SEC football: 9 main storylines in play this weekend

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1. SEC Heisman Frontrunner: AJ McCarron is widely considered the Heisman frontrunner from the SEC. After all, he’s the face of the #1 program in the country. We know the Heisman is a popularity contest that usually is decided by the best player from the best team. McCarron has a real shot, as evidenced by his 19 touchdowns and zero interceptions. And he may have just had his Heisman moment last weekend on the final drive against LSU. But don’t look now, as Johnny Manziel could have his Heisman moment this weekend if he can lead his Aggies to a victory in Tuscaloosa. Manziel already has better stats than Heisman frontrunner Collin Klein’s projected finish number. Above all, though, Manziel won’t win it for one reason: people don’t vote for freshmen just like people don’t vote for defenders. However, he could get the invite at least with a win over McCarron. There is an SEC and a national championship at stake this weekend featuring two of the SEC’s best teams.

2. Letdown Looming in Tuscaloosa? Speaking of Alabama solely, they had a very emotional win against LSU last week. Sometimes after big wins, good teams let down their guards and play too relaxed since the big game is behind them. Nick Saban tells everyone that the Tide have moved on. But have they really? Alabama will be Alabama’s biggest opponent this weekend, not Johnny Manziel. Texas A&M won’t do the unthinkable, will they?  The Aggies will start fast, and we’ll find out if the Tide’s defense can catch up to the fast-forward offense.  Sure they can, right?

3. Arkansas and a Streak: The Hogs have won three and a row over the Gamecocks by an average of 16 points per game and have owned this series in recent history. But the Hogs have fallen from grace this season and have mounted a 4-5 record, just hoping they can get to six wins and a bowl game. It starts with South Carolina. The good news for the Hogs – but bad news for everyone else – is that Marcus Lattimore won’t be running the football. Can the offensive line protect Tyler Wilson enough to let him make some explosive plays? Can the Hogs run the football and create a balance on offense with running backs Dennis Johnson and Knile Davis? There are more questions than answers, but it should at least give them confidence knowing they have owned this series for the last three years.

4. Lattimore-less Once Again: The aforementioned Gamecocks will be Lattimore-less. So, who is going to tote the rock in his place? Senior Kenny Miles will get the bulk of the carries, along with freshman running back Mike Davis. USC will have to get Bruce Ellington more involved in the running game, too, along with Ace Sanders on some reverses to eat up some yardage on the ground. South Carolina finished 5-1 without Lattimore last season, and can they replicate that feat this year? Connor Shaw is banged up and gimpy with an ankle injury, and they are going to have to rely more on his arm than his feet this week.

5. Ticket Punching for Atlanta: Georgia thumped Ole Miss last week, and they can close out the SEC East this week with a road trip to Jordan Hare, which always seems to be an interesting site for upsets. But it won’t happen this week. Georgia started slow last week, and they’ll need to get off to a better start this week. However, the defense is playing better than it has all season, and this team could be coming together at the right time. After Georgia wins this game, they set up a showdown with Alabama in Atlanta for the SEC Championship, winning the Eastern division in back-to-back seasons. The national championship is still in the picture, too.

6. Same Records; Different Stories: LSU and Mississippi State are both 7-2, but they look to be headed in different directions. MSU started 7-0 and are losers of their last two against Alabama and Texas A&M by a combined score of 76-20. The offense has been lifeless at times, and the defense hasn’t tackled well at all and is getting destroyed along the defensive line. And that’s not good news to be heading into Death Valley against an angry LSU team that lost a heartbreaker to Alabama last week. Zach Mettenberger played his best game to date as a Tiger, and running back Jeremy Hill is playing lights out at running back, rushing for three straight 100-yard games and four touchdowns. LSU seems to be getting better each week, especially on offense, and MSU hasn’t fared well now in back-to-back games. Which team will recover first?

7. A Bowl Game Berth: This is the sexiest, little-known SEC game of the week, ever. Don’t look now but poor ole Vanderbilt and Ole Miss are trending up and have some energy as programs. James Franklin and Hugh Freeze have done a fantastic job at each program maximizing the potential with lesser rosters. And both teams enter with five wins and having seemingly similar seasons altogether. The winner clinches a bowl game first. For Vanderbilt, it would be back-to-back bowl berths for the first time in their entire history, and Ole Miss would play in a bowl game for the first time in two years. May the best middle-of-the-pack team win.

8. Monster.com Bowl: Don’t worry Missouri, Derek Dooley is the only coach on the Green Mile in this game, and Mizzou could absolutely put a dent into Dooley’s aspirations for returning another season. Furthermore, Dooley is going to have to win out against Missouri, Vanderbilt and Kentucky to keep his job. He wins seven games, as much as Tennessee fans don’t want to hear it, and he returns to the Big Orange next season as the headman. This will be a good matchup between Tennessee’s offense and Missouri’s underrated defense.

9. Sun Belt’s a Comin’: The Sun Belt killers are bringing another team to play the SEC. The good news it’s not Louisiana-Monroe – it’s Louisiana Lafayette. Mighty ULM took down Arkansas earlier in the season and Auburn narrowly escaped an upset bid at home to ULM, too. Louisiana-Monroe, however, will try and do the unthinkable to Florida. Luckily for the Gators, the Ragin Cajuns’ defense is ranked 91st in the entire country in total defense, allowing 433 yards per game. Florida needs to get some confidence back on offense, as the last two games have revealed several problems with this unit.  This could be a breakout game for Jeff Driskel.

Photo Credit: John David Mercer-US PRESSWIRE

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COMMENTS

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  • I agree with pretty much everything, except that ULL will be a breakout game for Jeff Driskel. I think Driskel is simply a bad QB. I don’t think that he will ever have a breakout game. He is 11th in the SEC by passing yards, 14th in QB rating, 9th in TDs (but still hasn’t broken 10), and 7th in completion rating. Basically, he is a middle of the row QB at best.

    • I’ve been wondering what the hype about him has been all year. And I don’t know if you can consider a good game against a Sun Belt team a “break out” game. Now Mettenburger throwing for nearly 300 against the best D in the country last week..that’s a break out game.

      • Let’s face it…anything over a couple hundred yards through the air is a breakout game for Driskel. Florida is 118th in the country in passing. At this point, anything positive on offense for Florida different from the last few weeks would be huge. It’s time Driskel takes that next step. This could be the time to do that. I guess that’s what I’m trying to say…

        • I can appreciate that I guess. I guess what I am trying to say is that Driskel hasn’t done anything to make me think “wow, there is a solid starter!”. This isn’t meant to be a knock on Florida fans, but he reminds me of Tim Tebow with the Broncos. Sure the guy won those games, but was it really Tebow winning it? Or the other team blowing it? And more importantly he did thanks to a good run game and defense that made up for his lack of consistent passing. The only difference is that Driskel isn’t nearly as good as running the ball as Tebow.

        • I understand where you’re coming from, however, we all said the same thing about Zach Mettenberger at LSU, too. After all, Driskel was the #1 QB coming out of HS in his recruiting class, so there is upside there. Question is: Is he a gamer? And will he ever blossom?

        • Well I think Zach Mettenberger still hasn’t “arrived”. Personally I got to see the guy when he played at Oconee Country High (I live in Athens and have for 8 years now), and I said he isn’t that good. I knew Murray would get the job for the Dawgs. I think that game against ‘Bama will be looked back as a blip game. Not so much as a “coming out”.

    • Jeff Driskel is not a bad QB. You can’t blame the guy when he has minimal recievers down field making plays and he is getting the pass rush on almost every play. More emphasis needs to be placed on the O line and wide recievers.

  • I believe the correct word you were looking for was REPLICATE our 5-1 finish without Latty last season…not RECIPROCATE…but I think we will…Kenny Miles is more than ready, and Mike Davis is a stud in the making…Carolina rolls 31-14…then steam rolls Wofford 35-7…then the big game…Clempson…no clue how that game is going to turn out