew about the infamous Bo Pelini audiotape more than a year ago.

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SEC Gameday Links: Alabama vs Texas A&M

gameday-linksAlabama at Texas A&M

1. Not a down has  been played but this is already considered the biggest game in the history of Kyle Field.

2. Dennis Dodd:  “Alabama-Texas A&M has become a living, breathing example of why (Mike) Slive’s model works best — for the SEC, first and foremost.”

3. Paul Finebaum on Johnny Manziel:  ”I think the nation will be pulling for Johnny Manziel…He is the reason why the ratings…will be a record number.” More Finebaum: “A&M will never be irrevelant again, but ‘Will Texas stop being irrevelant?”

4. Suspended for the first half, the Texas A&M-Rice game shows how Johnny Manziel moves the TV needle.

5. Today’s game is an early opportunity for both Manziel and AJ McCarron to state their credential to the Heisman voters.

6. Manziel’s scheduled interview with ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit did not take place.

7. What would a victory for A&M mean? “Alabama is the sport’s measuring stick.”

8. Even though Alabama lost last year, it did a lot right in the game’s final 45 minutes.

9. From suspensions to media investigations, both of these teams have dealt with plenty of off-field distractions.

10. What do Alabama fans think of College Station?  It’s the anti-LSU.

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SEC Game Previews – 9/13/13

mrsec game previewTwo weeks in the books and now the big games begin.  Below you’ll find all of our game previews for tomorrow’s action, including the biggie in College Station.

Good luck to your favorite team on Saturday!

 

#7 Louisville (2-0) at Kentucky (1-1)

TV:  12:00pm ET on ESPN

Opening Line:  UL -7.5

Current Line:  UL -14

One To Watch:  Louisville QB Teddy Bridgewater.  The Cardinals’ trigger man has thrown for 250+ yards in 10 straight contests.  In that span he’s thrown 28 touchdowns against just six interceptions.

This And That:

1.  We’ve already mentioned one part of tomorrow’s big equation — Bridgewater.  The other part?  UK’s pass defense.  Better last week against a Miami (OH) squad that threw just 14 passes, the Wildcats allowed Western Kentucky to air them out in Week One.  The Hilltoppers completed 27-of-34 passes for 271 yards and a score (with no picks).  Louisville’s passing game is a lot better than Western’s.

2.  Maxwell Smith is 23-of-36 on the season for 435 yards, four TDs and no INTs.  He’s averaging a robust 12.1 yards per attempt, second only to Georgia’s Aaron Murray in the SEC.  But the Wildcats intend to use Jalen Whitlow as a change o’ pace guy once more.  Here’s why: On the year Whitlow’s rolled up 123 yards rushing on 14 carries with two scores.  I’m not a believer in two-quarterback systems unless one guy is the clear #1 and the other guy excels in a different facet of the game.  That was UK versus Miami (OH).  Louisville will be a tougher test.

3.  With that big #7 stuck out beside Louisville’s name, it’s clear that the top program in the state of Kentucky right now belongs to Charlie Strong’s Cardinals.  And dropping a game to WKU for the second consecutive year makes UK look like the state’s worst program.  An upset — pray for turnovers, Big Blue fans — would do wonders for the perception of Mark Stoops’ program.

Prediction:  Louisville 38, Kentucky 21

 

Southern Miss (0-2) at Arkansas (2-0)

TV:  12:21pm ET on SEC Network

Opening Line:  UA -19

Current Line:  UA -23

One To Watch:  Arkansas RB Alex Collins.  The freshman from South Florida leads the SEC and is ranked sixth nationally in rushing yardage (45 carries for 303 yards).  Good thing Mama finally gave in and let him sign with the Razorbacks.

This And That:

1.  While Collins leads the SEC, teammate Jonathan Williams is currently the league’s third best rusher (35 carries for 277 yards).  The Hogs are top in the conference in rush attempts, rushing yards, and are one of only four league squads averaging more than six yards per carry.  Think Bret Bielema hasn’t already put his stamp on the UA program?

2.  The Razorbacks got a bit sloppy last week against Samford.  But they weren’t as sloppy as Southern Miss has been.  The Golden Eagles have already lost 10 turnovers on the season and are minus-eight in turnover margin.  That’s a recipe for getting blown out at Nebraska (56-13) and for losing to Texas State (15-22).  It’ll also get USM clobbered in Fayetteville if they keep it up.

3.  Granted, the Hogs have played UL-Lafayette and Samford to date, but when was the last time Arkansas ranked in the top five of the SEC in both rush and pass defense?  We wondered before the season if Bielema could take a Bobby Petrino-style roster (lots of passing, little defense) and coax from it his own brand of football (lots of running, solid defense).  So far, so good.

Prediction:  Arkansas 38-16

 

#1 Alabama (1-0) at #6 Texas A&M (2-0)

TV:  3:30pm ET on CBS

Opening Line:  UA -7

Current Line:  UA -8

One To Watch:  You know who.  For Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel, tomorrow will be Comeuppance Day.  Or How-Ya-Like-Me-Now? Day.  The Heisman-winner worked on his pocket passing this offseason and he showed that off last week against Sam Houston State (29-of-42 for 426 yards, three touchdowns, one interception).  But we all know it’s his wheels that will be the difference — one way or the other — on Saturday.

This And That:

1.  So how can Alabama contain/slow/frustrate Manziel?  Obviously, that’s easier said than done.  But the Tide has the athletic talent to match what Florida and LSU did against A&M’s signal-caller last year.  And they did enough against Manziel to up-end the Aggies.  The first step is to create a “mush rush” which basically muddles the middle of the field.  No extra blitzers come in to flush Manziel from the pocket.  No escape lanes are available up the gut.  Then, put a spy on him to track him if he does start to roll left or right.  Nick Saban has said that CJ Mosley could (will) fill that role.  If the Tide’s successful at keeping Johnny Football in the pocket, it’ll be up to the QB to patiently make good decisions and show off his improved skillset.

2.  Yeah, yeah.  We know.  Texas A&M’s defense was missing several suspended starters for its first two games.  But what does it say about the Aggies’ depth that they’ve allowed 546 rushing yards and 353 passing yards to Rice and Sam Houston State combined?  Most of A&M’s defensive starters will be back in action tomorrow and there’s little doubt that unit will improve as the year goes on.  But is Mark Snyder’s defensive crew ready for Alabama now?

3.  Even if Texas A&M’s defense is lacking, it still takes two to tango.  In Bama’s lone game — two weeks ago against Virginia Tech — the Tide offense had plenty of issues and most of them began along the rebuilt offensive line, where chemistry and communication must improve.  On paper, Alabama has the talent to run on the Aggies, control the clock and keep Manziel on the sideline.   But has UA’s O-line been able to fix its issues during an open date?

Prediction:  Alabama 35, Texas A&M 28

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SEC Game Previews – 9/6/13

mrsec game previewOne week is history and now it’s on to Week #2 in the SEC.  Below you’ll find all of this week’s MrSEC game preview capsules.

Good luck to your favorite team on Saturday!

 

Miami (OH) (0-1) at Kentucky (0-1)

TV:  Fox Sports Net, 12:00pm ET

Opening Line:  UK – 13.5

Current Line:  UK -17

One To Watch:  Quarterback Max Smith.  His Week One effort wasn’t a thing of beauty, but he did throw the ball better than Jalen Whitlow.  If Neal Brown’s Air Raid offense is going to be consistent this year, Smith needs to claim the starting job for good.

This And That:

1.  Kentucky’s loss to Western Kentucky last week should’ve served as a wake-up call for anyone who thought Mark Stoops could turn the Wildcats around quickly.  If UK somehow finds a way to lose this one, Stoops’ job will become even tougher as some of the first-year excitement his program has benefited from will surely evaporate.

2.  Most depressing from last week’s loss was Western Kentucky’s ability to run on Kentucky.  Stoops’ new defense was bullied up front to the tune of 216 yards.  Miami doesn’t appear to be the same threat that WKU was, however.  The RedHawks managed just 74 rushing yards in a 52-14 defeat to Marshall last week.

3.  One positive for UK in its opener was its own ground game.  Like the Hilltoppers, the Wildcats also pounded out 216 yards on the ground.  Expect more of the same from Kentucky as Miami allowed Marshall to rush for 304 yards on 57 carries in its opener.

Prediction:  Kentucky 28, Miami (OH) 17

 

#12 Florida (1-0) at Miami (FL) (1-0)

TV:  ESPN, 12:00pm ET

Opening Line:  UF -2

Current Line:  UF -3

One To Watch:  Hurricane RB Duke Johnson.  Johnson rushed for 186 yards on 19 carries last week against Florida Atlantic.  He’s the man that makes the Miami offense go and if Florida shuts him down, the Canes’ won’t have much chance of springing the upset.

This And That:

1.  A lot has been made over the fact that these in-state rivals aren’t likely to see one another for a long time after tomorrow’s game.  Technically, it’s been a long time since their last meeting back in 2003.  Like football fans everywhere, we feel it’s sad to see this rivalry go.  But the reality is that it actually went a long time ago.

2.  Florida’s offense was its meat-grinder self last week against Toledo.  The Gators ran the ball 48 times and passed it just 22.  That’s not surprising.  UF threw just 288 passes a year ago which ranked 13th in the SEC.  Expect Brent Pease to follow Will Muschamp’s script once again on Saturday — run the football, control the clock, win with defense.  And this week, the Gators will get a boost with the return of starting running back Matt Jones.

3.  Miami churned out 303 yards on the ground against Florida Atlantic last week.  They won’t have that kind of success against Florida (Atlantic and Gulf) tomorrow.  The Gators held a decent Toledo team to just 50 yards on the ground last weekend.  Only one opponent has gained more than 150 yards rushing against UF in its last 16 games (Kentucky, 159, last September).

Prediction:  Florida 24, Miami (FL) 13

 

Western Kentucky (1-0) at Tennessee (1-0)

TV:  SEC Network, 12:21pm ET

Opening Line:  UT -13.5

Current Line:  UT -13.5

One To Watch:  WKU coach Bobby Petrino.  The Hilltoppers’ new coach continues his 2013 Revenge Tour with a trip to Knoxville.  Last week he showed Kentucky what they missed out on by passing on him.  This week he’ll try to do the same to the decision-makers at Tennessee.

This And That:

1.  Western Kentucky will be a much trickier test for the Vols than Austin Peay was a week ago.  UT kept things pretty vanilla in its opening day win, but the drop off between the first- and second-teams was apparent.  Anyone thinking that Tennessee has a “depth” advantage on WKU needs to realize that Butch Jones has been dealt a thin roster that’s still trying to recover from the attrition associated with multiple coaching changes in a short span of years.

2.  The best way to keep Petrino’s potent offense off the field is for the Volunteers to control the clock and the ball via their run game.  In its loss to the Hilltoppers, Kentucky managed to gallop for 216 yards on 32 rushing attempts.  Expect the Vols to take a run-first approach on Saturday in an effort to move the ball, chew the clock, and protect a somewhat green defense.  Don’t be surprised to see UT slow down its no-huddle offense a bit, either.

3.  Tennessee’s defensive line will be tested by a stronger-than-expected WKU rushing attack.  Unfortunately for the Vols, they will not have injured D-linemen Jacques Smith or Corey Vereen back for this one.  Linebacker Curt Maggitt will be back in action but if Antonio Andrews (99 yards vs UK) and Leon Allen (92 yards vs UK) are getting to Maggitt and the second level consistently, that won’t be a good sign.

Prediction:  Tennessee 27, Western Kentucky 24

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SEC Headlines 9/5/2013

headlines-thuSEC Football

1. Georgia left tackle Kenarious Gates on facing South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney: ”I’m just going to treat it like I do every other game. It’s another game on the schedule.”

2. “Dear God , How Do You Stop Clowney?”  Everyone, it seems, is talking about South Carolina’s  star player including SI’s Andy Staples: “Direct attacks didn’t work.”

3. South Carolina has 25 players - more than a quarter of the roster – from the state of Georgia.

4. Major focus at Georgia this week - tackling. Mark Richt: “We need to tackle better than we did, especially in space.”

5. Arkansas A.D. Jeff Long asked about future of games in Little Rock after comment from Bret Bielema.

6. Florida defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin on facing Miami: “It will be a great test for us. We’ve got young guys playing. It’s their first road game.”

7. What’s happened to Florida’s wide receivers?  Many of them are no longer in Gainesville.

8. After opening with TCU, will LSU face an emotional letdown this week?

9. Tennessee preparing for the Bobby Petrino effect. Tennessee defensive coordinator John Jancek: “I have a lot of respect for Coach Petrino.”

10. Suspensions have left the Texas A&M defense shorthanded but it’s also giving young players valuable playing experience.

11. Cincinnati coach Tommy Tuberville on Nick Saban’s program:  ”I don’t see any stop in sight the way they’re recruiting.” (Our story from this morning on Bama recruiting buzz and the commitment of Cameron Robinson)

12. Auburn coach Gus Malzahn expects better things this week from quarterback Nick Marshall: ”I know his nerves are going to be better.”

13. Missouri will see an offense similar to its own when it faces Toledo this weekend.

14. Mississippi State is looking for improvement from its young receiving corp this weekend.

15. Here’s a stat that Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze is using to remind his players not to take Southeast Missouri lightly: Eight FCS teams FBS teams in college football’s opening weekend.

16. 190-pound Kentucky defensive back Blake McClain found himself playing linebacker Saturday.

Player Injuries

17. Florida guard Jon Halapio only starting Gator expected to miss Miami game.  Will Muschamp: ”Since the start of camp this is probably the healthiest we’ve been.”

18. Georgia freshman receiver Tramel Terry had hoped to play this year coming off an ACL injury.  Now it looks like he’ll sit out the season.

19. South Carolina wide receiver Bruce Ellington’s hamstring is getting healthy but center Cody Waldrop described as “questionable to doubtful” Saturday.

20. Vanderbilt middle linebacker Chase Garnham hasn’t practiced this week - undisclosed injury.

21. Auburn safety Justin Garrett missed the opener with a foot sprain - aiming to return this weekend.

22. Denzel Nkemdiche’s injury is forcing a shuffle at linebacker for Ole Miss. D.T. Shackelford now a backup middle linebacker.

23. Tennessee coach Butch Jones says defensive end Jacques Smith will have screws removed from this thumb - might play Saturday.

SEC/College News

24. Remember that bankruptcy case of former Arkansas coach John L. Smith?  It’s over. Judge approves settlement.

Media/Extras

25. Time Magazine cover with picture of Johnny Manziel: It’s Time To Pay College Athletes.

26. Fan design of a futuristic Florida helmet generates buzz on Twitter.

27. Fox Sports wants Big Ten football.

28. Preseason football or reality TV?  In Dallas, people chose “Duck Dynasty” over the Cowboys.

29. Twitter study shows which NFL fans are happiest after a win and saddest after a loss.  Most unstable group?  Oakland Raiders’ fans.

30. UNLV uses a billboard campaign to sell tickets.  The only problem – picture featured a coach who left in 2011.

31. Sad story.  Former Kentucky basketball player Richie Farmer likely headed to prison.

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