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SEC Preview: Week #4, Part 1

Once again, all the games are on Saturday, and there are seven of them.  There are 4 SEC vs. SEC contests, and two solid OOC matchups.  Overall, I have to say that while we have had our appetites whetted in the last couple of weeks, what with the Georgia vs. South Carolina, Auburn vs. Mississippi State, and Vandy vs. South Carolina matchups, the main course starts this week.  This begins the real grind of the SEC, and two of the most anticipated matchups of the season go down this Saturday.  Let's start with the first few games:

Mississippi State at Georgia Tech, 11:00am, ESPN360.com and Gameplan

When did MSU schedule Georgia Tech?  I missed this memo.  

Alright, I don't know much about Georgia Tech, but I can tell you this.  Against two FBS teams, Georgia Tech hasn't managed to score 20 points.  The competition level in those two games is not bad, as they were playing Boston College and Virginia Tech, and heck they won one of those games.  Then again, Mississippi State only managed 14 against Louisiana Tech and the offense failed to score at all against Auburn.  They only managed 6 first downs against Auburn, and their longest play from scrimmage was 13 yards.

The ACC appears horrible this year, but then again, MSU appears to be pretty bad this year as well.  So far, Wesley Carroll's sophomore season as the Bulldog QB appears to be no better than his freshman season.  He has completed barely 50% of his passes and actually has thrown more interceptions than touchdown passes.  And if you factor the win against Southeastern Louisiana, he has thrown 1 touchdown pass and 4 interceptions, and has completed well under 50% of his passes.  

I really think Croom needs to go back to the drawing board with his quarterback.  Backup Tyson Lee looked solid against Louisiana Tech.  He completed passes and didn't throw an interception.  He's a dink-and-dunk QB, but that's about a million times better than whatever Wesley Carroll is right now.

This promises to be an ugly game, with few points scored.  I doubt Georgia Tech has played a defense as good as Mississippi State's, but I doubt they've played an offense as bad as Mississippi State's either.  And that includes Jacksonville State.  The wheels appear to have come off this program for the time being, and I think when teams figure out that all you have to do to beat MSU is stop the run and not give up defensive and special teams touchdowns, you'll see a lot of Bulldog losses pile up.

Alabama at Arkansas, 11:30am, Raycom Sports

I'm not a big believer in Alabama quite yet.  I think they're solid, but I don't think they'll get through the heart of the SEC schedule without being exposed.  But I highly doubt that happens this week, as Arkansas is probably the worst team in the SEC.  

Let's put it this way.  I think that after this week, Arkansas will be the 3rd best team Alabama will have played this year.  They have played Clemson, Tulane, Western Kentucky, and soon will add Arkansas.  I think Tulane is probably better than Arkansas, and it probably isn't close.

Arkansas is awful.  They have struggled to beat an FCS team and one of the worst FBS teams in the country.  They have needed dramatic comebacks to beat teams that shouldn't be able to stay on the field with SEC competition.  It's not flukey either.  It's flukey if it happens once.  It's not flukey if it happens twice in a row.

If you want a matchup to watch here, take a look at Arkansas's offensive line versus Bama's defensive line.  Arkansas's OL is supposed to be pretty solid, actually, and they've actually put up a fight on offense.  They could score some points in this game, but Bama is just much better all around, even if they are a young team.  Let's put it this way:  The team that couldn't score a point against Auburn, and was actually outscored by Auburn's defense, put up 27 points against Arkansas.  That's bad.

If it was not for the fact that both of these teams are future LSU opponents, and I want to watch all games that feature two future opponents, I would much prefer to watch the Vandy/Ole Miss game, which is not televised.

Florida at Tennessee, 2:30pm, CBS

This was, not that long ago, the premier game on the SEC calendar.  Now, it's just sort of another game in the SEC.  I suppose Georgia has supplanted Tennessee as the best-or-second-best-team in the East.  I still think Tennessee has a solid team.  Their program is, I think, on a slow decline, but this year they still appear (or appeared, rather, until losing to UCLA) to have a pretty solid roster of players capable of beating anyone.

Florida's a pretty tough draw for them, though.  The Gators are one of the few teams in the SEC that appears to be able to play both offense and defense effectively, though admittedly they haven't had to play a team with a pulse yet.  Tennessee, incidentally, also appears that they could be a team with both an offense and a defense, perhaps not being great at either one however, but the offense has to play with more consistency and intensity.

With everyone writing off Tennessee this year, much like they did last year, this is a team that could jump up and surprise Florida.  It would be hard to imagine that 5 or 6 years ago, that Tennessee could sneak up on a team, especially Florida.  I guess that just shows how much this rivalry has lost its shine.

I actually think Tennessee has something of a shot here.  It's at home, and Tennessee is a much better team than anyone Florida has played so far.  I happen to think, at this point, that Florida is the best team in the SEC, so I'm not going to speculate on how much of a shot Tennessee has.  They certainly have to play better offensively than they've played in either of their first two games.  

On paper, I look at Tennessee and I see one of the better teams in the conference.  They have a workhorse running back, a good offensive line, solid receivers, and playmakers on defense.  I can't figure out why they don't look all that great.

Tomorrow, the rest of the schedule.