Perception vs. Reality in the SEC: Week 8
It’s time to look at key questions across the SEC involving Saturday’s Week 8 slate of games:
Perception: Florida’s offense will improve with QB Harris vs. Mizzou
Will Muschamp said this week that both of his quarterbacks — incumbent Jeff Driskel and true freshman Treon Harris — will play Saturday against Mizzou, a pivotal showdown in the SEC East. Florida’s fanbase has been calling for Harris much of the season after his flawless outing in mop-up duty during the season opener. In Knoxville a few weeks ago, Harris led the Gators on consecutive scoring drives to win the game, 10-9. Cleared from a domestic situation that ultimately caused him to miss last week’s loss to LSU, Harris appears to be faster than Driskel and more accurate.
Reality: Harris’ sample size is too small to assume success
There’s no doubt the quarterback position has been Florida’s weakest spot this season, but there’s several other areas where improvement’s needed also. The offense doesn’t change with Harris in the game and it’s unlikely the Gators will have the time to take many shots down the field against Mizzou’s fierce front seven led by Shane Ray and Markus Golden. Expecting a solid performance from Harris, depending on the number of snaps he receives, is a bit premature considering the Tigers’ pass rush expertise. He’s thrown six passes all season and isn’t as well-versed with the playbook at Driskel.
Perception: Arkansas would win the SEC East, can prove it Saturday
Coming off an emotional home loss to Alabama last week, Arkansas hosts Georgia in Little Rock on Saturday hoping to snap the SEC’s longest league losing skid at 15 games. The Razorbacks and Bulldogs will go at it with similar offensive schemes, a run-heavy approach with the occasional safe throw from the pocket or play-action call. Georgia’s the East frontrunner at the moment, so a win for the West’s worst team would go a long way in defining that division’s overall strength.
Reality: Razorbacks benefit from playing Georgia without Gurley
A victory over Georgia would lift the spirits around the Arkansas program and especially Bret Bielema, but it would come with an asterisk — the Bulldogs are likely playing without the SEC’s best player and Heisman candidate Todd Gurley for the second straight week. Containing freshman Nick Chubb is a less-than-desired task, but he’s no Gurley, at least not yet. Rather than delay the inevitable, just know that if Arkansas wins on Saturday, the popular postgame talk will be Georgia’s play without Gurley and not the Razorbacks.
Perception: Division contender Kentucky’s a better team than LSU
Judging by the momentum and buzz surrounding the Wildcats’ 5-1 start at the season’s midway point, Kentucky feels good about its chances Saturday night at Tiger Stadium against a team no longer ranked in the Top 25 and plagued by inexperience. The Wildcats are a triple-overtime loss at Florida from being ranked inside the Top 15 and a win in Baton Rouge would commence travel talks to Atlanta.
Reality: LSU’s run game, Tiger Stadium too much to overcome
LSU’s averaging 209 yards per game on the ground this season and last time out, freshman Leonard Fournette went off for a season-high 140 yards and two touchdowns at Florida. During their last SEC win over South Carolina, the Wildcats were gashed for 282 yards rushing and four touchdowns. The Tigers hold the SEC’s best record at home since 2009 at 36-3 with no losses to Eastern Division opponent. Kentucky’s last win over LSU came in 2007 when Andre Woodson and the Wildcats held off the Tigers in Lexington during triple overtime, 43-37.