SEC Previews and Predictions: Week 5

Southeastern Conference Preview and Predictions...

Last week's record: 6-2 (75.0%)

Season record: 28-6 (82.4%)

 

FLORIDA at ALABAMA

Game within a game: Florida option packages vs. Alabama front seven

Alabama's season has been great to this point, but the whole thing could come to a crashing halt if the Tide can't shut down Florida's spread-option offense. Tennessee found a way to do it, but unfortunately for the Vols, they let a Florida defense that was supposed to be mediocre in the preseason put the clamps on all facets of their game. Alabama's offense has looked much more productive than Tennessee's so far, and the game is in Tuscaloosa, which will help. The game will likely come down, therefore, to how Alabama defenses Florida's option half of the spread-option package. Florida got away from the option against Tennessee and it was a mistake; don't look for head coach Urban Meyer to make it twice. On top of that, Alabama had some trouble with Arkansas' limited option plays, and even had some issues with packages run by MTSU and Southern Miss. If Alabama spends too much time trying to figure out how to stop the Florida running game, it will give QB Chris Leak all the time he needs to pick the secondary apart. Florida, however, has its own shortcomings. LB Billy Latsko was moved back to offense this week in a tacit admission by Meyer that he'll need a blocking fullback at times in the SEC, something he didn't necessarily need at Utah. Leak still hasn't shown the ability to make a lot of plays outside the pocket, and Florida's defensive success may be due more to the relative weakness of its opponents' offenses than to anything Florida has done. It's even difficult to get a read on what the point spread in this game should be. Both teams have the potential to blow the other out, as well as play this game closely. Alabama could make a huge statement in this game, not just to the pollsters, but recruits as well. But Florida looks a bit too strong on offense at the moment. Florida 27, Alabama 20

 

SOUTH CAROLINA at AUBURN

Game within a game: South Carolina DL vs. AU RB Kenny Irons

There are several matchups in this game that will draw attention. Foremost for South Carolina's offense is how whoever is starting at quarterback will fare against the Auburn secondary, which has issues. Unfortunately for the Gamecocks, it appears that Blake Mitchell will miss this game, leaving quarterback up to Antonio Heffner, who has more rushing carries than pass attempts at the moment. But the big issue is South Carolina's defensive line, which is ranked 99th in rushing defense and continues to allow offenses success on the ground, most recently Troy. Auburn brings a rushing offense into this game that is just starting to get going, and Kenny Irons, a former Gamecock, and Brad Lester headline that attack. If Auburn can get going on the ground, it would take the pressure off QB Brandon Cox, who missed last week's game reportedly with the flu. And if Auburn can achieve offensive balance early, the Tigers will mow down the Gamecocks, who still lack confidence in their abilities. Auburn 37, South Carolina 14

 

OLE MISS at TENNESSEE

Game within a game: Tennessee OL vs. Ole Miss DL

Ole Miss' defensive line was supposed to be its saving grace, with three starters back from the 2004 team. But Ole Miss comes in ranked 79th in rushing defense, despite having played such teams as Wyoming, Memphis and Vanderbilt. Tennessee had to take to the skies in order to beat LSU Monday night, and the Volunteers proved they could do it behind the passing of Rick Clausen. So if Tennessee gets rolling on the ground against Ole Miss, the Rebels might as well not even get off the bus. Ole Miss is reeling after an embarrassing home loss to Wyoming, and QB Micheal Spurlock still isn't 100 percent after breaking a finger in the Vandy game. No matter who Ole Miss chooses at quarterback this week, however, look for Tennessee to run over, around and through the Rebels, which are beginning to look like the SEC West's worst team. Tennessee 44, Ole Miss 10

 

MTSU at VANDERBILT

Game within a game: Vanderbilt RB Jeff Jennings vs. MTSU DL

Vanderbilt hosts LSU next week and MTSU head coach Andy McCollum is on the hot seat, meaning this just became a sandwich game for the Commodores. Vanderbilt is off to its first 4-0 start since Ronald Reagan was president, and to get to 5-0 all the Dores have to do is beat a winless MTSU team. That might not be as easy as it sounds, however. MTSU has been winless before and got its first win of the year against a stronger Commodore unit, most recently in 2002. The MTSU defense, particularly up front, has become respectable, particularly against the run. Fortunately for Vandy, MTSU's offense is not what it once was, scoring seven points in each of its first three games, all losses. If Vanderbilt isn't careful, MTSU is very capable of pulling off the upset. It will depend largely on the success of running backs Jeff Jennings and Cassen Jackson-Garrison against MTSU's stout front four. Vanderbilt 20, MTSU 17

 

LSU at MISSISSIPPI STATE

Game within a game: MSU secondary vs. LSU QB JaMarcus Russell

Mississippi State's offense continues to struggle, but its defense is getting better. The Bulldogs are ranked 28th in rush defense and are mid-pack in pass defense. Those numbers are very similar to Tennessee's numbers, and LSU had trouble working against the Tennessee defense in the second half of its game Monday night. The key for LSU will be QB JaMarcus Russell. Depending on what kind of weight you assign to rumor and speculation, LSU coaches are on the verge of either throwing Matt Flynn into the fire or taking the redshirt off talented signee Ryan Perrilloux. Russell has all the physical tools needed to play the position, but he looked lost for much of the game Monday and it didn't help that the coaches on the sidelines looked painfully lost, too. Mississippi State comes in after a respectable showing against Georgia, but it was a loss nonetheless and came against a physical team. One has to wonder how many more losses MSU can take before the Bulldogs stop believing in themselves. Look for MSU to make this one closer than expected, but LSU is simply too talented to lose – unless head coach Les Miles goes to sleep mid-game for the second week in a row. LSU 27, Mississippi State 13

 

IDLE: Georgia, Kentucky, Arkansas


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