Ryan Mallett and the high-powered Razorbacks look to showcase their true talents in Athens this weekend.
With only two weeks of SEC football in the books, many questions still remain unanswered about the anticipated powers and the skeptics' dark-horses. With many non-conference match-ups behind them, the schools of the Southeastern Conference now move into the earliest stages of the dreadful, three month campaign of conference scheduling. Week 3 is arguably one of the most exciting weeks of the entire season, with intriguing games across the board.
After dismantling Tennessee Tech and Louisiana-Monroe by double digit scores, Bobby Petrino and Arkansas face their first true test of the season when the Razorbacks travel to Athens to face a Georgia Bulldogs defense that currently ranks in the top-20 in total defense. Can Ryan Mallett reach his receivers between the noise of Sanford Stadium's noisy hedges?
On the other end of the SEC West, LSU returns home after a sluggish offensive outing at Vanderbilt to host a far more potent Mississippi State Bulldog offense. Will the Tigers score enough points to defend Tiger Stadium?
These along with other exciting match-ups will be examined in our pick 'em, SEC Week 3!
Jeremiah Masoli looks to follow up a strong Week 2 performance at home against the Vanderbilt Commodores.
After losing a shocking season opener to Jacksonville State, head coach Houston Nutt quickly rallied his Rebels to a....somewhat redeeming, 27-13 win over Tulane. Now, with conference play beginning for Ole Miss, there couldn't be a better opponent visiting town than the Vanderbilt Commodores, losers of their last 10 conference meetings.
Transfer quarterback Jeremiah Masoli has provided an offensive spark, compiling 308 yards and two touchdowns last week. Senior receiver Markeith Summers added 197 yards receiving, acting as Masoli's favorite target. However, the Rebels' backfield was practically non-existent, with their leading rusher, Enrique Davis snagging only 40 yards on 14 carries against a mediocre Conference USA defense. Nutt will undoubtedly have to adjust his offense for a more disciplined Commodore defense that held LSU to 10 hard-earned points in the first half.
Fortunately for Ole Reb, the Commodores aren't exactly a high-octane offense either. The Commodores are averaging only 283.5 yards per game, with only three touchdowns to show for this season. Last week, Vandy managed a measly field goal late in their home stand against LSU.
With a strong home field advantage and most of the Jacksonville State cobwebs shaken off, expect Ole Miss to relieve fans in Oxford with a strong game against an outmatched and out-coached SEC opponent.
Pick: Ole Miss 31 Vanderbilt 6
John Brantley is looking to revitalize a Florida passing attack that currently ranks 104th nationally.
A few weeks ago, many would have predicted the Gators to romp the Volunteers in this SEC match-up which has lost the luster of its 1990s predecessors. Yet, after Florida's baffling offensive premier in a Week 1 game against Miami (Ohio), in which the Gators had three lost fumbles and managed only 26 yards of total offense entering the fourth quarter, you have to wonder what chance the Volunteers have.
Granted, a highly talented Oregon Ducks squad revealed the youth of the Volunteer defense, accumulating 447 yards and 48 points in a hostile, rained out Neyland Stadium. Yet, Florida isn't Oregon and Tim Tebow is playing for the Broncos.
To make matters worse for a struggling Gators offense (that's strange to say isn't it?), wide receiver Chris Rainey is not expected to travel with the team following an arrest this week. Offensive coordinator Steve Addazio said that Rainey 'is not part of our team right now,' although no official statement has been released on the matter.
Although the Quack Attack showed how vulnerable Tennessee's defense can be, they also showed how surprisingly strong and disciplined it can be. The Volunteers held the Ducks to 13 points in the first half, before falling apart in the second. The Tennessee offense, which is equally inexperienced and youthful, is as big of a question mark as the D. Junior quarterback Chris Simms managed 151 yards on 15-of-29 passing, but also threw a game-changing interception in the third quarter that put the Ducks up two touchdowns.
This is an intriguing match-up of two teams that are searching earnestly for their identities. While the Gators have more talent on paper, those in orange will be quick to tell you that first year head coach Derek Dooley has shown glimpses of genius in two weeks. A raucous Neyland Stadium crowd that hasn't seen a victory over the Gators in 5 years will certainly help in this SEC opener.
Pick: Florida 28 Tennessee 21
Kyle Parker and the Clemson Tigers visit SEC foe Auburn on Saturday.
Auburn quarterback Cameron Newton has undoubtedly been one of the most impressive newcomers to SEC football this season. The junior had an excellent road outing last Thursday night against a vastly maturing Mississippi State team, compiling 136 yards passing, 70 yards rushing and two touchdowns. On the downside, the Tigers were unable to put up any points in a second half that was saved thanks to relentless defense.
That Auburn defense is ranked 44th nationally in total defense, but that number should be much higher. Mississippi State's offense, led by head coach and former Florida offensive coordinator Dan Mullen, accumulated 49 points and 537 yards of total offense against Memphis in the season opener. The Tigers held the maturing Bulldogs to only 246 yards.
ACC opponent Clemson visits Auburn for a prime-time showdown following two impressive, yet inconclusive, offensive performances against non-conference cupcakes North Texas and Presbyterian. Clemson managed 93 points in the two contests. Quarterback Kyle Parker was exceptional in only four series versus Presbyterian, in which the sophomore gained 114 yards on 6-for-9 passing and two touchdowns.
Following graduations and only two weeks of game play, It's hard to pinpoint Clemson's true offensive potential. The same can be said about Auburn. However, Clemson's defense has shown some weaknesses against two far weaker opponents, which is never good news heading to an SEC stadium. Two years ago, Clemson tried their chances against Alabama in Atlanta, where the highly-favored Tigers were crushed. Although that was two years and far different teams ago, I see a similar fate for the Tigers reigning from the ACC.
Pick: Auburn 33 Clemson 17
Patrick Peterson and the LSU defense are ready to make their 2010 Tiger Stadium debut against the Mississippi State Bulldogs.
In Week 1, it appeared that second year head coach Dan Mullen had brought the high-powered offense he constructed at Florida to Mississippi State. The Bulldogs destroyed Memphis 49-7, while amassing 569 yards of total offense. Quarterback Tyler Russell went 13-of-16 for 256 yards and four touchdowns.
Then the real test came in Week 2...
Auburn came into Starkville and held the Bulldog offense to 14 points, although Mississippi State came within a dropped interception of stealing the win. In 2009, the Bulldogs lost by 25 points in a trip to Auburn. Either way, it seems obvious that Mullen's presence is being felt at Mississippi State.
As for LSU, the program appears to be heading in quite the opposite direction. After going 8-5 and 9-4 in consecutive seasons following the 2007 National Championship team, many are questioning the program's growth under head coach Les Miles. The offense has been below par the last two seasons and this year is no exception. The Tigers struggled to put up 10 points at Vanderbilt last week, before running back Stevan Ridley provided a spark, adding 159 yards and one touchdown. With the level of talent and speed Miles has on his roster, it seems a shame the Tigers aren't putting up more points.
Tiger Stadium is never an easy place to play and this Mississippi State team is going to have to mature quickly if it wants to take the next step amongst the SEC Western elite; namely by beating an elite team. The Bulldogs will get a big win this season...but this won't be it.
Pick: LSU 28 Mississippi State 20
The high-powered Arkansas offense will be put to the test on a visit to the raucous Sanford Stadium.
Undoubtedly the biggest game in the SEC this week is the No. 12 Arkansas Razorbacks' trip to Georgia. The Bulldogs fell out of the Top 25 following a tough loss on the road at South Carolina, but don't be fooled, this Georgia team is talented and dangerous.
The Razorbacks appear to be the high-powered offense everyone expected them to be. Ryan Mallett is atop the Heisman race, after throwing for 701 yards and six touchdowns in his first two games. Head coach Bobby Petrino's recruits seem to be ready to pay major dividends for the Fayetteville faithful.
The majority of the talent for the Bulldogs lies in the linebackers and secondary, which is bad news for an Arkansas team that leans on the passing game. Against South Carolina, the Bulldogs often rushed only four defenders, leaving Gamecocks receivers shadowed all afternoon.
The Georgia offense will have to find ways to score, with star receiver A.J. Green expected to remain on the bench following an NCAA suspension for selling his jersey. The Bulldogs are also without running back Caleb King, who is recovering from an ankle injury. Washaun Ealey was able to manage 75 yards rushing against the Gamecocks.
Aaron Murray looked spectacular at times last week, considering it was a premier road start for a freshman quarterback in the SEC. The Georgia coaches should let Murray air it out more often against a less threatening Arkansas secondary.
Georgia needs a win to regain the momentum they lost in Columbia. Arkansas is gearing up each week to make a strong run at an SEC West title. Sanford Stadium is sure to be rocking Saturday and the questions is, how well will the Arkansas offense operate under the pressure?
Pick: Arkansas 41 Georgia 24