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Week 2 in the SEC

September 11, 2009

Insert another shameless plug for Joe’s impressive 12-0 start to the season here.

If you’re a fan of SEC football, you have to have loved last weekend. Even with the lukewarm start by Carolina, the SEC rolled through the competition from Seattle to Atlanta, with the only hiccup taking place in Oklahoma.

This weekend really kicks off with league play featuring three matchups. Kentucky and Arkansas take their off weekend early before big games against Louisville and Georgia respectively on Sept. 19th. Tennessee gets a rematch against the Bruins, at home, while Florida, Alabama and Ole Miss all play organized scrimmages. More on those games later….

Auburn is home at Jordan-Hare again this weekend against the newly minted Mississippi State Bulldogs. Coach Dan Mullen, of recent Florida offensive coordinator fame is the new ball coach in Stark-vegas. Coach Mullen certainly has an impressive resume with everything from coaching Alex Smith into a top draft pick out of Utah to the run the Gators have enjoyed since Urban Meyer brought Dan with him from the Utes. Just how much Coach Mullen is able to influence with the Bulldogs this year remains to be seen. There are similarities between MSU and Auburn this year with new coaches and philosophies. However, a tip of the hat has to go to Gene Chizik for putting together what appears to be a more solid team of assistants. Add to that the slightly better overall talent level at Auburn and the home field advantage and this should result in Auburn facing West Virginia at 2-0.

Auburn Offense. Amazingly, Coach Chizik and Malzahn think Auburn has the potential for 15 more offensive plays per game than the opening night 75+. Obviously, opposing defenses will try and have a say so in that number, but the emphasis at least this week has been in picking up the pace. Key to that increased performance has to be more receivers getting into the mix. Assuming the running game improves from last week and Chris Todd is able to spray the ball across a larger portion of the field, Auburn should make light work of the Bulldog defense. The key matchup here is the line of scrimmage. Auburn’s offensive line dominates, and the orange and blue faithful will be rewarded with another impressive display of touchdown and field goal theatrics.

Auburn Defense. First of all, Auburn has to stop senior running back Anthony Dixon. At over 6′ and 230+ lbs., Dixon is the stereotypical, bruising SEC style back. Auburn has little depth in the front seven as evidenced by last week’s numbers indicating the starters were in on a staggering 81% of the plays. Add to this, MSU will play two talented and differing style of quarterbacks and the trainers are no doubt warming up the tubs and the ointments already. Statistically, Auburn hasn’t allowed a point on Sept. 12th in the past, but there seems to be little pointing in our favor on that front this year. I think MSU moves the ball more easily than we would like between the 20’s, but we stiffen up in the red zone.

Auburn Special Teams. The punt returner race was opened up after week one. Otherwise, if Auburn gets the ball within the Bulldog 33 yard line, Byrum should be on with FG attempts. Let’s hope we don’t have to resort to that as our only scoring option, but I do think Auburn possesses the edge in the kicking game this weekend.

Overall, Auburn should win. MSU has a solid defense, but I don’t think solid enough to withstand a multi-faceted rushing attach and vertical passing game, much less the tempo Auburn intends to force. This game could go into the fourth quarter within a touchdown though so Auburn’s ability to hold onto the ball this week and force a few MSU turnovers could be the difference. Miss. State 21, Auburn 31.

The rest of the West.

Florida International vs. UAT. The first in a two consecutive week lineup of opponents for the Tide which offer nothing more than a scrimmage against a less talented practice squad. FIU 0, UAT 49.

Vanderbilt vs. LSU. Although LSU looked more suspect than I thought against the Huskies last weekend, Vandy isn’t going to sneak up on, nor spook a Bayou Tiger. Vandy 10, LSU 24.

The East.

Troy vs. THE FLORIDA. Troy has shocked teams in the past. Troy has upset ranked teams in the past. However much the Trojans live out of their imagination, it won’t be enough to stop the Gator attack. Troy 7, Florida 35.

South Carolina vs. Georgia. This is the one game of the week with upset potential. Georgia should and could win this one easily. Don’t discount the Gamecock defense and Georgia’s o-line worries continue which is to say Joe Cox will be tested mightily. Unfortunately for Steve Spurrier, Georgia wants to erase the sting of losing on the road to the Cowboys last week too much. Cocks 13, Dawgs 17.

UCLA vs. Tennessee. UT should have won this game last year on the road. UT throttled the Hilltoppers last weekend. UCLA should show improvements over last year’s team. What does this all mean? Tennessee will probably win and win big. I don’t believe for an instant that UCLA can come to Knoxville and pull off the upset. The only thing working in the Bruins favor is Tennessee, might, and I stress might, be looking ahead to the Gators next week. I look for a slow start from both teams before UT starts putting all the pieces together. UCLA 17, UT 28.

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