As I write this, I’m heading through the not-so-glorious countryside of eastern Missouri on my way to Nashville, and eventually down to Athens for the Missouri-Georgia game. One of the biggest knocks I have against Mizzou is the fact the stadium only holds 72,000 people and it retains noise at a pitiful level. Sanford Stadium is the exact opposite experience. 90,000+ people situated in the Deep South in a state that values football at an almost Texan level. Between the Hedges is about to be rowdy.
Besides a game down in Athens, we’ve got a special Thursday edition of SEC football with Kentucky and Auburn. It’s your quintessential Thursday night game, both teams aren’t great, but they carry name value and there’s potential for an interesting game due to either a) several touchdowns or b) both teams really aren’t that great so they’ll be on the same competitive plane as each other.
Anyways, it’s week seven in the SEC. Let’s see who we have due up.
#13 Ole Miss at Memphis
I doubt Ole Miss loses this game, but if Memphis were to upset them it wouldn’t be the most shocking thing that could happen this weekend. Ole Miss had a turd of a game against Florida, exposing some weaknesses. Memphis on the other hand has is undefeated, has a cyborg-like quarterback turning some heads with his Heisman worthy play, and is coming off a long week. Still, I think the talent level in Oxford has the potential to carry them through this game. This is the same team that beat Alabama at home, so while the case could be made that the Memphis has upset potential, we shouldn’t be blowing it out proportion. Ole Miss is favored by 10.5 points (which seems about right), and a win over an undefeated program would inject some confidence before the Rebels begin a tougher November schedule.
Mississippi State vs. Lousiana Tech
The Bulldogs open up as a two-touchdown favorite against the Ragin’ Cajuns, and that seems pretty standard for this game. LA Tech is an upper tier non-power conference team, but they really don’t have a chance here. MSU just whooped up on Troy 45-17, and for this game subtract and touchdown from the Bulldogs and add one to Cajuns, and that’s probably what we’re looking at score wise. This game carries little significance for Mississippi State, other than the fact a win puts them at 5-2 and a win away from bowl eligibility. I do like the scheduling of this game for the Bulldogs though. They went from a difficult conference loss against Texas A&M, played a paddy cake Troy team, and are now easing the team back into play with a slightly better opponent in LA Tech. Ultimately, this is a 7-5, maybe an 8-4 team if they get lucky, and LA Tech is just another notch in the belt.
#9 Texas A&M vs. #10 Alabama
I’ll toot my own horn for a second, and say that I picked this game in my season preview as an upset for Alabama. I don’t believe that Alabama has the secondary to compete with Texas A&M’s receivers or the quarterback. The Kyle Allen-Christian Kirk connection has been electric so far this season, and Allen still has guys like Ricky Seals-Jones, Speedy Noil, and Malcome Kennedy to make plays. The Aggies will spread them out with four receivers, and exploit mismatches in the slot and over the top with play-action. Texas A&M’s black mark has been their run defense so far, but former LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis has done a good a job negating that with an effective pass rush. Alabama will need Derrick Henry to have the best game of his season in order for the Crimson Tide to come out of College Station with a win. The Aggies will be looking to jump out to a lead early, put Alabama in a hole, and force Jake Coker to pass the ball, which is exactly what they need to avoid. If the first quarter ends with the Aggies up something like 14-0, this game is as good as over. Henry can run for as many yards and touchdowns as he likes, but Kyle Allen & Co. will score in half the time it takes for Alabama to grind it out down to the redzone.
South Carolina vs. Vanderbilt
Vanderbilt potentially comes out of this one with a conference win. As every college football fan has heard, Steve Spurrier retired earlier this week after his Gamecocks got off to a rough start. The 70-year-old Spurrier just decided it wasn’t in him anymore, and that a different coach within the program would have better success with the program. While some people would blame Spurrier, I commend him. Stepping away from the game at the right time is hard to do for coaches and athletes alike, and Spurrier realized he didn’t have that passion anymore. Well wishes to Spurrier in his retirement. Anyways, the South Carolina team is in a state of flux after this week, while Vanderbilt has been riding a shallow wave of improvement all season. They have yet to be blown out in a conference game, their defense is stout, and quarterback Johnny McCrary is making plays happen. Vanderbilt at home against a team without much of a direction is a recipe for a dubya.
#6 LSU vs. #8 Florida
At noon on Monday, we went from this game being a dynamic affair of a young quarterback commanding a promising aerial attack versus a team riding the back of potentially the greatest college running back ever, to a game that will hearken back to the 80’s and 90’s of SEC football. We’ll get LSU relying on Leonard Fournette to will his way through one of the best defenses in the nation, and then we’ll get Kelvin Taylor trying to follow in father’s footsteps as a Gator legend and live up to his hype as the #1 running back recruit. Due to the fact that neither team’s quarterback can complete a pass farther than five yards, this could be the most monotonous, boring game of the week. Here’s how it will go: a designed run, read option play, play-action pass. Repeat until it doesn’t work, then just go ahead and hand it off. I feel bad for fans of both teams because the odds are that this game scores under 30 points, but hey, at least New Orleans is just a hop, skip, and jump away from Baton Rouge.
Georgia vs. Missouri
I’m going full homer on this one. Georgia just lost Nick Chubb to a grotesque knee injury, and the active SEC sacks leader Jordan Jenkins is fighting a hamstring injury. Missouri’s true freshman (and savior from the inefficiencies of Maty Mauk), Drew Lock got his freshman-fright performance out of the way last week against Florida. Missouri’s best running back Russell Hansbrough will finally be completely healthy; giving Lock a crutch to rely upon that he didn’t have last week. If Hansbrough gets it going, it opens up a segment of the Missouri playbook that has been absent all season. As for Georgia, they still have Sony Michel, who is averaging over six yards per carry and can line up at running back or slot receiver. The throttling that Alabama laid upon Georgia made fans and coaches alike realize that Greyson Lambert is a poor man’s Greg McElroy. He’s a good game manager who can benefit from a Heisman-caliber running back. Lambert’s stock was high after torching South Carolina and setting an FBS for completion percentage, but a pair of Alabama interceptions brought him back down to earth. Mizzou sports a defense that borders the line between very good and elite, and if the front seven can generate pressure and make some stops in the backfield, then the Tigers have a chance. I’m not saying Missouri wins this one, but the Tigers have more of a chance than they did prior to the Chubb injury.