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SEC takes center stage; Big Ten gets a MAC-tastic reprieve

Certainly the schedule says the Big Ten will be out in full force — minus Illinois — and engaging in gridiron “competition” this weekend, but they will be facing the same number of schools from BcS conferences as I will — zero.

Eastern Michigan, Central Michigan, N. Colorado, Bowling Green, Austin Peay, Ball State, Toledo, Akron, Northern Illinois.  Those are nine of the ten schools gearing up to face Big Ten squads, with seven of them calling the Mid-American Conference home.  Perhaps the only intriguing on-paper match-up before conference play begins involves yet another MAC school that beat up on a Big East school last week.

Then there’s the SEC.

Four conference games and one non-conference contest — previewed HERE — highlight this week’s slate for the league, with a top-ten tilt between Alabama and Arkansas looking as arguably the game of the week in college football (apologies to Boise State-Oregon State go here).

Below is a brief glimpse of a few of the more intriguing games involving the two conferences this weekend.  And, for the degenerates in the audience, the record versus the spread that appears at the end of this piece should serve as a warning if you’re looking for a cheat sheet in your gambling endeavors.

Don’t say you haven’t been warned.

No. 1 Alabama at N0. 10 Arkansas (3:30 ET)

THE LINE: Alabama -7

THE PLOT: With easy wins over San Jose State, Penn State and Duke to open the season, Alabama’s revamped defense, replete with nine new starters, has yet to face it’s first real test of the season.  With Ryan Mallett and a cadre of talented receivers on this weekend’s agenda, that will change in short order.  Or, at least, it should.  Not only was the secondary’s inexperience a major concern throughout the Tide’s summer camp, but the lack of depth in that unit did nothing but add to the worries.  With Mallett in charge of the Razorbacks’ pass-happy offense, we’ll know one way or the other whether there was any validity to those preseason concerns.

Of course, the Razorbacks will also be forced to do something about the law firm of McElroy, Ingram, Richardson & Jones when they don’t have the ball.  As Yoda would say, a pretty picture this is not. 

THE PICK: Even given some of the “question marks” that pockmark the untested defense, and the fact that they are playing on the road, there’s simply no way I could in good conscience go against the Tide.  At least straight up.  In the end, ‘Bama will prove to be the better team… but not by much in a thriller of a game.

THE SCORE: Alabama 27, Arkansas 24

——————–

Temple at No. 23 Penn State (3:30 ET)

THE LINE: Penn State -14

THE PLOT: Well, we had to throw a Big Ten game in here somewhere, and this seems to be the most compelling as far as upset potential is concerned. The Owls overwhelmed UConn 30-16 last Saturday in one of the biggest wins in recent school history.  The Nittany Lions are starting a freshman quarterback and, remarkably, have yet to give up a sack, the only school in the nation that can make that claim three weeks in.  You might be chuckling right now, but this is actually a fairly big game for both sides.

THE PICK: Al Golden is a helluva football coach, and will be at a BcS school – hell, maybe even Happy Valley – sooner rather than later, but his program is not to the point yet where it can realistically expect to upend a school like Penn State on the road.  That said, I look for the Owls to cover in a game that’s closer than some might expect.  On any given Saturday though…

THE SCORE: Penn State 24, Temple 14

——————–

Kentucky at No. 9 Florida (7:00 ET)

THE LINE: Florida -14

THE PLOT: If you were told that this game included the second-leading offense in the SEC, it probably wouldn’t come as much of a surprise.  It might raise some eyebrows, however, if it was the Wildcats and not the Gators that’s holding the lofty early-season offensive perch.  While it’s a credit to what Joker Phillips is doing in Lexington, it’s also a telling sign of what’s been the overriding theme of the first three games of the season — a limp Florida offense that’s done more spitting and sputtering than Dr. Lou.  The Gators showed some positive signs of breaking out of their offensive malaise last weekend; whether it was nothing more than a tease remains to be seen.  This should be a solid test of where the Gators stand on that side of the ball as Kentucky is ranked No. 13 nationally in yards allowed and No. 34 in scoring defense.

THE PICK: At some point this year, the Gators will put it all together offensively and match the level where their defense and special teams are currently residing.  This will be that week and unfortunately for the Wildcats, Florida will not be looking ahead to their rematch of the last two SEC title games next week.

THE SCORE: Florida 41, Kentucky 17

——————–

Georgia at Mississippi State (7:00 ET)

THE LINE: Mississippi State -1

THE PLOT: If Georgia loses this game, they will start the season 0-3 in SEC play.  The sale of pitchforks and torches in the greater Athens area will go through the roof with a loss.  Mark Richt will elbow his way to the front of the coaching hot seat line with a loss  There is your overriding plot for this game.

THE PICK: How much will the loss of A.J. Green mean for UGA in this game?  Coupled with the way the road Bulldogs have started the season, enough to take the home Bulldogs outright.

THE SCORE: Mississippi State 23, Georgia 21

——————–

No. 12 South Carolina at No. 17 Auburn (7:45 ET)

THE LINE: Auburn -3

THE PLOT: South Carolina has struggled on the road of late in SEC play, but this is not your nephew’s Gamecocks.  With a punishing defense and a punch-you-square-in-the-face running game, the East Coast USC has seemingly overhauled their style of play in less than a calendar year, making any attempts at predictions based on the past futile.  Auburn thus far has been a bit of a head-scratcher, at least to me.  I was high on the Tigers in the preseason, but they’ve merely been “meh” in the first three games.  Certainly the talent is there on The Plains; now it’s a matter of deciphering whether they’ve merely been idling or coasting through the quarter pole of the season, or if people such as myself had a false sense of what they could be in Year Two of Gene Chizik‘s tenure.

THE PICK: Whatever it is Steve Spurrier‘s selling this year, I’m buying even if I have to pay retail.  Outright on the road, thy name is “Gamecock”.

THE SCORE: South Carolina 26, Auburn 20

LAST WEEKStraight up: 3-2Vs. spread: 1-3-1

OVERALLStraight up: 10-3Vs. spread: 5-7-1

(Odds courtesy of SportsBook.com by way of our friends at NBC Sports.com)

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9 Responses to “SEC takes center stage; Big Ten gets a MAC-tastic reprieve”
  1. Deb says: Sep 24, 2010 8:57 PM

    Maybe I shouldn’t bring it up, but I DVR’d last year’s Bama/Arkansas game. Can’t remember the name of the Razorback player who hit Hightower, but the player deliberately dove his helmet into Hightower’s knee. I rolled it back and watched it several times. There’s no mistake. It was deliberate and intended to cause serious injury–and it knocked Dont’a out for the rest of the season. It was every bit as egregious as the footage of that Gator player digging into that guy’s eye, and it’s all I can think about going into tomorrow’s game. Don’t remember the player, and he may have graduated. But in my mind that incident says it’s a dirty program, and I’m honestly more worried about our guys getting out of the game in one piece than I am about winning.

  2. tryagain says: Sep 24, 2010 9:58 PM

    Really Deb? Get over yourself- Alabama and Steeler fan, fan of Ben, yes- fan of that disgusting, childlike, arrogant, devoid of brain and human conscience creature- yet you’re going to go back on film and catch one play from a year ago and focus on it and nothing else and come to the conclusion that Ark is a ‘dirty program’. Not to mention you can’t even think of the player who did it- great job on your research and thesis there.

  3. Deb says: Sep 24, 2010 11:11 PM

    tryagain …
    Stow it, you infantile little snot. You claim to have no interest in pro ball but spent the entire summer trolling our threads screeching the same juvenile rants on a criminal justice issue that was clearly over your head. The only information you read was a few gossip posts of Florio’s and TMZ. You flat-out ignored the DA’s comments about why there was no arrest, the stacks of supporting legal documents, witness statements, and a DNA report showing Little Ben didn’t get any closer to Ms. Down to F**k’s vagina than I am right now–unless playing for the Steelers automatically earns you an Immaculate Penis.
    I know, I know … too much for your pea brain. And it’s just sooo much more fun to jump on the kick-the-QB/fake-the-rape bandwagon.
    But even if Roethlisberger were the reincarnation of Jack the Ripper, Albert DeSalvo, and Ted Bundy, it wouldn’t have anything to do with the hit on Dont’a Hightower.
    So your spoiled brat performance is wasted. John has teenagers; I’m sure he’s seen it before.
    No I didn’t take names. And I wasn’t writing a research thesis, jackass. I was making a quiet comment about my concern for our players based on one player’s behavior. That’s what happens when one player acts like an idiot on the field–he leaves a negative impression. If you’ll look back at my comment, I said “in my mind” that hit makes Arkansas look like a dirty program. I didn’t say it is a dirty program. I said I was concerned. It’s bothered me since it happened. But obviously, since nothing was done about it, the officials considered it a legal hit. And I needn’t have worried. Mitch Petrus was drafted in the fifth round by the Giants. The NFL looks at these things a lot more closely.
    In the preseason, I jumped all over the Steelers’ starting corner for wailing on someone and getting himself ejected from the ballgame, and on our defense for being undisciplined in Denver and racking up a host of penalties. I’ve raged at our players for what I thought were dirty hits. But then a) I actually know one when I see one, and b) I’m adult enough to call it like I see it … instead of just wearing team blinders or jumping on bandwagons because it’s fun to beat up on people even if the evidence clearly shows they didn’t do it.

  4. tryagain says: Sep 25, 2010 12:35 AM

    I never said I had no interest in the NFL but I don’t have one particular team I cheer for. Blah blah blah- Ben may not have raped the girl but he’s still everything I called him and probably more (or less depending on how you look at it).
    I’d much rather be a spoiled brat than a raging maniac like you. Reread our posts and see who sounds like the sane person.
    Question for ya- how exactly does one make a ‘quiet comment’ on a message board? Does that mean not in all caps?

  5. Deb says: Sep 25, 2010 11:50 AM

    @tryagain …
    I was concerned for our players in light of what I saw as a dirty play, although it was legal under NCAA rules. As I’ve said many times, the NFL is my first love and NCAA rules often baffle me. If he makes that same play in the NFL, he gets fined even if officials miss it. He launched helmet-first at the knee of our best defensive player–and it’s difficult to think that was an accident.
    Most of the attention to “dirty” hits in football is on defensive players. But many of the scarier and more devastating hits come from offensive linemen like Petrus. And those hits are intended to take out defensive players. The old Oakland Raiders were masters at those techniques, but all teams, including mine, have used them.
    Maybe I should have explained all that, but the thread had been up a while with no comments, so I thought I could get it off my chest and no one but John would see it.
    You just came in and launched. And rather than staying on topic, you started ranting about something unrelated just to get under my skin. You’ve told me before that you’ve been an absolute witch to me, so it’s not the first time I’ve experienced that behavior from you. This time I answered in kind.
    As for the comments about the NFL …
    Most people with a serious interest in a team sport have a team allegiance. You’ve said you don’t.
    Ben is innocent of the crime but still everything you called him? And I’m irrational? He’s reckless, immature, and has the off-field judgment of a teenager. Never played QB until senior year of HS, didn’t play at a major program. Boom! 1st round pick, top-selling athletic jersey in the world, youngest QB to win a SB. Seriously doubt he was ever a chick magnet, but suddenly women are throwing it at him anytime, anyplace. He’s surrounded by sycophants. All at 22/23. That would play w/anyone’s head.
    He hasn’t behaved in any way different from hundreds of other NFL players. But he got involved with a bizarre woman in Nevada who’s story reads like a bad film script, and like a lot of other players wound up getting sued for rape. No, the two accusations weren’t a coincidence. The three Georgia women accused him because of Nevada. It was an easy way to get even. Hell hath no fury … On the bright side, maybe the adversity will force him to grow up and become a better man and reach his potential as a QB.
    I’m sorry I made it sound as though I was condemning the whole Arkansas program for the actions of one person. That’s not like me, and it was wrong. They have a good team this year, and it should be a good game. Let’s hope it’s injury-free for all.

  6. harloeisdead says: Sep 25, 2010 12:06 PM

    Why is everyone picking USC on the road? If you’ve ever followed AU for a full season you know they are a different team every week, and they play up or down to their competition. They will bring it tonight.
    AU 31 USC 27

  7. harloeisdead says: Sep 25, 2010 11:30 PM

    Did I say 31-27? I meant 35-27.

  8. tryagain says: Sep 26, 2010 12:43 AM

    @ deb- of course i launched- i may not have a nfl team but arkansas IS my team from birth til death and i don’t take kindly to such comments as i do believe you can understand.
    i was prepared to say that i had determined bama was a dirty team after our 3 (coulda been 4th) offensive play where the facemask got tugged but that was during a petty moment- instead i’ll just say good game.

  9. Deb says: Sep 26, 2010 3:41 PM

    @tryagain …
    I feel the same way about Alabama and perhaps even moreso about the Steelers. They’ve helped get me through some pretty rough times.
    Thank you. Arkansas played a great game, as they did last year. I expect Mallett to be in high demand in the NFL. Tebow may get the hype, but Mallett is the NFL dream QB.

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