Pasquali's Pix: Gators, Mocs will pull out victories

Pasquali's Pix: Gators, Mocs will pull out victories

September 14th, 2017 by David Paschall in Sports - Columns

LSU defensive end Arden Key sacks Jacksonville State quarterback Eli Jenkins during their September 2016 game in Baton Rouge, La. Key, who had shoulder surgery in May, has missed the first two games this season but is expected to play Saturday night at Mississippi State.

Photo by Gerald Herbert

Pass-rushing menace Arden Key set LSU's single-season record a year ago as a sophomore with 12 sacks, and he collected two at the expense of Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson on New Year's Eve in the Citrus Bowl thumping of Louisville.

Key's stats for this season?

Zilch.

Rated by many analysts as the Southeastern Conference's top prospect for the 2018 NFL draft, the 6-foot-6, 255-pounder from Atlanta has yet to play a snap this season but is set to make his debut Saturday night when the No. 12 Tigers visit Mississippi State. Key did not go through spring practice for "personal reasons," and he underwent shoulder surgery in May.

LSU coach Ed Orgeron took a wait-and-see approach Wednesday when asked what kind of impact he expects Key to make in Starkville.

UTC's Michael Bean (35) chases Jacksonville quarterback Bryant Horn (14). The University of Chattanooga Mocs met the Jacksonville State Gamecocks in the Guardian Credit Union FCS Kickoff at the Carmton Bowl in Montgomery, Ala., on Aug.26, 2017.

UTC's Michael Bean (35) chases Jacksonville quarterback Bryant...

Photo by Robin Rudd /Times Free Press.

"To be honest with you, he's looked a little rusty," Orgeron said on the SEC's weekly teleconference. "He's gotten all the reps with the first team, but his football condition is not where we want it to be right now. We're going to have to rotate him, because he cannot play a whole game right now.

"We feel good with K'Lavon Chaisson backing him up."

Chaisson, a freshman from Houston, was among the top 50 prospects nationally in the 2017 signing class and already has 2.5 sacks through two games.

This will be the first matchup of SEC West teams this season, and it may not be too much of a knee-jerk statement to say the winner could be Alabama's top challenger in that division. Arkansas and Texas A&M have underwhelmed so far, as has Auburn's offense, and Ole Miss is ineligible this season.

Coach Dan Mullen's Bulldogs will bring their share of defensive talent to Saturday's show, with lineman Jeffrey Simmons and linebacker Leo Lewis, both sophomores, leading the way. Lewis began this week in Covington, Ky., where he provided testimony about Ole Miss during an NCAA Committee on Infractions hearing.

Asked how Lewis has prepared this week given his journey to the NCAA hearing, Mullen said, "He's prepared great. We're not going to comment on major violations that other institutions have, but Leo has done a good job of preparing this week."

You were only asked to comment on Leo Lewis, Coach. Ouch!

Pasquali's Pix

Tennessee at Florida: What a great rivalry for quarterback matchups with the likes of Manning-Wuerffel, Clausen-Grossman, Ainge-Tebow and Dormady-Franks. Gators 23, Volunteers 20.

Mercer at Auburn: After last week's offensive debacle at Clemson, Auburn's "Honk if you sacked Brodie Croyle" bumper stickers from 12 years ago don't seem quite as funny. Tigers 38, Bears 7.

Colorado State at Alabama: This is a rubber match for Nick Saban, who lost to the Rams in 1998 while at Michigan State. Crimson Tide 42, Rams 10.

LSU at Mississippi State: Orgeron makes his head-coaching debut in this rivalry after predecessor Les Miles went 11-1 in the series. Tigers 16, Bullies 14.

Samford at Georgia: Samford playing inside Sanford? The typo opportunities are limitless. SEC Bulldogs 45, SoCon Bulldogs 13.

UT-Martin at UTC: SEC programs have struggled in recent years the week after facing LSU. We'll see if that applies to SoCon teams as well. Mocs 27, Skyhawks 24.

Kansas State at Vanderbilt: The Commodores have not defeated a ranked nonconference opponent since topping N.C. State in 1946. Wildcats 20, Commodores 13.

Kentucky at South Carolina: The winner becomes the most unimposing 3-0 team on the third planet from the sun. Gamecocks 24, Wildcats 19.

Last week:

Winners..............18

Cancellations........4

Pasquali is now 41-6 overall (87.2 percent) this season.

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.

Other picks

Texas A&M 38, UL-Lafayette 19

Ole Miss 35, California 28

Missouri 29, Purdue 26

Michigan 31, Air Force 12

Oklahoma St. 42, Pittsburgh 35

UCLA 26, Memphis 21

N.C. State 33, Furman 14

Wisconsin 14, BYU 7

Va. Tech 30, East Carolina 13

UNC 27, Old Dominion 20

Notre Dame 23, Boston Coll. 16

Minnesota 28, MTSU 23

Ohio State 45, Army 10

Oklahoma 52, Tulane 11

Penn State 51, Ga. State 9

Clemson 37, Louisville 24

Southern Cal 44, Texas 27

Washington 49, Fresno St. 18

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