Week after week, the SEC features great matchups. This weekend is no different as three SEC East teams continue their fight to stay alive for a conference title game berth. Meanwhile, LSU and Bama look to keep pace with each other in the SEC West.
There are two teams on byes this week, Arkansas and Kentucky. Let’s look at teams in action.
South Carolina at Mississippi State
The Gamecocks have been dealing with plenty of offseason drama, much of it either the direct or indirect fault of head coach Steve Spurrier.
After making curious and unnecessary comments about the state of Kentucky’s football team following a blowout win this week, Spurrier finally had seen enough of quarterback Stephen Garcia and dismissed him from the team. It’s obviously an easier decision to make when backup QB Connor Shaw had just finished putting up 300+ yards on the Wildcats. Then, strangely, Spurrier lit into a reporter for a comment made months ago.
Mississippi State is easily the league’s most disappointing team relative to preseason expectations. The Bulldogs’ problem is that the offense has no spark, thanks in large part to a line that isn’t holding up its end of the deal. I like South Carolina on the road.
Alabama at Ole Miss
Without trying to come down too harshly upon the Ole Miss football program, there’s a reason the Rebels were on the wrong end of a 30-7 beating at the hands of Vanderbilt: This team isn’t very good right now. However, Houston Nutt has had an extra week to prepare for Alabama, and always seems to have something in the tank for the Crimson Tide.
If Ole Miss is to throw a wrench into Alabama’s plans, it has got to get better on offense. The Rebels looked improved against Fresno State two weeks ago, but the Bulldogs weren’t exactly a collegiate Steel Curtain going into the game. The Rebels are a team in offensive flux, dealing with several key injuries. At the same time, Alabama has been a machine of late even though Coach Nick Saban still sees room for improvement after shutting out Vandy 34-0.
Watch for two possible outcomes: 1) Either a tight game throughout with Alabama pulling away at the end (much like the Penn State game,) or: 2) If the Rebels are already in the emotional tank, watch for several funny bounces to pop up early allowing the Crimson Tide to put its foot down. Whatever happens, it’s not likely to be normal, and will be a closer game than most anticipate.
Georgia at Vanderbilt
The Bulldogs had better beware, because this is just the kind of game that has given Georgia fits in recent years under Mark Richt. Things are going well for the Bulldogs right now; four straight wins, right back into the thick of things in the SEC East, and the team is playing with even emotions.
Vanderbilt is hungry football team, and provided they can play with the same level of focus and enthusiasm they have shown up to this point, this becomes a heck of a trap game for Georgia. The problem for Vandy is that their offense just doesn’t appear to function well enough to keep up for very long. Look for a close game early, but for Georgia to pull away late, much the same as ‘Bama did last week.
Florida at Auburn
If the Gators were fully healthy, Auburn would be in big trouble here. The Tigers are coming off a devastating loss to Arkansas that has fans and coaches pointing in multiple directions over the future of the offense and the quarterback position.
Whichever team loses this game can essentially count its season over. Auburn already knows it won’t repeat as national title contenders, and a loss here pretty much sinks its conference title hopes as well. Florida might not even post a winning record if this game goes the wrong way. Basically, it comes down to who is least poor. And for now, that’s Auburn.