It’s hotter than usual this week in the SEC. The “Super Bowl” is upon us.
Anybody feeling not so hot?
Alabama-LSU hype: Does this game even need any build-up? It’s the biggest SEC regular-season game since … well, you get the idea. Two lower-level tickets on StubHub were going for more than $10,000 apiece. One of the many things that makes the game so compelling is the do-or-die nature of the matchup. These are the two best teams in college football, and a lot of people don’t even think it’s close. Yet, they’re not playing for the championship. They’re playing for the right to stay in the championship hunt. The loser is on the outside looking in and won’t have a chance for a rematch unless things fall just right elsewhere. My advice: Sit back and enjoy these two Goliaths going at it in what will be an electric atmosphere. Anybody need tickets?
Georgia outside linebacker Jarvis Jones: Add Jones’ name to the list of top candidates for SEC defensive player of the year. He’s been very good all season, but turned in a memorable performance against Florida with four sacks and a forced fumble that led to a Georgia touchdown. The thing that separates Jones is that he’s a lot more than just a pass-rusher.
Florida’s running game: Everybody wondered back in the preseason who was going to be the workhorse for the Gators in the running game and get the tough yards. That guy simply isn’t on their roster. They were held to minus-19 rushing yards in the loss to Georgia. Granted, they were sacked six times, and that was a big part of the paltry rushing total. Still, Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps combined for just 38 rushing yards on 13 carries, and Florida is ranked eighth in the SEC in rushing offense.
South Carolina’s defense: Lost in the glare of how good Alabama and LSU have been on defense is a South Carolina defense that’s absolutely suffocating teams right now. The Gamecocks have kept three of their last five opponents out of the end zone and haven’t given up more than 16 points in any of their last five contests.
Justin’s Worley’s debut: The Vols’ true freshman quarterback underwent a nightmarish debut in his first game as a starter. Tennessee coach Derek Dooley probably didn’t do Worley any favors by tossing him into that situation when he clearly wasn’t ready, and Worley’s teammates didn’t do a whole lot to help him, either.
Auburn running back Michael Dyer: Where would this Auburn football team be this season without Dyer? He rushed for 177 yards on 27 carries in the 41-23 win over Ole Miss last week and is 11 yards away from his second straight 1,000-yard season. You can bet the Tigers will be leaning on him offensively the rest of the way.
Arkansas’ starts: The Hogs keep winning despite forgetting to start the game on time. It’s almost as if they want to spot their opponent a lead just to see if they can come back and win. They fell behind 21-7 last week to Vanderbilt, but managed to escape. It’s the third time in their last four games that the Hogs have weathered slow starts to win. They’re playing with fire.
Florida-Georgia traffic: As one Florida fan reminded me as he walked by and saw me sitting in the EverBank Field parking lot at 10:30 in the morning, “You learned your lesson. You left earlier.” Indeed I did, and the traffic was a dream this year. I zipped right down Union Street into the parking lot and enjoyed all the sights and sounds that truly make the Florida-Georgia rivalry one big party.
Ole Miss in the second half: The Rebels’ SEC losing streak has swelled to 11 in a row dating back to last season. Their struggles have run the gamut this season, but nothing has been more crippling than their inability to finish games. They’ve been outscored 93-20 in the second half in their five SEC losses.
October swoons: Nobody’s cheering louder for the month of October to be over than most of the teams in the Eastern Division. In keeping with the Halloween theme, it’s almost as if a spell has been cast over the East. South Carolina loses Marcus Lattimore for the season. Tyler Bray goes down for Tennessee. John Brantley goes down for Florida, and Georgia’s best receiver, Malcolm Mitchell, has missed the past two games with a hamstring pull. Kentucky also lost its promising freshman running back, Josh Clemons, to a knee injury. It doesn’t stop with injuries, either. In SEC games, Florida, Kentucky, Tennessee and Vanderbilt were a combined 0-14 in the month of October, and seven of those losses were by at least 28 points. The Commodores haven’t won an SEC game in October since the 2008 season, and the Vols haven’t won an SEC game in October since the 2009 season.