What exactly is "poleaxed"? Like a pole getting axed in a single, fell swoop? Sounds good in the story though.
Week Seven of the SEC season is upon us and appropriately enough there will be seven games involving SEC squads. Below is our usual game previews complete with stats, opinions, TV listings, up-to-date odds and predictions.
Good luck to your favorite team this weekend…
#25 Missouri (5-0) at #7 Georgia (4-1)
TV: 12:00pm ET on ESPN
Opening Line: UGA -11
Current Line: UGA -8
One To Watch: Georgia QB Aaron Murray. With so many of the playmakers who surround him down for the game or down for the season, there will be more pressure than ever on Murray to carry his Dawgs to victory.
This And That:
1. James Franklin currently rates as the SEC’s fourth-best passer. It’s his running, however, that’s been the X factor for Mizzou this season. Once again healthy, Franklin has carried the ball 53 times for 278 yards and two touchdowns. Against Georgia, Clemson’s Tajh Boyd ran for 42 yards and two scores while South Carolina’s Connor Shaw logged 75 yards. Franklin can move the Tigers with his arm, but UGA defenders had better be wary of his legs as well.
2. Starting running back Todd Gurley is likely to miss his second straight game with an ankle injury. Backup Keith Marshall was lost for the season in last week’s win over Tennessee. That leaves offensive coordinator Mike Bobo to lean on freshmen JJ Green (17 carries for 129 against the Vols) and Brendan Douglas (10 for 25) in UGA’s ground game. Keep in mind, Mizzou’s run defense currently ranks third in the Southeastern Conference…
3. But. If Murray can quickly develop some chemistry with his new receivers — his top three pass-catchers are out of action — it could be a long day for the Tiger secondary. Missouri ranks dead last in the SEC in pass defense, allowing 293.8 yards per game through the air. Against BCS-level foes, MU’s secondary has been gutted for 357.5 yards per contest.
Prediction: Georgia 37, Missouri 34
#14 South Carolina (4-1) at Arkansas (3-3)
TV: 12:21pm ET on SEC TV
Opening Line: USC -7
Current Line: USC -6
One To Watch: South Carolina DE Jadeveon Clowney. Will the man hyped as the SEC’s best defender actually suit up this week? The star’s status is still questionable due to a muscle strain. He did practice this week which is a good sign for the Gamecocks. If he plays, expect the Razorbacks to run it where he ain’t.
This And That:
1. Also keep an eye on what Hog offensive coordinator Jim Chaney does tomorrow. He’s leaned on the run game so far and quarterback Branden Allen had his struggles last week at Florida. Carolina, however, does not have Florida’s defense. And Chaney’s Tennessee offense a year ago lit up USC for 472 yards — 381 through the air — in a 38-35 failed upset bid in Columbia. Might the Razorbacks try to open up the passing game?
2. Though Clowney is the most well-known pass rusher in this game — if he plays — it’s actually the Arkansas pass rush that’s performed better this season. The Razorbacks have recorded a league-leading 17 sacks through six games. Carolina defenders have sacked opposing QBs 14 times through five games.
3. Will Bret Bielema drop a fourth straight game. His current three-game losing skid is just the second such streak of his coaching career. Carolina has gotten into the bad habit of letting foes creep back into games in the second half. On the road at Arkansas, the Gamecock might finally pay a price for nodding off post-halftime.
Prediction: South Carolina 31, Arkansas 24
Western Carolina (1-5) at Auburn (4-1)
TV: 2:00pm ET on Pay-per-view
Opening Line: AU -44
Current Line: AU -43
One To Watch: Auburn QB Nick Marshall. The Tigers’ starter has developed into a pretty good running threat. Though he ranks ninth in the SEC as passer, Marshall is the #3 rushing quarterback in the league behind only Dak Prescott and Johnny Manziel. Unfortunately, he hurt his knee late in last week’s game against Ole Miss. He’s expected to play tomorrow, but there are no guarantees he’ll start (or finish) the contest.
This And That:
1. Yet another game that should not have been scheduled. SEC administrators can whine and fret about dropping attendance numbers all they like. They’re partially responsible for lagging ticket sales due to their insistence in playing not only FCS squads, but bad FCS squads.
2. The only thing these types of games seem to be good for are injuries. With that in mind, Gus Malzahn might want to think about sitting Marshall even if he is healthy enough to play. Why put your starting quarterback at risk when a backup quarterback — or a hot dog vendor from the out of the stands — can lead the Tigers’ up-tempo attack to victory against WCU?
3. Auburn’s offense has turned the ball over 10 times through five games. Only Tennessee with 13 giveaways ranks worse in the SEC. If nothing else, tomorrow’s game could be an exercise in ball security for the Plainsmen.
Prediction: Auburn 52, Western Carolina 10
#17 Florida (4-1) at #10 LSU (5-1)
TV: 3:30pm ET on CBS
Opening Line: LSU -6.5
Current Line: LSU -7
One To Watch: LSU’s receivers. Quarterback Zach Mettenberger has had no problem finding and then connective with Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry who rank #3 and #4 in SEC receiving yards. But this week they’ll be matched up against a ferocious Florida secondary that’s tops in the league (allowing just 152 yards per game). Loucheiz Purifoy and company have surrendered just three TD passes while recording eight picks on the season.
This And That:
1. Pay attention to LSU’s ability to convert third downs against Will Muschamp’s stingy defense. The Gators are tops in the SEC having allowed just 14 conversions in 61 tries (22.9%). Guess who’s best at converting third downs on offense. LSU is clicking with a 58.3% conversion rate (42 of 72) on the season. Mettenberger is completing a smoking 65.2% of his passes on third down (46 passes, 30 completions). Seven of his 15 touchdowns have come on third down.
2. Also keep an eye on Cam Cameron’s decision-making on first down. The Tigers have run 126 times on first down this season for just 487 (and a paltry 3.87 average) Clearly, defenses expect LSU to run on first down as they have for many, many years. But when Cameron has had his troops throw on first down, the Tigers have completed 42-0f-62 for 734 yards (and a scintillating 11.8 yards-per-attempt average). In attacking UF’s mean D, how often will LSU wing it on first down?
3. Since taking over the Florida quarterback job three games ago, Tyler Murphy has completed 39-of-54 passes (72.2%) for 530 yards, five scores and one pick. But against BCS opponents, the pass defenses of Tennessee, Kentucky and Arkansas are all allowing opposing QBs to complete between 61% and 71% of their passes. LSU ranks third in the SEC versus BCS foes (54.0% completions). John Chavis’ defense has looked its age at many points this season, but the Tigers — with a rowdy crowd behind them — should be a step up in competition for Murphy.
Prediction: LSU 27, Florida 20
#1 Alabama (5-0) at Kentucky (1-4)
TV: 7:00pm ET on ESPN2
Opening Line: UA -27
Current Line: UA -27.5
One To Watch: Alabama WR Amari Cooper. Nine catches, 100 yards. Thanks to injuries, that’s all Cooper has accounted for in 2013. That from a preseason All-SEC selection. Cooper is expected to show up healthy and ready to play in Lexington tomorrow. If he is and if he does, Bama’s ninth-ranked (in the SEC) passing game should improve.
This And That:
1. You probably wouldn’t be surprised to learn that Kentucky’s ground game ranks 14th in the 14-team SEC. But #13 is a surprise. It’s Alabama. Neither team has had much success running the ball, at least not on a consistent basis…
2. But tomorrow’s there’s an awfully big gap when it comes to rushing defense. Bama is allowing just 85.8 rushing yards per game and just 3.11 yards per carry (second best in the conference). UK has been battered on the ground, giving up 196.2 yards per game and 4.69 yards per carry (13th in the SEC). Give the Tide a big advantage on the ground tomorrow.
3. Kudos to the Wildcats for their showing at South Carolina last week. Taking a big picture view — because it’s hard to imagine UK pulling off a stunner over Alabama — the hope is that Jalen Whitlow can at least play well enough to hold on to the starting job. Maxwell Smith appeared to be the best passer on the Cats’ roster, but Whitlow grabbed the starting job and played well six days ago in Columbia. If he can hang onto the job through the Alabama game, Kentucky might finally be able to build its offense around one man and one man only.
Prediction: Alabama 38, Kentucky 9
Bowling Green (5-1) at Mississippi State (2-3)
TV: 7:30pm ET on FSN
Opening Line: MSU -8.5
Current Line: MSU -10.5
One To Watch: Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen. Many State fans have grown weary of Mullen’s penchant for winning big against nogoodniks and losing big against ranked foes. Should the Bulldogs find themselves on the wrong side of the score tomorrow evening, some serious grumbling might commence.
This And That:
1. Bowling Green has a good, balanced offense. Ex-Tennessee offensive coordinator Dave Clawson is overseeing a Falcon program that ranks 17th nationally in rushing yards, 18th nationally in passing yards, and sixth nationally in total yards gained. Not bad. Of course, Bowling Green has played Tulsa, Kent State, Murray State, Akron and UMass. They got poleaxed 42-10 at Indiana.
2. Which MSU defense will show up? The Bulldogs hadn’t allowed more than 24 points to any of its first four opponents, but LSU rang the bell — the cowbell, if you will — 59 times in a their blowout win at Davis-Wade last weekend. Zach Mettenberger acted as surgeon, connecting on 25-of-29 passes. Bowling Green doesn’t have LSU-style weaponry, but if the Bulldogs sleepwalk into this one it might give the Falcons a puncher’s chance.
3. Tyler Russell and Dak Prescott are expected to once again split time running MSU’s offense. Russell remains the better passer while Prescott continues to be the better runner. Against LSU, the two completed a combined 16-of-31 pass for 252 yards. But Prescott provided some added value with 103 rushing yards on 12 carries. Moving forward, will Prescott begin to pull away from Russell or will the senior take back his old starting job?
Prediction: Mississippi State 35, Bowling Green 21
#9 Texas A&M (4-1) at Ole Miss (3-2)
TV: 8:30pm ET on ESPN
Opening Line: A&M -5
Current Line: A&M -6
One To Watch: Texas A&M NT Isaiah Golden. The Aggies’ defense has been porous in 2013 and now they’ve lost starter Kirby Ennis right at the point of attack. The freshman Golden will get his first start against the Rebels. Many will be pulling for the young man to perform well. His two-month-old daughter died unexpectedly earlier this season, causing Golden to miss his team’s game with Alabama. Nothing against Ole Miss, but here’s hoping the young man has a big night.
This And That:
1. Want to stop the Rebels? Contain quarterback Bo Wallace. In two wins over BCS foes Vanderbilt and Texas, Bo Wallace completed 48-of-72 (66.6%). He also accounted for 105 rushing yards. But in losses to Alabama and Auburn the last two weeks, Wallace has completed just 42-0f-79 passes (53.1%). He rushed for five yards on 12 carries against Bama and minus-eight yards on 17 carries against Auburn.
2. Want to stop the Rebels, Part II? Running back Jeff Scott rushed for 138 yards against Vandy and 164 yards against Texas. Both were UM wins. But Scott gained just 28 against Alabama and just 66 against Auburn. He only managed six carries against the Tigers.
3. It’s gotten to the point where we can pretty much say, “It looks like a shootout” about each and every SEC contest. Defenses are out the window across the country and in Dixie this season. And with one offense being steered by Johnny Manziel and the other going up against A&M’s struggling defense, expect plenty of fireworks in this one.
Prediction: Texas A&M 44, Ole Miss 34