When Mississippi State and South Carolina hook up on Thursday night, it could be the turning point in both team's seasons. The Cocks got a huge win in Athens two weeks ago, but did not look impressive in doing so. This week, the Cocks face a fired up team in the Mississippi State Bulldogs. State is still upset about losing to Carolina last season in the final minutes of the game. Last year, QB Erik Kimrey came in for Carolina and hooked up with WR Jermale Kelly for a 25-yard TD play on a 4th-and-10 with a couple of minutes to play in the game.
Both Carolina and State need this win in order to get to a New Year's Bowl game. However, if either of these teams were to "want" to lose a game early in the SEC it would be this one. The reason being that because they are in different divisions the loss is a little less damaging early in the season.
It is hard to say which team will play better Thursday night, because both looked so shaky in their television appearances in the past few weeks. Both have similar styled quarterbacks that wont make mistakes. Phil Petty has thrown 54 consecutive passes this season without an interception, but has only two touchdown throws. Wade Madkin, the State starting quarterback, does not turn the ball over either. He has now thrown 103 consecutive passes without an interception.
State has lost only one game at home in their last 18, beating Alabama, Florida, Auburn, and almost everyone else in the SEC during that stretch. If Carolina is to win this game, they will need a better effort out of their running game. It looked awful against Georgia. "Superstar" Derek Watson was nowhere to be seen two weeks ago. State is 56-14-1 (.796) under Sherrill when outrushing their opponent. The team that runs the ball better will win the game, cause the quarterbacks are not going to win it or lose it.
This game should not be close. Nothing indicates that it should be. Florida has dominated the series, winning the last 14 contests. Normally this would be a high scoring affair (in the past four contests, Florida and Kentucky have combined for 2,691 yards). But that is not likely this season.
This season Kentucky has not been nearly as explosive on offense as in the past. Another problem for the Cats is that their defense has not improved that much over last season. Kentucky ranks at or near the bottom of every category in the SEC. Kentucky ranks second to last in total defense and last in scoring defense.
Florida, on the other hand, is the second ranked team in the country in both polls and are statistically superior to most teams in the SEC, and most certainly better than Kentucky.. The Gators are ranked first in every offensive category with the exception of rushing. Their 52 points per game is good enough for second best in the country.
If ever there was a mismatch, this is it. Florida should embarrass the Cats in Lexington. The only hope that Kentucky has is to slow the game down. But the Cats don't know how to do that, and should not know how considering the fast pace system that they have been using the last few seasons.
Don't expect any sort of points in this game. Arkansas does not have a quarterback with any sort of real experience. And Alabama looks confused on offense. Still, the Hogs used their sloppy style to slow down Tennessee enough to have an opportunity to win two weeks ago. Bama looked awful for the second consecutive week against Vandy, but at least this time they won.
Bama has no real advantage playing this game at home because Arkansas has won three of the last four games in Alabama. And Alabama's win over Vandy two weeks ago was their first win in their last six games. Bama is still struggling to get on track.
Arkansas' defense has come to play recently, allowing only 2 rushing touchdowns this season. The Hogs are solid on defense, allowing only 11.5 points per game. However, the Arkansas offense is poor at best. Arkansas' 103 total yards per game on offense is the worst in the SEC and ranks 115th in the country. Horrible.
Don't expect too many touchdowns in this one. The winner of the game avoids the SEC West cellar. (I never thought that I would say that about Alabama this early in the season)
Richmond at Vanderbilt
Greg Zolman, Vandy's starting quarterback, is the SEC's leading active career performer in passing yards, completions, and total offense. But when has Zolman led Vandy to a winning season, or better yet a big upset? He has not, and the time is now for him to step up and get Vandy going.
It was bad enough to lose to Middle Tennessee State to start the season, but after allowing Bama to slip through their fingers again, one must wonder about Woody Widenhofer's job security. After all, there is even a point of no return for Vandy boosters.
Yes, Vandy has moved the ball on offense, but look how poor their defense has become. They are last in total defense and rushing defense. Vandy should be aware that Richmond took Virginia to the final minute before losing the first week of the season. But don't worry, Richmond will wilt at the end, the same way that Vandy usually does.
Is Syracuse that bad or is ugly just their style? I don't know, but they looked horrible against both Tech and Tennessee and made those two look just as bad in the process. Make no mistake about it, Syracuse has a big league defense, but their offense is horrible. I mean horrible. The Orangemen are in the 90s in terms of offensive statistics nationally. Their defensive stats suffer as a result of spending too much time on the field.
Auburn, like Syracuse, has a powerful defense. Ignore what Manning did at the end of the game two weeks ago, the Tiger defense is the real deal. The Tigers rank in the top half of all defensive statistics for the SEC. Defensively, Auburn has been superb; think about this statistic; Auburn shut out its opponents for the first 101:58 of the season, before giving up a touchdown to Ole Miss with 3:02 left in the third quarter on Sept. 8. Wow.
Damon Duval gets the job done for the Tigers in terms of kicking, so that is not an issue either. Auburn could very well be the sleeper in the West. They will be a scary bunch of Tigers if their freshman quarterback grows during the season.
However, Auburn is not that impressive on astro turf; going 38-41-3 on plastic. But this game goes beyond the playing surface. Auburn should be too much for Syracuse.