Georgia Bulldogs: Brett Bielema

What to watch in the SEC: Week 7

October, 10, 2013
10/10/13
10:20
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1. Will Clowney play?: There have been a lot of rumors flying around about South Carolina’s Jadeveon Clowney and his last-minute decision to sit out against Kentucky. It didn’t go over well with coach Steve Spurrier based on the postgame comments. However, Spurrier defended his star player this week. Once again, Clowney is listed as questionable for Saturday’s game at Arkansas with a muscle strain near his rib area. He returned to practice on Wednesday.

[+] EnlargeJames Franklin
Getty ImagesJames Franklin and Missouri can prove they're legit SEC contenders with a win at Georgia on Saturday.
2. Health concerns at UGA: The Bulldogs survived a scare in Knoxville last weekend, but they didn’t come out unscathed. They lost both running back Keith Marshall and wide receiver Justin Scott-Wesley to season-ending injuries while fellow wide receiver Michael Bennett will miss an extended period of time with a knee injury. Georgia will have to bounce back quickly with No. 25 Missouri coming to town on Saturday.

3. Mizzou a legitimate contender? It’s safe to say nobody had Missouri as one of the two unbeaten teams in the SEC heading into Week 7. But after an impressive road win at Vanderbilt, the Tigers are 5-0 and finally starting to gain some respect around the league. The next three weeks will be telling, though, as they play Georgia, Florida and South Carolina.

4. LSU’s WRs versus Florida’s CBs: It’s a dream matchup for NFL scouts. LSU features what many consider to be the top wide receiver tandem in college football with Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry. However, Florida’s Loucheiz Purifoy is arguably the top cornerback in the SEC, and playing opposite of him is freshman Vernon Hargreaves III, who already has three interceptions. The Gators are also expecting the return of corner Marcus Roberson, another one who could soon be playing on Sundays.

5. Tyler Murphy in Death Valley: Since replacing the injured Jeff Driskel at quarterback, Murphy has exceeded expectations for the Gators. In three games, he has thrown for 530 yards with five touchdowns and just one interception, and he’s progressively gotten better. However, the junior signal-caller is in for his toughest assignment yet when Florida travels to LSU this weekend. How will he perform in a hostile atmosphere?

6. The return of Cooper: When will we see the real Amari Cooper, the one who had 1,000 yards receiving as a freshman for Alabama? The star wide receiver has been slowed by nagging injuries all season, but he expects to play Saturday against Kentucky. Will he be 100 percent? Quarterback AJ McCarron would love to have him back sooner rather than later.

7. Aggies without Ennis: As if Texas A&M’s rush defense wasn’t bad enough, the Aggies lost Kirby Ennis, one of their top interior linemen, for the season with a torn ACL. The injury comes at a bad time for the Aggies, who have to visit Ole Miss this weekend and deal with Rebels running back Jeff Scott, not to mention quarterback Bo Wallace. The staff will turn to freshman Isaiah Golden, who is expected to start alongside Alonzo Williams in the middle.

8. Shootout in Oxford: The SEC has featured its fair share of shootouts early in the college football season, and Saturday’s game between Ole Miss and Texas A&M could be right up there. Both teams feature an up-tempo offense, and neither one likes to waste much time between plays. It could be a long day for both defenses.

9. Big game for Bielema: After a 3-0 start, Arkansas has quickly fallen back to .500 with three consecutive losses. However, first-year coach Brett Bielema has a chance to notch his first signature victory with the Razorbacks this Saturday when they host No. 14 South Carolina. The Gamecocks have struggled in recent weeks and could be prime for an upset. It’s likely a must-win scenario for Arkansas if the Hogs want to reach a bowl game.

10. Auburn’s quarterback: Who will start for the Tigers against Western Carolina? Starter Nick Marshall injured his knee last weekend against Ole Miss, and although he’s expected to play, coach Gus Malzahn hasn’t made a ruling one way or the other. If Marshall can’t go, Auburn will either turn to returning starter Jonathan Wallace or true freshman Jeremy Johnson.

SEC Friday mailbag: Week 4

September, 20, 2013
9/20/13
4:30
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From Jospeh Bowker (@Joe_Bowker10): What are the chances that a one-loss SEC champion gets into the national championship game this year?

It all depends on the rest of college football. There will be plenty of possible candidates -- Georgia, South Carolina, Texas A&M, the loser of the Alabama-LSU game -- but it will be extremely difficult to surpass the likes of Clemson, Ohio State, Oregon or Stanford if any of those teams are still undefeated at the end of the season. The most likely candidate right now is Georgia, which suffered a loss in the opener. If the Bulldogs can run the table and defeat the winner of the West in the SEC title game, it would be hard to keep them out of the national championship. Still, they would need a few things to fall their way, similar to Alabama a year ago.




From Daniel Badger (@badger_daniel): Both Arkansas’ Bret Bielema and Auburn’s Gus Malzahn are 3-0. Which coach ends up having a better first year at season’s end?

Both coaches have looked impressive in their respective debuts, specifically Bielema whom many doubted coming in. But based on schedules, Malzahn will likely have a better year. Arkansas has to travel to Rutgers on Saturday, and from there the Hogs play five of their next six games against ranked opponents. The only team not in the top 25 is Auburn, which travels to Fayetteville on Nov. 2. It’s a brutal stretch for the Razorbacks, who have to finish the year in Death Valley against LSU. It wouldn’t shock me if Bielema won the head-to-head battle against Malzahn, but the Tigers finish with the better record.




From John Keahey (@jkeahey): Was it that much improvement by Alabama’s offensive line or was Texas A&M’s defensive line just that bad?

It’s too early to say, but I would lean more towards Texas A&M’s defensive line being that bad. They struggled against the likes of Rice and Sam Houston State in the first two games, and it only got worse against Alabama. Give the Tide credit. It was a hostile environment, and they overcame adverity to outscore the Aggies, but the offensive line will still need to improve before the Ole Miss game next weekend and more importantly before LSU comes to town in November. It’s not a lack of talent for Alabama. It’s more of a chemistry issue, and the more the line plays together, the better the unit will become. As for Texas A&M, we’ll know more about the defensive front when it plays at Arkansas next weekend.




From Jared Moore (@TheJaredMoore): Do you think Ole Miss can get more than eight regular season wins?

The Rebels are certainly off to a great start, but three of their next four games are against top-10 teams, and sandwiched in between is a road test at Auburn. They’d be happy to come out of that stretch with two wins. However, the second half of the schedule is much easier. They play six straight home games, including two against Idaho and Troy, and they finish the year at Mississippi State in the Egg Bowl. There’s a real possibility they win their final five games, which would put them right at eight even if they lose their next four. They’re not quite there with Alabama or LSU, but they can definitely get to eight or possibly nine wins.




From Tennessee Sports (@SportsNewsTN): What other coaches are the Texas Longhorns pursuing, perhaps in the SEC, Pac-12 or their own conference?

The two coaches most likely to get a call are Baylor’s Art Briles and TCU’s Gary Patterson. They have Texas ties and have been very successful at their respective programs. However, Briles is 57 years old, and Patterson might not be a big enough name for the Longhorns. If they strike out on Nick Saban as expected, Texas could request an interview with UA defensive coordinator Kirby Smart, Saban’s right-hand man. He doesn’t have any head coaching experience, but his name always seems to come up for big jobs. Keep an eye on Will Muschamp, too. He was orginally named the successor to Mack Brown, but that fell apart when he left for Florida. Would he leave Florida to go back to Texas?

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