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Week Seven SEC Primer

By Matt Smith
SouthernPigskin.com
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We’ve reached the midpoint weekend of the college football regular season. Yes, I kind of want to cry, but we need to be tough and power through and enjoy a Saturday with the highest-ranked matchup of the SEC season.

We’ve reached the midpoint weekend of the college football regular season. Yes, I kind of want to cry, but we need to be tough and power through and enjoy a Saturday with the highest-ranked matchup of the SEC season.

Unfortunately, the genius television networks have scheduled the conference’s two best games this weekend at the exact same time, leaving mostly disgusting games in the early afternoon and primetime windows. Enjoy this weekend’s slate, however, because next weekend’s might be the worst of the season.

How interesting is the SEC right now? The East looks pretty fun, while the West may only have three good teams, and definitely not the same three we thought a month ago. Alabama’s path to Atlanta looks even easier than expected, while Georgia’s appears significantly tougher. The ‘Dawgs season will be defined over their next four games, while we’ll check back in with the Crimson Tide after our Halloween costumes are put away.

Let’s look closer at Week 7, as 10 SEC teams begin the second halves of their seasons.

5 Things I Want to Know

1. Is Georgia ready for primetime?

Road wins at Missouri and South Carolina without ever really facing much game pressure were impressive, but Georgia’s trip to LSU on Saturday is its first test against an opponent who can at least come close to matching the talent of the Bulldogs. The Tigers are plenty battle-tested, having already faced Miami (FL) on a neutral field and Florida and Auburn on the road. Unlike the two Columbias, Tiger Stadium is a new venue for everyone on the Georgia roster, and it’s a different level of hostile.

2. Can Coach Boom steal another victory?

South Carolina had absolutely no business beating Missouri last Saturday, but Will Muschamp’s team found a way to overcome not having its starting quarterback, horrible weather, and a last-minute deficit. Now in comes Texas A&M, fresh off an overtime victory over previously unbeaten Kentucky. The Gamecocks are a slim underdog for the second week in a row, but the offense will face a much stiffer test. With a tough November ahead, the difference between 3-3 and 4-2 heading into the bye week is massive for South Carolina.

3. Can Drew Lock bounce back?

After a forgettable day against South Carolina, Lock must deal with mighty Alabama in Tuscaloosa. The possible No. 1 overall NFL Draft pick isn’t going to pull off the biggest upset in SEC history, but personally, he can redeem himself with a quality performance against the Crimson Tide defense. Alabama has allowed 61 points in its three SEC games, so Missouri threatening 30 points in this game is realistic. The Crimson Tide will likely double that, but this game has the potential to be a strong individual showing for Lock.

4. Can LSU combat Georgia’s speed?

Florida was able to get to the edge against LSU, and Georgia has more playmakers than the Gators. The Bulldogs’ first four SEC opponents have had no match for D’Andre Swift and Elijah Holyfield, but the Tigers have a different level of athleticism on defense. Beating LSU through the air isn’t a great recipe for success, but the Georgia ground game has been pretty terrifying of late.

5. Will Florida be sleepwalking in Nashville?

It’s a major trap game for the Gators this week. Not only does the trip to Vanderbilt fall in between showdowns with LSU and Georgia, but the game is an 11 a.m. central time kickoff in always-quiet Vanderbilt Stadium. Florida isn’t good enough yet to just go through the motions and roll past the Commodores. A slow start and a hot day from Kyle Shurmur, who will easily be the best passing quarterback the Gators have faced to date, could have Florida in unexpected peril late in the game.

Trivia Time (answers below):
1. South Carolina has never beaten Texas A&M. Against what SEC team does South Carolina have its second-longest drought since its last victory?

2. Arkansas has lost three straight SEC games in Little Rock. Who was the last SEC team that it defeated in its secondary home?

3. Who quarterbacked Tennessee’s last win over Auburn?

Previews and Predictions
Last Week: 6-1 SU, 4-3 ATS; YTD: 49-11 SU, 27-28 ATS

(14) Florida (-7) at Vanderbilt, Noon ET (ESPN)

Announcers: Dave Pasch, Greg McElroy and Tom Luginbill

The Gators haven’t lost in Nashville since 1988, and the Commodores would love the chance to end that skid while also defeating their highest-ranked opponent since 2008. Vanderbilt’s defense has struggled the past three weeks, and Florida’s ground game was effective against LSU. The concern for the Gators is Kyle Shurmur, as the quarterback contingent on the Florida schedule so far this season has been devoid of a prototypical passer. Vanderbilt’s offensive line has to be great for this game to be interesting for four quarters, and I can’t see that happening.

Prediction: Florida 30, Vanderbilt 17

Tennessee at (21) Auburn (-15.5), Noon ET (SEC Network)

Announcers: Dave Neal and D.J. Shockley

Tennessee’s last trip to The Plains was in 2008, and the 14-12 Tigers win was mostly unwatchable thanks to two bad offenses. Sounds a lot like the current versions of Tennessee and Auburn, doesn’t it? There has been no flow to the Tigers attack since the beginning of the season, and both teams are a complete mess on the offensive line. While the Vols’ front seven should have success, Auburn’s front seven will be able to dominate. Short fields, a bunch of field goals from Anders Carlson, and simply more talent will be enough for the Tigers to get back on track.

Prediction: Auburn 26, Tennessee 10

(2) Georgia (-7.5) at (13) LSU, 3:30 p.m. ET (CBS)

Announcers: Brad Nessler and Gary Danielson

With effective as Georgia’s ground game has been, seeing Florida run for more than 200 yards and five yards per carry last week against LSU gives me pause in thinking the Tigers will be able to slow down D’Andre Swift, Elijah Holyfield, and the speedy Bulldogs ground attack. They’ll need their defense to do just that, as the LSU offense remains susceptible to long droughts of inefficiency against quality opponents. That was still good enough to get past Miami (FL) and Auburn, but Georgia is on a different level.

Prediction: Georgia 27, LSU 16

(22) Texas A&M (-2.5) at South Carolina, 3:30 p.m. ET (SEC Network)

Announcers: Taylor Zarzour and Matt Stinchomb

One of these teams could be in line for a big season with a win. The loser, however, could be scrambling just to get to a bowl game. Jake Bentley should be back for the Gamecocks after missing last week’s win over Missouri, but he’ll have to deal with a Texas A&M defense that is second in the nation with just a 22.9 percent third-down conversion rate. The Aggies have won all four SEC meetings between these two teams. Can South Carolina snap the four-game losing streak after failing to do so last month in a similar situation against Kentucky? Nope.

Prediction: Texas A&M 31, South Carolina 20

Missouri at (1) Alabama (-28), 7 p.m. ET (ESPN)

Announcers: Steve Levy, Brian Griese and Todd McShay

It’s another name-your-score game for Alabama, as Missouri’s pass defense ranks No. 106 in the nation, while the Crimson Tide lead the nation at 13.8 yards per attempt. Tua Tagovailoa is dealing with a minor knee injury, so expect to see a lot of Jalen Hurts on Saturday. Expect a similar game to Missouri’s 53-28 loss at Georgia last year, with the outcome decided by halftime and Drew Lock putting up big second-half numbers to make the final score look more respectable.

Prediction: Alabama 55, Missouri 24

Ole Miss (-7) vs. Arkansas (at Little Rock) 7:30 p.m. ET (SEC Network)

Announcers: Tom Hart, Jordan Rodgers and Cole Cubelic

The Rebels make their first appearance in Little Rock since a last-second victory in 2012. Arkansas comes in off of the first moral victory in a 34-point defeat in SEC history last week against Alabama, as Ty Storey seized control of the quarterback position. He’ll have an opportunity to shine against a porous Ole Miss defense, and he may have to shine in order to combat a Rebels passing attack that has hung 70 points on two opponents this season. The Razorbacks have won four straight in this series, and I’ll call for a mild upset to make it five.

Prediction: Arkansas 36, Ole Miss 31

Best Bets

Last Week: 2-3; YTD: 15-15

Wisconsin +9.5 at Michigan

Iowa -5.5 at Indiana

Michigan State +13.5 at Penn State

Virginia Tech -5.5 at North Carolina

Navy +7 vs. Temple

Trivia Answers
1.     Auburn (1933)
2.     Mississippi State (2011)
3.     Tee Martin (1999)

Matt Smith - Matt is a 2007 graduate of Notre Dame and has spent most of his life pondering why most people in the Mid-Atlantic actually think there are more important things than college football. He has blogged for College Football News, covering both national news as well as Notre Dame and the service academies. He credits Steve Spurrier and Danny Wuerffel for his love of college football and tailgating at Florida, Tennessee, and Auburn for his love of sundresses. Matt covers the ACC as well as the national scene.