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Y'all Play Nice. SEC Week Four
What smell?
What smell?
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Sep 23, 2010


Every Thursday, CFN's Brian Harbach and Russ Mitchell break down the SEC games you need to watch, the SEC questions you want answered, and of course, the SEC Power Rankings. All things SEC from two different SEC writers, with two different SEC points of view. One of 'em always right. Now y'all play nice.


Russ Mitchell covers the SEC for www.CollegeFootballNews.com. Please follow him on Twitter @russmitchellsec or email him at russmitchellsec@gmail.com
Brian Harbach covers the SEC for www.CollegeFootballNews.com. Please follow him on Twitter @harbabd or email him at harbachcfn@gmail.com



3 SEC QUESTIONS THAT NAG MORE THAN YOUR EX

(i) Who had the best SEC performance this past weekend (Team or Player)?

Russ Mitchell:

We could go with Alabama’s RB Mark Ingram, who had more than 100 yards after just three carries… To go with his 4-5 shooting from outside the arc, 18 rebounds and a Rammer Jammer Yellow Slamma dunk. Come back to the conference, ‘Bama. Or we could go with LSU’s defense, which is looking a lot like 2007... ‘cept that was done against a freshman and a watered-down Tim Tebow. Or we could go with Vandy’s sophomore sensation Warren Norman, who ran for 15/111 and a TD in giving Vandy its first SEC win since 2008… ‘cept it was against ole miss. Yes, that’s fair. But is there really any doubt: Arkansas’ Ryan Mallett stole the show Saturday with a dominating first half and a clutch TD drive late for the big road win. Yes, that was after surrendering the momentum (and the lead) with some shoddy 2H play. He’ll need to be on fire for all 60 minutes Saturday when the Tide jump the I-40/5-40 into Fayetteville (more on that below). Nevertheless, dominating numbers between the hedges; a victory that elevates the Hogs and the Petrino regime to the next level.

Brian Harbach:

Two players grabbed my attention on Saturday, the first being Ryan Mallett. Impressive to be sure, but the numbers pretty much matched what he did against Georgia last year; though a special last drive. The other guy that made me smile each time he touched the ball was Mark Ingram. I know, I know… Duke. But how many players are going to take their first carry after surgery for almost 50 yards? (RM note: Playing against Duke?) We spent so much time the last month talking about Trent Richardson being just as good as Ingram, we forgot how good Ingram really is. Richardson is a great back, but Ingram is the starter, the defending Heisman winner, and remains the best back in College Football. It was great to see him back busting up a terrible ACC program and breaking ankles with his cutbacks. Welcome back Mark Ingram; glad we can talk about your play instead of your surgery for the rest of the year.

(ii) Three weeks in, has any team changed your preseason opinion of it?

Mitchell:

Your question is team, not player, so… No. In the West, it’s still hard to tell about Bama, but we knew they’d run, and the lack of sacks is just a reflection of easy opponents and thus conservative play calling. We knew LSU’s defense would be good and its offense weak, and vice versa with the Hogs. That Auburn would be a B version of Arkansas, and they’ve looked ever the frazzled bunny in going 3-0. We’re expecting a little more from MSU, but not enough to call it a "surprise". And we had strong doubts about ole miss.

Out East, Florida’s struggles on offense aren’t a surprise, even if it’s a bit more pronounced than expected – still, if we were forced to pick one, this would likely be it. We called out South Carolina as our SEC dark horse, and plugged Marcus Lattimore as an SEC star this season… So no surprise there. We picked Georgia third in the East and seventh in the conference, in so doing being one of only a handful in the nation to correctly analyze that train wreck. Neck, meet line; neck wins. We thought Kentucky had a chance to rank higher than UGA if the chips fell the right way, and the jury’s still out. Then Tennessee and Vandy have been about what we expected. Being right is boring.

Harbach:

The easy answer is LSU given the considerable struggle the Fighting Tigers have had on offense, but that isn’t the answer. My opinion has changed the most on the Florida Gators. Even without Tim Terrific, the Gators looked like a team that would continue to dominate a very weak SEC East. But three games in and it wouldn’t shock me to see them lose three or even four games this year. Florida will get a real challenge from Alabama, LSU, Georgia and South Carolina this year, and while it isn’t right to think they will lose all of those games, none of them are givens. A couple preseason prognosticators had John Brantley as a second team All-SEC quarterback, which looked silly at the time and right now looks even worse with the inconsistency on offense.

(iii) What every SEC fan should be talking about after Week Three, but isn’t?

Mitchell:

Well that leaves out anything to do with UGA’s woes, who’s seat is hotter: Richt or Nutt, and whether Ingram and Richardson could both rush for more than 1,000 yards this season… (i) No truth to the rumor that Urban thinks Maurice Clarett still has one year of eligibility left, (ii) We’ve been talking about it since Monday on radio from Florida to Hawaii, but for the deaf crowd – yes, Bama is ranked dead last in the conference in sacks and TFLs, but (iiii) Look, Saban didn’t just wake up and forget how to blitz, people; for a carpetbagger, he’s doing a good job playing possum. Look for that to change Saturday in a big way – Mallett’s not exactly the most mobile of QBs, (iv) We wrote this Monday, but the Hog D being ranked #10 in the nation is a testament to the folly of early season rankings; Bama runs all over this front seven, (v) Greg Childs is better than Julio Jones, (vi) while LSU’s D has been solid, it has nevertheless allowed both of its SEC opponents to score on their first drive of the second half, (vii) Speaking of the Tigers, they have recovered the most fumbles (4) but also fumbled the most (5), (viii) The three best games in CFB this weekend all involve SEC teams (see below), (ix) Bama has the conference’s best Scoring Offense and Defense (testament to the folly of early season rankings, take two), and (x) Kentucky is ranked #13 in the nation in both Total Offense and Defense (testament to the folly of early season rankings, the three-peat).

Harbach:

I know some are talking about it and most are aware of it, but the SEC, and particularly South Carolina, lost a special man on Monday night. Former South Carolina wide receiver Kenny McKinley took his life in Denver, leaving behind many memories and moments that Gamecock fans will never forget, but must now remember alone. I was fortunate enough to see him play a handful of times at Williams-Brice. For me, the most memorable game was that 2006 Thursday night contest between Carolina and Auburn. Kenny had Syvelle Newton as his quarterback that night, and managed to personally rip apart the #2 ranked Tigers for 110 yards and a touchdown. You could say that game was Kenny’s coming out party, as at that time Sidney Rice was still the primary receiver for South Carolina.

Kenny was truly loved by the fans, he was loved by the coaches… And given the outpouring of affection this week, it’s clear to us that Kenny was loved, period. He will be remembered for his accomplishments in the conference, but more for the person he was than anything he did on the field; that is how I will choose to remember him. He rarely had a negative word. McKinley’s SEC stats: 207 career receptions for 2,781 yards and 19 TDs. He was a 2007 All-SEC selection at wide receiver, a year where he set the school record for receptions with 77. It is a sad ending for a young man that was loved by so many. (RM Note: Nicely done.)


IN FOCUS: Which SEC Coach/Player is in the Spotlight this week?

Mitchell:

Houston Nutt, ole miss HC – Since we believe the Bama/Arkansas game is a fait accompli (don’t buy the ESPN hype), there are still a number of possibilities this week. For example, Marcus Lattimore against the Auburn D-line, Gary Crowton in the weekend’s biggest out of conference game, and Mark Richt’s reeling UGA team that ranks statistically below MSU in both Total Offense and Defense. But is there a man in CFB with more pressure on him today than Houston Nutt? After failing to meet the (ridiculously) lofty preseason expectations of ’09, suffering through several recruiting/transfer embarrassments, and starting 2010’s home schedule with losses to Jax State and Vandy, we believe it’s safe to call it: the wheels are off the cart. At least three of ‘em, anyway. Hey, the Rebs fired Cutcliffe for a lot less. Lose at home Saturday against Fresno State, Nutt, and you won’t even have to worry about cleaning out your desk; its contents will be boxed up and in transit to your home by the time you’ve toweled off from your shower.

Harbach:

Willy Robinson, Arkansas DC – Arkansas is going to score points this weekend against Alabama, the Razorback receivers against a young Alabama secondary is a distinct advantage for Mallett. But can they stop Alabama. Last week the defense looked better against Georgia, but when Georgia needed points they came easily, and if that game had gone to overtime UGA was unlikely to be stopped. Can Willy Robinson’s group contain Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson? (RM Note: No.) Will Greg McElroy be able to pick the secondary apart with Julio Jones and Marquis Maze? (RM Note: Why even bother throwing the ball?) LB Jerry Franklin looked healthy and aggressive against Georgia, the secondary was in the right position for most of the game – Ramon Broadway made some amazing plays. A sloppy performance by the defense won’t allow Arkansas to play with Alabama; a good effort makes this a four quarter affair.


SEC POWER RANKINGS

Mitchell

1 Alabama – Hearken back to the days before the forward pass
2 South Carolina – 1st game outside of Columbia; if y’all are for real, you win this
4 LSU – So that’s why Les has been giving so many scholarships to kickers
4 Arkansas – Put 10 in the box and make McElroy beat you
4 Florida – #2 in the nation in turnover margin; hey, if you can’t say anything nice…
6 Auburn – W’s came 3 diff ways; don’t think that’s what they mean by “balance”
7 Kentucky (up from 8) – Welcome back!
8 Miss State (down from 7) – T. Russell is special; play him now for next year
9 Georgia (down from 8) – THIS is a must win game, or ’10 is over
10 Vanderbilt (up from 12) – The Tur(key)minator!
11 Tennessee (down from 10)– Y’all know it’s a 4 quarter game, right?
11 ole miss (down from 11) – Dead. Last.

Harbach

1 Alabama – The Tide’s SEC title defense starts this weekend
2 Arkansas (up from 5) – Great offense may be finally paired with a capable D
3 South Carolina (up from 6) – @ Auburn’s the last chip we need to believe it’s for real
4 Florida (down from 2) – With Bama on the horizon, is Kentucky a trap game?
5 Auburn (down from 4) – Will physical game v. Clemson slow them down against SC?
6 LSU (down from 3) – Defense is elite; that O is going to burn them
7 Kentucky (up from 9) – Finally, a game that matters
8 Georgia – How much of a hangover still exists from that late Mallett drive?
9 Mississippi State (down from 7) – Staring at 1-3 is not what Mullen had in mind for ‘09
10 Vanderbilt (up from 12) – Excellent D with just enough O; 1st SEC win since ‘08
11 Tennessee – Special teams letting the Vols down; Gator trick play killed them
12 Ole Miss (down from 10) – “Anytime, anywhere” is coming to Oxford this weekend


THREE GAMES TO DVR

Mitchell:

1) South Carolina vs. Auburn; Saturday, September 25th. Auburn actually leads the conference in rushing, not Bama, while South Carolina leads the conference in rushing defense, not LSU. Hm… But for three reasons this SC squad wins its first road game, and in so doing makes a big statement as to its intentions for 2010. First, given the first sentence, everyone will be looking at Auburn’s O against SC’s D, but that’s a red herring. Watch the reverse. The Gamecocks have a fleet of talented, 6’4” WRs to go up against a suspect Tiger secondary, as well as a running game isn’t half bad (in case you’ve been living under a rock). The sum of the parts is advantage Gamecocks. Second, we believe we saw a M*A*S*H tent set up during last week’s bruising game against Clemson. Auburn’s thin at experience on the D-line, a unit that’s likely to be challenged early and often by Lattimore, and it has to be a bit weathered after the late Saturday game. Finally, the Tigers have looked anything but steady so far this season, and it’s going to take exactly that to win this matchup. Auburn’s only chance is the forward pass, as SC’s pass D is ranked last in the conference. But we think that’s more an aberration than an answer…
Pick South Carolina 24, Auburn 21

2) Alabama vs. Arkansas; Saturday, September 25th. This is Arkansas’ biggest game of the season, yes. There’s a lot of hype around it, and Arkansas is definitely improving. But its offense can’t score if it’s not on the field, and the Tide is going to roll like thunder on Saturday afternoon. Georgia’s rushing game is at best wounded, and even it managed 3.5 ypc against the Hogs. Bama will average more than 5. As a result, Mallett won't see the ball enough, and will be playing from behind – thus forcing it. Not as badly as the contest last year, but the 2H will be ugly. Nothing about this game is going to be clean, and in this case that actually benefits the better team. Petrino’s offense is a finely crafted machine, with subtle gears and fine timing. There’s not a lot of room for ugly. Remember, in last season’s “biggest game”, we called for the Hogs to upset Florida, and y'all should have won that; choked it away at several key spots (the refs didn't help matters). We made that call because it was the right call. This Saturday, Arkansas loses by at least ten, in an ugly fourth quarter…
Pick Alabama 35, Arkansas 24

3) West Virginia vs. LSU; Saturday, September 25th. If you haven’t already, it’s officially time now to materially lower your expectations for LSU’s offense. You should no longer be surprised by anything, short of a great performance. LSU’s passing offense is ranked115th in the nation. That must improve or it’ll cost the Tigers some games (plural), and Crowton his job. Nevertheless, the O-line is playing much better, as seen both by a decent rushing attack and a third best conference ranking in Sacks Allowed – the latter even given QB Jordan Jefferson’s fear of throwing the ball. The difference in this game will be LSU’s defense, its home crowd, darkness, bourbon and a real Bengal tiger – in no particular order after the D. That and the Tiger’s Special Teams, which truly is (#5 nationally PRs, #13 KRs, a talented placekicker, and excellent kick coverage)...
Pick LSU 23, West Virginia 10

Record: 9-1

Harbach:

1) Alabama vs. Arkansas; Saturday, September 25th. Strength vs. Weakness on both sides of this one… Arkansas’ passing attack against the Alabama pass defense. Alabama’s rushing attack against the Arkansas defensive front. This one is going to light up the scoreboard. But in order to finish games in the SEC, the run game trumps how our league is dominated. Edge Bama. The Tide will come from behind with a couple great runs by Ingram to frustrate the Razorback fans and put their SEC title hopes on hold for a little while...
Pick Alabama 42, Arkansas 35

2) South Carolina vs. Auburn; Saturday, September 25th. We all know the SEC clichés: defense wins championships, you can’t win without a running game, and it is difficult to win on the road in conference. The last one is the why Auburn wins this weekend. These teams are evenly matched in nearly every position. The game will come down to Auburn’s defensive line being able to beat up the interior of South Carolina’s O-line, and Carolina playing its first road game. Nick Fairley will do enough to disrupt the Carolina rushing attack which likes to go up the middle, and Auburn will contain Marcus Lattimore similar to how it contained Bama’s Ingram last year. If the location were switched, Carolina would be our pick. But this week, we go with the home team...
Pick Auburn 24, South Carolina 17

3) West Virginia vs. LSU; Saturday, September 25th. We are still waiting for LSU to put it all together, and we’re thinking about giving up on that. The defense is dominant, but the offense is anything but. Last year WVU played at Auburn and turned the ball over five times. Dateline Baton Rouge: the LSU defense has forced nine turnovers in three games so far. At night in Baton Rouge with a young quarterback, the Mountaineers are going to struggle moving the ball, let alone holding onto it. We expect another huge night for K Josh Jasper. Until we see Jefferson become more consistent, it’s Jasper’s offense, but LSU is never in danger this weekend...
Pick LSU 19, West Virginia 10

Record: 8-2


Don't forget to read CFN's Barrett Sallee Three & Out: SEC Thoughts, News & Notes.

Russ Mitchell covers the SEC for www.CollegeFootballNews.com. Please follow him on Twitter @russmitchellsec or email him at russmitchellsec@gmail.com
Brian Harbach covers the SEC for www.CollegeFootballNews.com. Please follow him on Twitter @harbabd or email him at harbachcfn@gmail.com



Y'all Play Nice. SEC Week Three, September 16, 2010
Y'all Play Nice. SEC Week Two, September 9, 2010
Y'all Play Nice. SEC Week One, September 2, 2010



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