Before I talk about this weekend in the SEC, I want to go on a quick tangent about the big to-do this week about the overreaction of the NFL all the big hits of the past weekend.
I do agree that the NFL is overreacting. Making policy changes after one abnormally violent set of games is a little ridiculous. However, I will say this: the NFL has been looking for something to react to regarding these concussion causing hits.
With all the recent research connecting concussions and long term brain injury, the NFL recognizes that, as a league, change must happen in order for football to continue to occupy its spot atop American sports, the game is going to have to change. Otherwise, parents are going to keep kids from playing football more and more and an anti-football lobby will develop that could begin to eliminate football at some high schools and colleges. A stigma could develop around the game, doing permanent damage.
The good news is that the game has faced this kind of situation before. Early in the 20th century, there were numerous player deaths during games, causing President Teddy Roosevelt to call for football to be outlawed. That was a tough situation, but the game survived by radically changing the way football was played and introducing the forward pass. Football has evolved as much or more than any other sport and it is going to have to do it again to survive.
The overreaction of the past week is evidence that they realize they have to make some changes. They used the mandate that an ugly weekend gave them to make helmet to helmet hits more of a priority.
Game of the Week – #6 LSU (7-0) @ #5 Auburn (7-0) – Saturday 3:30 PM, CBS
I was listening to Lou Holtz on Thursday and two strange things happened: (1) I understood a complete sentence and (2) I thought it was a good point. Dr. Lou said that every game a team wins makes the next game even bigger. While it’s a point I have heard before, it’s valid. It also applies to Auburn quite well. The Tigers have won close game after close game and now are in a matchup between two top six squads at home.
The story here is offense versus defense. LSU has one of the top defenses in the nation, while Auburn has one of the best offenses (and best QB’s). Everybody has been waiting for LSU’s shenanigans to catch up with them, but they haven’t quite yet. However, this is the sternest test they have faced all year and it’s hard to see them generating enough offense to keep up with Cam Newton.
Auburn has done a pretty good job of taking care of the football so far this year, and if they can do it again against LSU, I expect them to take this one. They will give up some points, even though LSU’s offense is mediocre at best, but Cam Newton is a little too good.
Can’t Miss Matchup – Georgia (3-4) @ Kentucky (4-3) – Saturday 7:30 PM, ESPN2
Games to Keep an Eye on
Ole Miss (3-3) @ #21 Arkansas (4-2) – Saturday 12:21 PM, SEC Network/ESPN3.com
Houston Nutt travels to his old stomping grounds to face Bobby Petrino and the Arkansas Razorbacks. Arkansas had a tough loss last week, hanging with Auburn in a three quarter shootout. Eventually, the loss of Ryan Mallett to a concussion and a couple dubious replay reviews turned it into a 65-43 loss.
Unfortunately for the Rebels, Mallett is good to go and the high octane Arkansas offense will be at full strength. Against Alabama, Ole Miss was able to slow down the Tide’s running attack to keep it respectable, but this week they will face a team that likes to throw it. Ole Miss gives up nearly 250 yards per game through the air and with the SEC’s top passing offense on the other side of the ball, yards should come in bunches.
Ole Miss’ offense never really has gotten into gear with Oregon transfer Jeremiah Masoli leading the way, but it’s going to have to in order for the Rebs to hang with the Razorbacks on the road.
#19 South Carolina (4-2) @ Vanderbilt (2-4) – 7 PM Saturday, ESPN3.com
The two major questions entering this game are: (1) how will South Carolina bounce back from a disastrous collapse at Kentucky and (2) will Marcus Lattimore suit up for the Gamecocks? Odds are that they will bounce back fairly well, because Vanderbilt looked about as bad as you can look in a loss last week in Athens. As for Lattimore, he will not start, but he has not been ruled out yet.
In the end, it probably doesn’t matter how much he plays, because USC is waaaay more talented than the ‘Dores. However, Vandy is very capable of playing over its head, so Spurrier’s bunch will need to be focused. If Lattimore can’t go, expect Stephen Garcia to go to his big play wide outs quite a bit against an overmatched secondary. When Vandy has the ball, they have to mix things up in order to move the chains and QB Larry Smith has to do something, anything really, to keep the defense honest.
#7 Alabama (6-1) @ Tennessee (2-4) – Saturday 7 PM, ESPN
The prestige of the two names and rivalry of this game make this a prime time ESPN affair, but odds are that you will be looking for the remote by the middle of the second quarter. Tennessee made this game very interesting in Tuscaloosa last season, but they had a much better defense back then and Jonathon Crompton was beginning to play well. Now, they don’t have much at all. As much as the orange clad Neyland goers will want to beat the hated Tide, it just isn’t going to happen.
Seriously, Don’t Bother – UAB (2-4) @ #24 Mississippi State (5-2) – 7 PM Saturday, ESPN3.com
MSU will be looking to avoid a letdown after a huge win @ Florida last weekend and subsequently entering the polls, but even if they show up for only a half, they should overwhelm the Blazers. UAB took Tennessee to overtime a few weeks ago, but could not pull it out. However, that was Tennessee, and the Bulldogs are a much better team. Look for Dan Mullen’s squad to move to 6-2 entering a challenging four game SEC run to close their season.