SEC Previews and Predictions

Last week's record: 5-1 (83.3%) Season record: 52-15 (77.6%)



Game within a game: LSU DL vs. Alabama OL

After watching Alabama center J.B. Closner break his leg and subsequently watch the Mississippi State defensive line take up permanent residence in Brodie Croyle's face last Saturday, everyone knew what the key matchup in Alabama's game with LSU would be. Mississippi State's front four is probably an underrated unit as a whole, but they don't match up to LSU. Specifically, LSU's tackle combination of Kyle Williams and Claude Wroten are hard for even veteran offensive lines to handle and Alabama's line may not bear much resemblance to a veteran line anymore. There is a real chance Alabama could be starting four freshmen on its line once LSU rolls into town. Presuming Antoine Caldwell is healthy enough to start at guard opposite B.J. Stabler, and Cody Davis replaces Chris Capps at left tackle – Davis played the last third of the game there – Alabama would put its fourth freshman starter on the field in the person of Evan Cardwell, who is currently redshirting. The decision between Cardwell, Taylor Britt or another player is not expected until possibly game time. Statistically, these two teams line up almost equally, with one key difference – turnover margin. Alabama is ranked 21st nationally in that category, while LSU is ranked 100th. LSU, in typical fashion, has made more than its share of mental mistakes this season, a cluster of which resulted in a 30-27 overtime loss to Tennessee in week two. If LSU can limit mistakes against Alabama, the Tigers' superior physicality on the defensive line will make it very difficult for Alabama to set up its defense around the passing of Croyle. Alabama will need to play opportunistic football, and must win the field position battle. If Alabama's OL lets LSU's DL control the pace of the game, and the Crimson Tide finds itself punting from behind its own 30-yard line too often, LSU will score enough to outpace the Alabama offense's capability to match. This was probably the toughest game on the Alabama schedule at the beginning of the season and nothing has changed. LSU 20, Alabama 14



Game within a game: Florida option package vs. South Carolina LBs

Florida's offense came alive against Vanderbilt, and that's a good thing, even if the Gator defense went to sleep for most of the contest. The best part of the Gator offensive awakening was that the option packages that make up so much of Urban Meyer's spread-option attack were finally functioning. In South Carolina, Florida gets a team that is dangerous through the air on offense, but can be contained fairly easily on the ground. The Gamecock defense is similarly uneven; the defensive line can be moved around but the linebackers are tough. There is also the issue of South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier taking on his alma mater for the first time, and the game is in Columbia. But if Florida maintains an even keel and simply works its offense the way it did against the Commodores, the Gators have enough of a talent advantage to run by the Gamecocks. South Carolina needs to hit some big plays early and make Florida play from behind, and the Gamecocks must also avoid an emotional letdown that comes from now being bowl-eligible. Look for Florida to continue to gain confidence as the Gators track down Georgia for the SEC East crown. Florida 31, South Carolina 21



Game within a game: Auburn pass rush vs. Georgia QBs

According to most around the Georgia program, D.J. Shockley will be available under center this week for the Bulldogs. But even if Shockley can go, he will be very limited against a fast front seven for Auburn. If Shockley can't make it back, the job falls again to Joe Tereshinski, who despite being a great emotional story for the Bulldogs, proved against Florida that he probably doesn't have the talent to succeed in the SEC. Shockley without the scrambling ability is an average SEC quarterback, unless Auburn gives him plentiful time to stand in the pocket and pick apart a vulnerable secondary. On the other side of the ball, Georgia must stop an Auburn rushing attack that has grown very potent. This game looked like a Georgia win in the preseason, but unless Shockley is set up for a miraculous return, Auburn likely takes this game and knocks Georgia out of the SEC Championship Game. Auburn 27, Georgia 20



Game within a game: Vanderbilt WRs vs. Kentucky secondary

By all rights, Vanderbilt, a solid but not spectacular team, should knock off Kentucky fairly easily. The Wildcats are no longer in bowl contention following a 49-27 loss to Auburn last week. But Vanderbilt is coming off a 49-42 overtime heartbreaker to Florida, a game that might have cost the Commodores their best wide receiver in Erik Davis, who suffered a knee injury. No further details were available as of this writing. Kentucky has been hobbled by many injuries this year, but the Wildcats are just starting to get a chunk of their wounded back in action. The Commodores need this win and another one next week against Tennessee to become bowl-eligible. With Davis' status uncertain, the Commodores will need true freshman Earl Bennett to step up in a big way against a Kentucky secondary that is actually a pretty decent unit. For Kentucky to pull the upset, the Wildcats need to limit mistakes and get pressure on Vandy QB Jay Cutler. Otherwise, the drive for six wins will live on for at least seven more days. Vanderbilt 31, Kentucky 27



Game within a game: Memphis rush defense vs. Tennessee RB Arian Foster

Much like Tennessee's game against Alabama could have gone, if Tennessee comes out and simply makes the determination to run the ball between the tackles and overpower the other team's defense, the Volunteers will probably win the game. Tennessee got away from that philosophy against Alabama, however, and must be careful not to get away from it here. Memphis ranks 108th in pass defense, offering up a tantalizing cherry for Tennessee playcallers to go pick. But the Tigers are also 64th in rushing defense – not terrible, but not great, either – meaning Tennessee should be able to win the game by staying on the ground for most of the contest. If Tennessee is to go to a bowl game, the Volunteers must close with three straight wins. Even though those opponents are Memphis, Vanderbilt and Kentucky – which are a combined 10-15 as of this week – getting his players to focus on the task at hand may be head coach Phillip Fulmer's greatest challenge. Look for a sloppy game, but if Tennessee loses this one it will be a sure sign that the wheels are totally off in Knoxville. Tennessee 23, Memphis 10



Game within a game: Arkansas QBs vs. Ole Miss secondary

No one knows who will be under center for Arkansas against the Rebels, but it might not matter. Ole Miss is playing as good on defense as any team in the SEC, and the Rebels are one of the few teams that have the ability to at least limit the damage the 4th-ranked Arkansas rushing attack can do. Arkansas should have beaten South Carolina last week. Instead, the Razorbacks suffered a tough 14-10 loss at home that knocked them out of bowl contention. Ole Miss is still in the bowl picture, but just barely. The Rebels are 3-5 and need to beat Arkansas, Mississippi State and notch a monumental upset over LSU to go to the postseason. Step one comes against Arkansas, a game Ole Miss is fortunate enough to have at home. The biggest question is obviously which quarterback Ole Miss will face. Casey Dick had a decent debut last week, but probably should have been redshirted anyway. Alex Mortensen apparently isn't living up to recruiting hype, while sophomore Robert Johnson has been just good enough to direct close losses. It is imperative for Ole Miss' pass defense to shut down Arkansas' passing offense. If that doesn't happen, Arkansas can balance the offense and Ole Miss will be toast. The Rebels can't play catch-up football. Ole Miss 20, Arkansas 17


IDLE: Mississippi State

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