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Week 9: SEC Preview, Part 1

This is a red-letter weekend in the SEC.  It seems that all the games, even the ones that aren't televised, are of monumental importance.  Could it simply be that in college football, every game is important?

Thanks to a number of OOC games this week, there are 7 games on tap total.  I count at least 5 of them as very important, at least to someone.  You could make an argument for one other game.

Anyway, let's get started.

Auburn @ West Virginia, Thursday, 6:30pm Central, ESPN

This was at one time one of the marquee out-of-conference matchups of the entire season.  Both of these teams were highly ranked in the preseason.  Both of these teams were expected to be challenging for the national championship by this point.  

That was then.  Now, West Virginia is just looking to be competitive in the Big East while Auburn is hoping to avoid a disastrous season.  West Virginia is at 4-2 and their formerly explosive offense has struggled to put points on the board.  Outside of Pat White, they're a young team this year with a lot of new starters, so it really shouldn't be surprising that things haven't worked out like their fans hoped.  

Still, at 2-0 in the conference, and with a lot of time to develop between now and the time they face the better teams in the Big East, it is certainly not out of the question that they could end up back in a BCS bowl.

Auburn, at this point, is just hoping to right the ship and comfortably make it into the post-season.  They sit at 4-3 overall and 2-3 in the conference.  A conference championship is out of the question barring a strange sequence of events, and if they don't get a win in Morgantown, they'll be sitting at 4-4 with Ole Miss, Tennessee-Martin, Georgia, and Bama remaining on the schedule.  Anyone want to speculate on how they get to six or seven wins with that schedule?  Sure, they'll beat Tennessee-Martin, but they'll be heavy underdogs against both Georgia and Bama, and Ole Miss is no gimme.

I really don't know what to expect out of Auburn in this game.  I know we will supposedly see Kodi Burns all game, but I'm not convinced that's a good thing.  What exactly has Kodi Burns done to draw all this hype and speculation?  Last year, he was below 40% in completion percentage, and this year he's at barely 40%.  He's thrown twice as many interceptions as touchdown passes in his career.  If you discount the season-opener against Louisiana-Monroe, he's averaging approximately 1 yard per run.  

This is a team in real trouble, and I'm not sure they can even stay competitive with West Virginia right now.

Kentucky @ Florida, 11:30am Saturday, Raycom Sports

I know that Florida has a lot of fans, and the ratings for this game will be good as a result, but this is one of those games that, unless it gets into the second half with an upset in the works, there is very little about this one to interest me.

Florida is just a million times better than Kentucky.  Kentucky has a nice defense, and Florida may not be able to run them out of the stadium, but Kentucky's offense is just horrible.  They can neither pass nor run with any particular effectiveness.  I'm not saying an upset is impossible, and it sure would be monumental, but this is just one of those games where the most likely scenario is that Florida will be ahead by two touchdowns at halftime and Kentucky will never again seriously threaten to get back in the game.  The second half will be nap time while waiting for Georgia @ LSU to start.

I would much rather see, oh, I don't know...  Duke @ Vanderbilt, in which Vandy actually has a rather good chance to reach bowl-eligibility for the first time since just after the Phillies won their only World Series in franchise history.

Stupid profit motive!

Duke @ Vanderbilt, 2:00pm Central, no television

This game, with the potential to be of great importance to Vanderbilt's season, is only on pay-per-view.  And that's only in the state of Tennessee.  Vanderbilt could reach bowl-eligibility, and likely will do so, with no national or regional television coverage of it.  

You mean to tell me that Middle Tennessee State @ Mississippi State is on national television this week, and Vandy's 6th win of the season probably won't be?  

OK, I'm getting ahead of myself.  Vandy hasn't won this one, and quite possibly they will not.  Duke is sitting at 3-3, and is not an awful team, but quite frankly their early buzz has led to a crash.  Duke has beaten James Madison, Navy, and Virginia.  Of those teams, only Virginia is any good at all, and they were at the apex of an awful start at the time of the loss to Duke.  It's only been since then that the Cavaliers have shown any life at all.

While Duke has beaten the James Madisons and Navys of the world, they got trounced by Georgia Tech, nipped by Northwestern, and pummeled by Miami.  

Vandy is better than every team Duke has beaten (at least at the time Duke beat them), but perhaps is not as good as any team that has beaten Duke.  Hmm..  OK, I'd take Vandy over Miami right now, but it's a pretty close call.

Neither of these teams play good offense.  Duke is averaging 5.81 yards per pass attempt, and 3.2 yards per rush.  Vandy is averaging an anemic 4.81 yards per pass attempt and 4.1 yards per rush.  All of those numbers are terrible.  Duke's offense offense has been about as effective as Auburn's (5.56 yards per attempt, 3.3 yards per rush), and Vandy's has been arguably worse.  

Just for reference, LSU is averaging 7.1 yards per pass attempt and 5.0 yards per rush.

Still, Vandy is this year's version of last year's Mississippi State Bulldog team that just found ways to win by forcing turnovers and getting timely plays.  I wish I could watch them do it again.

We'll get to the rest of the games tomorrow.