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Around the SEC, Week 5: Unmuddy The Picture

Okay, so I'm out to lunch a little bit in thinking that Mississippi State is better than we are at this point in the season. To that: well, for one that's fair, but for another they're going to get a great chance to prove my faith in them right this week. (For another, er, another, I'm unsure as to what we're going to look like post-Hunter, but that's a topic for another day.) If I'm wrong, they're going to be below us next week. Is that fair?

I bring up the Bulldogs because the matchups that intrigue me the most among the SEC this week have little to do with the top-of-the-conference showdown between Alabama and Florida. It's actually the second-tier matchups that I find more fascinating. One of the struggles that I've had this year is what to do with the gigantic middle tier that begins - at this point - somewhere south of Florida and ends somewhere south of Vanderbilt. It's just kind of a semi-conglomerate mess, and since 4 of those 7 teams play each other (and a fifth plays a close matchup with Texas A&M), that should hopefully give us some idea as to what a pecking order looks like.

And yes, I know that Mississippi and Kentucky play as well. I give the Rebels credit for taking Pat Hill up on the Fresno State offer, but that doesn't mean I have to pay a lot of attention to it. As far as Kentucky goes, the line on that game has bounced from LSU -28 to LSU -30 to now LSU -29.5. I want to meet these people that are betting on Kentucky. I want to shake their hand, and then I want to take their money from them because clearly they have no use for it.

South Carolina (-9.5) v. Auburn

Since apparently I'm already talking about lines, I may as well put them in here for reference. I was somewhat heartened to see South Carolina's D actually show up for once (to be fair, the popgun offense of Vanderbilt had something to do with it) (and to be fair, you could replace South Carolina with Auburn and Vanderbilt with Florida Atlantic in this sentence). This is a tougher test for both teams, and normally I'd count on South Carolina to gack this game up - it just feels like a historic "South Carolina has expectations then blows them in spectacular fashion" game, and Auburn still has no shortage of luck to draw on, but it just doesn't quite add up. Is it just me? It's an afternoon kick, so that ...well, that shouldn't do too much either way, I don't think. Feels like no more than a touchdown game in either direction, though.

Georgia (-6.5) v. Mississippi State

Now, this line I don't get. Then again, we've already established I'm apparently driving the non-Starkville contingent of the Mississippi State bandwagon, and I don't know when I got the reins so there you go. Once again, I'm a bit torn; the emergence of Isaiah Crowell as a legitimate back is great news for the Bulldogs (well, half of them at least), but this will be a better test than whatever the heck early-season South Carolina was doing, I think. (Okay, I hope). Georgia's secondary has been plenty competent in the non-Kellen Moore division against the pass*, but this Bulldog (okay, that Bulldog ...okay, you know what I'm just not going to use mascot names) passing game probably won't challenge them. I - shockingly, I know - like Mississippi State in this one.

Also: the over/under on the number of bulldog shots in this game: 6.5.

*crowd-sourcing: can someone explain what the Georgia secondary was doing against Kellen Moore? I watched the game, but don't remember.

Texas A&M (-3.5) v. Arkansas

This game is what I need to see from Arkansas. Alabama was - well, is - a hideous matchup problem for them, and Texas A&M is probably slightly better than the Razorbacks, but not so much that it'll be completely out of sorts. Then again, A&M faced a fairly similar team in Oklahoma State last week (although the devil is in the details, and Arkansas' offense isn't really that similar to Oklahoma State and you know what they just both pass the ball a lot let's move on) and had the game in hand before fumbling it away.

I'm not that sold on Arkansas, and by the BlogPoll this line should probably be more than just homefield advantage, but something doesn't quite add up about either team. I like Texas A&M here, but I'm not sure why. On an unrelated note, I just found out that Memphis has a +4 turnover margin on the season. I bring this up because turnovers are weird, fumbles are fluky, and this game will probably turn on one.

Florida (+3.5) v. Alabama

Hey Florida! You just comfortably beat two divisional opponents, what are you going to do next! If you answered "cut your teeth on the toughest defense we've faced so far", congrats! This game, by all rights, should be an ugly, defensive battle. Both teams aim to stop the run first and second, and neither QB is good enough to counter-act that on their own (for that matter, neither team has a receiver good enough to force the game to the pass, and doesn't it hurt to see the #1 name on this list?). This game, along with Alabama-LSU and Florida-LSU, should be wildly fun for those of you who love defense and power football (hi, Brad!), but in the end, I like the master just a bit more than the padawan.

Even if Will Muschamp has no idea what that means. And if he has no idea what that means, please don't tell him.