Category: Georgia

Week 3: SEC Previews and Predictions

Florida (-5) vs Texas A&M

Headed into this week’s matchup between the Aggies and the Gators, it seems like a tale of two teams headed in very different directions. Florida must remain focused because the Aggies still have a ton of talent. Florida’s offense does look the part, but for all the offensive fireworks, they only outgained Ole Miss and South Carolina 989 to 942 yards.

I said last week, and I still remain skeptical that the Gators offense will continue to operate with this efficiency as the competition gets tougher. Kyle Trask has been great statistically this season, but there are still some areas of concern. PFF notes, “Of his 21 completions, 18 were to a receiver with more than a couple of steps of separation from the defender. On throws to receivers who weren’t charted as “open” by our graders, Trask went 3-of-10 for 66 yards and one interception.” In other words, he still has some cleaning up to do.

That might not be an issue this week if the Aggies defense does not play much better in the secondary than they did last week against Alabama. Florida does not go over the top as much as Mac Jones and the Tide, but they have to do a better job of pressuring the QB.

On offense, the Aggies need to give the Gators an early and often dose of running back duo Isaiah Spiller and Ainias Smith. Coach Jimbo Fisher has only had them carry the ball 34 total times in their first two-game. Despite limited carries, they totaled 222 yards for a 6.5 YPC average. Alabama limited the duo, but the Gators are not Alabama on defense.

Score Prediction Florida 38 Texas A&M 28

 

LSU (-14) vs Missouri

LSU secured a bounce-back win last week against Vanderbilt who looked improved in week one against Texas A&M. Derek Stingley Jr. returned to the lineup after missing the opener against Mississippi State and the results were instant.

The Missouri offense, on the other hand, has looked anemic in the first two weeks as they scored just 31 points in losses to the Crimson Tide and Volunteers. After rotating quarterbacks Shawn Robinson and Connor Bazelak the first two weeks, Coach Eli Drinkwitz has decided to start Bazelak after he went a respectable 13-of-21 for 218 yards against Tennessee.

At this point in the season, no one is going to confuse the 2020 LSU offense for the 2019 version. However, they are averaging 37.5 PPG and startting to find their identity. Quarterback Myles Brennan has thrown over 300 yards in each of his first two starts and the three headed monster at running back is getting healthy.

Missouri is slowly finding some weapons but three straight weeks of top 25 teams is going to take a toll.

Score Prediction: LSU 41 Missouri 17

 

South Carolina (-13) vs Vanderbilt

After a solid performance in week one by the Commodores they got throttled last week against LSU. Their offensive line is just not jelling yet and that is a bad combination when you have the first freshman quarterback to start a season opener in the SEC since 1972.

South Carolina’s offensive line has not been much better to start the season. So when you look at Collin Hill’s stats and see 502 yards and three scores, it is impressive with what he has dealt with. Vanderbilt has not shown the ability to get after the quarterback .

This game will come down to who controls the clock, and South Carolina will make a few big plays when needed.

South Carolina 27 Vanderbilt 13

 

Tennessee vs UGA (-12.5)

Jim Chaney loves balance and the ability to use multiple running backs to carry the load. The Vols are passing for 225.5 YPG and rushing for 182.5 YPG and are 5th in PPG in the SEC at 33.

The offense, however, will have their biggest test of the season with the Georgia Bulldogs defense ready to shine in another prime time game. For Tennessee to be able to win this game, they have to be able to run the football. It won’t be easy as UGA is only giving up 2.32 YPC and hasn’t let a running back rush for a TD in 678 days?

I will be surprised if the Bulldogs have much trouble limiting the Vols running game and while Chaney is the best in the business at hiding his quarterbacks flaws, he will have to let Jarrett Guarantano try to make some plays if the want to win this game.

The big question mark for the DAWGS is can Stetson Bennett keep up the level he has been playing at? For all of the talk of wide receivers not getting seperation for the Bulldogs last season, Bennet has thrown to more open receivers in attempts over 10-plus-yards than any other QB in the SEC.

If Bennett and the offense don’t turn the ball over more than twice, UGA rolls.

UGA 27 Tennessee 14

Arkansas vs Auburn (-14)

This will either be a bounce back win for Auburn or the beginning of the 2021 HC search for the Tigers. The Razorbacks shocked the world by upsetting Mississippi State in week one. However, it is time for people to realize that this Arkansas defense is the most improved unit of this young season.

The question for Auburn is will we get good Bo (Kentucky) or bad Bo (UGA). The Auburn offensive line were manhandled last week and I think Arkansas could find some success against them as well.

The Razorbacks offense has to take a step forward this week if they are going to win this game. Last week against MSU they only gained 1.7 yards per carry. Rakeem Boyd left the game with an ankle injury but has not looked like the running back we expected early in the season. FSam Pittman says he should be ready to go against Auburn but they will need to find more creative ways to get him involved.

I think Auburn gets the win but I don’t think Bo Nix will play well enough to cover the spread.

Auburn 24 Arkansas 17

Alabama (-23) vs Ole Miss

Let me start by saying that Mac Jones and John Metchie III are who I thought they were. My No. 1 breakout pick (Jones) and my No. 6 break out player (Metchie) had another big game last week. Jones has thrown the most catchable ball of anyone this season in college football according to PFF. I would like to see Najee a little more explosive this week as he is averaging 1.3 yards less per carry this season than his career average headed into the year.

As you should know by now, Ole Miss has some true playmakers on their team. Matt Corral has been exceptional the first two weeks of the season and has been lethal when targeting WR Elijah Moore. Jerrion Ealy has also been efficient when called upon.

After this game, we will know if the Alabama defense is as good as they have looked the first two weeks. They will have their work cut out for them but they will make adjustments early.

Alabama 45 Ole Miss 24

Kentucky (-3) vs Mississippi State

I am 10-4 on the season straight-up and 11-3 ATS. However, all four games that I have loss have involved Kentucky and Mississippi State – So take this prediction with a grain of salt.

With as bad as the Kentucky secondary has been and with the Air raid in town, there is plenty of reasons to believe the Wildcats will drop to 0-3.

However, I think their offensive line can help control the clock. The question is can they create turnovers. So far this season, they don’t have one.

To be honest, I am so confused by these two teams right now, I am going to flip a coin.

Kentucky 29 MSU 24

SEC Week 2: Previews and Predictions

South Carolina VS Florida (-16.5)

Kyle Trask was exceptional last week throwing for 416-yards and six-touchdowns. While I am becoming a believer, I am not ready to book his NY ticket just yet. While it is hard to criticize a 30-for-42 effort, but there is still room for improvement when you rewatch the game. Will he be able to be elite if any team can take Kyle Pitts out of the game? I think so but I am not ready to fully commit.

This week will be a slightly tougher challenge for the Gators offense. South Carolina’s defense isn’t elite, but they do have two future NFL cornerbacks in Israel Mukuamu and Jaycee Horn. It sounds like Isreal might be able to play, and Horn didn’t allow a single yard passing against Tennessee.

Florida defense was as horrific as I have seen them in my ten years of covering the SEC. They gave up over 600 yards and 35 points to the Rebels.

Mike Bobo did a respectable job with South Carolina last week and he was creative in finding ways to get the ball as he caught ten passes for 140 yards and a touchdown. Graduate transfer Colin Hill played a pretty good game throwing for a respectable 290 yards. He will need to take another step this week for South Carolina to have a shot.

Score Prediction: Florida 38 South Carolina 20

 

Missouri VS Tennessee (-12)

The Missouri Tigers are heading to Knoxville after a better than expected performance versus Alabama. Yes, they did most of their scoring against the second team, but they fought all night. Probably most impressive for the Tigers was outside linebacker Tre Williams and defensive lineman Kobie Whiteside. Both played solid all night.

They will need some help to stop this Jim Chaney offense. I have often said that Chaney is the best in the business at hiding his quarterbacks’ flaws. Jarrett Guarantano was far from perfect, but he did not make any killer mistakes as he threw for 259-yards, one touchdown, and zero interceptions. Eric Gray struggled running the football against South Carolina, but Ty Chandler covered his clack rushing for 86-yards on 13 carries.

Score Prediction: Tennessee 27 Mizzou 13

 

Texas A&M VS Alabama (-18)

While watching Mac Jones play last week, one song came to mind – I told you so by Randy Travis. Jones did just what I thought he would -dominate the game. Jaylen Waddle and DeVonta Smith were once again spectacular, and John Metchie proved he was ready to be the new No. 3. Najee once again was a bully, and the starters looked the part.

The Aggies, on the other hand, were awful on offense. Kellen Mond was the most disappointing as he looked like he regressed on passes over 10 yards as he completed just three of 11 such attempts. Isaiah Spiller was the one bright spot for the Aggies offense, rushing for 117-yards on only eight carries.

Alabama and Texas A&M both looked good on defense, but both were facing anemic offenses. We should get a better idea of where they both are after this weekend.

Score Prediction: Alabama 35 Texas A&M 13

 

Ole Miss vs Kentucky (-7)

Kentucky was very disappointing last week as the collapsed against Auburn in the second half. Ole Miss, on the other hand, gave up over 600 yards but also put up over 600 yards.

For Kentucky, it was all about mistakes from the QB position. Terry Wilson Jr. got off to a good start but was horrific in the second half. The good news is the offensive line and running backs played pretty well overall. If Wilson can shake off the cobwebs, they should be in good shape.

For Ole Miss, quarterback Matt Corral was excellent completing 22-of-31 passes for 395 yards and three touchdowns, and WR Elijah Moore caught ten passes for a career-high 227 yards.

I hope I do not regret this, but Kentucky should be able to grind the ball and control the clock.

Score Prediction: Kentucky 24 Ole Miss 21

 

Auburn vs UGA (-6.5)

In Auburn’s last five trips to the state of Georgia to play the Bulldogs, they have only averaged 7.6 PPG. Making things more interesting, this will be the best UGA defense they have faced during that time. Bo Nix and company did have moments where they looked the part last week against what should be a very good Kentucky defense.

Nix should have a ton of confidence coming into this game, not only because of how he played against Kentucky but because he will have wide receiver Seth Williams who bullied his way to six passes for 112 yards and two touchdowns. With that said, the Tigers will need to get much better in the rushing game, and Williams will need more help.

We all know how good this UGA secondary should be this season led by Richard LeCounte who has had four interceptions in his last two games. If they can keep Auburn receivers in front of them, it should be a fun game for the defense.

On offense, who knows? Despite the terrible start, I will say the play-calling looked much improved. Once Monken found his groove, he just started dialing them up. Will it be Stetson Bennett or JT Daniels? I think either is good enough to win this game, but they cannot play musical chairs with them. Auburn is not Arkansas, and this could get ugly quick if they come out slow.

Score Prediction: UGA 24 Auburn 17

 

Arkansas Vs Mississippi State (-17)

Arkansas leading Georgia in the first half had more to do with the spotty offensive line and D’Wan Mathis’ play than anything else. Outside of the second drive of the game, the Razorbacks were flat. Obviously, Mississippi State defense is not as talented as UGA’s defense, but they can still play. Rakeem Boyd was a non-factor but should have more success this game.

Also problematic for Arkansas, they will not be facing an inexperienced QB this week. In fact, last week against LSU, Bulldogs QB K.J. Costello was historically good throwing for 623 yards and five touchdowns in that 44-34 win against LSU. Mississippi State’s offense as a whole recorded 15 plays that resulted in at least a 20-yard gain. The closest to them last week was 11.

Score Prediction: MSU 35 Arkansas 20

Vanderbilt VS LSU (-21)

The Coomodores were impressive last week defensively against the Texas A&M Aggies and that was without their leading tackler from last season Dimitri Moore. Yes, Kellen Mond played bad but some of that was because of Vanderbilt. This defense should get better and beter as the season goes on.

LSU is not going to just move the ball up and down the field on this defense early. However, the lack of playmakers on offense for Vanderbilt will be problematic because the dam will eventually break and this offense will get going in the second half.

Score Prediction: LSU 30 Vandy 7

Week 1: UGA vs Arkansas Preview and Predictions

It could be argued that when Kirby Smart was hired at UGA before the 2016 season, that his most important hire was offensive line coach Sam Pittman. Fast forward to the 2020 season, and Pittman and the Arkansas Razorbacks will be hosting his former boss and team when they square off with the Bulldogs.

Both coaches will be surrounded by new faces as they both made impressive hires to their coaching staff. Since Pittman’s departure, the Bulldogs brought in Todd Monken (OC), Matt Luke (OL), and Scott Cochran (ST). The Bulldogs also added one of the top young offensive minds with the hiring of Buster Faulkner.

Pittman did a phenomenal job of bringing in a top-notch staff despite it being his first head coaching job. He is known as a great player recruiter, but he proved he could do it with coaches as well with the hiring of DC Barry Odom (Former Mizzou HC) and Kendal Briles (FSU).

Razorbacks offense vs UGA defense

Arkansas Offense

Arkansas’ new OC Briles arrives with high expectations and several playmakers. However, he is taking the least efficient offense in the SEC over the past two seasons. He will have the most explosive running back in the SEC last season in Rakeem Boyd, who was first in the SEC (2nd in FBS) in touchdowns over 50-yards. Boyd posted five on the season and no other SEC running back had more than two.

The Razorbacks will also have a new quarterback, but one UGA is very familiar with in Flordia Gators transfer Felipe Franks. It is not likely that Franks will be a Heisman candidate this season, but he is a major upgrade for the Razorbacks. In his past 15 starts, Franks has thrown for 3,155 yards and 29 touchdowns. He also posted a 12-3 record during that span. The problem is that he hasn’t been very well against UGA. In two starts, he has combined for 20-40 passing for 135 yards, one touchdown pass, and two interceptions. Florida was defeated in both games by a combined score of 78-24.

Coach Briles will try to ease some of the pressure with stud wide receiver Treylon Burks. The 6’3 and 232 lb wide receiver led the Razorbacks with 29 catches for 475 yards as a freshman. Burks is a threat in every aspect of the offense and a threat as a returner on special teams. This is why he finished second on the team in all-purpose yards with 866.

UGA Defense

This UGA defense should be one of the best in recent memory. The Bulldogs have a player at every position group who should be considered one of the most elite in FBS. The Bulldogs have 17 players returning that have started at some point, or played starter minutes.

This is from a team that only gave up 18 or more points one-time last season, and they will be even better this season. The job Defensive coordinator Dan Lanning is doing cannot be overstated.

Although Pittman will have this Arkansas line much improved, I expect the UGA defensive line to hold serve while releasing edge rushers Nolan Smith and Azeez Ojulari to disrupt the backfield.

With nine of their 10 deep rotation back at linebacker, Boyd could be running into a brick wall all day. Remember, this is the same defense who has not given up a rushing touchdown to a running back in 665 days. The last time was the second quarter of the SEC championship to Alabama running back Josh Jacobs.

Richard LeCounte III with Eric Stokes and company should have no problem limiting the Arkansas passing game as long as they don’t take any plays off against Burks.

UGA Offense vs Arkansas Defense

UGA Offense

It has been a long time since the Bulldogs have entered a season with this many question marks on the offensive side of the football. The offensive line should be deep and dominant, as well as the running backs led by Zaire White and James Cook. Expectations are high for White who is the former no. 1 running back recruit in the nation. While he only had 78 carries last season, he led the Bulldogs in missed tackles per run. If he can return to 90 percent of the player he was before his two ACL injuries, he could be the next in line for greatness at Running Back U. Watch out for Cook as well as he looks like he has added some good weight and has the skill set to be a force in the Monken system.

The biggest question of course is who will play quarterback. Expectations were high for Jamie Newman before he abruptly opted out. The general consensus was that USC transfer JT Daniels might have won the job anyway. Then a curveball out of left field that it might be D’wan Mathis who is the new QB1 despite only being a year and half removed from undergoing emergency surgery for a potentially life-threatening brain cyst.

The truth is, I have no idea who the QB is going to be. However, they only have to be serviceable in most of UGA’s games. Last season the Bulldogs won despite their offense. Against their last seven SEC opponents, the Bulldogs only averaged 19.8 PPG.

This season they will be better by play calling alone. There was no better trade in NCAA than James Coley for Monken, Luke, and Faulkner. The Bulldogs have gone from the worst play caller in the league to three of the brightest minds in the league in one room.

For the QB, the option is simple. Find a way to get the ball into George Pickens catch radius. There should be no doubting he has the best hands in the SEC are perhaps the best in all of college football. Last season, as a true freshman he had 0 drops on 49 catchable targets. That is an astonishing number. Only 49 passes were thrown to him that were deemed catchable. He caught every single one of them for 49 receptions for 727 yards, and eight touchdowns.

Arkansas Defense

New coordinator Barry Odom will turn this ship around for the Razorbacks but it is going to take time. hHe takes over a unit that ranked 110th in total defense and 122nd against the rush.

The Razorbacks leading tackler last season, linebacker De’Jon Harris (101 tackles), is now on the Green Bay Packers practice squad. Odom will have linebacker Bumper Pool (94 tackles) and safety Joe Foucha (87 tackles) back. Arkansas is hoping for a spark out of linebacker Grant Morgan (39 tackles).

Odom will have to find a way to get more pressure on the QB this season but he will have Dorian Gerald back who only playeds in one game with an artery issue in his neck. If he can return to form, and Mataio Soli take another step forward, that would be huge for the Razorbacks. Despite being a freshman, Soli started the last 11 games and finished with 19 tackles, nine solo, and two quarterback hurries

Special Teams

Not a whole lot of talk for either team headed into week one on special teams. The Bulldogs do have Jake Camarda who is an All-SEC preseason selection at punter after averaging 46.8 yards-per-punt which was good enough for sixth best in the nation.

The most pressing question for UGA is who will replace Lou Groza Award winner, and social icon, Rodrigo Blankenship who connected on 27-of-33 field goals last year.

Arkansas will likely have Duke Grad transfer AJ Reed. This past season This past season, Reed went 15-18 on field goals and 34-of-34 on extra points. They will also look to a transfer at punter as well in former Michigan Wolverine George Caratan. Although he never played in a game at Michigan, he did average 46 yards per punt at St. Thomas More School in Connecticut before joining Michigan in 2018.

Prediction

I expect Monken and the offense to show a few wrinkles to get ready for the Auburn game next week. However, I think we will see a heavy dose of the run game. Arkansas will not be able to move the ball against UGA with any consistency. As a result, I think Kirby just wants to leave Arkansas with a good win, no injuries, and without embarrassing Coach Pittman.

Score Prediction: UGA 34 Arkansas 6 (SU Confidence 10, ATS 6)
Stat Prediction: UGA rushes for 250+ yards and holds Franks under 150 yards.

SEC Breakout Player No. 5: Nolan Smith II

If you just looked at the stat sheet from last season for the former No. 1 player in the nation, it might feel a bit underwhelming. Smith did finish the season with 2.5 sacks and 18 total stops, but he did so much more. On a defense already loaded, he found a way to notch 15 quarterback hurries last season.

As good as the Dawgs were on defense last season, they struggled to get to the quarterback. The Bulldogs allowed the fewest points per game nationally (12.6) and the third-fewest yards per game (275.7). However, UGA’s pass rush was tied for 46th with just 31 sacks.

With the defensive philosophy of Coach Dan Lanning, don’t expect the Bulldogs ever to use that stat as an indicator of their defense. Coach Smart has indicated in the past that he would like to get after the quarterback a little more, but he is not likely to do so at the cost of good fundamental team defense.

In their system, you need an exceptional athlete, and Smith is that guy. I predict that he will have a minimum of 7.5 sacks and that he and Azeez Ojulari will combine for at least 15 on the season.

No. 10 Breakout Player Demetris Robertson

Demetris Robertson arrived in Athens with big expectations after he hauled in 50 receptions for 767 yards and seven touchdowns as a freshman at the University of California. However, despite showing glimpses here and there, Demetris has not lived up to those lofty expectations placed on him at UGA.

The problem wasn’t his playmaking ability but opportunities. Although he has shined at times, he is never on the field long enough to sustain the momentum. The biggest reason is that the previous OC’s put more emphasis on run blocking than playmaking. With a new offensive coordinator, look for Demetris to get the kind of playing time needed to have an explosive season. Todd Monken and his staff will find creative ways to get the ball in Robinson’s hand and I predict he will challenge the 1000 total yards mark this season.