SEC Games to Watch And Accompanying Deep Thoughts │Week 6

Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

There are no titanic struggles for the ages on tap in the SEC this weekend, as the top teams - Alabama, LSU, TAMU, UGA, South Carolina, and if you wanta call 'em that, Florida - all play foes that are middling at best. But this is a big week for the SEC middle to shake out, as Ole Miss invades Auburn and Vandy hosts Missouri in a pair of knock-down drag-out melees for the coveted SEC #7 spot.

As much as pretty much every real football fan including yours truly may hate it, the need for action to combat head injuries is so real that changes like tossing guys for intentionally nailing a laid-out receiver may be necessary.  The real problem with the targeting rule is not that it exists, it's this ridiculous instruction to resolve all doubtful situations in favor of ejections, especially since the rule is so brand-new and radical that all kinds of situations are doubtful, as #4 and #6 can tell you.

Football may have a problem but its hair is not on fire.  No other rule comes with a mandate in favor of implementation, yet we create such a mandate in favor of ejecting innocent individuals from games they've worked their whole lives to have the opportunity to participate in?  When we've barely started working the kinks out of the rule?

A basic building block of policy-making theory is that radical changes should be implemented gradually when possible, but the amateurs at the college football rules factory haven't heard about that.  Wake up, guys.  Insanely flailing around won't fix the problem.

* * *

At Tennessee, Lane Kiffin was an outsider vigorously throwing bombs in every direction.  Not only did he fail to improve the football team, he made it into a laughingstock and damaged the program's reputation in a lasting way.

At USC, he was an insider under very obvious compulsion to tone down his act.  He still can't lead a major college football program, but he didn't hurt the brand any more than it was already hurt before he got there.  That program will be back near the top in as little as 2 or 3 years if they can find a good coach, and they probably can.  Hurry up and kick them vigorously while they're down.

* * *

Assume that 3 points properly and exactly accounts for a home-field advantage.  Under this assumption, LSU = Georgia = Clemson.  Discuss.

* * *

I was 3-0 last week against the spread, now 9-3 on the season.  Not too shabby, no?  Life is fleeting, and so is 75% against the spread.  Remember me like this.

As for the games:

Georgia St. at Alabama

We've discussed this kind of game a few times in these parts, and I'm on the record for hating them.  I hate this one more than most, as it pits perhaps the best college football team in the land against a team that couldn't even dream of being competitive in an FCS conference.  This game is a total joke, and don't throw away your money betting on it, either.

Missouri at Vanderbilt

Expect a bitter fight in the James Franklin vs James Franklin Bowl, all but a must win for either of these teams with identical goals: SEC respectability.  Vandy couldn't quite get it done at home against Ole Miss in the home opener, and South Carolina was too much for them.  Mizzou has won every game by at least 17, but the toughest team they've played is Indiana.

Missouri is racking up 550 yards and 45 points a game, but they've done it against nobodies - and they're giving up 21 points a game to those same nobodies, about the same that Vandy is giving up against significantly tougher foes.  James Franklin will send Austyn Carta-Samuels and Jerron Seymour out to put points on the board against the Tigers while James Franklin moves Missouri but, if he holds true to form, throws one or more crucial picks.  I'm 51% Vandy straight up, but not exactly what you'd call decisive about it, as in not decisive enough to lay the 1.5.  Don't bet.

Ole Miss at Auburn

Ole Miss was clean out of steam in the 4th quarter last week, while Auburn was at home resting.  The Rebels might have an edge over Auburn under neutral circumstances on a neutral field, but this is neither.

Nick Marshall would probably not make a top 10 quarterbacks in the SEC list, but his timing has noticeably improved the last couple of games, which makes him much less likely to screw things up repeatedly.  The teams have similar mediocre-to-fair defenses, and while the Rebels appear to have more offensive weapons you have to wonder if they will be psychologically back from last week.  They'll need to be to get a road win against a fairly comparable squad.  I'd take the 2.5 and go with the home dog.

Georgia at Tennessee

Every indication is that Georgia is a lot better than Tennessee.  After all, UGA has wins over South Carolina and LSU, hands down the best pair of wins of any team in the nation.  Meanwhile, the last three weeks have seen the Vols obliterated by Oregon, not particularly competitive against an inconsistent Florida team, and hanging on by dear life for a win over a directional school that has only been playing football for five years now.  And UGA is only a 10.5-point favorite?  Bet the house, right?

Not so fast.  This is a doozy of a trap game for Georgia, travelling to Neyland the week after an LSU win that has the Athenians thinking they've already won the national championship.  Tennessee may have played their worst game of the year against South Alabama, and teams who play poorly the week before a big game - and to UT, this is a very big game, every year - usually perform well in the big game.  While Georgia has the two huge wins, they were also 21-21 with North Texas in the 3rd quarter two weeks ago.

I wouldn't touch this game.  It's hard to picture Tennessee winning, but it's easy to picture them giving Georgia a good fight.  I'd lay off.

LSU at Mississippi St.

While Ole Miss may have trouble recovering from last week's loss, nothing happened last week to shake LSU's confidence.  At times Les Miles makes you wonder if his IQ extends into the three-digit range, but there can be no doubt that he knows how to motivate a football team.

It says here LSU will be loaded for bear and looking to take it out on the Bulldogs.  Meanwhile, Tyler Russell has been cleared to return to the field for Mississippi St. - possibly the worst news Dan Mullen could have.  Russell is talented but my sense is that he doesn't have the competitive drive to win in this league and State is in better hands with Dak Prescott.  Poor Mullen is stuck with the how-do-you-bench-a-guy-because-of-an-injury question, and is indicating both quarterbacks will play.  Expect neither guy to get anything going, expect both guys to lose confidence when they get yanked, and expect LSU to handily cover the 9.5-point line.

Arkansas at Florida

Arkansas was competitive last week in a 45-33 home loss to Texas A&M.  Can they do the same thing this week in Gainesville?

I doubt it.  The 12-point loss to the Manzielians was probably the Hogs' best game of the year, and while you might expect Florida to be reeling with the loss of Jeff Driskel and Damien Easley, the Gators still have a stout D without Easley and the loss of Driskel might've been the best thing that could happen to their stagnant offense.

I've been making a good living off of assuming that Florida's offense is too pitiful to cover any kind of spread - but not this week.  Arkansas is no better in 2013 than in 2012, and Tyler Murphy will generate enough points for the Gators to handily cover the 11-point spread.  Take the home team.

Kentucky at South Carolina

This is the first week of a handy-dandy three-week period where South Carolina - an old-SEC-style smashmouth football team - warms up the team that's going to play Alabama next week.  But while the Gamecocks should win easily, 21 points is a mighty big spread for a team that has lost its starting quarterback and is only averaging 30 a game.

Kentucky is undoubtedly one of the top 14 teams in the SEC, but it's questionable as to whether they're in the top 13.  Nevertheless, neither Louisville nor Florida could beat them by 21, and I don't expect South Carolina to do it, either.  Take Kentucky and the points.

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