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Week 3 around the SEC

September 18, 2009

I’ll try and put the sting of missing UT’s loss to UCLA behind me this week. Most of the SEC is facing their toughest competition of the season to date this weekend. The marquee TV game is of course UT vs. THE FLORIDA, but don’t forget UGA at Arkansas, Miss. State on the road at Vandy and of course, WVU vs. Auburn.

Let’s dive right into the rain soaked writeup of the visiting Big East contending West Virginia Mountaineers and our Auburn Tigers.

Auburn Offense. Of course losing Tommy “not a blocking TE” Trott is a blow. Although Auburn has several options (in other words, no options) to replace him, I don’t think we truly understand how valuable Trott’s downfield and corner blocking have been – and won’t until Saturday night without him. Auburn will have to run the ball to win. I don’t think we start this game with anything other than 20 straight running plays to let the visitors know we intend to own the line of scrimmage and grind them down to worm feed for Pat Dye Field. Chris Todd will have to moderate his self-proclaimed ‘greediness’ and make his shots well placed and timed. I look for WV to try and disrupt our receivers at the line of scrimmage, put as many men in the box as possible and beg Todd to beat them through the air. West Virginia is riding a 5 game winning streak against SEC foes, including last year’s embarrassing thumping in the second half in Morgantown. Provided Auburn runs early with some success, I think the second half this year belongs to Auburn’s offense in a shootout.

Auburn Defense. This will likely be the game our D gets exposed. Between QB Jarrett Brown and RB Noel Devine, the Mountaineer attack is lethal on the ground and in the air. Auburn showed vulnerability to a running QB again last week when the MSU Bulldogs arrived, and you can bet Brown will exploit that on the Plains. Rumor has it Dontae Aycock won Scout Team Player of the Week honors in the rain at Auburn this week for imitating Devine. One, I never knew there was such an honor, and two, I hope that doesn’t mean it is because Aycock ran wild on the D in practice. Ugh. I’d groan, but I’m saving that for Saturday night when we can’t get WV off the field on third and short. Yes, Joe’s pessimism runs a tad deep this week. Call it the fifth straight day of toad-strangling rain or the disappearance of the sun and 80 degrees, or just that Joe refuses to completely buy into the now wildly-uncontrolled enthusiasm sweeping the Plains? Whatever the reason, I think there is cause for some suspicion that our D is rock solid enough to contain the Mountaineer’s dual threat completely.

Auburn Special Teams. So Coach Boulware was personally embarrassed about last week’s punt block returned for a TD. Okay! What do we do this week? This has become a glaring deficiency on the team and one Joe isn’t convinced gets fixed in one week. Holding the Mountaineers inside their 30 on kickoffs would be a nice way to start, as would not giving up positive yards on punt returns. For Auburn, holding on to punt returns would just be lovely. Wouldn’t it? Hearing the fans around not pining away for Trey Smith would be even better. We do have season-to-date, tried-and-tested Field Goal kicker Byrum in our pocket and Joe predicts he’ll be the deciding force.

Overall, Auburn and West Virginia would both love to use this game as a proving ground. Auburn needs it to command at least some national respect even though on paper, WV isn’t ranked either. WV would love to hold this up as another defeat over an SEC team, on their turf as their own calling for national attention. ESPN2 will be present to record it all and let the audience be the judge.

I see this game as similar to the Miami and Florida State battle on the Monday evening of opening weekend. Both defenses are going to be embarrassed at times, and I think we have a higher scoring affair than normal. What will likely stop both offenses are mistakes more than anything. I have to give Auburn some points for playing at home and in the end, Byrum kicks it clean for the Auburn victory. WVU 34, Auburn 37.

The rest of the West.

North Texas vs. UAT. I guess Nick $aban’s pay raise took away any chance UAT could afford someone to schedule worthy opponents. NT 9, UAT 42

UGA vs. Arkansas. Arkansas is a lot like Auburn right now, lurking in the shadows of the Top 25 and the national spotlight. Georgia is fully in the spotlight after losing on the road to Oklahoma State and then hanging on to beat the Gamecocks. I think Georgia goes on the road and wins this one by the slightest of margins, but that may only be because I’ve seen Georgia play on TV now twice, and only glimpsed highlights of the Hawgs once. UGA 27, Arkansas 21

UL Lafeyette vs. LSU. Maybe Nick $aban’s salary is still being paid in Baton Rouge and they can’t afford a scheduler either? ULL 10, LSU 49

Miss. State vs. Vanderbilt. This isn’t last year’s squad for either team. That is good news in most circles, bad news in Nashville. The Bulldogs showed me last week they don’t have any quit in them and they do have some playmakers at WR and RB. Assuming their QB puts the ball where he needs to, State wins this one. MSU 28, Vandy 16

Southeastern Louisiana vs Ole Miss. I’ve run out of $aban salary references. USL 14, Ole Miss 35

The East.

Tennessee vs. THE FLORIDA. If you are one of those folks who believe Urban Meyer isn’t going to run up the score on UT, then stop reading this blog now. And for good measure, don’t ever come back. Kiffykins and his merry band of shirtless wonders will hopefully get to drive past their roadside billboard going and coming. THE FLORIDA, in my mind, has every intention of making this as embarrassing as possible and I expect the fans at the Swamp will be in rare form. Jonathan Crompton may cry on camera, closely followed by Lane Kiffin. UT 10, THE FLORIDA 56

Louisville vs. Kentucky. The Wildcats are no longer a penciled in “W” for most teams. Where the Cardinals have them on their preparedness list is unknown though, and I’ll go with the SEC team. Louisville 24, UK 31

Florida Atlantic vs South Carolina. USC will be bruised physically and mentally after the UGA game and I look for a slow start. FAU will probably lead a low scoring game into the 3rd quarter before the Cocks wake up and crow (sorry, how could I not?!). FAU 10, USC 17

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