LSU / Florida Preview & SEC Week 6 Picks

I don’t see a lot of value in analyzing the matchup of No. 4 LSU and No. 1 Florida. I think Florida is the better team, and though their experience to this point consists of two patsy blowouts, a big win over Kentucky and an unimpressive win over Tennessee, it’s safe to say Florida is very good.

But the Tennessee game does offer some hope for LSU. In that game (at The Swamp), Florida was held 100 yards below both their rushing and passing averages, and the Vols stayed within 10 points of the Gators. And 10 of Tennessee’s 13 points came off of Florida’s two turnovers.

Contain the run, force some turnovers, slow the game down and execute on offense and LSU has a chance, especially at home on a Saturday night. That’s a lot to ask, but it’s not outside the realm of the possible. If the weather forecast holds (rain & thunderstorms likely), LSU may gain an advantage. Florida’s run game (No. 1 in the country) relies on Jeff Demps (5’8″, 183 pounds), Chris Rainey (5’9″, 175), Emmanuel Moody (6’0″, 210) and, of course, Tim Tebow and his now-delicate head. They are a speed game, not a power game (especially if Tebow is out or not running). If the turf at Tiger Stadium is soft and wet, motion, misdirection, option runs, etc. become problematic.

And then, all of a sudden, Charles Scott (5’11″, 230) and Keiland Williams (5’11″, 229) pounding the line for 4 yards a pop doesn’t seem like such a bad deal. If we get the weather we’re expecting, I think Miles & Co. could engineer something similar to the 2007 game, where LSU held the ball for 35:52 and Jacob Hester plowed away with 23 carries for 106 yards. And the Tigers won. There’s a very real question about whether LSU can engineer such a game this year, but Scott’s 4.5-yard average isn’t looking so bad now.

An aside on the Tebow thing: I hope his head is OK and I hope he plays. And I hope if he plays, it’s because his head is OK. Should LSU win this game with Tebow out, it’s yet another excuse for ESPN (the worldwide leader in shaping sports opinions) to discount LSU. And even if Tebow plays and LSU wins, I can already see Chris Fowler wondering if the game would have been different if Tebow was 100%. But LSU can’t control any of that; it’s just the ESPN reality this year.

I’m going to stop short of making two picks – a rainy one and a not-rainy one. But I’ll count on the rain, count on execution, count on Tiger Stadium … and be a bit of a homer.

LSU 21 – 17

Elsewhere in the SEC:

No. 3 Alabama at No. 17 Ole Miss. Bama’s dominant on defense, that’s not a surprise. But with the Tide averaging 35 points a game in its non-patsy affairs (Va. Tech, Arkansas, Kentucky), Fonzie’s boys may well be the best team in the SEC. Ole Miss still only has a win over Vandy (and a loss to South Carolina) to gauge them. Maybe the Rebels are actually good, but they’ve not shown it. Have to go with the Tide here.

Bama 35 – 24

No. 19 Auburn at Arkansas. The nation’s No. 5 offense (total and scoring) in Auburn against one of the nation’s worst defenses (No. 97 total; No. 90 scoring) in Arkansas. The War Eagles don’t shine on defense (No. 53 total; No. 58 scoring), but the numbers favor them over a reasonably potent Hogs offense (No. 18 total; No. 17 scoring). Arkansas might be able to win this one in a big shootout, however. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Arkansas take this game and deflate the Auburn balloon, but the numbers don’t support it.

Auburn 52 – 45

Georgia at Tennessee. Did you know – The Vols are ranked higher in total offense, scoring offense and total defense than LSU? I think it’s pretty clear in Knoxville that this is a game that 2-3 Tennessee needs to win; so they’ve got the motivation to go along with home-field advantage. And if I understand correctly, the unsportsmanlike conduct penalty against A.J. Green last week has rendered the Bulldogs permanently incapable of ever playing football effectively again.

Vols 20 – 17

Kentucky at South Carolina. A game Spurrier really needs to win. And there’s no reason to think he won’t at home against a Kentucky team that has shown little in (albeit pretty tough) games against Florida and Alabama.

Cocks 28 – 24

Houston at Mississippi State. It’s too bad Houston lost its shine against UTEP. But this will still be a good second-level test of the Big 12 vs. the SEC. I’m with the Bulldogs here. No, really.

MSU 31 – 20

Vanderbilt at Army. Go ‘Dores!

Vandy 15 – 12

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