The Cocktail Party. The public and most analysts have favored Florida. We tried and failed to find reason for a contrarian play. Georgia has struggled establishing the run of late and has not been able to stop the run. The Gators may be the team most inclined to play straight up man ball and exploit both those weaknesses. Georgia relies on big plays, leading the nation with 50 scrimmage plays of longer than 20 yards. Florida is among the nation’s best at not allowing them.
Then you have the history. Mark Richt has never had control of this rivalry. The Dawgs are 4-18 in the cocktail party since 1990. Richt has also lost nine of his last 10 against teams ranked in the Top 15. Sure, Georgia beat Florida last season. They beat perhaps the worst Florida team of recent vintage by a field goal. We can’t see reason to predict a Georgia win, but if it happens Steve Spurrier’s reaction, seeing a team he beat by 28 beat them out in the SEC East because his team had to play LSU, will be epic. Win or lose, Will Muschamp should be delightful.
Leaders of Legends. Barring bizarre circumstances, Michigan at Nebraska will decide the Big Ten Legends Division. For Bo Pelini, the result could be pivotal in either direction. A win would leave Nebraska favorites to win the Big Ten and go to the Rose Bowl. Despite the two losses and the crappy division, that would be progress. A loss would mean another mediocre Nebraska season stoke the subtle burner under Pelini’s seat. Nebraska invested heavily in a new AD. They didn’t do so to descend into the second-tier of the Big Ten.
It’s hard deciphering how these teams will perform against average, much less good opposition – the Big Ten has been awful – but we can assume this one comes down to the two quarterbacks. Michigan needs Denard Robinson to have a big day against a soft front and a Lavonte David-less linebacking corps. Nebraska needs Taylor Martinez to have a strong passing day. The Wolverine defense has improved, but they still have a thin secondary and a line that will struggle generating a four-man rush. If Martinez can be accurate in pressure (a substantial if), Michigan could get picked apart.
You sold this as a matchup of SEC undefeateds… Mississippi State is 7-0. The murderers’ row they have faced thus far: Jackson State, Troy, South Alabama, Middle Tennessee, Auburn, Kentucky and Tennessee. That’s the nation’s 93rd toughest schedule, one that might have left Derek Dooley with a 6-1 record and a far more comfortable stool. The Bulldogs are a good team, but this weekend should show why their distance from SEC Title contention.
Alabama has not been tested by a great team, though the average to good ones they’ve faced have been flattened. The closest team to beating them was Ole Miss and they were never close. Michigan and Tennessee were the only teams to eclipse four yards per play. Mississippi State played Bama tough last season. Tough was scoring seven points and losing by 17 at home.
The nation’s best run blocking line in the country will go against the Bulldogs’ 62nd ranked run defense. The best rushing offense that unit has seen is Tennessee. Mississippi State’s hopes rest with Tyler Russell, who completed fewer than 50 percent of his passes against SOUTH Alabama. We appreciate the enthusiasm, Bulldogs, but we like the Tide big in Tuscaloosa.
Forces Collide: After cudgeling West Virginia in Morgantown, Kansas State is the Big 12 alpha dog. That could change Saturday. Tommy Tuberville is the upset master, with a 6-5 record all-time against top five opponents and a 2-2 mark at Texas Tech. Collin Klein is leading the Heisman race, though his counterpart Seth Doege has been sizzling the past two games, completing 74 percent of his passes for 817 yards and 13 touchdowns. Bill Snyder may be the coach that gets the most from his teams. Tuberville has a habit of getting the most from his teams in big moments.
[Photos via Getty, Presswire]