Monday, September 15, 2014

Best SEC Games in Week 4

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Well, let's see how we did last week. Go check out the writeup from last week. 

Arkansas pulled out a big win. I don't know who needed it more, the Hogs or the SEC. 

Missouri did a little more than "doing just enough to win" as I expected. They did get a defensive TD in the 4th quarter that made the game look worse than it really was. Mauk tossed 4 TDs , 2 each to Sasser and Jimmy Hunts. The big key, as we talked about last week, was that UCF can't run the ball. They were held to 58 total rushing yards on 31 carries. 

I thought the Dogs would dominate, as did everyone else outside of Columbia. Heck, even in Columbia there was worry, as I heard on the Finebaum show. I did think enough of OBC to say that he was capable of coaching his way to a win and that USC was one of those teams that storms back after a let down game. I simply didn't think it would be possible if Richt handed Gurley the ball. Guess what? He didn't. On a critical 1st and goal from the 4, Bobo and company decided to do the unthinkable. They threw the ball on 1st down, and were called for intentional grounding. They ran the ball on 2nd from behind the sticks and were forced to throw it on 3rd and long...which was tipped incomplete. Normally reliable kicker Morgan shanked the field goal and the Cocks went on to win.  I don't want to make mistakes for myself, but the coaching was extremely questionable. Gurley had already wracked up 130 yards. I wasn't like they had stonewalled him. But, I digress.

Kentucky put up a huge fight. They had looked explosive and dominate in their 2 cupcake games and the question was if it would translate. I didn't think it would, in the grand scheme, but against Florida? Well, it did...against a skittish looking Gator squad. It took 3 overtimes and a blown call for the Gators to get the win. Is Kentucky that good or Florida that bad? Good news is, we will know after this weekend. 

Tennessee made the Sooners work for it, but in the end it went down exactly how we thought it would. The Vols don't have enough....yet. But they fought hard, as we have seen them do this year, which they hadn't done in some time. North was pretty impressive, going for 67 yards on 6 catches. Worley showed that he can't win games, which is no surprise, as he tossed 2 picks including 1 pick 6. The worst part is, they were both in the endzone. Tennessee moved the ball and those two turnovers broke the game for the Vols. 

So, we ended up 3-1 for the week and 6-4 over all. Pretty pitiful. That's ok. This week will be better. 

Best SEC Games in Week 4

Auburn at Kansas State
We have previewed this game on the blog already. Go check out our predictions. What I will say is....7 point spread. Really? Auburn has covered 13 straight spreads. If I were a betting kind of guy, this is one I would consider. 
Auburn. By more than 7.5

Alabama vs Florida
I'd love to make this my SEC game of the week. But it's not. Why? Because I don't think much of either team. Is it possible that both teams can lose this one? Florida was given a gift last week against Kentucky. KENTUCKY! Driskel is shakey at best. Kelvin Taylor took a backseat this week to Matt Jones who went for 156 yards on 30 carries against Kentucky. The defense doesn't look like what it has been in the past. On the other side is a Bama team that is hard to gauge. Do they have a QB or don't they? To me, Sims is doing a decent job. He isn't doing any more than the previous 2 Championship QBs have done, so I don't know what all the fuss is about. It's like Tide fans want to complain about all the talent on the sideline, but they claim a National Championship every February during NSD.  Face it. You can't have 2 QBs on the field (or can you....) and all 4 running backs at the same time. In fact, Sim's mobility has looked really good (against inferior competition).

What I think should frighten the Tide fans is consistency of inconsistency of the work load for the backs and receivers. Yeldon and Henry are neck and neck with carries (right at 40 for Yeldon and 33 for Henry) and Drake with 18 of his own. I have witnessed a lot of fans who want to  share the carries between the 3. If you listen to the Bama fans, it seems that the guy on the sideline is always the hot hand. They want all 3 guys to have 20 touches a game.  I see the rationale behind that. If you have 3 studs, it makes sense to rotate them and wear a defense out. But, a running back needs to find his groove, and that cannot be done sharing the carries. Consider this: Even though Yeldon and Henry have almost 75 touches between them, they have 3 TDs total. Drake has 4 TDs. That won't sit right with these guys forever. The other thing to consider is the lack of production from the other receivers, which is a function of the play calling. Cooper has 33 catches in 2014, which is almost 4 times the next guy in line. This is by design, as Kiffin's offense is all about getting the ball to the play makers in space. So far, Bama hasn't played a defense that could put even 1 capable defender on Amari Cooper. 

That could change this week. Florida has consistently churned out good defensive backs to the NFL. Honestly, I don't know who it is...but Florida has got to have that receiver capable of keeping up with Cooper.  The key to Cooper's game is making the first defender miss. We have seen that the last two years when he gets the ball in space. What we haven't seen Kiffin do a lot this year is throwing the ball in the flats or off the wheel route to the backs. If he can do this, the Tide offense will break this game open. Florida cannot score from behind. In the end, this will be a premier game to watch, but by year's end, it won't matter. Both of these teams will share 4 losses. Minimum. But someone has to win this one.

SEC Game of the Week

LSU vs Mississippi State

LSU has notched an impressive win against a very good Wisconsin team, but I don't put too much faith in that. Opening weekend games are an anomaly, at least in my opinion. You can't judge a team by their first game, especially one against a premier opponent as they have had months to game plan. But, one thing you must give credit for is the 21 point deficit the Tigers overcame to beat the Badgers. That's not something that you can belittle. State, however, has played a 3 week cupcake walk of games. Prescott hasn't exploded onto the Heisman scene like many thought he would. Yet, he has 9 TD tosses and 2 TD runs. But, he has a completion ratio under 60% against inferior competition. But, we know he can blow up teams by running. Mullen has kept Prescott under tight reigns by limiting him to less than 7 rushes per game. There is zero doubt that he can run against good teams. Even in a loss last year, he managed over 100 yards and a TD. 

LSU looks to be grooming Fournette for the lead back job, having gotten him to 31 total carries, pacing Hilliard who has 41. The two backs have identical averages. Things could turn south in a hurry if they push Fournette. We have seen it many times: a young player trying to do too much, leading to a costly turnover. This should really be a chance to lean on a very good senior running back in Hilliard, who looks to be on pace to eclipse his carries from the last few years. He has never rushed for more than 80 carries and has only 60-70 in 2 of his 3 previous years. He already has as many receptions this year than any other year. I expect him to be the work horse against State. Does LSU have a capable QB? It doesn't really look like it. He has posted 1 game with a completion ratio greater than 60%. I look at his numbers and I don't see a QB who can win the west. 

This isn't the first time that this matchup has looked to be compelling. This year has the makings of a classic. This is the first year in a long time that State hasn't played Auburn early. That game almost always ends in a Dogs loss and is almost always a deflating one going into the game against LSU (2013, 2011, 2010). I think that could be a huge factor in this game. Last year's contest was close for 3 quarters. Real close. Before Mettenberger lit it up in the 4th for 28 points. I look at this game and see a very capable Mississippi State offense against a  typical LSU defense, who has been gashed by teams in the last two years. I see an untested State defense against a seemingly 1 dimensional LSU offense. My heart says State wins it with fantastic play from Prescott and a few turnovers for the LSU offense. My head says "Death Valley."