After a number of years being known as probably the top division in college football, it’s a bit strange that the SEC East has fallen so far behind the West this year. With Tim Tebow gone, the East lacks an elite team. Also, thanks to the precipitous falls of Tennessee and Georgia, only South Carolina and Florida are in the top 25.
The West, on the other hand, has the undisputed top team in the nation in Alabama along with three other teams in the top 12. The West has stifling defenses, Heisman candidates, and athletes at skill positions. For my money, Auburn and Arkansas are good enough teams to win the SEC most years, but this season, they probably don’t have much of a shot at their own division thanks to ‘Bama.
We have three cross divisional matchups this weekend and I anticipate that the West will take two of the three at a minimum. Let’s take a look at what we have to look forward to.
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Game of the Week – (1) Alabama (5-0) @ (19) South Carolina (3-1) – Saturday 3:30, CBS
South Carolina has had two weeks to prepare for the top team in the nation at home, while Alabama is fresh off of two games against top ten squads. Normally, I would question whether Alabama would be mentally fatigued heading into a matchup with a team playing probably their biggest game of the year. I don’t think I’m worried about Alabama though.
With their defense and running game, I just don’t see a hostile road crowd being a problem, especially since they only played one really intense half of football last week. What Alabama has to worry about, though, is QB Greg McElroy. He started out the season very well, but hasn’t been great the last two weeks. At Arkansas, he made a number of mistakes. Against Florida, he wasn’t asked to do much. I look for the senior to bounce back this week.
Looking at South Carolina, Steve Spurrier did what he seems to do annually: create a QB controversy. He had a QB in Steven Garcia who played very solid football all year, but fumbled twice late against Auburn. He also has a young QB in Connor Shaw who he is in love with. Spurrier decided to pull Garcia, even though he had played very well other than the fumbles to insert Shaw. Shaw came in and moved the ball, but threw two picks in the fourth quarter to give Auburn the win. Now, he has two QB’s with fragile confidence. Spurrier just might manage to ruin his best team in Columbia.
Can’t Miss Games
(12) LSU (5-0) @ (14) Florida (4-1) – Saturday 7:30 PM, ESPN
Seemingly all I do when I talk about LSU is make fun of Les Miles and how awful their offense is, yet the Tigers are 5-0, including three conference wins. Does that mean I’m actually thinking about giving them some respect? Absolutely not. I think a trip to the Swamp will be the perfect cure for that pesky undefeated record.
I look for these two defenses to not allow much in the way of offense, but Florida’s defense has been unbelievable at converting opponent’s mistakes into turnovers. Really, LSU’s most effective way of scoring has been via Patrick Peterson and punt returns, but Florida historically allows nothing on special teams. I expect a relatively close score, but I don’t think LSU will have much of a chance to win late.
(8) Auburn (5-0) @ Kentucky (3-2) – Saturday 7:30 PM, ESPN2
Games to Keep an Eye on
(11) Arkansas (3-1) @ Texas A&M (3-1) – Saturday 3:30 PM, ABC
A&M faced their first quality opponent of the season last Thursday against fellow unbeaten Oklahoma State. Thanks to five turnovers, The Aggies lost on a last second field goal. This week, they will face another step up in competition against the team that I believe to be the second best in the SEC. They will have the benefit of playing in front of a rowdy home crowd, but by the time Arkansas takes the field, they will have had two weeks to marinate on a massive opportunity missed against Alabama. I look for Ryan Mallett to have a BIG game.
Tennessee (2-3) @ Georgia (1-4) – Saturday 12:21 PM, SEC Network
It wasn’t long ago that this would have been the game of the week in the SEC, but now, this game is relegated to the back burner. These are two teams that very desperately need wins. Both lost games on the road last week in dramatic fashion and will be looking to rebound.
Georgia may have a worse record, but they have far superior talent, particularly on offense. AJ Green and company moved the ball very well last week (in spite of cramps for Green) but the defense couldn’t stop Colorado. Tennessee, on the other hand, hasn’t moved the ball well all year. They will score come point against an iffy UGA D, but look for Georgia to get temporarily back on track.
Only if You Have Family Involved
Mississippi State (3-2) @ Houston (3-1) – Saturday 8 PM
This had the potential to be a very dangerous game for State, but that prospect disappeared (or at least should have) when Houston lost their first AND second string QB’s to season ending injuries. They had a bye week to get their house in order prior to hosting the Bulldogs, but MSU should handle their business.
Eastern Michigan (0-5) @ Vanderbilt (1-3) – Saturday 7 PM, ESPNU
Why ESPNU decided to pick this thing up is far beyond me. Anytime Vandy is a 25 point favorite, you should have a pretty good idea that this is not a game you need to watch. Keep in mind too that this advice is coming from a Vandy alum.