Well, we have five SEC teams playing out of conference opponents this weekend, which means we have eight games involving SEC squads on Saturday. With that in mind, I’m going to get right to talking about the games. I’ll focus on the in-conference matchups because, quite frankly, the likes of Charleston Southern, Idaho State, and Chattanooga aren’t worth a great deal of coverage.
Game of the Week – #5 Alabama @ #12 LSU – Saturday 3:30 PM, CBS
Anytime there’s a big game in Death Valley, you wish it was a night game, but at least it will be getting dark late in this one. Even though the sun will be out at kickoff, Baton Rouge will be rocking for this one. Already, a lot of people are talking up the Auburn-Alabama matchup and if the Tide gets caught up in that, the Tiger defense will make them pay.
On paper, Alabama has too many weapons on offense and too much talent on defense for LSU, Les Miles and company just seem like they are going to find a way to keep it close. I don’t remember the last fall Saturday where we didn’t have something to talk about because Miles made some crazy call in a close and late situation.
Both squads had bye weeks to prepare for this matchup, so you can expect to see well formulated game plans. In particular, I will be looking forward to seeing what LSU does to amp up a passing game that currently ranks 113th in the nation. Will they go with one of their two QB’s more? Will they turn to trick plays? Will Les Miles make his kicker the QB? Pretty much everything is in play.
If you’re a junkie for great one on one battles, it doesn’t get much better than CB Patrick Peterson and WR Julio Jones. These are a couple of physical specimens with that have NFL written all over them. They also happen to be their squads punt returners. If Peterson can come up with a big play or two, especially early, something he has done on multiple occasions this year, the Tide could be in for a battle.
Can’t Miss Game – #17 Arkansas @ #18 South Carolina
South Carolina has a bit more to play for here because they are in line to win the SEC East title if they take care of business. However, at the end of the season, these two squads are going to be competing for the exact same bowl spots because, let’s face it, South Carolina’s probably not winning the SEC title game if they get there.
Bobby Petrino’s squad has been an offensive terror all year, but last week the defense came to play in a big way against Vandy. They absolute shut down the ‘Dores didn’t allow a single first down for the last three quarters. However, Vandy doesn’t exactly have the weapons that South Carolina does. We’ll see how they fare in a very difficult road environment. Also, there were questions about the health of QB Ryan Mallett last week, even calls for him to be rested against Vandy, but he answered with over 400 yards through the air.
These are two extremely evenly matched teams. USC runs the ball a bit better, but Arkansas throws a little better. This is far from a bold prediction, but this one is coming down to turnovers. Both of these teams have lost games this season because of turnovers and whoever takes care of the ball better will probably take the W.
Game to Keep an Eye on – Florida @ Vanderbilt – Saturday 12:21 PM, SEC Network/ESPN3.com
If it weren’t for the great home field advantage Vandy will have in Nashville this weekend, I would tell you that this would be a blowout.
Oh wait, Florida is going to have more fans at this game than Vandy.
This is going to be a blowout. Vandy couldn’t move the ball to begin with, now they are without starting running back Warren Norman for the rest of the season. Florida’s defense has been pretty good, even through their offensive struggles. Now that they have an offense that seems to be able to move the ball consistently with Jeff Brantley and Trey Burton sharing snaps at QB, Vandy is in big trouble. Only turnovers could keep them in this one.
Only if You Have Family Involved
We’re going to change things up a bit here. I’m going to rank the five remaining games involving SEC squads in order of how big of a blowout I anticipate.
1. Idaho State @ Georgia – Saturday 12:30 PM, ESPN3.com
Idaho St. is just 1-7 for the season and their only win came in the opener against perennial power Montana-Western.
2. Charleston Southern @ Kentucky – Saturday 12:30 PM, ESPN3.com
Charleston Southern has played one FBS opponent all year (Hawaii) and fell 66-7.
3. Chattanooga @ #3 Auburn – Saturday 1 PM, ESPN3.com
Chattanooga is not a poor team for their level, but Auburn’s offensive is unstoppable for the best defenses. They will be calling off the dogs early.
4. Louisiana-Lafayette @ Ole Miss – Saturday 7 PM, ESPNU
When a team gets its first FBS win against you as Western Kentucky did against ULL a couple weeks ago, you’re probably not very good.
5. Tennessee @ Memphis – Saturday 8 PM
Louisville learned last month how bad Memphis is, but we’ve learned all season that Tennessee isn’t a special team either. Tennessee still has a lot more talent than Memphis, but that hasn’t stopped them from playing close games in the past.