We’ve just passed Week 3 of 13, and the SEC is already high drama. The college football gods have blessed us early with upsets, near-upsets, coaches feuding, the emergence of man-child running backs, and the death of Steve Spurrier’s coaching career. This stuff is generally reserved for November when the stakes are high and coaches are jostling for a spot in the College Football Playoff. I’m not sure how many more compelling storylines we can stuff into a season. We haven’t even fully jumped into conference play, we’ve just started to put our whole foot in. There’s nine games on docket for Week 4 of the SEC, let’s see who we’ve got.
Games are posted in order of kickoff times.
#7 Georgia v. Southern
Georgia will be expected to shut out Southern and win by at least 30 points. They absolutely eviscerated the Gamecocks last week, and want to keep that momentum going into their game against Alabama next week. The 11:00a.m. kickoff time tells fans everything they need to know about this game. Wake up, go to the first half, watch Nick Chubb score three touchdowns, and then go home. We’ll probably see backup quarterback Brice Ramsey get a lot of reps, and Richt will experiment with Sony Michel, lining him up at various positions in the offense. A player like Michel who can lineup as a receiver or running back, can really be an x-factor in big games. Richt will keep his coverages vanilla and not really show anything in preparation for their game at home against the Crimson Tide. This is a nice game for Georgia’s starters to take the day off before facing Nick Saban & Co.
South Carolina vs. Central Florida
Depressing Game of the Week Alert! Depressing Game of the Week Alert! UCF currently sits at 0-3, having lost to Florida International, Stanford, and Furman. South Carolina just got blown out by Georgia 52-20, and lost to Kentucky, who just lost to Florida 14-9. Yeah, so not a great year for either team. The hot take this week seems to be “How Much Longer Will Spurrier Be Coaching?!?!”, but let’s all calm down for a minute. This is the Head Ball Coach we’re talking about, and you don’t just force him out of town. Plus, the guy has been dealt a cruel hand with his starting quarterback out for another five weeks with a collarbone injury and some guy named Lorenzo Nunez (???) has been named the starter for Saturday. Outside of a couple players on both sides, neither team has a lot of talent. I can see this being a sloppy 24-21 affair, with all the obligatory missed field goals, fumbles, and general boneheadedness. Both teams are well on their way to mediocrity, but the winner of this will at least salvage some dignity.
#8 LSU at Syracuse
I would like to talk to the person who scheduled this game. How did Syracuse convince LSU to fly all the way to upstate New York to take on a consistently below-average ACC team? It’s not like this is a case where either team is paying a half-million dollars to the other team to play them. Regardless, LSU will fly up to play inside the Carrier Dome and will most likely come out of this game with a win. Syracuse’s starting quarterback Eric Dungey is doubtful this week with an upper body injury after a helmet-to-helmet hit in their win over Central Michigan, which means it more than likely he has a concussion and won’t play this week. Even without Dungey, the Orange will have a hard time stopping Heisman-hopeful Leonard Fournette, who rushed for 228 yards against Auburn on Saturday. While Syracuse does rank in the top-50 nationally in total defense, part of that is attributed to the fact that they’ve played Rhode Island, Wake Forest, and Central Michigan. After a heavy dosag I would expect the Orange to drop out of that top-50 category after this weekend. As for this game, I’d expect to see a heavy dosage of Fournette before the backups come in towards the end of the first half/beginning of second half.
Florida vs. Tennessee
Last week, I said Kentucky would end their 28-game losing streak to Florida. Well, I was wrong. Florida faces another team hoping to end a losing streak, and this week it’s Tennessee; who haven’t beaten the Gators since 2004. Florida relied on their talent-laden defense to squeak by UK, but Tennessee is much more potent on offense than the Wildcats. This game will played in The Swamp, one of the toughest places to play in the nation. However the Vols can, and should, come out this with a win. Tennessee is still looking for their signature win to say “we’ve arrived”, and they almost had it against Oklahoma before blowing it in the fourth quarter. The Gators aren’t nearly the same quality of opponent that the Sooners are, but a convincing win might get the Vols back in the polls. Also, it was announced yesterday that two starters for Florida, cornerback Jalen Tabor and quarterback Treon Harris, would be suspended for the game. It was likely that Harris wouldn’t see much playing time this weekend, but it makes it that much easier to game plan for just one quarterback rather than two. Offensively for Tennessee, Joshua Dobbs hasn’t been the runner the Vols hoped he’d be (which will help take some of the pressure of Florida’s defense) but he’s been a decent quarterback in two of their three games. This should be the year Tennessee finally ends their 10-year losing streak, beating the Gators in The Swamp. The Vols are favored by a field goal, but it could very easily be a bigger margin of victory than that.
#12 Alabama vs. Louisiana Monroe
Instead of rehashing for the 45th time what Ole Miss did and Alabama didn’t, let’s just look to the future and see where Alabama goes from here. The Crimson Tide play ULM in a mid-afternoon kick, and it should give them an opportunity to evaluate their quarterback situation. Jake Coker threw two picks against Ole Miss, while Cooper Bateman threw one before being crushed by linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche on the return. The fact that Saban went with Bateman in a move to “surprise” Ole Miss, tells me that he still doesn’t fully trust Coker. Don’t be surprised to see Coker and Bateman get an equal amount of snaps against ULM, while Alec Morris or David Cornwell each get 10-12 of their own. With a game in Athens against a red-hot Georgia team coming next week, Saban will likely be selecting the starter against the Dawgs depending on their performance this coming Saturday.
#14 Texas A&M at Arkansas
Following his victory over Arkansas, Kliff Kingsbury took some well-placed shots at Bret Bielema, including the statement, “they just got their asses kicked, and they’ll probably get their asses kicked again against Texas A&M.” Well, Kliff, it looks like you and I are on the same frequency here. Arkansas does get the Aggies at home, but they’ve been ravaged by injuries and their head coach has been defaced by multiple coaches at every level of the game. The Aggies on the other hand are healthy, have depth, and are undefeated with a win over a ranked team. If you’re an Arkansas fan, your faith in the Razorbacks winning this game has be near zero. For Aggie fans, this was a game they might’ve been worried about before the season began, but they should be able to handle this team. I am interested, however, to see how Myles Garrett and Daylon Mack fare against the massive Arkansas offensive line. If Garrett and Mack can get past that unit, I’m not sure there’s anybody big enough to stop those two.
#3 Ole Miss vs. Vanderbilt
If you’re expecting Ole Miss to add Vanderbilt to their exclusive “70-Point Club”, expect to be surprised when Vanderbilt keeps Ole Miss to 40 or less. I doubt Ole Miss is going to come out as hyped for the Commodores as they were for Alabama. The Rebels have made their first statement win this season, and this weekend at home versus a Vandy team that is still the worst in the SEC doesn’t really amount to the same level inspiration they had in Tuscaloosa. Still, Ole Miss should come out beat this team by at least 20. Vanderbilt has a solid defense, one that held Georgia to 31 points. The same Georgia team that just dropped 52 on Steve Spurrier and the Gamecocks. Ole Miss will still come out and do their thing, they’ll put up numbers and Robert Nkemdiche will terrorize the offensive line. Something like a 38-14 seems about right for this week.
Auburn vs. Mississippi State
It’s Week 3 and we finally have our first non-injury related quarterback change. During Tuesday’s press conference, Auburn’s head coach Gus Malzahn said that redshirt freshman Sean White would start at quarterback against Mississippi State. This comes on the heels of a three-game streak where Jeremy Johnson threw six interceptions and culminated with a 45-21 loss to LSU and Leonard Fournette. White comes in with less hype than Johnson, but perhaps more accolades. White was the Elite 11 MVP in 2013 and a consensus Top 100 overall prospect. At 6-foot-1, 200-pounds White doesn’t have prototypical size, but Malzahn seems to have confidence in the undersized gunslinger. As for Mississippi State, they’re coming off a 62-point drubbing of Northwestern State, in which Dak Prescott was 10-11 for 227 yards and a pair of scores. I said last week that this game was important to getting the offense back on track after their 21-19 loss to LSU, and it appears that’s occurred. Prescott threw the ball less on Saturday, and was given more plays to make things happen with his feet. In order for the Bulldogs to win against Auburn, they’ll need to keep that formula going. The defense clearly had issues stopping the run against LSU (Fournette ran for 228 yards), and Prescott should look to do the same. I think Mississippi State leaves Jordan-Hare Stadium with a win, but it’ll be interesting to see how Sean White looks for the Tigers as well as where both teams go from here.
#25 Missouri at Kentucky
Explain to me how Missouri is still ranked after a win in which they scored up nine points, and I’ll explain to you how Santa’s Workshop operates. It amazes me that the polls keep Missouri in the Top 25, but I guess when you sport a top-five defense that’s just enough reasoning to keep the Tigers around. As for Kentucky, this season could’ve started a little better for them. Quarterback Patrick Towles was supposed to improved, but seemingly has taken a step back after an 8-for-24 performance against Florida last week, the loss of star linebacker Bud Dupree to the NFL has left a hole in the defense, and the only bright spot has stud running back Stanley “Boom” Williams, who has been good, but not Leonard Fournette-team on my back-level good. None of this bodes well for the Wildcats, who are favored by a touchdown over Gary Pinkel and the Tigers. Mizzou held the Huskies to 2.3 yards per carry last week, and forced the game-clinching interception in the final minutes. The hope for Kentucky in this game is that Williams gets it going early, forces the defense to creep up, and Towles can complete some throws downfield. If Kentucky puts Missouri in the hole, I’m not so sure they have the consistency on offense to get out of it. This game will come down to the last possession, and the team that can force more mistakes by the quarterback will come out with the win.
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