Not quite a full slate this week in the SEC, but there is one very big game Saturday night. But I will get to that a little later.
I thought I would post this early so everyone would have the chance to chime in with their thoughts and comments.
Last week I was 7 out of 8. (http://www.fannation.com/message_boards/show_topic/1261) I thought for sure that Miss State's D would man-up and stop Tech. Either I over estimated MSU or underestimate Tech's option attack.
The picks are in order of start times.
Ole Miss @ Florida - IF the Gators are all they are supposed to be, this one should be over early. However, this might not be as easy as last week vs the Vols. The Rebels appear to have a somewhat better passing game with Snead than Tennessee has and the Gators secondary might get tested a bit. But I think ultimately that Florida has just too many weapons and a coaching advantage over Ole Miss.
Arkansas @ Texas - We haven't seen much of what the Horns have yet this year (having only faced the football powerhouses of Florida Atlantic, UTEP and RIce), but we have seen what Arkansas has. Last week the Hogs at times moved the ball well against Bama, but shot themselves in the foot - often and severely. And Texas is giving up 340.7 yards average on defense to some really weak teams. I would like to be wrong about this one and would love to see the Hogs rebound and pull the upset, but I just think that the combination youth, mistakes, and not a lot of talent on defense will mean a long day in Austin.
Tennessee @ Auburn - I call this one The Battle of the Dazed & Confused. Ok, call me a Homer, but as any Alabama fan would tell you, we have to love this situation. The Vols looked completely outclassed last week against the Gators. Poor quarterback play, Foster not running with any heart behind not much blocking, and the defense looking nothing like Tennessee defenses of old. I think Fulmer's better days have passed him by. Auburn has not looked much better in earlier games, but they did play LSU down to the wire thanks to a hard-playing defense. They certainly have played with more heart. Auburn's offense should have an easier go against the Vols D. That and the home field make me think that the Tigers pull one out. I will be surprised if the final score total is more than 24 points.
W. Kentucky @ Kentucky - On first glance this looks like a no-brainer. But sometimes Kentucky has a way of blowing a game they should have won. Still, I have to go with Kentucky.
UAB @ South Carolina - This one may be like clubbing baby seals. Tennessee trashed the Blazers and you have to believe that the **** are a better team that the Vols. I look for the Ball Coach to put this one away early and play a lot of folks.
Miss State @ LSU - This one really depends on which MSU defense shows up - the one that worked over Auburn or the one that laid down for Tech. Regardless of which D shows up, the Dogs offense still stinks on ice - far and away the worse in the SEC. The MSU defense will only determine how badly LSU beats them, but beat them they will.
Alabama @ Georgia - THE game of the week in the SEC and the NCAA. A classic SEC showdown that will feature a whole lot of hard hitting. Only in the SEC do you get this kind of matchup in week 5. I have really agonized over how I would pick this one. I have tried hard to set aside my Crimson colored glasses and look at the matchups analytically and logically. And there are a lot of factors here (please bear with me - some of this is sort of rambling but I am writing as I run it thru my mind):
1. JP Wilson. How will he play? We just don't know which JP will show up - the one that was near perfect against Clemson or the one that looked only average vs Tulane. I think it is crucial that Bama not put him in the position where he has to win it with his arm. But you have to know that Georgia will load up the box and dare him to throw. However, if he comes in hot, with our crop of receivers, it would be a huge factor and really open up the running game.
2. Bama's DBs vs Stafford and Company. Georgia loves to pass off of the play action game. If they get their running game going consistently, then it is going to put a lot of pressure on the Bama secondary. Bama's DBs have have been playing very well this season - particularly in the man-under coverage. I like the match-up of Arenas vs Green as both are highly skilled and great athletes. It will be very interesting to watch them work against one another. If Bama gets a strong rush on Stafford, forcing quick reads and to throw on the run, then the edge will be for Bama. But no rush will give Stafford plenty of time in the pocket where he is most comfortable and give the Dawgs the advantage.
3. Special teams - In Javier Arenas, Bama has a clear advantage in this area. It will be interesting to see if the Dawgs punt to him or choose to do as Arkansas did and kick for the boundary. In Arkansas's case it didn't work real well as they still ended up giving away field position due to lousy punts. Arenas could end up being a game breaker.
4. In The Trenches. THIS is where it gets real interesting. Georgia is starting two freshman against a very talented and physical Bama front 7. IF Bama can win that battle and stuff the run, then it will take away the play action passing game from Stafford. It would also mean that Stafford would have to spend more time in the gun which is not a strong running set for Georgia. Moreno is at his best running downhill with a fullback leading the way. Lining up in the "I" lets him have better speed coming to the line and better vision for his cuts. But also consider that he hasn't faced a defense this year with the team speed that Bama has. However, if Bama doesn't play sound assignment defense, Moreno will kill them on the cutbacks. South Carolina held Georgia to a very modest offensive performance and I believe that Bama's D is better that SC's. So, I have to give Bama the edge in their D-line vs Georgia's O-line.
Bama's offensive line has been solid so far this year, blowing big holes for the running lanes and keeping the pressure off of JP. They will have to have their best game of the year against a Georgia D that ranks 3rd in the nation (Bama only trails them by 5 places and a little less than 10 yard APG) in rush defense. Although, Georgia hasn't faced a real rush offense this year - until now. And Bama hasn't faced a real rush defense - until now. Bama's O-line is playing much better this year with the added year of playing together. They are also finally developing some depth. Bama MUST get their running game in gear early both to wear down the Dawg defense and to keep the Georgia offense off the field. Both Coffee and Ingram have been at their best running between the tackles with power, but this will be their toughest test.. This will be strength against strength for both teams. To be honest, I just don't know how to pick this O-line vs D-line matchup.
The Bottom Line. Last year's game, with many of the same cast and characters, was a virtual dead heat statistically and on the field. I think the difference this year is the improved play (and talent) on Bama's line of scrimmage. Most all football games are won by the team that can win the battle in the trenches and I think that Bama has just enough of an edge there that it will be the difference. I have tried to be logical about this (and I am quite sure many will disagree) and weigh all the matchups. But I keep coming back to the offensive and defensive lines and from what I have seen from both teams (I even went back and looked at their games I had TiVo'd) Bama has just enough of an edge in line play to make the difference. HOWEVER, I will not be surprised at either team winning this game - either way it will be close and it will be a very tough win for either team. I am excited as hell!
Oh, one more thing. A thought about the "blackout" and all the hype that has gone with it. It may make the fans feel good, but it will have absolutely no effect either way on the game. Both of these teams have played in big games with big crowds. Plus I can tell you that, as a former player, once that first snap takes place and that first contact happens, all you are focused on is the man in front of you. Players of the caliber as these two teams learned long ago how to tune out the background noise and take care of the business in front of them. So while it looks good on TV and gives the airhead announcers something to gab about, it won't be a factor in the outcome.
Ok guys, now it is your turn to take your shots. But please, none of the crappy rhetoric of "oh yeah, we'll will beat their ****!" Bring some facts. Bring some substance to your position. SEC fans are supposed to be the most knowledgeable fans in the country so lets show it.
To all fans, of all teams: Enjoy the weekend. I wish your teams good luck. And let's all show some class and sportsmanship.