Take a look at the numbers and you'll see that the SEC only has one offense among the top thirty five offenses in the country, Auburn. The SEC was built on running the football and playing big physical defense. Certainly we will do well in that statistical category, right? Wrong again. The SEC has two teams with rushing offenses in the top thirty five in the nation, Arkansas and Alabama.
Well, in this day and age of the dual threat QB, surely we're just throwing it more and that's why our rushing numbers are down. Sorry to inform you, but the SEC has just one passing offense in the top thirty-five nationally and that's Vanderbilt.
Some have said it's a down year in the conference. From top to bottom we have had better years, and we won't meet our eight bowl tie-ins for the second straight season. Is the SEC losing it's status as "The" power conference? What will these numbers mean when it comes bowl season? Only time will tell, but we should probably hope that no SEC team ends up playing USC or Texas. They are head and shoulders over everyone we have. Remember USC-Arkansas or Notre Dame-Tennessee? Our SEC brethren were destroyed in those contests. The bowl season match-ups will certainly tell us a lot, but the fact that Steve Spurrier can run off over twenty players and still be in contention for a berth in SEC Championship game is proof positive that we have problems in the SEC.
Vanderbilt @ Tennessee
Well, our poor friends at Vanderbilt can join us at the kids' table at the SEC holiday feast again this year. It's just heartbreaking to see this happen to Vandy again. Jay Cutler has played like a champion all season. He decided to come back for his senior season and has probably earned himself an All-SEC Quarterback honor. In a losing effort last week, Cutler attempted a career high sixty-six passes. He leads the SEC in several passing categories, but the one attribute that Cutler possesses that can not be measured by statisticians is heart.
Tennessee has tabbed Rick Clausen to start under center this week. With Phil Fulmer taking over the play-calling last week, the Vols struggled. Erik Ainge was yanked after Memphis stormed out to a 13-0 lead. Clausen came off the bench and led the Vols on to victory for the first time since knocking off Ole Miss on October 1st. Tennessee is just dreadful on offense. They are 10th in the league in scoring offense and that's the kind of stuff that gets you fired when you're expecting to play for a national championship.
This week is very tough to call. Has Vanderbilt quit? Will Cutler go out a winner? A win over Tennessee would almost be as good as a bowl game. If this thing turns into a shootout you have to like Vandy's chances. Tennessee has everything to play for and Vanderbilt has nothing to lose. At some point you just have to line up and prove who has more talent. I don't think Vanderbilt can slow down Tennessee if they decide to do that. If the Vols get cute, the kids' table will be a party of six this holiday season.
Tennessee 17 Vanderbilt 13
Kentucky @ Georgia
Who knew this game would mean everything to Georgia a few weeks back? Georgia was cruising with a ticket to Atlanta all but assured. Now the Bulldogs have lost two straight and must beat a resurgent Kentucky team to make it back to the SEC Championship Game. A loss to Kentucky would force a three-way tie atop the SEC East standings. Since South Carolina holds the best divisional record they would win the division and go to Atlanta for the first time.
Kentucky has won two of three and would love to crash the party in Athens this weekend. The Cats need a signature win as a signal that they are growing up under Rich Brooks. They may get that win, but it won't be this week. Georgia has to ratchet things up a bit or this season will end up as a major disappointment. The Bulldogs will take care of business, but watch the Cats next week at home versus Tennessee.
Georgia 38 Kentucky 10
Alabama @ Auburn
The Tigers have won three in a row in the series and have handled the Tide pretty well at home over the years this has been an on campus contest. I really like Auburn's football team. They have an excellent mix of pass and run and have the skill people to make the defense guard every inch of the field. If any defense is up to that task it's probably Alabama, though.
Alabama leads the nation in scoring defense, giving up just nine points per game. Their defense has won some games their offense didn't deserve to win, but a win is a win. The winner of this game still has a chance to represent the West in Atlanta, but they would need LSU to lose one of its last two conference games.
How bad does that loss to Tennessee seem now? If the Tigers had won that game they would have to lose the last two games and Tennessee would already be planning for next year. This one will be another game similar to Bama-Tennessee and Bama-LSU where Alabama has a tough time scoring, but has a strong enough defense to keep the game close. However, I think Auburn's offense may be the best offense the Tide sees all year.
Auburn 14 Alabama 10
LSU @ Ole Miss
Well, there's no joy in Oxford as we speak, but things could rapidly improve with a win over LSU. First-year head man Ed Orgeron has had a multitude of problems to deal with. It's tough enough being a first-time head coach, but when the team's not responding and you have off-the-field issues it makes for some long nights.
The Rebel defense has been salty, especially against the pass. LSU is more of a running team that likes to mash you with their big offensive line. The Reb front four are pretty stout themselves and this will be where the game is won or lost. Ole Miss is just 43rd against the run, but they've shut down some pretty impressive backs this season.
LSU will certainly look to exploit some of the same busts in the coverage package that Ole Miss had last week. The big difference between the Hogs and LSU is that the LSU WRs are a lot more talented and there are a lot more of them that can make plays.
Ethan Flatt made a few mistakes last week, but by and large moved the offense through the air. The running game was atrocious, but a lot of that is because Larry Kendrick was making his first start back there. The tandem should improve this week, but I'd expect to see LSU's Bo Pellini send some fresh looks at Flatt. From a talent standpoint this one is not close, but the Rebs always seem to find a way to get up for LSU.
LSU 24 Ole Miss 10
Clemson @ South Carolina
Hopefully we won't have any brawls this year when the two in-state rivals meet. Last year's nonsense cost both teams severely. The game will certainly be spirited and Steve Spurrier should add a little color to the rivalry. The media has picked up on the FSU-Clemson Bowden bowls and made it more of the game for Clemson folks.
South Carolina needs some help from Kentucky to accomplish the unthinkable. The Gamecocks could win the SEC in Spurrier's first season. Even though they will come up just short, Steve Spurrier has certainly made this thing real interesting.
Clemson always seems ready to fire Tommy Bowden. I have a hard time understanding why. Since we last met Tommy in the 1999 Peach Bowl, he has been to five straight bowls. He hasn't won them all, but he's getting there. The ACC grew up when Clemson fans had their backs turned and apparently they don't realize how difficult it is to consistently make it to a bowl game when you play in a power conference.
South Carolina 24 Clemson 21
Mississippi State @ Arkansas
I have driven passed the Henig furs location on county line road in Ridgeland on my way to the North Park mall countless times. Little did I know at some point I would be expecting their son to do something that no other MSU quarterback has ever done, beat the Razorbacks in Arkansas.
A lot of good MSU football teams have traveled to Arkansas only to return home broken hearted. If it wasn't Matt Wyatt's collapse in the 1997 meeting when MSU controlled it's own destiny to get to Atlanta it was the 1999 contest that saw two penalty flags cost the Bulldogs mightily and allowed the Hogs to avenge the Bulldogs historic win in 1998.
The bottom line in this game for both teams is to stop the run and force freshmen QBs Casey Dick and Mike Henig to make plays. Arkansas has one of the best rushing attacks in the county, but last week the Hogs ran pretty mild and Dick had to lead them to victory through the air.
The Bulldogs need Jerious Norwood in a big way. The Bulldogs all-time leading rusher needs just 73 yards to top the 3,000 yard mark for his career. If Norwood can top that milestone this week it would be huge for the Bulldogs.
Arkansas and MSU are both about the same statistically against the run, but the Hogs have a solid one-two punch in Darren McFadden and Felix Jones. The Bulldogs have just Norwood as a proven threat. All eyes will be on #12, so someone else must step forward and make plays.
One play Arkansas likes to run is a little pass out in the flat to Peyton Hillis. It has been reported that Hillis and his family are not happy about him playing fullback and have asked for his release from the Razorback football program. Be that as it may, the Bulldogs will have to contend with Hillis this week. Our DBs will have to tackle this mountain of man before he gets started. Hillis is a very hard runner, so an arm tackle just won't do it.
Another item of note is that the Arkansas offensive line is pretty banged up and there has been some reshuffling this week. Factor in that Casey Dick has been battling the flu and things could get interesting. Arkansas has had some problems up the middle on pass protection. Look for them to bring the tight end in motion and use him as reinforcement up the middle.
Arkansas needs to make sure they account for Willie Evans. Willie still leads the SEC in sacks and is third in the country in total number of sacks with 11.5. Evans could force the Hogs to keep the tight end at home to double him, which hopefully will allow some push from the defensive tackles.
After a much needed bye week I am certain Mike Henig is a bit more prepared to start a college football game. He has done some good things in his two appearances. The opening drive against Alabama looked promising and Henig did not appear intimidated. He will see a unique blitz package from Arkansas' DC Reggie Herring, so the two weeks to prepare are a very good thing.
I expect this to be a very close low scoring game. Both teams will try to run and hit a pass or two just to keep the defense honest. I still think it's expecting a lot of our struggling offense to go on the road to a place we have never won and get well. There will be some improvement, but a win this week is asking too much.
Arkansas 20 MSU 14
Last week 5-1 (83.33%)
On the season 60-13 (82.19%)
Well, that's the week. It should be a very interesting week and we could find out who the championship game participants will be if certain things happen. It's another great weekend to vegetate on the couch, but remember there are only a couple more weeks left. You better enjoy it before the "honey do" list makes it's reappearance. Next week the Egg Bowl.
Until next week,
1 Samuel 17:26
Steve Robertson writes The Robertson Report for the Dawgs' Bite, Powered by GenesPage.com website. Steve's email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.