October 22, 2009

Weekend breakdown of the SEC

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THE SCHEDULE
Arkansas at Ole Miss, 12:20 p.m.
Tennessee at Alabama, 3:30 p.m.
Louisiana-Monroe at Kentucky, 7 p.m.
Vanderbilt at South Carolina, 7 p.m.
Auburn at LSU, 7:30 p.m.
Florida at Mississippi State, 7:30 p.m.
LSU coach Les Miles has bemoaned the lack of production from running back Charles Scott. If Miles and his staff watched recent film of this week's opponent, this could be the week Scott breaks out.

"We're trying to get Scott's numbers up," Miles said on the SEC's weekly teleconference. "There's a concerted effort here to run the football more."

LSU plays host to Auburn in a key SEC West contest, and Miles' Tigers figure to rely heavily on the run for a couple of reasons. Foremost is that Auburn hasn't been able to stop it, allowing 181.4 yards per game, which is 11th in the SEC and 99th nationally; second is that LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson remains an inconsistent passer.

LSU, which was off last week, comes in at 5-1 overall and 3-1 in the SEC; the Tigers are one of two SEC West teams - the other is Alabama - to control its own destiny in the division race. Auburn started 5-0 but has lost its past two, both to conference opponents. The Tigers need a lot of things to happen to get back into division contention, but a second-place finish is a possibility - as long as they win in Baton Rouge.

Film of Auburn's loss last week to Kentucky surely made LSU coaches smile. Kentucky threw for just 75 yards, but ran for 282, wearing down Auburn's defense in the process. UK won 21-14, thanks to 75- and 68-yard touchdown drives in the fourth quarter.

"We've got to finish the football game," defensive coordinator Ted Roof said afterward. "We're going back to work to make sure that happens and find a way to get that done. We played very well for three quarters, and then about the 11-minute mark in the fourth quarter, there was an epidemic of missed tackles. We missed too many tackles in the fourth quarter."

Auburn's offense didn't help. The Tigers are coming off their worst offensive performance of the season, as they managed just 315 yards against Kentucky. Auburn has scored a combined 37 points in its past two games; it scored at least 37 in each of its first four. The passing attack is struggling. Quarterback Chris Todd threw 11 touchdown passes in the first four games but just one in the past three.

"There's a lot of issues in there, and we really feel very strongly that we're going to get that rectified," Auburn coach Gene Chizik said. "But it has been off the last two weeks."

The past five games between the teams have been decided by a combined 19 points.

KEY MATCHUP: Ole Miss pass offense vs. Arkansas pass defense. Arkansas has the worst defense in the SEC, and its pass defense has been especially bad, ranking 100th nationally in allowing 253.7 yards per game. The Hogs allowed 255 to Florida last week, but that was an offshoot of crowding the line in an effort to shut down the Gators' rushing attack. That strategy worked, to an extent, as Florida ran for just 136 yards, its lowest total of the season by 57 yards. Ole Miss has struggled offensively this season, especially through the air, so if the Hogs are successful using the same strategy, it will be interesting to see whether Rebels QB Jevan Snead can come through.

PLAYER ON THE SPOT: LSU QB Jordan Jefferson. LSU is last offensively in the SEC, by a wide margin, and 112th nationally. Jefferson has thrown for 308 yards total in his past two games, with two picks and no touchdowns. In four SEC games this season, Jefferson has two TD passes and two picks. Auburn has been solid against the pass this season. There was talk that Jefferson could be benched this week, but that was shot down by LSU coach Les Miles. But Miles did say coaches expected to use true freshman QB Russell Shepard in the Tigers' version of the "Wildcat," presumably in an effort to get the offense jump-started.

NUMBERS GAME: Florida has won nine consecutive SEC road games, the longest current streak in the league.

WHAT THEY'RE SAYING:

"Well, I think one poll got it right. If you watch football and pay attention, I don't think there's any doubt who the No. 1 team is." - Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin, responding to a question about Alabama - his opponent this week - jumping Florida to No. 1 in The Associated Press Top 25

"I did not catch any of it. But whether I saw or didn't see it, I'd say she did fantastic. You can write that everywhere and show it everywhere, and maybe it will help me out in getting my little bowl of cereal with yogurt every night." - Alabama coach Nick Saban, on his wife's performance as the TV co-host for the Tide's homecoming parade last week

"Well, what we didn't want to do is have the young guy take the first snap - so he took the second. That was brilliant strategy, I might add." - Kentucky coach Rich Brooks, having some fun with the media when he was asked about how the coaching staff handled true freshman QB Morgan Newton last week

"I think it will be much less [emotional] than what it was last year; it was very big going back for the first time. I think it will be much more about football and much more about the players. That is the way it should be." - Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt, on Saturday's game against Arkansas, his former employer

"I think it's pretty obvious what our job is for this week: We have to pick ourselves up off the turf and get back to work and see if we can improve as a football team. ... We need to worry about Vanderbilt and not South Carolina, and see if we can make the Commodores a little better this week." - Vanderbilt coach Bobby Johnson

Etc.: The SEC has suspended the officiating crew that worked last Saturday's Arkansas-Florida game, the league announced Wednesday. The crew will be removed from its next scheduled assignment, which was to be Oct. 31, and will return Nov. 14. Earlier in the week, the SEC office said there was no video evidence to support the personal foul call on Arkansas DT Malcolm Sheppard in the fourth quarter of the Razorbacks' 23-20 loss. The penalty gave the Gators the ball on Arkansas' 10, and RB Jeff Demps scored on the next play. The same group of officials worked the Georgia-LSU game, which included a late unsportsmanlike conduct penalty the league said shouldn't have been called. ... Alabama has denied a request by Tennessee to wear its orange jerseys Saturday in Tuscaloosa. A new NCAA rule permits visitors to wear jerseys other than the traditional visiting-team whites, but the home team must approve. The visitors still can wear colored jerseys, but they would be penalized 15 yards following the kickoff of each half for doing so without permission. ... South Carolina WR Moe Brown suffered what Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier called a "severe concussion" in last week's loss to Alabama, and coaches hope he can return for the Oct. 31 game at Tennessee. ... Florida QB Tim Tebow threw a TD pass in last week's win over Arkansas, making him the SEC career leader in "touchdown responsibility" with 123 (75 passing, 48 rushing). The former record-holder was Florida's Danny Wuerffel (1993-96). ... LSU plays host to Auburn on Saturday night; LSU has not lost consecutive night games at home since 1999. ... It appears as if Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo will remain on the sideline for the rest of the season. Bobo had called plays from the press box before moving to the sideline for last week's victory at Vanderbilt. Meanwhile, Georgia RB Caleb King remains on a liquid diet after breaking his jaw earlier this month. He missed just one game. ... Alabama CB Marquis Johnson was credited with six pass breakups last week against South Carolina, tying a school single-game record set by John Mangum in 1989. ... Auburn scored just 14 points last week against Kentucky, with one TD coming on a blocked kick that was returned for a touchdown. It was the lowest output for a Gus Malzahn-coached offense since 2007, when Tulsa was held to 21 points by Oklahoma. ... Alabama's Mark Ingram rushed for 246 yards in last week's win over South Carolina, the highest rushing total in Bryant-Denny Stadium history. ... SEC teams have scored 245 offensive touchdowns and kicked 114 field goals this season. That means 31.8 percent of all offensive scores have come on field goals; that's the highest percentage since 1992, when it was at 35.3 percent. ... Former Georgia safety Terreal Bierria (1999-2001) has been arrested for murder in Slidell, La. Bierria, 30, played two seasons in the NFL with the Seattle Seahawks.

Mike Huguenin is the college sports editor for Rivals.com. He can be reached at mhuguenin@rivals.com.




 

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