Greeson: SEC preview

Greeson: SEC preview

October 4th, 2013 by Jay Greeson in Sports - Columns

SEC Southeastern Conference

High five

1. Will Georgia be ready?

The hangover effects could be so strong that the only thing missing for the Bulldogs will be Mike Tyson, a baby and a tiger. Tennessee's struggling passing game -- the slogans of "UT passing, where every completion is a surprise" and "Worley Bird, spin it and forget it" never really caught on -- seems hard-pressed to keep up with a Georgia offense that has scored 35 or more points in three games against top-10 foes. After beating LSU last week in an instant classic, if Georgia is ready, the Bulldogs are superior at almost every position. It's a big if, of course, since Georgia has just completed the nation's toughest September. Of course, if Mark Richt and Co. are focused and have cleared the hangover, the only questions left are "Is this place beeper friendly?" and "Did the real Caesar stay here?" and "Where's Doug?"

2. High school reunion

Auburn welcomes Ole Miss into Jordan-Hare Stadium on Saturday night. It is a swing game -- Ole Miss is a slight, 2-point favorite -- considering the hurdles down the road with LSU and Texas A&M for each. It also is a reunion for former high school coaches Gus Malzahn and Hugh Freeze. Imagine being a high school coach one day and within a decade coaching in the best conference in college football. By comparison, wonder how many high school English teachers are Harvard professors in 10 years?

3. Will the real James Franklin stand up?

Missouri is the only SEC East team that is unbeaten, because quarterback James Franklin has been a walking highlight reel. Vanderbilt now expects to win because head coach James Franklin has lifted the program to heights unknown since the Woodrow Wilson administration. Clearly, James Franklin is having a nice run. We know three things about this game: The winner -- Missouri is 4-0; Vandy is 3-2 -- will take a large step toward bowl-ability; there's a strong chance bowl-ability was not a word until just now; the winning team will have James Franklin to thank.

4. Battle of strengths

Florida's defense has been the nation's best rushing defense, allowing less than 54 yards per game. Arkansas has the SEC's best rushing offense, averaging 237 yards per game. Something has to give. Each team also has arguably the best offensive and defensive freshman in the SEC, Arkansas running back Alex Collins and Gators defensive back Vernon Hargreaves. That said, if the teams are going to complete the similarities, will Florida coach Will Muschamp fall flat on his face entering the stadium this week like Bret Bielema did last week on the Arkansas Hogs Walk? If the coach falls on the team's Whatever Walk, is it proper fan etiquette to fall, too? What about the team? Let's just call it karma and move along.

5. Can Mullen make a stand?

Mississippi State faces an emotionally spent but supremely talented LSU team. The Bulldogs could use ... We interrupt your regular reading schedule to bring you this message from the Mullen Always Supported or Hated -- MASH for short: "Remember when Danny Mullen was the hottest name in coaching. We don't, either. It seems like forever ago when the Mississippi State fans were worried about someone plucking our coach. Now we need to hang a pork chop around his neck for the puppy to play with him. C'mon, Football Gods, give us a break this week and let us reclaim some momentum. We need it. Dan needs it. Whatcha' say?" As for the heartfelt plea, Mullen could use a little good news -- MSU is 2-2 with only two games left on the schedule in which it will be favored (against Kentucky and Bowling Green). In fact, the month of November is a killer -- at South Carolina, at Texas A&M, vs. Alabama, at Arkansas and vs. Ole Miss. As for MASH, well, how about mashed?

Fab 4-plus-1 picks

As we have frequently mentioned around these parts, Vegas lines and point spreads are not predicted margin of victory -- although those guys get pretty doggone close pretty doggone often. The numbers are set to try to balance wagering on each side.

That said, the Georgia minus-10.5 spread is puzzling. Up and down puzzling. Maybe Todd Gurley doesn't play for Georgia. Maybe the Bulldogs are in the post-LSU daze. Maybe the fireball that appeared in the Chattanooga sky over the weekend will mean an extra TD or two for the home team.

Still, it does not compute. And, while it's forever wise to embrace the adage that if a line looks too good to be true, it generally is, you also have to be willing to take big swings at big opportunities. In fact, we'd be surprised if you could risk any entertainment on this locally at less than 14. (Especially after red-hot 102.3 FM picker Izod gave it his stamp of approval on "SportTalk" with Quake, Dr. B -- he is a doctor, after all -- and Cowboy Joe.)

Then again, this is the week of the crazy pick and the unreal, crazy spreads. Take Alabama, which is giving Georgia State 56 points but the over/under is 60. So in the perfect Vegas world, the final would be Alabama 58, Georgia State 2, and if Alabama gives up a safety Nick Saban's going to kick a kitten.

Want more craziness? Central Michigan is 1-4 overall and 0-5 against the spread and has lost its starting QB and starting RB, and the Chippewas are 3-point road favorites at Miami of Ohio. Certainly Chippewas is a cool nickname, but wow. Also of note Saturday, Southern Miss was 0-12 last year, is 0-4 this year and coming off a 60-7 beatdown at Boise State, and the Eagles are 17-point favorites over Florida International.

Go figure. Maybe this is the week to believe in the lines that are too good to be true.

Let's go to the picks.

• Georgia minus-10.5 at Tennessee: OK, we have asked a lot of people who know a lot about these two football teams, and asked them the same questions. Points-wise, what would be a good day for Tennessee against Georgia and a very average day for Georgia against Tennessee? The answers resoundingly come back Good Tennessee 24, Average Georgia 35. So, according to some folks we know who are paid to know things about these teams, if UT is good and Georgia is simply average, the Bulldogs still cover. We'll take that entertainment chance.

• UCLA minus-5 at Utah: Utah is underrated and likely should be in the Top 25. UCLA is No. 12 in the country and is still underrated. The Bruins have one of the five coolest uniforms in college football, and while that will not help them cover the number tonight at Utah, top-10 NFL picks at QB and LB will. This team is good, and if you want the sneaky challenger for a title shot, there's one Bruin in L.A. (See what I did there?)

• N.C. State minus-8 at Wake Forest: OK, here's a formula buster that is available when experts on the other side of the country are picking college games as opposed to NFL games. Home teams are given an edge in the eyes of the line-makers. Well, Wake Forest is technically at home, but it's a small home field and a sizable percentage of the crowd will be fans of the visiting Wolfpack. As for defending their home field, the Demon Deacons lost at home two weeks ago to Louisiana-Monroe.

• Penn State minus-3 at Indiana: Buy the half to be safe, and we have some pause since this is the Nittany Lions' first road game of the season. But if you are going to make your first road trip, what better spot than Indiana, where basketball is king and football is a fall distraction? And if you want research, well, do you believe Penn State is better or worse or about the same as say the 10th-best team in the SEC? Say, a Missouri? Well, Missouri went to IU and dropped the hammer.

• Arizona State minus-5 vs. Notre Dame in Dallas: Sometimes you just have to keep riding the streaks. Do you know if you had bet on UCLA and Oregon and against Notre Dame in every game this year you would be 11-0-1? That's even better than my record.

• Last week against the spread: 3-2

• This season against the spread: 18-6-1