Week 8 In The SEC: Bulldogs, Gators, Gamecocks All On The Road This Weekend
Week 7 in the SEC had a little bit of everything, blowouts like South Carolina’s 52-7 drubbing of Arkansas and Alabama’s 48-7 destruction of Kentucky but it also featured some close calls in Texas A&M’s 41-38 escape from Oxford and Mississippi State outlasting Bowling Green 21-20 but the biggest news Week 7 delivered was the upset Missouri captured in Athens against a hobbled Georgia team that busted the SEC East wide open. Week 8 in the SEC features strictly conference match-ups that are bound to stir up some sort of news:
#15 Georgia at Vanderbilt – 12:00 pm ET – CBS
Georgia hits the road up to Nashville after being upset at home by an undefeated Missouri team. Star RB Todd Gurley is still doubtful for the Bulldogs with an ankle sprain so the ’Dawgs will again likely head into a game without it’s lead dog. It would be nice to have Gurley back, as he ran for 130 yards and two touchdowns on 16 attempts in a 48-3 rout of Vanderbilt last season. Georgia’s injuries likely knocked them out of the National title hunt but there is still hope for an SEC Championship game appearance but the Bulldogs have to get a win Saturday to keep those dreams alive. Georgia QB Aaron Murray threw 3 touchdowns last Saturday vs. Missouri but his two late interceptions and the fumble he lost, that was returned for a touchdown, is what did the Bulldogs in. Murray threw for two scores last season vs. Vanderbilt, as Georgia won its sixth in a row vs. Vandy and earned their 17th win in the last 18 match-ups with the Commodores. It could be a record-breaking Saturday for Murray as he is 30 yards shy of eclipsing Tim Tebow’s SEC record of 12,232 total yards, while also needing three touchdown passes to pass Danny Wuerffel’s SEC record of 114. Vanderbilt is coming off a bye week but two weeks ago, the Commodores lost 51-28 at home to Missouri. In that game, Vandy QB Austyn Carta-Samuels threw for a career-high 338 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for another and All-SEC WR Jordan Matthews gained over 100 yards receiving for the fifth time this season. It could also be a record-breaking Saturday for Matthews as he needs just 103 receiving yards to break the SEC career receiving yards record, held Georgia’s Terrence Edwards.
#11 South Carolina at Tennessee – 12:00 pm ET – ESPN
South Carolina caught a break when Missouri beat Georgia last weekend and now the Gamecocks are right back in the heart of the race for the SEC East. It won’t be easy but to win the East, South Carolina will likely have to win the rest of their SEC games this season which include Florida and a trip to Missouri next week but they can’t overlook a Tennessee team that took Georgia to the wire just a few weeks ago in Knoxville. The Vols defense has been horrendous this season allowing 35.7 points per game and 471.3 yards per game, averages that put them near the bottom of the FBS defensively. Tennessee is coming off a bye week after that heart-breaking loss to Georgia at home and this South Carolina team will be the 4th ranked team Tennessee has faced in its last five games. South Carolina’s offense is humming, recently posting over a half-a-hundred on the road in Arkansas last Saturday. South Carolina is gaining 486 yards per game and not one of Spurrier’s eight South Carolina teams has averaged over 400 yards per game for the season so Spurrier is in uncharted, offensive territory compared to the rest of his time in Columbia. Jadeveon Clowney is the national story on South Carolina and after a week of criticism, Clowney only posted one tackle but supplied Arkansas’ offense with plenty of disruption. Clowney is now fully health and back in Spurrier’s good graces, combine that with the trash talking from Tennessee OT “Tiny” Richardson this off-season, look for a big game Saturday in Knoxville from #7.
#22 Florida at #14 Missouri – 12:21 pm ET – SECN/ESPN3
Missouri went into Athens, Georgia last weekend and beat the mighty Bulldogs to continue their undefeated season and take sole possession of the SEC East lead. As great as the win was, it was costly as starting QB James Franklin injured his right shoulder and will miss the next 3-4 weeks, which are weeks that feature Saturday’s game vs. #22 Florida and next weekend’s contest with #11 South Carolina. Franklin was 3rd in the SEC in total offense as well as being the Tigers’ singular leader on offense. Freshman QB Maty Mauk will make his first start in place for Franklin against the Gators on Saturday. Maty Mauk is the nation’s all-time leading passer in high school football, passing the mark that his older brother, Ben Mauk, once held. In the short time Franklin was hurt vs. Georgia last Saturday, Mauk was 3 of 3 for 23 yards and ran the ball 3 times for 12 yards but he will obviously be asked to do much more on Saturday versus the vaunted Florida defense. Florida ranks in the top five among FBS teams in three important defensive categories, points per game (13.0), yards per game (235.3) and passing yards allowed (152.0). The Gators lost 17-6 vs. LSU, in Baton Rouge last weekend but Florida’s defense held LSU’s offense 29 points below their season average. However, offensively, Florida got some bad news this week as they learned their 2nd leading rusher, Matt Jones, was done for the season with a torn meniscus. This is Florida’s first ever trip to Missouri and the Gators will look to knock off Missouri and make the race for the SEC East even more interesting.
#24 Auburn at #7 Texas A&M – 3:30 pm ET – CBS
Johnny Manziel has continued his tear through the SEC, leading the conference with 305.8 passing yards per game, and his 14 passing touchdowns tie him for third in the conference. Johnny Football also leads his team in rushing with 427 yards and has added 5 rushing touchdowns this season as well. Last week, in A&M’s close one with Ole Miss, Manziel was 31 of 39 for 346 yards while rushing 18 times for 113 yards and two touchdowns. His performance last year, this year, and last week prompted Auburn head coach Guz Malzahn to call Manziel, “the best offensive player in college football” this week. In Malzahn’s 1st season at Auburn he has the Tigers at 5-1 and ranked in the Top 25 for the first time since November of 2011. Auburn QB Nick Marshall will return this week after missing last week’s win over Western Carolina with a knee injury. Marshall can gain a lot of yards on the ground, he’s averaging 5.2 yards a rush and as added a few scores. The speedy and elusive, juco transfer is 71 of 120 (59.2%) for 902 yards with 4 touchdowns and 4 interceptions so if Auburn wants to make anymore noise this season, Marshall will have to evolve as a passer and become more efficient. The key to this game will be to see if Texas A&M’s abysmal run defense can somewhat contain a very productive Auburn rushing attack.
#6 LSU at Ole Miss – 7:00 pm ET – ESPN2
Ole Miss is the only conference game left for LSU before their showdown with #1 Alabama in Tuscaloosa so a win here is very important if they intend on beating Alabama and taking control of the SEC West. Last week, LSU got a nice SEC win over Florida in Baton Rouge but it featured Florida’s defense bringing LSU’s offense, and QB Zach Mettenberger, down to Earth. Mettenberger was 9 of 17 for 152 yards but LSU RB Jeremy Hill ran for 121 yards on 19 carries, making it his fourth 100-yard game of the season. Hill is actually on pace to have a better statistical season than former Alabama RB Mark Ingram’s Heisman-winning season in 2009. LSU has won six of the last eight meetings with Ole Miss, but three of their wins were by seven points or less. Ole Miss, after starting 3-0, has now dropped their last 3 games, but to be fair they were to #1 Alabama, now-#24 Auburn, and #7 Texas A&M, who they took down to the wire last weekend in Oxford. Ole Miss actually had 38-31 lead with six minutes left before Johnny Manziel ruined it for everyone in The Grove. Ole Miss will look to gain a signature win versus a Top 10 team while Zach Mettenberger and the LSU offense will look to get back on track Saturday in Oxford.
Arkansas at #1 Alabama – 7:00 pm ET – ESPN
Last weekend featured the opposite ends of the spectrum for these two teams as Alabama had a dominant, 48-7 win over Kentucky in Lexington, outgaining the Wildcats 668-170, while Arkansas had 52 unanswered points hung on them by South Carolina after gaining an early 7-0 lead. Alabama QB AJ McCarron threw for a career-high 359 passing yards last weekend, while two of his running backs, TJ Yeldon and Kenyan Drake, each surpassed 100 yards rushing. Alabama is in the midst of a six-game stretch in which they don’t face a team with a winning record and this Saturday begins a 3 game homestretch for the Tide but both stretches conclude when #6 LSU travels to Tuscaloosa November 9th. Arkansas’ offense is led by their two running backs, freshman Alex Collins, who averages 102.9 yards per game and sophomore Jonathan Williams, who averages 80.6 yards per game. Each back has four touchdowns this season as they try to help alleviate some of the pressure on QB Brandon Allen who struggled last week and has actually struggled for most of the season. Alabama has won 27 straight over unranked teams in Tuscaloosa and has won the last six in a row over Arkansas.