Week 8: SEC Preview, Part 2

We've looked at the first 2/5 of the SEC schedule, with two of the more interesting televised games.  And now we look at the back 3/5 of the schedule, which includes our own game.

Arkansas @ Kentucky, 6:00pm, ESPNU

Following a big win against Auburn, Arkansas is suddenly looking to get into the bowl picture.  They are 3-3, and despite looking awful against two lesser opponents early in the season, Shreveport is definitely not out of reach.  Nashville might not be out of reach either.  They'll have to figure out how to win 3 or 4 games on the rest of their schedule, but suddenly none of their future opponents look like world-beaters. 

They start on the Tour of So-So Teams by going to Lexington, facing a team that has beaten no one of consequence despite being 4-2 on the season.  It's the battle of Terrible Offense (Kentucky) vs. Terrible Defense (Arkansas) and Quite Good Offense (Arkansas) vs. Quite Good Defense (Kentucky).  It really is anyone's game.

I might even watch the first quarter of this one.

Future opponents for Arkansas include Tulsa, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, LSU, and South Carolina.  If we don't pick up our defense, there's not a game on there that looks like a sure loser for Arkansas.

Kentucky, for their part, is in the same boat.  They are contenders for a bowl game, but it is hardly guaranteed at this point.  After Arkansas, they get Florida, Mississippi State, Georgia, Vandy, and Tennessee.  Heck, Arkansas may have an easier road to 6 wins than Kentucky does, even though Kentucky already has 4.

Mississippi State @ Tennessee, 6:00pm Central, ESPN360.com

It's hard to think of a good storyline for this one.  How about: "Loser gets fired!"  

I don't think it's quite come to that, in part because I think Sly Croom gets another year at least almost no matter what happens this year.  Also, I think Fulmer's firing is almost a foregone conclusion at this point.  A win for MSU would solidify those two propositions, and a win by Tennessee might muddy them both.

God, I'm having a hard time giving a crap about this game.  We don't play Tennessee, and won't play Tennessee this year, because there is absolutely no chance that Tennessee goes to the SEC Championship Game this year.  While we're certainly no guarantees for the Western Division spot at this point, Tennessee at 0-3 has virtually had its coffin nailed shut already.  And since we've already played MSU, and neither of these teams look like bowl contenders (though maybe either of them can sneak into contention), this game between a couple of 2-4 teams is as exciting as reading about fishing.

LSU @ South Carolina, 7:00pm Central, ESPN

This game is as important as Poseur says it is.  It's a bellwether game.  It's a game where, if LSU is as good as we hope we are, we should win.  If LSU is as bad as we fear we are, LSU should lose.  A win means, "the season's alright!"  A loss means, "this could get bad."

LSU suddenly looks really vulnerable.  South Carolina suddenly looks pretty solid.  Neither team, at this point, looks great, but neither team looks bad either.  It's something of a change from early in the season when South Carolina was almost laughably bad on offense and LSU looked really good.

In truth though, I think this game is all about LSU.  How will LSU respond to the big, embarrassing loss at the hands of Florida?  Do we come out fired up?  Do we come out trying to prove the world that we are not that team that did so poorly last week at about this time?  Or do we come out down on ourselves and playing like we're wearing ankle weights?

I think if we come out playing our best, South Carolina does not have much of a chance.  The question is, are we going to bring out A-game (Appalachian State), our B-game (Auburn), our C-game (Mississippi State) or our D/F-game (Florida)?

There has been much discussion of possible changes to the defensive schemes, and while I don't know about the dramatic changes of personnel that have been discussed, I emphatically believe that our coaches need to SIMPLIFY the substitution and scheming patterns so that we can get the personnel on the field and the play called before the play begins.

Look, I know these guys are professionals, but every college team has to strike a balance between sophistication and simplicity.  Nothing is more sophisticated than the NFL, but college teams don't run NFL systems because they don't have the practice/study time to get college students to be comfortable enough to run it right.  Every coach at this level is capable to ramping up the complexity, but every player reaches his limit of what he can comfortably do on just a few hours of practice each week and just 4 weeks of training camp twice per year.  If we're having trouble getting the play called and the people in, it's likely because we're doing things that are too complex for our players to process and run in the time they have to do it.

That seems like an easy fix, even if it takes some sacrifice to do it.  All the sophisticated schematics in the world aren't going to help if your nickel and dime back can't figure out what play you're trying to run.

Anyway, this should be a fun week of football.  I'll be back with schedules and open threads tomorrow.

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