Friday, October 10, 2008

SEC Weekend Games of Interest: 10/11/2008

We had another solid effort going 4-1 last week, improving our season record to 33-7. Vandy was our lone loss and I’d love to have perfect picks this week with only 4 games outside of UGA on the schedule. Unfortunately, we are going to be pretty short this week because of some pending work issues and stick just to the football. Here is what’s happening in your neck of the woods:

South Carolina at Kentucky: A solid game between two teams that have solid mid-season records. Both the Wildcats and Gamecocks have been very good on defense while struggling at the same time with continuity on offense. Carolina’s D has a lot of size and underrated speed, despite playing people out of position and Kentucky, on paper, looked to validate their statistically dominant defense against Alabama. A closer look at that Bama game will give the Ole’ Ball Coach everything he needs to attack Kentucky. The Wildcats surrendered over 280 yards rushing and a fumble inside the UK 10 yard line combined with a missed field goal really kept the game from being a blow out on the scoreboard.

Look for SC to come out and try to establish the line of scrimmage early. They are most likely not going to be as successful as Alabama was but they will take a lot of pressure off of Chris Smelley, who threw for over 300 yards last week against Ole Miss. Overall, Kentucky doesn’t have the offensive power or consistency to keep up with Carolina. Their running game is less than stellar and Mike Hartline is essentially a 3rd string QB everywhere else in the SEC with the exception of Mississippi State. I see the Gamecocks walking out of Lexington with a 24-14 victory.

Vanderbilt at Mississippi State: This could be the classic overlook game for 6-0 Vanderbilt. They are coming off of an emotional, hard fought victory and have the opportunity to make a statement next week against UGA, a team they arguably should have a 2-game winning streak against (Luckily, this honor now belongs to Spurrier and South Cackalacky, Zing!) Sylvester Croom’s Western division Bulldogs play very hard nosed defense, even when they are not a strong squad. This grit and determination is what has allowed Mississippi State to sneak up on teams and defeat superior competition once or twice every year.

Statistically, both of these teams are towards the bottom of the conference in Total Offense and Total Defense. The difference here is Vandy’s ability to create turnovers and take advantage of these turnovers while MSU makes a tremendous amount of mental mistakes with the football. Vanderbilt is a great example of why football is played on the field and not on the stat sheet and Bobby Johnson will have his Commodores ready to play. I expect a tough, workman like 28-17 victory for Vandy on the road.

Arkansas at Auburn: Arkansas hung tough against Florida last week for 3 quarters and has a talented tailback in Michael Smith. This is about all I can say for the Hogs as they give up 38 points per game as a defense and still have all of the same issues that we have focused on in previous weeks. Just think, only two years ago an unproven Razorback squad came into Jordan-Hare with freshman QB Mitch Mustain and sophomore RB Darren McFadden and dominated Auburn. Arkansas thought they were back and had every reason to. A short two years later they have chased off a coach that loved their institution and are looking to have a 2-10 season. Be careful what you wish for discontent fans, things don’t always get better when you chase a proven coach out of town.

This is a great lead in to Auburn’s season. The Ron Franklin experiment didn’t quite work out and I was wrong with one of my Auburn-Tennessee predictions, as the losing OC in that game didn’t get fired first. The situation on the Plains has unraveled very quickly, leading the small fraction of Tiger fans to come out and want Tommy Tubbs' head. We could go on and on with this story and we look forward to see how it progresses. However, this week Auburn will look better and it’s hard for them not to when playing this uninspired Arkansas crew. Getting slightly back on track, the Tigers win 24-10.

Louisiana State at Florida: The biggest SEC game of the weekend and second biggest game nationally looks to be a real doozie. Last year, Florida held a 24-14 lead in the 4th quarter before getting “Lesticaled” and losing 28-24. The game promises to be as intense as any conference game this season.

Florida has underachieved to an extent this season on offense. They still lack a consistent running game as Urban Myer does not trust any of his tailbacks. Teams are being very aggressive when Tim Tebow commits to the run as he isn’t elusive in the open filed. Earl and I had a long discussion about Tebow while watching his game against Arkansas last week and don’t see a lot of on field composure from him. Not to take anything away from him as a player as he is a tremendous talent but if teams are able to get to him and knock him around, he has a tendency to get amped up to the point where he can be a detriment to his team’s success (Something I like to call Reggie Ball Syndrome). LSU has a fantastic defensive line and we all know that Ricky-Jean Francois wants to take Tim Tebow out, gerrrr!

LSU has a very powerful running game and a load of a tailback in Charles Scott. This feeds into the weakness of Florida’s young defensive line and if LSU is successful running the ball, Jarrett Lee will have a much easier night. LSU looks to be the stronger football team when they get consistent QB play and the night’s wild card will be Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Florida does not lose at home very often, especially in this type of game. However, I’m going with the gut again and picking LSU 23-21 in a tight one (because it worked so well when I picked Tennessee over Florida).

That does it for this week. We are looking forward to seeing the Dawgs back in action this week against Tennessee and having a couple of delicious Beam and Cokes.

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