by Steve Geller, firstname.lastname@example.org,posted Oct 27 2012 9:01AM
The race in the SEC East is Florida's to lose, while Alabama takes on the other remaining unbeaten team (Mississippi State) in an SEC West showdown. Meanwhile, LSU is the only team in the conference off this week.
Let's go, Inside the SEC...
Mississippi State (7-0) at Alabama (7-0)
MSU has a lot to be proud of this season and is setting up for a nice bowl game at the end of the year. Unfortunately, they run into a wall this week in the form of Alabama. The Crimson Tide's defense is outstanding, and that's no surprise as it is a hallmark of Nick Saban's teams. It's the Tide's balance on offense that is really impressive and should concern the Bulldogs. If Mississippi State loads up to stop the run, Alabama can get yards and scores throwing the ball. If the Bulldogs play back in coverage, get ready to watch the Crimson Tide's backs chew up the ground in big numbers.
State is a quality team, but Bama has dominated in every game so far. The Crimson Tide has played 420 minutes of football this season and have trailed for...wait for it...just 15 seconds. There's nothing in this match-up that convinces me Alabama will be challenged. The Tide rolls into Death Valley to take on LSU next week 8-0.
Florida (7-0) vs. Georgia (6-1)
This shapes up to be a classic offense vs. defense battle, with Florida bringing the defense and Georgia bringing the offense. The Bulldogs nearly let Kentucky upset them last week, meanwhile the Gators compiled less than 200 yards of total offense, but still hung 44 points on turnover-prone South Carolina. Since defense trumps offense most of the time in the SEC, Florida is the popular favorite, but they don't have great comeback ability and must guard against letting Georgia get a couple of cheap scores early. If that happens, the Gators will be in big trouble. The Bulldogs are playing horribly on defense, though, and may even be bad enough to make Florida's offense look dangerous.
Kentucky (1-7) at Missouri (3-4)
On several occasions this year, Kentucky has looked left for dead. But last week, the Wildcats showed a pulse when Georgia came to town. Ultimately, they lost the game and assured themselves of missing the postseason, which will probably be enough to cost Joker Phillips his job this offseason. Unfortunately for Missouri, they haven't looked much better lately. Furthermore, if the Tigers don't win this game, a bowl appearance becomes a tough get. Missouri's offense has been out to lunch for six weeks now, and QB James Franklin remains doubtful for this game. Without him, even Kentucky becomes a formidable opponent. Perhaps the week off that Missouri had last week will have been put to good use.
Tennessee (3-4) at South Carolina (6-2)
South Carolina needs Marcus Lattimore to put up big numbers if the Gamecocks hope to stop a two-game slide. Tennessee is another team in turmoil with rumors circulating about the future of the head coach. The difference in this match-up is South Carolina's defense. If the front can put pressure on Vols QB Tyler Bray, it will cause miscues and turnovers which will give the Gamecocks enough opportunities to cash in and pull ahead. I do expect Tennessee to go down swinging but still end up on the mat for the ten count by the final bell.
Ole Miss (4-3) at Arkansas (3-4)
The last time the Razorbacks played at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock, Louisiana-Monroe shocked the world. This time around, the Hogs look much improved... but so is Ole Miss. The rebels are definitely the surprise team of the SEC West so far. The key to Arkansas' resurgence the last two games has been its defense, which yielded just 14 combined points to Auburn and Kentucky. But the Ole Miss offense is light years better than either of those two opponents, while the Razorbacks offense is still a bit shaky - particularly on the ground. If Arkansas can somehow find a way to win this game, bowl eligibility isn't out of the question. Lose this game, and Razorback Coach John L. Smith can get a head start on packing.
Texas A&M (5-2) at Auburn (1-6)
Prior to the season, this looked like a pretty good matchup on paper. Now, it looks like an Aggie romp - unless Auburn suddenly finds an offense. Texas A&M was humbled somewhat last week by LSU, at least in terms of offensive output, but held their own and put a good scare into the Bayou Bengals. These Tigers are not nearly as fearsome. Auburn is completely lost at the moment, with rumors swirling about the fate of some or all of the members of its coaching staff. A road loss to Vanderbilt last week pretty much put a bow on the season, and bowl eligibility is little more than wishful thinking. A loss to A&M cinches a homebound holiday season.
Massachusetts (0-7) at Vanderbilt (3-4)
Vanderbilt isn't a juggernaut by any stretch of the imagination, but UMass is one of the worst teams in Division-IA football this year. Actually, the Minutemen aren't full-fledged members of the Football Bowl Subdivision just yet, as they are in a transitional year prior to joining the MAC. UMass is coming off a shutout loss at the hands of Bowling Green, and have lost three games against BCS conference opponents by a combined score of 145-19. Look for the Commodores to notch back-to-back wins for the first time this year.