SEC questions and answers

SEC questions and answers

October 9th, 2013 by Jay Greeson in Sportscollege

SEC Southeastern Conference

Alabama (5-0 overall, 2-0 SEC)

Do the biggest stars always attract the biggest drama? Apparently so, even in the realm of college football, where Alabama is the sport's monolith and procedure protector extraordinaire Nick Saban is not immune to the off-the-field circus. It started with a YahooSports! investigation that alleged former tackle D.J. Fluker took money from agents while at Alabama, and it continued last week when safety HaHa Clinton-Dix was suspended for reportedly taking a loan from someone in the Alabama football program. Man, if Saban and his death stare -- and his choice windblown locks -- can't keep a program on the path of righteousness, well, there you have it. Maybe William Marcy had it right when he said, "To the victors go the spoils." Or maybe William C. Macy had it right in "Seabiscuit" when he said: "A hundred thousand dollars? Makes me want to walk on all fours and put a saddle on my back."

Saturday: at Kentucky, 7 (ESPN2)

LSU (5-1, 2-1)

When it's clicking like it did Saturday night against Mississippi State, is there a more balanced offense in the SEC than these Tigers? It's doubtful, especially when Zach Mettenberger is playing as efficiently as he did in the 59-26 win at Starkville that was a tight 28-26 game midway through the second half. Mettenberger was 25-of-29 for 340 yards, and the passing game opened lanes for a ground game that generated 223 rushing yards and six TDs. Bonus question: Is Mettenberger a first-round NFL draft pick? The answer is unknown right now, but it's a lot closer to "yes" than it was a month ago. Bonus question II: Which name will CBS announcer Verne Lunquist have the toughest time with in Saturday's game with Florida? How about LSU defensive back Jerqwinick Sandolph or guard Fehoko Fanaika? Heck, there are a lot of options with LSU, but this is Ole Verne, so he could stumble over senior receiver James Wright, for crying out loud. Pssstt, Verne, the "W" is silent.

Saturday: vs. Florida, 3:30 (CBS)

Texas A&M (4-1, 1-1)

Can Johnny Manziel get 600 yards of total offense against the Rebels? OK, Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall ran for 140 yards in the Tigers' win over Ole Miss last week. Now Johnny Football gets his turn, and if we step out on the huge limb of comparison, well, Johnny HotShot has a Heisman from last year -- when Nick Marshall was in junior college.

Saturday: at Ole Miss, 8:30 (ESPN)

Georgia (4-1, 3-0)

Hey, is there a healthy Tim Worley or even a Lars Tate somewhere on the roster? Georgia started the season with a wealth of offensive talent. Season-ending injuries to receivers Malcolm Mitchell and Justin Scott-Wesley and running back Keith Marshall, and the ankle injury that has slowed Todd Gurley have spent a lot of that wealth. We do know this, however: Senior quarterback Aaron Murray is so cool under pressure now, he's downright brisk.

Saturday: vs. Missouri, noon (ESPN)

Florida (4-1, 3-0)

Will the East ultimately be decided by health issues? Could be. And the one team in the country that doesn't want to hear the Bulldogs bark about injuries is the Florida Gators, who have picked up and overcome season-ending injuries to their starting quarterback, an All-America defensive tackle, a starting wide receiver, a starting offensive tackle and a reserve linebacker. So it goes. That said, Florida may have the best secondary in the country.

Saturday: at LSU, 3:30 (CBS)

South Carolina (4-1, 2-1)

Is South Carolina about to fall off the rails? It sure feels like it. Star players electing not to play. Hall of Fame coach kicking back a few banquet beers before the coach's show and looking as interested as a preteen at an insurance seminar. Big leads against inferior opponents vanishing because of the perma-cruise control in Columbia. OK, to update, Jadeveon Clowney said thanks but no thanks to action Saturday against Kentucky. Maybe his dreads were messy, who knows? Side point here: Clowney would have been the No. 1 overall pick last year but could not enter the draft. He has an injured foot and sore ribs. A serious injury could cost him millions. The pause is understandable for Clowney, and understandably infuriating for Steve Spurrier. Something else that is frustrating for the Johnny Gamecocks Fans is the quick starts -- South Carolina has built 21-0 leads in each of its last two home games -- that become too tense for comfort late. Flipping the cruise control is a terrible habit, and a trip across the league to Arkansas seems perilous in a lot of ways, with or without Clowney.

Saturday: at Arkansas, 12:21 (WDSI)

Missouri (5-0, 1-0)

Are we ready for the phrase "SEC East champion Missouri Tigers" in two months? Not sure anyone is ready for that just yet, but the Tigers continue to clear each hurdle, the latest being a 51-28 road drumming at Vandy. We will know more after Saturday's trip to Georgia to face the banged-up Bulldogs. A win in Athens puts Missouri -- a high-flying offense and a defense that has a tenacious pass rush led by SEC sack leader Michael Sam -- firmly in the SEC title race.

Saturday: at Georgia, noon (ESPN)

Auburn (4-1, 2-1)

Is every Auburn play called "Run it, run it, run it"? Because that is what Tigers coach Gus Malzahn says 1,000 times every Saturday. Malzahn is a charter member of the pace club, shooting to get 80 or more snaps per game, and with a bevy of running options from quarterback Nick Marshall to backs Tre Mason, Curtis Artis-Payne and Corey Grant, the tempo helped the Tigers run for more than 280 yards against Ole Miss despite getting only 65 total snaps -- 24 fewer than the Rebels' plays from scrimmage. Auburn's balanced running attack has produced four different 100-yard rushers in five games.

Saturday: vs. Western Carolina, 2 (Pay-per-view)

Ole Miss (3-2, 1-2)

Is Ole Miss halfway through the toughest consecutive stretch in the league? Quite possibly, considering the Rebels spent the last two weeks losing in the state of Alabama (at Tuscaloosa and at Auburn) and will spend the next two Saturday nights hosting top-10 foes when the Aggies visit this week and the LSU Tigers come Oct. 19. If the Rebels can survive the onslaught relatively healthy -- stay upright, Jeff Scott and Donte Moncrief -- the Rebels still could challenge for eight wins this year.

Saturday: vs. Texas A&M, 8:30 (ESPN)

Tennessee (3-3, 0-2)

Should Tennessee fans be hopeful or heartbroken after last Saturday's near-miss upset against Georgia? The answer is yes, because there is a little of both in there. That said, whether you believe in moral victories or not, a big bonus for the Vols' rebuilding model is the fact that there were dozens of high-profile recruits in Neyland for the game and coach Butch Jones can way easier sell, "Son, I needed one more player -- I needed you -- and we would have beaten the No. 6 team in the country," after a 34-31 overtime loss than a three-touchdown knockout.

Saturday: off

Arkansas (3-3, 0-2)

Will Arkansas adjust to the pressure? No, not coach pressure. First-year Razorbacks boss Bret Bielema is fine -- regardless whether you believe in karma or not. No, the pressure that Florida threw at an Arkansas team that had allowed only four sacks in five games before the 30-10 beatdown in the Swamp. Sure, the Gators notched only two sacks, but that total -- highlighted by a sack-forced fumble by Loucheiz Purifoy -- and the other pressure limited the Hogs to a paltry 3.8 yards per snap. (Side question: Is Loucheiz Purifoy arguably the smoothest name for a college football player since Eddie Lee Ivory?)

Saturday: vs. South Carolina, 12:21 (WDSI)

Vanderbilt (3-3, 0-3)

Is this James Franklin's last year at Vandy? This likely will not be the last time this question is asked, but it's fair, and heading into the Commodores' bye week, we believe it is the final go-round for Franklin in Nashville. What else can he do? And there are going to be some choice openings this offseason.

Saturday: off

Mississippi State (2-3, 0-2)

Can the Bulldogs finish a close game? Granted, we likely won't know the answer this week when former UT offensive coordinator Dave Clawson brings the Bowling Green Green Bowlers (or Falcons, whatever) to town. But in its three losses this year, Mississippi State has been outscored 42-bagel in the fourth quarter. Ouch-standing.

Saturday: vs. Bowling Green, 7:30 (FoxSS)

Kentucky (1-4, 0-2)

Have the Wildcats settled on a quarterback? It certainly appears so, after Jalen Whitlow led a furious rally that pulled Kentucky within a TD in Saturday's 35-28 loss at South Carolina. Whitlow threw for 178 yards, ran for 69 and accounted for three TDs, and more importantly he did not turn the ball over in the loss. It's called progress, Johnny Wildcats Fans. Progress.

Saturday: vs. Alabama, 7 (ESPN2)