Going into the preseason a lot of SEC teams start out with high aspirations for how they will perform during the football season. In most years as the dust begins to settle and the smoke begins to clear there will be two or three or four teams up there in the elite class making a run to win the league championship. We are getting to that time of the year in the SEC where the dust will soon be settling.
This week’s schedule features a couple of important SEC games for teams trying to not fall by the wayside. One of those is LSU, which is 6-1 overall and 2-1 in the SEC as it heads to College Station to take on a Texas A&M team that has just one loss and a very potent offense. LSU should be able to run the ball on the Aggies, but that quarterback at Texas A&M is good enough to give anybody fits.
After seeing LSU when they visited Auburn, I had questions about that team’s potential to win the SEC West because of the play at quarterback. I still don’t think LSU has a great quarterback, but Zach Mettenberger did play better at home against South Carolina last week.
I also didn’t think LSU’s offensive line was as good as it needs to be to make a run at a championship, but they have shuffled it around and did a solid job against a good South Carolina defensive front. I thought that offensive line did a very good job of controlling Clowney, South Carolina's defensive end who can cause a lot of problems.
LSU has a lot of talent on defense and that group is playing well, but seeing them in person I had questions about the offense. I think the team has gotten a boost from its freshman tailback, Jeremy Hill, who looks to be every bit as talented as those two freshmen tailbacks at Georgia. When LSU played at Auburn, we had LSU fans staying at our lodge and they told me that Hill was the best running back on the team. I was skeptical at the time, but what I saw of him vs. South Carolina makes me a believer.
Saturday’s SEC West game vs. LSU and Texas A&M should be a major test for LSU, which can’t afford another loss in the league if it wants to return to the championship game this year.
LSU’s loss came to Florida, which is making a push to represent the SEC East in the league championship game. Georgia and South Carolina were the teams I expected to compete for that spot, and one of those could very well be playing in Atlanta, but Florida will have a major say in who represents that division.
With South Carolina losing at LSU, Florida has emerged as perhaps the favorite in the SEC East. As the season progresses the Gators are certainly playing better than a lot of folks were expecting. With that happening it looks like the top teams in the SEC East may be stronger than in recent years when the power has been in the West.
One of the biggest SEC games of the year is set for this weekend in Gainesville where Florida will play South Carolina. With the way the Gators are performing, plus having homefield advantage, I won’t be surprised if they win to stay unbeaten. If South Carolina comes out on top that would put the Gamecocks, Gators and Georgia at one loss apiece in the conference and it will make more for an interesting finish with little margin for error for the contenders.
Of the other four teams in the division, only Vanderbilt, Auburn’s opponent this week, has won an SEC game. The Tigers are going to have to play better this Saturday than they did in Oxford to keep the Commodores from earning another league win.
Looking at the Tigers, they are still struggling to find an identity as they start the second half of their season, something I believe the players and coaches are trying to do something about. Auburn's lack of success is frustrating to the fans, coaches and players. I have thought about it a lot and from my 40 years in the game I believe it is very important for this team not to dwell on what happened the first six weeks of the season. If they do that they will be wasting energy and focus, and they need all of that they can find as they work to be an improved football team in their next six games.
(If you have a question or a subject you would like me to write about in future columns, you can email it to PatDye@autigers.com.)
Editor’s Note: This is part of a series of columns that College Football Hall of Fame member Pat Dye is writing for AUTigers.com about the game he played and coached. An All-American player at Georgia and one of the top head coaches in SEC history at Auburn, he also served as a head coach at East Carolina and Wyoming. Dye participates in the Legends Poll, a Top 25 rating of the best teams in college football as determined by a panel of all-star former head coaches. Dye writes three columns for AUTigers.com--The Dye-Log, the Dye-Gest and Pat’s Picks.
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