With the Auburn Tigers off this weekend, it’s an opportunity to check out some of the top games from around the country and get a look at some possible opponents in 2014. It just so happens that three of those games are in the Southeastern Conference, led by Georgia’s trip to South Carolina.
For the Bulldogs it’s another chance to knock off a ranked team from the Palmetto State after disposing of Clemson two weeks ago between the hedges in Athens. Georgia’s strength is its running game with big Todd Gurley the main cog in Coach Mark Richt’s offensive machine. Running over, around and through Clemson for 198 yards and three touchdowns on just 15 carries, also adding a 100-yard kickoff return for a score, Gurley has the ability to take the pressure of quarterback Hutson Mason and the Georgia passing game.
That may be the key to this weekend’s game with South Carolina’s pass defense one of the worst in the country, allowing 832 yards and four touchdowns to Texas A&M and East Carolina the first two weeks of the season. Without the weapons that the Aggies have on the perimeter, Georgia will have to count on getting productivity on the ground to open up passing lanes and some room to work for Michael Bennett and Chris Conley outside. If that happens it will be another long day for the Gamecocks on the defensive side of the ball.
The good news for Steve Spurrier’s club is that running back Mike Davis appears to be healthy and combined with quarterback Dylan Thompson gives South Carolina a dangerous offensive one-two punch for the Bulldogs to contend with. Averaging 316 yards through the air with five touchdowns, Thompson has some talented receivers that could deal a young Georgia secondary fits if he gets time to throw against a strong front seven group for the Bulldogs.
In the end this game is all about matchups. Without the weapons outside on Georgia's offense, South Carolina's defense will try to stack the box and take away the running game for the Bulldogs. Do that and Spurrier's group is right back in the SEC race.Arkansas at Texas Tech
This is a huge game for the Razorbacks early in the 2014 season because it’s winnable on the road against a big-name opponent. Coming off a dominating win over Nichols State from its three-headed tailback monster, Arkansas has the physical skills to be a big problem for Texas Tech.
Despite the fact that the Red Raiders have played Central Arkansas and UTEP the first two weeks, they are giving up an average of 227 yards per game with six total touchdowns on the ground. That’s bad news when facing one of the top rushing teams in the country.
Arkansas must contend with a Texas Tech passing game that has thrown for 730 yards and seven touchdowns in two games under the guidance of quarterback Davis Webb. With wide receiver Brad Marquez one of the most prolific in the country, Arkansas will have a huge challenge slowing the up-tempo and short passing game from Texas Tech.
This one could come down to the team that has the ball last, but I like Arkansas’ chances of getting the big victory on Saturday
Averaging 50 points per game and allowing just 11.5 in victories over Louisiana Tech and Tulsa, Oklahoma will be a much different challenge for Coach Butch Jones’ young Tennessee team when it hits the road this weekend for the first time. One of the more balanced teams in the country, the Sooners average 286 yards through the air and 222 yards on the ground this season. The star of the show is quarterback Trevor Knight. Although he’s completing just 58.8 percent of his passes, Knight is capable of putting pressure on a defense because of his strong arm and also good running skills.
For Tennessee the pressure falls on quarterback Justin Worley because of the inability to run the football for the Vols the first two weeks. Replacing the entire offensive line, Tennessee is averaging just 3.3 yards per carry in wins over Utah State and Arkansas State. That won’t work against Oklahoma. While Worley has been solid the first two weeks, he’ll need some help from talented freshman Jalen Hurd and veteran Marlin Lane or the Sooners will tee off on him all day long. Already with four sacks and four interceptions, Oklahoma’s defense is physical enough and fast enough to take anything the Vols can throw at them.
Perhaps the biggest storyline in this game is Bob Stoops’ never ending dislike for the SEC. Tennessee needs to play well early in this one because if the Sooners get rolling it will be a long, long day away from Rocky Top for the young Vols. With the need to impress the selection committee on his mind and also wanting to show the SEC up again, Stoops won’t hesitate to run it up if he gets the opportunity.