There are 4 different SEC-on-SEC matchups this weekend: Auburn/Mississippi, Kentucky/Mississippi State, Georgia/Florida, and the big one - Tennessee/South Carolina. Here is a quick side-by-side comparison of the various offense/defense matchups and how they've fared so far. Consider this a nice little addition to your knowledge base as you try to catch up to me in the RTT Pick'Em contest. ;-)
Kentucky vs. Mississippi State
Ok, so this one isn't in the pick'em. Still, we played MSU and we'll play Kentucky. There's obvious interest here to see how a future opponent stacks up to a past opponent. First, comparing Kentucky's offense and Mississippi State's defense:
The first thing to jump out is that Kentucky's offense is bad. Their two best outings came against Norfolk State and Arkansas, and those weren't off-the-charts impressive. Overall, the real hurt is in the passing game. Meanwhile, MSU has had decent defensive success. They slipped against Georgia Tech and LSU, but the other games look pretty good. It's not an absolutely dominant unit, but they should have a good day.
Now, MSU's offense vs. Kentucky's defense:
MSU's offense really hasn't been any better than Kentucky's. It appears like a modest upward trend is beginning until you realize that the last opponent was MTSU, which is winning more from offense than defense. Kentucky's defense, on the other hand, is all over the map. They got drilled by Florida, but we don't have Florida's offense and neither does MSU. Still, it appears that the Kentucky defense is susceptible to the run recently, which should suit MSU. MSU may have an advantage here.
Auburn vs. Mississippi
Boy, when did you ever expect to see this with both teams at 4-4? First up, Auburn's offense vs. Ole Miss's defense. And stop snickering; we Vols fans can't say much.
Well, we know how bad the Auburn offense is. Even with a coordinator change (the red line) there hasn't been a noticeable improvement. Meanwhile, Ole Miss's defense hasn't been much to write home about either. Still, they have at least shown the ability to do their job, which is more than Auburn's offense can boast. When this matchup is on the screen, hide your children's eyes and expect an Ole Miss advantage.
Hey, look! An Ole Miss offense! This offense has made Nutt's new team fun to watch, and the sudden potency of this unit couldn't come at a better time. Auburn's defense is escalating a frightening hill in the trend department, with an utterly atrocious outing vs. West Virginia. Don't expect that trend to continue, but don't expect the defense to become the unit you've grown used to seeing over the last few years. This is an Ole Miss advantage, especially with Michael Lewis's favorite left tackle getting ready for the NFL draft. Hotty totty.
Georgia vs. Florida
The Georgia offense has been lights-out, while the Florida defense has been doing a rather good job recently. Florida's defense is prone to a lackluster game against either the run or the pass, but usually not both. Unless the Florida D puts it all together for a change, expect Georgia to find room for either Moreno or Stafford. But probably not both.
Florida's offense has always had a good running game, but the passing game is finally getting on track. Yikes. (Yes, that's over 12 yards per pass attempt against Kentucky.) Georgia's defense, on the other hand, has been sporadic. They do not have a particularly good pass defense, as even Stephens had decent numbers against them when everybody knew the running game was dead. Recently, the run defense has been vulnerable, which is probably a function of season fatigue and injuries. Does the Bulldog D have enough energy to contain the Gator offense?
Probably not. This looks to favor the Gators, as usual.
TENNESSEE!!!! vs. South Carolina
The main event of the evening!
Yeah, so this one isn't much fun. Tennessee's offense is what it is. Moving along.
South Carolina sports a very successful defense. If the passing trend holds, their pass defense should stiffen up this weekend and be very stingy. (For whatever that trend read is worth, which is not much.) Only Wofford (!!) has manages over 4 yards per ruch against South Carolina, so don't expect much from UT's running game. The big thing here is that Stephens has yet to throw an INT. That has to continue.
Interesting here. South Carolina's running game is getting steadily worse while the passing game is getting steadily better. Normally this would appear to be a wash, but UT has made a living of slaying pass-only offenses with interceptions. So long as Spurrier doesn't figure out that the tight end seam pass works against Chavis, we should be ok here.
Meanwhile, UT's defense has always followed up their lesser performances (Florida, Georgia) with much stingier efforts. If that holds true, UT's defense should really put the clamps down on SC's offense to the tune of about 3 yards/rush and 5 yards/pass attempt.
I'm beginning to get the feeling this game will come down to turnovers. If Stephens goes yet one more game INT-free, UT has a great shot. If Berry & Co. get into a contest to see who can get the most pick-sixes, we'll be having a good time.
Either way, call this a "purist's game", where defenses rule and a final score of 6-4 is not unrealistic.