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I had training all week, so no post was made about the top SEC games in Week 5. I know, you are all just heartbroken.
Anyway, so let's review week 4, now just a distant memory. But, if you care, you can read what I wrote here.
Auburn won, but didn't cover the spread.
Bama crushed Florida and somehow Muschamp didn't get the Kiffin Treatment.
Mississippi State went into Death Valley and beat the Tigers, despite trying to give the game away in the last few minutes.
How did I fair? Well, TECHNICALLY I was 2-1. BBUUUTTT....I want to point out that I had full faith in the Bulldogs and that the ONLY reason I took LSU was because it was in Death Valley at night. Everything told me that State would win, except location. It was simply playing the odds. So, though I lost this one, I do point out that I kinda sorta knew they would win. So, I could say I an 8-5 since I TECHNICALLY picked LSU to win. But 9-4 sounds so much better. Yes, it does make me sleep better at night.
So...the big week is here. Tons of big games. Let's get to it.
Florida vs Tennessee
Florida sucks. Tennessee also sucks, but less. Heck, the entire East is a grab back of mediocrity. I know playing the SEC West in Atlanta is a daunting task, but SOMEONE has to do it. The crazy thing is, when Worley was named the starter, I told everyone I knew that Jones had officially flushed the 2014 season. I didn't think Worley would start for any team in the Power 5 conferences. The young Vols team struggled with Oklahoma. Then they go out and play a tough Georgia team last week. You can imagine my surprise when Worley did his best Manning impression, sitting in the pocket and hitting receivers. He got knocked around, but he got back up and led one of the best late 4th drives I have seen so far this year. Ultimately, they came up short, but they played a heck of a game. He could be the most improved QB I have watched this year. Additionally, I told yall Marquez North was the real deal. Believe me now? On the flip side, Florida looked absolutely lost against a team with a decent QB and a fantastic WR. Sound familiar?
On the other side, the Vols have a fantastic middle line backer and a decent defense. The Gators couldn't throw out of a wet paper sack, but they do have two intriguing backs. Taylor looked to bust out from where he left off in 2013, only to see his carries diminish to Jones, who is a bigger and more physical back. They both average 5.3 yards per carry and each has 2 TDs. The only chance Florida has is if you can stack Jones and Taylor together to form a Orange and White version of Todd Gurley. Fat chance. But, the run does allow Florida to stay in the game, just don't expect any 200 yard performances.
The Vols get Florida in Knoxville, which always helps your odds.
Florida has to win this game. I mean, it's imperative that they at least split the games between Tennessee and Georgia. Considering how well Tennessee has improved (and how the Gators have managed to get WORSE), I'd say the chances of beating the Vols is slim and Georgia is even slimmer. I never thought I would pick the Vols in a game in 2014. Times. They are a'changin'.
Alabama vs Ole Miss
No, it isn't my SEC game of the week even if Game Day is going to The Grove. America has Roll Tide Fatigue, and it shows each and every year when a game like this comes around. The media picks and SEC West team (that isn't LSU or Auburn) and props them up as a potential spoiler to the Tide's season. When Petrino was at Arkansas, it was that game. And it was never a game. Now it is Freeze at Ole Miss. Truth be told, Ole Miss finally has a good enough team to play 4 quarter football. With Ole Miss, you get Good Bo or Bad Bo. In fantasy land, he has alternated from 37 points to 15. This THEORETICALLY should be Good Bo week after a bad outing against Memphis. But, he has played his worst games against Bama. Now, he hasn't run his mouth like last year and has somewhat refrained from providing bulletin board material to the Tide. It's too bad that the Crimson Tide doesn't really need it, anyway. Sure, it's at the Grove. Sure, it's going to be Simm's first road game.
Let's of story lines here that people want to hang their hat. But, the important aspects are usually overlooked.
Ole Miss has a very good defense. They rank 3rd in the country in points allowed at 8.5. Granted, that has been against some cup cake teams. I don't think they can stop Bama completely, but I do think they can slow them down. The key? Don't let Amari Cooper streak down the field as Florida allowed. Ole Miss has a front 4 good enough to fight the talented stable of backs from Alabama. Simms will have to throw the ball around to other players. Look for OJ Howard and Christion Jones to produce. Don't forget about DeAndrew White coming back from injury. Ole Miss has recruited as well as anyone in the country.,..for 2 years. And while that has turned into some immediate success, it won't be until next year that we truly see if these prospects are gold.
On the flip side, Alabama played well against their cupcake walks (including an abysmal Florida team). But, Trickett and the WVU crew gave Bama fits and proved that the Tide secondary still hasn't improved from previous years. Bo Wallace, despite his 6 INTs, has thrown 11 TDs for over 1271 yards with a 71% completion ratio. He has 5 different receivers with 10 catches or more. Treadwell is a future NFL talent that will demand the Tide's best cover corner and shading from the safety. Cody Core has done well to shine in Treadwell's former place as the secondary receiver. With the coverage matchups these two demand, it could come down to the very dynamic Evan Engram, possibly the best receiving TE in the country, to make or break this offense. The sophomore hasn't found the endzone yet in 2014, though he has over 175 yards receiving. The biggest question mark for me is, will Bo run? He hasn't been the running threat he was in previous years due to his progression as a passer. He has yet to break more than a 10 yard run or into the endzone. Though you might suspect him to be holding back due to his laundry list of injuries he has sported in the past, it is equally as easy to suspect that he has been holding back on purpose. While many people point out the Tide's inability to contain a dual threat QB, I point out that the QBs that have given the Tide fits have always had good...if not GREAT running backs. If they Tide can rush straight up field, it will both negate the ability for Wallace to run and turn into sacks. Here is what we do know: Wallace coughs the ball up when the game is on the line.
This is another great outing for Ole Miss, who I suspect will have a terrific year. But, costly turnovers late in the game seal the deal for the Tide.
Tide. Close. REAL CLOSE.
Mississippi State vs Texas A&M
This is a true flip 'em and pick 'em game. We THINK we know who TAMU is. They beat a solid Arkansas club in a neutral site game in over time. They crushed the Gamecocks, a team who even I thought was the best in the East. But, because the Hogs are the Hogs and the Cocks are the Cocks, we really don't know much about Kenny Trill and Co. It helps if we compare this team to the previous two TAMU clubs. While they were dangerous and beat some good teams, the fact is that they didn't win a lot of games, when all was said and done. Kenny Hill is a better passer than Manziel. But no one improvises like Johnny. And no one on the TAMU team is Mike Evans. They may be better across the board, but they don't have the game breakers that TAMU had the previous two years.
For TAMU, I still haven't seen much in terms of defense. Arkansas was able to run for 285 and pass for 200. They essentially gave up two 100 yard rushers in a single game. Arkansas has a gun shy QB and not much in the way of receivers. On the flip side, De'Runnya Wilson and Jameon Lewis are big time receivers for State. Though they have decent backs, specifically Robinson who has almost 500 yards already, Prescott is all they need to move the chains.
Conversely, TAMU relied heavily on the pass with Carson picking up 55 yards which included a 24 yard run. State's defense improved mightily against LSU when they had given up 34 points to UAB. But, I believe that game was an aberration and UAB is a much improved squad (they knocked off Troy and Alabama A&M). The problem with TAMU in games of importance has been the 14 point swings that follow giving up a TD and backing it up with a turnover or 3 and out. When everything clicks, they can put up points in a hurry and put games out of reach. But, against balanced teams who can control the clock, they have a pretty bad record. Mississippi State hasn't arrived quite yet. After this weekend, they will have their train parked firmly in the station before being derailed by Auburn and Alabama.
SEC Game of the Week
Homer pick? Yes. But, the two games against Auburn and Alabama have shaped the SEC West for 20 years. I have covered this in my LSU Preview, so if you want more details, go read it.
Ultimately, LSU isn't the same team they have been. Auburn hasn't been great so far in 2014. Though Auburn lost in 2013, it was this game that shaped the entire season. No, I don't think it will take an Auburn loss to get to Atlanta like last year. But, this will be an identity shaping game.