CFRT SEC Contributor
Game of the Week
No.1 Alabama at No.19 South Carolina
This week brings us to what a lot of pundits feel could be a chink in the armor of the Alabama Crimson Tide this year.
In a scheduling enigma that has six of eight SEC opponents this season playing Alabama coming off a bye week, the Tide would be in the unfavorable position of allowing an SEC team an extra week to focus on beating ‘Bama.
Although it has made for great story lines this season, in reality, it’s a wash.
When studied, just as many SEC teams have lost coming out of a bye week as the ones who have won in the past five years.
The Gamecocks chances seemed to have a multiplier with Alabama facing a No.7 Florida the previous week.
Theoretically, Florida would make Alabama expend extra energy in a colossal power struggle by the conference’s alpha teams.
However, when Florida struggled to find their game, Alabama was able to shift into cruise control in the second half, leaving plenty of High Tide Octane in 'Bama’s tank.
Alabama simply dominates with a powerful, uber-balanced offense.
Just look at these Crimson Tide numbers; 1,171 yards and nine touchdowns passing, and 1,149 yards, 13 TDs rushing! Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson have combined for 774 yards this season and 10 TDs.
The duo prompted CBS sideline reporter Tracy Wolfson to come up with a great moniker for the Tide running back tandem that makes this Alabama offense so unstoppable - “The Fast and The Furious."
And, with such talented receivers like Julio Jones, Darius Hanks and Marquis Maze to distribute the ball to, quarterback Greg McElroy’s toughest challenge each week may be deciding just who to get the ball to.
Now that's my kind of spread offense.
South Carolina’s defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson may have the toughest challenge of all, and possibly the best scheme against a balanced attack with his multi-look, alignment/assignment switching “Spur” defense.
The problem is, Johnson just doesn't have the personnel, even with Shaq Wilson to stop Alabama.
But all Gamecocks Head Coach and offensive innovator Steve Spurrier will ask him to do is just slow them down and not let Alabama dominate.
Spurrier just wants the ball in his offense’s hands and away from the Tide's if his team is to have a chance at an upset.
The Gators were able to move the ball last week on Alabama, especially in the passing game.
And if there is any weakness on this team it is the secondary. There are none better at finding seams and holes in a defense than the ‘Ol Ball coach himself.
The extra week should help the Spurrier and his quarterback Stephen Garcia work out how to attack the Crimson Tide's weaknesses with a balanced attack of their own.
If Garcia can keep from turning the ball over, he may do just enough good things to keep Spurrier’s quick hook holstered. South Carolina tailback Marcus Lattimore will provide enough of a run threat to allow plays to open up for receivers Alshon Jeffery and Tori Gurley to make this a game.
South Carolina will score more points on 'Bama than the Gators did last week, but not more than Alabama this week.
No.12 LSU at No.14 Florida
LSU comes into the Swamp somehow still undefeated.
In what was a crazy ending that had them losing to Tennessee in the final seconds, only to get another shot at punching it in.
Les Miles may have trouble with time management and the nuances of when and when not to call a time out.
But he sure doesn't have a problem with putting a dominant defense on the field year in and year out.
This is why Miles will have a job at LSU for a long time.
In a lot of ways these two teams have a lot in common and have their work cut out for them in quieting home-grown critics, identity issues involving quarterbacks to resolve and consistency on offense.
Add in stubborn coaches and great defenses on both sides and you have a tough game to predict.
Each team has equal potential to put it all together and blow out the other or self destruct and lay an egg.
Two solid defenses and two struggling offenses must mean a low scoring affair right?
With Florida banged up at running back and the coaches so adamant that they will not stop using QB John Brantley as an option quarterback, look to see the passing game become the feature story of this game.
No.11 Arkansas at Texas A&M
Arkansas joined the SEC in ’92, ending a longtime rivalry with the Aggies.
But last year both teams agreed to renew the “Southwest Classic” with Arkansas dominating Texas A&M 47-19 at Cowboy Stadium in Arlington Texas, home of the Dallas Cowboys and Arkansas Alumnus Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.
Both quarterbacks playing in the game are trying to right their respective ships after each blew leads to lose their last games with costly turnovers.
Razorbacks QB Ryan Mallett will be looking to avenge his Heisman dashing loss to Alabama two weeks ago, where he squandered a fourth quarter lead with two interceptions.
The Aggies gave away a half time lead as a result of quarterback Jerrod Johnson’s four interceptions for the second straight game, losing to Oklahoma State 35-38 last week.
Look for a Wild West shootout.
Texas A&M, 42-35.
Tennessee at Georgia
Georgia’s head coach Mark Richt is looking for ways to jolt his team out of a tailspin by shaking up team activities and routines.
Monday, the 'Dawgs practiced in full pads - first team on first team - and in an effort to fire up the boys, he will lead the team onto the field when the team is introduced Saturday.
Tennessee’s Derrick Dooley took his Volunteers on the road and beat an LSU team in Tiger Stadium, only to give it away by earning an illegal participation penalty for trying a new "Baker’s Dozen" goal line defense.
The Georgia coaches will also look for ways to get A.J. Green more opportunities with the ball in his hands by having him return punts for injured Branden Smith.
But this may not be enough.
Tennessee should control the line of scrimmage even with a patchwork O-Line, giving Vols' running back Tauren Poole plenty of running room.
I see another heartbreaker for Tennesse, but not as dramatic.
No.8 Auburn at Kentucky
Auburn is gunning for its first 6-0 start since the 2004 season when the Tigers visit Commonwealth Stadium.
The Tigers also will look for some revenge after last season's loss to the Wildcats.
Auburn QB Cam Newton wasn’t allowed to run last week against ULM, but that won’t be the story this week as Tigers Coach Gene Chizik will let him run through the Kentucky bluegrass (and defense) like a thoroughbred.
Mississippi State at Houston
Houston’s stats outshine MSU’s in all but one category - conferences.
This is SEC vs. Conference USA.
Both teams rack up the yardage and points, but the Bulldogs have had a stiffer schedule.
Eastern Michigan at Vanderbilt
Another case of conference trumps conference.
Eastern Michigan, a winless MAC team, is no match for even a bottom dweller SEC team.
Look for Vandy to rebound after a loss to UConn last week.