It's Finally Game Week - Time to Bloviate

Actually, I am rather poor at putting together insightful and inspiring extended metaphors involving football.  To me, football is science and not art, and the last writer I knew who could effectively write great metaphors for science was Stephen J. Gould, and he is deceased.  I love football, but I'm just not imaginative enough of a writer to get into all the emotional resonance stuff.  Instead of that, I try to analyze, analyze, analyze, and now is the time.  

One of the things I like to do is preview the week's SEC action.  Usually that will come a little later in the week, as the first day or two is spent recapping what has already happened.  Now, however, with no old action to discuss, let's skip right ahead to the week's SEC action.

First, kudos to the SEC teams for scheduling a fair number of pretty interesting matchups to start the season.  It used to be very common for the opening week of college football to be a tremendous let-down as virtually every team scheduled a cream puff opponent to beat up upon.  Not so lately, and this year 6 of the SEC teams are playing against either a BCS Conference opponent or a solid mid-major.

In what is hopefully not going to be repeated again any time this season, the SEC actually plays football on four different days this week, starting on Thursday.  Because there are no bye weeks and no conference games, we have 12 games to preview, so we'll split it into two sections, the second to publish tomorrow.

Thursday, 6:30pm Central:  Vandy vs. Miami (OH), ESPNU

OK, let's get something out of the way right off.  I am in no way qualified to talk about a team like Miami (OH) in any intelligent way.  If I were attempt to tell you about how Miami (OH) matches up with Vandy, you would be well served in skipping it and going on to the next game.  I can tell you, however that I think Vandy's window has closed.  That's unfortunately because they had a fair bit of talent the last couple of years, but could never quite turn the corner and make it to a winning season or a bowl game, despite pulling the occasional upset.  

Miami (OH) is, incidentally, ranked #73 in the FBS by College Football News.  Who am I to argue?  Vandy's ranked #63.  Do either of those rankings mean anything?  I doubt it.  Interestingly, it's being played at Miami (OH)'s stadium, not in Nashville.  

It would be pretty embarrassing for an SEC team to lose to Miami (OH), and I should know.  I was in the stadium when they did it LSU about 20 years ago.

Honestly, I can't imagine why any of you would watch this game what with the next one being on TV and starting only a half-hour later.  Heck, I think I'd rather watch a movie.

Thursday, 7:00pm Central:  North Carolina State vs. South Carolina, ESPN

All these non-conference games can be frustrating, because I don't know what to say about them.  I don't know anything about NC State except that they were 5-7 last year, and no one is really talking them up this year.

The story here is clearly South Carolina, who once again appears to have the goods to challenge in the SEC East.  Having the goods and actually using the goods effectively though have been two different things for the Gamecocks lately.  South Carolina's defense should be outstanding, but the offense is another story.  Quarterback inconsistency has dogged the program for as long as Spurrier has been there, if not longer, and as Poseur showed, their offensive line was the worst in the SEC last year.  

It's great to have a great defense, but you won't get far if you can't block.  Each year is different, and this is a legitimate test to see if South Carolina has recovered from last year's late-season collapse that kept them out of a bowl game.

Saturday, 11:30am Central:  Georgia Southern vs. Georgia, Raycom Sports

Why is Raycom having a split telecast this week?  I have no idea, but one of their choices is this game, which should be a route.  Not only should it be a route, but it should be a thoroughly uninteresting route.  I'm glad my teevee is showing the other game.

I hate to just leave it at that, and I suppose there are some storylines here.  Will some receivers emerge for Georgia?  How will the forcibly revamped offensive line fare?  Is Matt Stafford ready to take a step up and be a consistent positive force at QB?  Or will he continue to be inconsistent?  All of these questions and more will probably have to wait a while to be answered, as Georgia completely outmatches Georgia Southern in all phases.

Still, I'm sure the game is very interesting to Georgia fans.

Saturday, 11:30am Central:  Hawaii vs. Florida, Raycom Sports

This is not going to be the Hawaii of last year, the one that actually was kind of dangerous could beat a good team got lots of press hype.  This team will be breaking in a new quarterback, and will be playing at something like 6:30am Hawaii time.  

The Gators promise to be better than the team that played inconsistently last year.  Supposedly they now have a couple of running backs who can play, and now their secondary is a year older and wiser (believe it or not, players usually get better as they get more experienced, the counterexample of Justin Vincent aside).

I'll be watching to see if that crazy Hawaii mascot wakes up in time for the game.  Also, that young secondary should be tested, as Hawaii will definitely throw the ball around.  As Georgia showed, however, you can beat it with pressure.  

Saturday, 4:00pm Central:  Appalachian State vs. LSU, ESPN

There will definitely be more on this game later, but for now the clear storyline is App. State's attempt to "give us a Michigan".  I've gone on record as saying that is pretty unlikely, despite my great respect for the Mountaineer program.

But let's not forget a couple of other storylines.  Last year, LSU really struggled with quarterbacks who could run.  Even when we were otherwise dominating, when a QB came in who beat a rush with his feet (such as VT's Tyrod Taylor), we gave up some yards.  Even Middle Tennessee State was able to do some things with a running quarterback.  

The quarterback LSU faces this week may well be the best speed runner we see all year from the quarterback position, Armanti Edwards, aka the guy who killed Michigan.  We're going to see runners all year, so we might as well get some practice.  

Even if we struggle with Edwards (who I am sure will make some plays), I think our superior athleticism will win out.  The questions are, "How much?", and "Will we be able to get our starters out of the game in the August heat?"  If this is a tough game, the heat could be something that makes this game stick with us a while.

Saturday, 6:45pm Central:  Mississippi State vs. Louisiana Tech, ESPN2

Let us ask ourselves, why is Mississippi State playing a road game in Ruston, Louisiana against a WAC team that has gone a combined 8-17 over the last two years?  Isn't this the kind of game you pay them $250,000 to come to your stadium to play?

As a Louisiana guy, I am interested to see what Derek Dooley can do with the Louisiana Tech program.  It has long been sort of on the verge of breaking into a higher level of football discussion.  It has even started taking away some Louisiana recruits from lower-level SEC teams.  It will never really challenge LSU's supremacy, and I don't think it has aspirations to challenge us, but I think it has aspirations to challenge schools like Southern Miss, Ole Miss, and Mississippi State, which often get players from Louisiana that LSU does not want.  I think La Tech wants to be the team that gets those players, and a win here would be a nice accomplishment to show those players.

That said, even though I am not a big believer in MSU quite yet, I still think they're probably significantly better than La Tech.  Can MSU generate an offense?  Will their defense be the scoring machine it was last year?  

None of us will see, because we'll all be watching the next SEC game on the schedule, which will be profiled tomorrow.

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