bruces1g's Football Blog
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Week 1 has come and gone and it would seem that we have more questions than answers heading into this week. Some teams performed as advertised, albeit against somewhat lesser competition, others found that there is still some work to be done, and at least one choked in spectacular fashion.

Overall, the level of competition was lacking so it is hard to get a good bead on some of the teams. This week has more challenging matchups that should help separate the haves form the have-nots.

This kicks off the 3rd season of The SEC NB3 and once again I will attempt to analyze some of the games, looking at key matchups and each teams strengths and weaknesses. Apologies for skipping week 1, but it was hard to get very excited about some of the light-weight pairings. That and the fact that the old day job kept me hopping.

But here we are in week 2 and I will try not to disappoint.

As usual, the games are listed by kickoff times???

Auburn at Miss. State - This is an intriguing Thursday night special. Last week, the Bulldogs scored as many points in one game as they did all of last season. Auburn unveiled a new QB that has the fans excited but their defense seems to have picked up where they left off last year.  Last year, the Tigers shredded a pretty decent Bulldog defense to the tune of over 500 yards of offense. Now this season, the Auburn offense looks even more improved with do-everything Cam Newton at the helm. Granted, he looked fabulous against the likes of Arkansas State, but 186 yards passing, 171 rushing, and 5 TDs (3 passing, 2 rushing) is impressive by any standard. However, the Auburn secondary got shredded for 323 passing yards. This is not a good sign for a defense that is supposed to have been improved.

This is even more worrisome considering that this week they face a Bulldog offense that also had an impressive opening. The MSU offense unleashed an aerial attack that totaled 372 yards, 5 TDs , and the largest point total since 2002. Particularly impressive was redshirt freshman Tyler Russell who finished the night with 13-of-16, 256 yards, and 4 touchdown tosses. Two receivers, Heavens and Bumphis, each went over 100 yards and had two TDs each (Berry came close with 91, 1 TD). Hard to believe that these numbers are coming from a MSU offense, but Coach Dan Mullen appears to be bringing the Bulldogs around.

For certain the cowbells will be a ringin' in Starkville Thursday night and we will see how Newton performs in front of a very hostile crowd. The big factor in this game will be if either defense can step-up and slow the other's offense. At this point, I'd give MSU an edge on defense but I am still not entirely sold on their offensive turn around. However, the Tiger defense seems to a continuing weak spot and the Bulldog receivers have to be excited. It might be a close shoot-out, but I think the home field advantage and a better defense gets the win for Miss. State.

Georgia at South Carolina - This is a big SEC East showdown come early. Both teams feasted on weaker teams last week, so it is hard to tell if either has had a real metamorphosis. Aaron Murray looked like a seasoned veteran in carving up the Ragin' Cajuns and the Dawg defense looked much improved. Stephen Garcia actually looked like a real QB and played what might have been his most complete game. Add to the mix strong performances by freshmen Marcus Lattimore (RB) and Ace Sanders (WR). WR Alshon Jeffrey finished the game with 7 catches for 106 yards. The Gamecock defense looked to be its usual stout self.

Both teams have some issues stemming from Agent-gate and other off-season drama. Weslye Saunders (TE) appears to be gone for the season. OL Jarriel King and S Chris Culliver might be out this game as well.  Georgia got hit with the news that All-American WR A. J. Green will have to sit out 3 more games, but Washaun Ealey should be back after his one game suspension.

This might be Steve Spurrier's best chance for an SEC East title.  Getting the Bulldogs at home, without Green, is a big factor. I think that the Gamecock defense will find a way to baffle the frosh QB and Garcia might actually put together back-to-back solid games. I have to give the nod to the Gamecocks on this one and they setup a big showdown with the Gators later this year.

University of South Florida at Florida - There was one thing that was apparent to everyone that watched the Gators last week: they have problems on offense. The center-QB exchange starts every play and last week each snap was an adventure. Receivers that couldn't get open and running backs that couldn't execute anything close to a power rushing attack were a couple of other things that plagued the Gators and led to only 25 yards of offense in 3 quarters. We also discovered, contrary to early reports, QB John Brantley can not walk on water. The good news is that the Gator defense looks to be solid and may be what keeps Florida going till the offense gets it's act together.

The Bulls are starting their first season with coach Skip Holtz and looked good against - Stony Brook??? In spite of their woes, I don't think that the Bulls are going to charge into the Swamp and push around the Gators. And while it might not be an offensive masterpiece, Meyer will get enough going to get the win.

LSU at Vanderbilt - Once again, Les Miles demonstrated a keen ability to get the least out of the most talent. The Tigers tried their very lackadaisical best to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory against half of a North Carolina team. QB Jordan Jefferson continues to be a streaky performer and the offense had 4 fumbles, losing 3 of them. With the exception of Patrick Peterson, the defense appeared to have gone to sleep in the second half and almost allowed NC to come back for a win. Overall, not an impressive game on a national stage.

However, this week is Vandy and that should make everything better.  Not quite as good as even a depleted North Carolina team. LSU probably has more 4-, 5-star talent on their special teams than the whole Commodore team. For the Tigers to blow this game would be a tremendous upset and could see Les Miles gone sooner than later. I don't see that happening, and the Tigers get their first conference win.

Penn State at Alabama - This week should go a long way in telling whether or not the Tide will make a run at another BCS NCG appearance. Bama looked very impressive against the likes of San Jose State last week, showing a willingness to stretch the field with a deep passing game. QB Greg McElroy looked sharp, the O-line looked solid and Trent Richardson and Eddie Lacey easily picked up the slack for a missing Mark Ingram. Similarly, the defense didn't seem to miss suspended Marcel Dareus. All in all, the Tide performed as expected against a second rate opponent with a ton of players seeing some game time.

However, SJSU is not PSU. The Nittny Lions had their own impressive performance against a lesser opponent. Particularly impressive was frosh QB Robert Bolden  looking like a seasoned vet in his  debut for the Lions. Coach Joe Pa Paterno is a firm believer in his new signal caller and doesn't think that the 110,000 fanatical Bama fans will rattle him.

Of larger concern to me is the fact that PSU could only net 132 yards of rushing even with Evan Royster in the backfield. Equally disturbing for PSU fans has to be that their defense allowed Youngstown State's QB to slice and dice them for 189 yards and a 21 of 25 performance with no picks. This week they are facing a much better offense than the Penguins fielded, even without Mark Ingram.

Much has been made in the off-season of the defensive starters gone form the Bama roster. Everyone seems to have overlooked the fact that all but two of the current starters saw significant playing time last season with many of them getting as many snaps as the starters. Yes, there are still some kinks to be worked out, but this defense is a big, fast, physical group - especially the front 7.

There is no doubt that Joe Pa will have the Nittny Lions ready to play, but I just don't think that they have the depth or experience to win one in Tuscaloosa. It should be a hard fought game, but I think the Tide will get the win.

Oregon at Tennessee - Jet lag may not be the only thing that affects the Ducks when they get to Knoxville. Last week, they held a track meet while running up and down the field scoring 72 points. They should be really tired.

However, I don't think even a tired flock of Ducks will have a problem handling the Vols. Youth abounds everywhere on this Tennessee team and we learn this week that their leading receiver, Gerald Jones, will miss a couple of weeks with a broke hand. Two other starters are nursing bum ankles (G Jerrod Shaw and WR Denarius Moore).  Derek Dooley may eventually get some big wins with the Vols, but this week ain't one of them.  This will be all Ducks.

UL Monroe at Arkansas -  Another chance for Ryan Mallett to pad his stats against a weak team. However, the Warhawks do have a Doak Walker Award candidate in RB Frank Goodin and he might find the Hogs defense to his liking. Perhaps we will find out if the Hogs have improved any on the defensive side of the ball after being so pathetic last season. The progression of that defense is going to be the key in determining whether the Razorbacks are contenders or pretenders this season. However, for this week Mallett will get ample opportunity to rack up big numbers for his Heisman race and the Hogs should win going away.

Western Kentucky at Kentucky - Last week, the Joker Phillips era began at Kentucky by beating cross-state rival Louisville. This week they face a lesser challenge with the Hilltoppers. I haven't seen the Wildcats yet, so I can't tell you a lot about them. And I certainly know nothing of the Hilltoppers. But I do know that coach Phillips will start out 2-0 as they hammer WKU.

Ole Miss at Tulane - What a nightmarish week for Houson Nutt. First Masolli, then no Masolli, then Masolli back again. Then Jacksonville State, a FCS team, rolls in to Oxford and shocks the J. Crew crowd. Evidently someone forgot to tell the paid patsy that they are supposed to come in and LOSE, not embarrass the home team. The really scary part is that the Green Wave actually won their opener and might be semi-competitive this year. It sure is a contrast in teams as Tulane will be high from winning their first opening game since 2002 and Ole Miss battered and humiliated. Two weeks ago I would have called this an easy win for the Rebels but I am not feeling all warm and fuzzy now. However, Jax State may actually be better than Tulane and surely Nutt will have the troops fired up for a little redemption. It might be close, but Rebs get the win.

That is it for the SEC slate. Now on to some of the really big games around the nation.

The Next Best 3 is chosen by readers each week and these are the requested games for this week:

Florida State at Oklahoma - The Jimbo Fisher Show got under way last week with a thrashing of the Samford baby-Bulldogs. They certainly looked impressive in stomping on the much smaller FCS program but it may be that they are actually that good.

The Sooners were supposed to have done similar against Utah State, but it didn't quite turn out that way. Instead they needed a a late interception to seal the win. The defense did get 4 turnovers but also gave up a whopping 421 yards. QB Landry Jones looked like he was playing his first game in going 17 of 36 and two picks. It may be that the Sooners are actually not that good.

However, what Jones didn't do, RB DeMarco Murray did as he romped for 208 yards rushing. But with Jones not playing well (so far) it makes the Sooners one-dimensional and I don't see the Seminoles giving up that kind of rushing yardage even on the road.  And I think that QB Christian Ponder is good enough to carve up the Sooners' secondary for some big plays.

This is a big game for both teams as they try to establish themselves in the national pecking order. And Bob Stoops has not really impressed me in big games. I don't know if it is an upset, but I think FSU goes out and gets a big win here.

Michigan at Notre Dame - A real contrast for both coaches. One coming in hailed as a savior for a floundering program and the other fighting to keep his job at a floundering program. While this game is not a "must win" situation for Brian Kelly, it certainly has all the markings for Rich Rod.

The Irish looked much improved offensively last week. And no one can argue that Brian Kelly is not an offensive genius (see Cincinnati last year), defensively not so much (see Cincinnati last year). I find it kind of hard to understand why you would call a defensive performance that gave up 322 yards to Purdue "improved" or "solid" as some "experts" have. It appears to me that is still the weak spot for the Domers.

Michigan posted an impressive win over U Conn - a team that is supposed to be a Big East contender (although after last week, being a Big Least contender doesn't seem like such a big deal) that saw QB Denard Robinson throw a helluva coming out party.  But equally as impressive to me is that the Wolverines' defense held a seasoned, well coached Husky team to 10 points.

Which team can play the best D will be the real decider in this game. I think that the Irish are going to have real problems containing the versatile Robinson. And I believe that Michigan will be able to do just enough in slowing down Kelly's offense to get the win.

Miami at Ohio State - The Hurricanes blow into the Horseshoe  all pumped up and dreaming of returning to national prominence. I believe that they are going to get a bit of a reality check from the Buckeyes.  

Yeah, the 'Canes looked good in thrashing Florida A&M, but that is a far cry from what they are going to face with the Buckeyes. I think this OSU teams is a real championship contender. Tyrell Pryor seems to have really matured as a QB and it appears that Tressel is loosening up just a bit (I think I actually saw the top button on his shirt undone!) and opening up the offense to take advantage of Pryor's skills. Pryor's job has been made much easier by an offensive line that is very, very good.

But I think the real strength of the is Buckeye team is the defense. It is a veteran unit that is very physical and loads of talent.  Miami's QB Jacory Harris has a penchant for tossing the pick (17 last season) and I think the Buckeyes defense will pressure him at every opportunity.  I don't think we will see an overtime thriller in this game as the Bucks will grind out a win.

And that is how I see this second week playing out. It will be interesting to see how the top 20 will shake out after this week's action.

As always, feel free to disagree or point out the error of my logic, but respect  the rule of no cheap smack without something to back it up.  Bring some facts. Bring some substance to your position. Demonstrate your football knowledge rather than lack of class.

For more Big 10 action and a different slant on other games, be sure to check Norka's excellent "The Big 10 and Next Best 3" blog.

To all fans, of all teams: Enjoy the weekend. I wish your teams good luck. And let's all show some class and sportsmanship.
September 9, 2010  02:19 AM ET

Good blog Bruce.

I agree with all your picks except for the Auburn-Miss State game. I know Mississippi State is a greaty improved team, and maybe I'm just too high on Auburn, but I just don't see the Auburn losing, even on the road.

I like the South Carolina pick over Georgia, and even though it was obvious, you know I'm pleased with your Oregon-Tennessee pick ;)

Check out my Pac-10 version:

PAC 10 and the Next Best 3
http://www.fannation.com/blogs/post/730245

September 9, 2010  02:21 AM ET

Oh, how could I forget in my first comment, I'm ecstatic to see we're in a agreement on the FSU-Oklahoma game. I was sort of under the impression that I was the only one who thought Oklahoma looked like crap in their opener. I think as of right now, the Sooners are the most overrated team in the country. I like the Seminoles chances.

September 9, 2010  05:47 AM ET

Very well done Bruce. Your analysis of the SEC teams is so spot on that I could hardly believe I wasn't reading an SEC beat writer. Every nuance of those teams and their games was covered with great insight. I am still going with Georgia over S. Car, but I could see it going either way. I think Georgia will try to utilize their ground game sucessfully. I like the Miss St. pick in a game that is about a toss up on the betting lines last I looked.

I disagree on some of the NB3 picks but honestly I feel like I am just guessing.

September 9, 2010  06:38 AM ET

Good blog - SC over UGA makes sense. Your Michigan-ND analysis is insightful, and I hope you are correct. I really don't know about FSU-OK either way. OK showed plenty of weaknesses last week, but I only expect Big Bust Bob Stoops to lose in the Red River Shootout and the Bowls. Jimbo Fisher has only been at the helm a short time at FSU, but he is a Saban protege...

September 9, 2010  09:12 AM ET

To all: some of the picks were tough this week and could have gone just as easily either way. Miss St - Auburn, FSU - OK, and ND - Mich all are close to toss-ups in my mind. The thing is that we just have not seen much of any of these teams facing any tough opponents. So this week could be very educational. And my picks could either look like genius or moronic.

September 9, 2010  09:23 AM ET

For more Big 10 action and a different slant on other games, be sure to check Norka's excellent "The Big 10 and Next Best 3" blog.

Just so we're not confused...
Grue = Big 10
(norka) = Big 12
OM = PAC 10

So read 'em all.

September 9, 2010  09:33 AM ET
QUOTE(#7):

For more Big 10 action and a different slant on other games, be sure to check Norka's excellent "The Big 10 and Next Best 3" blog.Just so we're not confused...Grue = Big 10(norka) = Big 12OM = PAC 10So read 'em all.

OOPS! I forgot that Norka was doing the Big 12 this season and that you had the Big 10. Sorry about the gaffe.

Comment #9 has been removed
September 10, 2010  12:59 AM ET

DAMN! My Dawgs lost it in the end. I was really hoping they would beat Auburn. Not because I have any strong dislike for Auburn but just want to MSU get a few wins. Not at LSU's expense however.

I would also like to see the Ole Ball Coach beat UGA. That game always comes down to the wire. It should be a good one.

September 10, 2010  02:15 PM ET
QUOTE(#10):

DAMN! My Dawgs lost it in the end. I was really hoping they would beat Auburn. Not because I have any strong dislike for Auburn but just want to MSU get a few wins. Not at LSU's expense however.I would also like to see the Ole Ball Coach beat UGA. That game always comes down to the wire. It should be a good one.

Yeah, they kind of let me down as well. Not that I wished for the win over Auburn, but because I had picked MSU ;) No vested interest in whomever wins - until they play Bama. The the homer comes out.

I am still perplexed about the game. I don't understand why MSU went from a running game that was working very well in the second half to a passing game. And deep passes at that. And Auburn is going to have to develop other weapons besides Newton. he is a great athlete, but do you really want your QB to be your leading rusher every game? Then again, that worked out pretty well for Florida...

Oh well, already starting this week 0-1.

September 10, 2010  05:46 PM ET

Love the FSU over OU pick Bruce. I had a gut feeling why I liked FSU, but you have the analysis to back it up. Excellent stuff.

Can't poke holes in any of your SEC picks. The USEe UGa game looks to be the closest call--I'll have to set my alarm so I get up in time to see the kickoff.

September 10, 2010  11:21 PM ET

Damn, still got it going, eh, Bruce? :D

Just dropping in to get the latest scoop on the SEC.

 
September 10, 2010  11:26 PM ET
QUOTE(#13):

Damn, still got it going, eh, Bruce? :DJust dropping in to get the latest scoop on the SEC.

Holy Cow! A Silars sighting! Have missed you my old friend. You should drop in on the table crowd every now and then.

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