I have a guest blogging assistant this morning, as my 6 1/2 month old daughter prematurely decided she no longer wanted to be in bed.
This will be a pretty good week in the SEC, but it's partially offset by a strange TV schedule, and the failure of ESPN to air one of the more interesting matchups.
Mississippi State at South Carolina, 11:30am, Lincoln-Financial. Too bad I'll miss most or all of this game due to the LSU game's 11:00am scheduling. South Carolina's strong running game will have a test against MSU's strong defense. Unfortunately for South Carolina, their best defensive player, senior LB Jasper Brinkley, was lost for the season with a knee injury sustained against LSU. You really hate to see that for a guy who had emerged as a team leader and arguably his team's best player. He'll be back, but probably not before taking his skills to the NFL. He could apply for a medical redshirt if he wants, and come back next year. I think.
This year in the SEC, at least early, we're seeing a couple of elite teams (LSU and Florida) followed by a big pack of teams that are more or less even, all with their own strengths and weaknesses, but all of whom are more than capable of beating each other on any particular day. MSU and South Carolina are among these teams, and both have picked up a big win in the conference. It will be interesting to see if any of these teams break out of the pack and emerge as a 3rd power in the SEC. So far, the best candidates for it seem to be South Carolina and Kentucky, which is strange and exciting.
MSU's problem is a lack of dynamic offense, and I don't see that changing this year. Their offense will limit them all year. They won't be able to put up a lot of points on anyone or score a lot of quick points. They have a good running game, but they don't have a Darren McFadden on their roster, and their passing game is rather poor. They have to grind out yards on the ground 4-8 yards at a time, get turnovers, and play tough defense week after week in order to win. That's hard to do and it will take its toll. Any defensive slips or offensive turnovers will put this team in a deep hole in any given game. For this reason, while I think they're capable of beating anyone out there, they're going to have a tough time actually pulling it off consistently.
Ole Miss at Georgia, noon, no television that I know of. Strangely, this game is being played at noon with no television coverage (I think). It's actually a pretty interesting matchup. Georgia's solid running game and inconsistent passing game will be going up against Ole Miss's young, talented, but thin defense. Ole Miss's solid running game and overachieving passing game will be going up against Georgia's solid defense. Georgia's the better team, but they're coming off a big, draining, emotional win against Bama. Can they respond? Ole Miss proved they can stay with a very good team that isn't up for them. Either that or they proved they are a better team than we thought.
Florida Atlantic at Kentucky: The less said the better. Alright, not really. Kentucky obviously is doing some things right. They're 4-0. They're ranked. They have an explosive offense. But they still don't have much of a defense, and they're not a very physical team. As such, I think they're a threat to be upset by anyone who comes along, including Florida Atlantic. Will it happen? Probably not, but it could. I just think a team like this is a bad game waiting to happen. When it happens, it will be interesting to see if they have what it takes to a) win that game anyway, and b) recover from it mentally.
Alabama vs. Florida State (neutral site), 4:00pm CBS. In another strange and unusual television twist, the CBS game is at 4:00 rather than at 2:30pm. This means it will probably interfere with the 7:00 ESPN game. Bama is another one of those roughly equal teams in the big pack this year, and they've shown signs of breaking out of it. The running game is much better than expected, as is the defense. The passing game has struggled, but the potential remains there. If I was a big Bama fan, I would be very concerned about the extremely physical games my team is playing, especially with so little depth on defense. Those big players can only get worn out so many times before they struggle to come back from it week after week. They've played two games like that in succession, and this game will be another one. That will take its toll.
Florida State is very beatable. They just aren't a very good team at all. Their offense has struggled, getting only 200 yards passing and about 130 yards rushing per game. The only time I actually watched them play, the first half against Clemson, their offensive line was very poor. Supposedly it's improved a lot. They'll have a pretty good test against the Bama defense, which has caused teams problems this season.
North Texas at Arkansas, 6:00pm no television. Eh, who cares?
Eastern Michigan at Vandy, 6:00pm, no television. Vandy's drive for 6 wins continues. This one will be #3. They'll need to figure out how to win at least one more SEC game though. I still think Vandy is a pretty good team, but so is everyone else they still have to play in the SEC. Those other teams are a lot more accustomed to winning than is Vandy.
Auburn at Florida, 7:00pm ESPN. This is the marquee SEC matchup of the week, and it has a line of about 18 points in favor of Florida. Alright, Auburn's not a very good team. I don't think I'm telling anyone anything they don't already know. However, this is a team with a lot of playmakers on defense, good coaches, and an offense that is.. uh.. waiting to break out. They have talent at running back and offensive line. They're just very young at those positions. They're improving weekly. If they can take that big leap forward and become the playmakers that Auburn needs, they will do some things.
The bigger problem is the passing game, and there appears to be no solution to that problem on the horizon. At least not for this year. They simply need an infusion of talent, and that doesn't often come mid-season. Like MSU, they'll have to grind out wins with the running game and the defense.