Wednesday, September 17, 2008

From The Horse’s Mouth: Week 4 Spotlight games

I actually like what the fourth week has in store, because not only does it bring some key conference games involving both the SEC east and west, it also combines some out of conference match ups between some big name programs. We have a Florida State team that has climbed back into the rankings and will receive their first true test of the season, and an entire group of mid majors continuing their quest to invade the BCS.

(3) Georgia at Arizona State

The Horse’s must see rating: 10

Quickie: For the first time since Eisenhower was president, The Georgia Bulldogs will play a regular season game in the western time zone. The last trip came in 1960, where they fell 10-3 to USC in the Los Angeles Coliseum. They face a Sun Devils team fresh off an upset loss to UNLV that pushed them out of the AP top 25, and leaves them hanging by a thread in the coaches’ poll.

Last Week: L-UNLV

Anyone reading me over the course of 2007 knows I had the Sun Devils consistently on “fraud alert”. 2007 featured 8 games at home, bottom of the barrel out of conference opponents, and a loss to each power opponent they played.

QB Rudy Carpenter is a pro prospect, and near the top of the 2009 class at his position. But seldom do we get a good look at his abilities, because his line buckles and fails often. Carpenter was sacked 58 times last season, and has already eaten turf 5 times through the first 3 games of 2008.

Last week: W-South Carolina

Georgia faced a challenge against a stiff South Carolina defense on Saturday. The Gamecocks limited the Dogs to 289 yards of offense, and allowed running sensation Knowshon Moreno just 79 yards on 20 carries.

The Bulldogs’ pass defense currently ranks 11th of the 12 SEC programs (263.3 ypg), and will face a Sun Devils passing offense ranked 1st in the Pac 10 (324.7). Pressuring the quarterback is of the utmost importance, as Dennis Erickson will likely go back to airing it out after losing in an upset to the Rebels, with the Devils altering the game plan and showing a big increase in rushing attempts and decrease in pass attempts. Expect them to go back to their strength, and Georgia to flex theirs. Georgia’s 42 sacks led the SEC last year, and can play a major role against a program that still struggles to protect their quarterback.

Xtra Points: I’ve seen some funny things happen in the Arizona desert. The last SEC program to visit Tempe was LSU in 2005. It took a tremendous comeback and late fourth quarter score for the 5th ranked Tigers to edge the 15th ranked Sun Devils in a game that ended 35-31, and saw an LSU defense surrender 560 yards of offense to the Devils. The tone should be set early. And if ASU opens by being overpowered by the Georgia defensive front, Carpenter is in for a very long day.

All Time Series: No prior meetings.

(4) Florida at Tennessee

The Horse’s must see rating: 10

Quickie: As rumor had it, it didn’t matter where you coached before or the success you had, because no coach could just walk into the SEC and take over. Well, Urban Meyer, Nick Saban, and Les Miles all have. It took Saban just 4 years to not only win the SEC, but also a national championship. It took Les Miles just 3, and as little as 2 for Urban Meyer. Meyer now looks to make it 4 straight victories over Tennessee’s Phillip Fulmer.

GATORS (2-0)
Last Week: BYE

The book on the 2008 Gators was an explosive offense with a suspect defense. The offense was supposed to offer more firepower, with an addition of a running game. I’m still waiting to see that ground game, because they haven’t showed much of it. Emannuel Moody is obviously buried deep in Meyer’s doghouse, but is expected to have more carries against the Vols than he has all season. That season total for Moody is “2”. Percy Harvin was limited in his first game back, either by the Miami defense or the rust of sitting out for weeks. I expect a more productive game from Harvin against the Vols, as he’s slowly worked back into the rhythm.

Last Week- W- UAB

The Vols are still searching for an identity. Are they the preseason power as reflected in the polls, or the team dominated in the trenches by UCLA in week one? The victory over UAB still leaves these men behind the mask, and they should reveal their true faces on Saturday. Neyland Stadium offers a small advantage, as the Gators are 2-3 in their last 5 games away from the swamp (losses to Michigan, LSU, Georgia). Even in their road victories, the Gators aren’t nearly as impressive as they are on their home field.

Xtra Points: Arian Foster and the Vols ground game could be the key if Fulmer is to end the streak. In 3 losses to Florida, Tennessee has no runs of more than 6 yards. A 1-2 start would be awful in Knoxville, and though I don’t like to call a game in the fourth week a “must win”, for Tennessee, this is one.

All Time Series: Tennessee leads 19-18
Streak: Florida won 3

(6) LSU at (10) Auburn- The two teams played a thriller last year that ended with Matt Flynn finding a receiver in the end zone with time running out. I’m not sure this one will be as classic, with that new spread offense at Auburn looking about the same as the one in Michigan.

Notre Dame at Michigan State- The Irish can match their win total of a year ago. The Spartans can continue their ownership of the Boys from South Bend.

Miami at Texas A&M- As a ranked team, the Aggies were dominated by the Canes in 2007. Toss out the numbers next to the names, and expect more of the same.

(18) Wake Forest at (24) Florida State- Are the Noles back? They will answer that on Saturday.

(21) WVU at Colorado- In the thin mountain air, have no fear of Colorado coach Dan Hawkins. Fear his son, Cody, the Buff’s quarterback, instead.

(20) Utah at Air Force- What? Are you still sleeping on the Falcons?

Portland State at Washington State- Why is this game listed? It’s because I believe Washington State is bad enough to lose to this team.

Boise State at (17) Oregon- This game has upset written all over it. Oregon is limited to using their 3rd and 4th team quarterbacks. That’s about the same as UCLA, and things aren’t working well for the Bruins.

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