‘BACK TO LIFE, BACK TO REALITY’…… WHO’S THE SEC’S NEXT BEST TEAM?
With Alabama again looking the part as the SEC’s and maybe the nation’s best team, it’s time to identify the next best team in the SEC. This weekend’s slate of SEC Football Week 5 games could go a long way in determining who that team is. Both sets of Bulldogs, Georgia and Mississippi State have huge road games within their respective divisions. Ironically, the two teams met last Saturday in Athens with Georgia prevailing 31-3. Despite QB issues, it’s hard to forget the Florida Gators, who face Vandy at The Swamp. The Commodores may have been the best case, last Saturday, for what turned out to be a ‘Back to life, Back to reality’ type of weekend. Those were the words used by British R&B/Neo-soul group Soul II Soul in their 1989 hit ‘Back to Life’.
The reality is, Vandy, Mississippi State, and Kentucky weren’t quite ready for primetime, despite being undefeated. The Wildcats came much closer than State or Vandy in their 28-27 loss at home to Florida. But, it wasn’t necessarily that they lost. It was the way they lost that was very Kentucky-like. The Cats’ 31st consecutive loss to the Gators proved to be a classic dose of reality.
Still, despite their struggles at QB and on-going multiple suspensions due to credit card fraud, Florida could make a claim as being the SEC’s next best team. Especially, with Luke Del Rio back in the saddle as Jim McElwain’s starting QB. Also, let’s not forget the battle of one-loss teams in College Station, as South Carolina and Texas A&M battle it out. The Gamecocks continue to look for an identity without Deebo Samuel, and the Aggies look to take Kevin Sumlin off the hot-seat. It’s hard to believe either is the SEC’s next best team, but with all the issues each team has, it’s also hard to count anyone out.
Auburn and Georgia definitely look to have the upper hand in the race to challenge Bama. But, will we continue to say that after Week 5 action around the SEC? Maybe, maybe not. At any rate, on to the SEC Football Week 5 Preview…
GAME OF THE WEEK
GEORGIA (-8.5) at TENNESSEE
BULLDOGS LOOK TO AVENGE VOLS’ 2016 HAIL MARY….
Historically, Tennessee vs Georgia comes down to the last play or two of the game. No better evidence of that than the Vols’ miracle ‘Hail Mary’ as time expired, to win last year’s game. All signs seemingly point toward another barn-burner this season. Barn-burner games have been a recurring theme in the Butch Jones era, and he’s won his share of them, including last season against Georgia. However, this Bulldog team seems to be different under Kirby Smart. Freshman QB Jake Fromm has been just what the doctor ordered. So much so, that Jacob Eason probably won’t have his starting job when he gets healthy. But, things could be even better if the Dawgs could be more consistent running the ball. Nick Chubb and Sony Michel’s numbers are down somewhat. But, largely because of their defense, Georgia remains unbeaten.
Despite playing in Knoxville, look for the Dawgs to stay unbeaten. Take GEORGIA to cover the -8.5 over the Vols.
THE NEXT BEST GAME
MISSISSIPPI STATE at AUBURN (-8.0)
The Tigers are back to full strength offensively as star running backs Kamryn Pettway and Kerryon Johnson join forces for the first time in 2017. There’s no denying Auburn is a better football team with Johnson in the lineup, as they proved last week. But, when Johnson and Pettway are together, it takes this team to another level. Right now, with what looks like one of the SEC’s top defenses, Auburn is a contender to get to Atlanta. However, QB Jarrett Stidham remains the question mark. He looked good last week, but that was against Missouri. This week could be more of a measuring stick of where Stidham and the passing game really is.
The Bulldogs are capable of pulling the upset, but Auburn has to help them. Keeping Stidham off balance will be harder with Auburn’s running game back intact. So, it could come down to how well Nick Fitzgerald plays. Fitzgerald will need use his legs as he’s accustomed to doing, but completing a few passes down field will be equally as important. It’s just hard to see that happening against what may be the SEC’s best defense. Take AUBURN to cover the 8 points.
ON THE SNEAK TIP GAME OF THE WEEK
SOUTH CAROLINA (+7.5) at TEXAS A&M
Don’t look now, but guess who’s 3-1 with the only loss being at UCLA. Yep. You guessed it. Kevin Sumlin and the Texas A&M Aggies. There’s not really any shame in losing at UCLA if you’re a team like Texas A&M. It’s just the way they lost. Now, the Aggies haven’t exactly beaten murderers row. But, three wins are three wins, and beating Arkansas again still looks pretty good. It’s also encouraging that freshman QB Kellen Mond is looking more comfortable leading the Aggies’ offense. Mond, made several nice plays last Saturday, including the game-winning TD pass in overtime. Still, it’s hard to get a read on Texas A&M.
A win over South Carolina would go a long way in helping us figure them out. The Gamecocks have issues of their own without Samuel. Quarterback Jake Bentley still looks like a star in the making. However, he has a lot of pressure on him, and that pressure could be the reason he’s been less effective than we thought he would be. Bentley, will be needed in a big way to help the Gamecocks come out of College Station with a win. While, the Aggies seem like a good bet at home, something tells me this is a dangerous spot for them. Especially, with Bama on the horizon. Look for A&M to win the game, but Take the GAMECOCKS to keep it close and within a touchdown.
OTHER GAMES – SEC FOOTBALL WEEK 5
OLE MISS (+28.0) at ALABAMA – It’s hard to believe with the recent history of this rivalry that this game isn’t one of Week 5’s top games. The Rebels being on probation and a little less talented has everything to do with that. Ole Miss has certainly given Bama everything they’ve wanted and more. Don’t let the 59-0 beat down of Vandy fool you. Bama isn’t the Bama they could be quite yet. Plus, despite less talent, Shea Patterson and a still talented Rebels offense should put up a few points in Tuscaloosa. Bama wins comfortably, but under the 28 points. Take OLE MISS…
VANDY (+9.0) at FLORIDA
After the Commodores surrendered 59 points and more than 600 yards of offense to Alabama last Saturday, who would even think of picking them to cover in The Swamp? After gaining only 78 yards and three first downs last Saturday, who would pick the ‘Dores to hang with the Gators a mere week later. That’s right. I would. If not for two busted coverages to the extreme by Kentucky last week, Florida might have only scored 14 points vs the Wildcats. Vandy’s defense seems to be a bit better than Kentucky’s. Look for an inspired Commodore team to keep things close in Gainesville. Take VANDY to cover the 9 points.
TROY at LSU (-20.5)
EASTERN MICHIGAN at KENTUCKY
NEW MEXICO STATE at ARKANSAS
MIZZOU is idle
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