Bye Week #2For the second time this season, our bye has followed a game where we have been bludgeoned for over 50 points. This week – like our last bye – is a particularly good time for a break. We need to regroup and address confidence issues on both sides of the ball, and try to get healthy. We also have a redshirt-freshman QB who needs all the practice reps he can get. At the moment, we do not have any healthy back-up QB, except for a redshirt we do not want to burn. And there is still no official word on the severity of QB Austyn Carta-Samuels' injury. There will be some head-scratching this off-week, and some big decisions.
Our outing at College Station was ugly – so ugly, there is no reason to dwell on it. We have problems defending the spread offense in the first place. And A&M runs the spread beautifully – with the reigning Heisman Trophy winner at the helm. Last week our D forced 5 turnovers and still gave up over 550 yards of offense.
Of more concern, our offense sputtered without any identity. Our first-time starting QB, Patton Robinette, shows lots of promise, but he was roughed up all afternoon. Our offense faced a series of blitzes that left us looking outmanned and confused. When Josh Grady entered the game as back-up QB, he suffered a knee injury. WR Jonathon Krause, who has made waves as a foil to Jordan Matthews, appeared to suffer a hamstring problem as well. Although A&M was at the bottom of the Conference in various defensive categories – nothing we did fooled them. We failed on the ground, had to play from behind and, once forced to pass, had no answers for A&M's blitz packages. This offensive whiff is a cause for concern heading into a bye week. Our next foe, Florida, had a fearsome D earlier in the year – but it is fairly banged up now. We have two weeks to concoct a plan that hopefully is more effective (and possibly more ground-based) than the strategy last week.
The good news is – on D, we have now faced all the really good, spread hurry-up teams on the schedule. Our inability to stop the spread hurry-up means everyone left on the schedule will mix in as much of this approach as they can – but our D should match-up much better the rest of the way. Let's hope this bye week leads to the same spark of improvement produced by the last one.
Around the league this week there are several intriguing contests – none more alluring than the Georgia-Florida game. The loser of this tilt will be looking at a lost season (by their standards) and their coach's seat will instantaneously heat up. Both teams have been decimated by injuries – but neither fanbase is particularly mollified by excuses. With RB Todd Gurley back for Georgia, Florida will have its hands full as 2½ point underdogs. This is a death-match between two proud programs – and we get to scout our next opponent on national TV.
UT remains winless on the road, and they face "Angry Missouri" in Columbia. The Tigers learned last week that let-downs sometimes happen when you face Georgia-Florida-SC back-to-back-to-back. The Tigers unceremoniously botched a game that was well in hand. We will now see how well Missouri can bounce back from adversity – they are twelve point favorites. If SC wins out in conference (which seems quite possible), Mizzou cannot lose any more games if it wants to win the East.
Auburn is favored by 9 at Arkansas. At some point, I expect Auburn to show up flat and the Hogs to play a good conference game, but the odds of both happening at the same time seem low. This battle of new SEC coaches is a contrast in styles and success rates for now. MSU is at SC – the Gamecocks will have to fight off a let-down themselves after last week's enormous come-from-behind road victory. MSU is not a pushover – and they are a somewhat desperate team with @SC, @A&M and Bama as their next three contests. Kentucky, meanwhile, faces Alabama State in search of their second win of the season. The Wildcats will prevail in this one.
Notably, both LSU and Bama have byes as they prepare for their monster game in Tuscaloosa next week. Similarly, Ole Miss joins us on the couch this weekend. Things are looking up in Oxford as their front-loaded schedule begins to balance out – we, again, have a lot of work to do on our bye week.