Arkansas’ first road matchup of the year Saturday against Mississippi State is going to be a matter of which offense can score more points.
It’s not complicated.
The Bulldogs don’t have the defense Georgia did last week. As a team, their talent is actually about the equivalent of the Razorbacks … and a lot of people don’t buy that, but it’s true.
The Hogs’ shortcomings the past three seasons has been the players in Fayetteville haven’t been coached as well as the ones in Starkville. Coaching matters and I’m not talking about X’s and O’s, but developing the Jimmy’s and Joe’s which is what wins games.
Most of the last two coaching staffs at Arkansas couldn’t motivate a frog to jump into a clean pond on a summer day.
That’s why there’s an 8-28 record over the last three seasons and 1-23 in the SEC.
It has reduced the fan base to searching for little clues that offer a glimmer of hope, followed by paralysis by analysis.
Just winning should be the minimum standard. You can debate the details later, but until the Hogs figure out how to finish a game with more points than the other team all that other detailed analysis is a waste of time.
Arkansas at Mississippi State (-17)
The problem against Mississippi State is what the Razorbacks face isn’t complicated. Mike Leach is going to have quarterback K.J. Costello flinging the ball down the field until the Hogs show they can stop it.
Of course then Barry Odom will have to figure out how to keep Kylin Hill from running wild through the defense.
But none of that is the really burning question.
Offensive coordinator Kendal Briles has to keep up because Mississippi State will be putting points on the board in bunches. The Hogs have to figure out how to stop the offense looking like first-graders playing a game of musical chairs.
The old axiom is the most improvement a team makes during a season is between the first and second games. Sam Pittman and the players are confident this week they have made progress.
Of course the wildcard in all this is whether Mississippi State can put together a game like they played against LSU for a second straight week.
That’s where any doubt that I have comes into play. One thing about Leach-coached teams is they are wildly unpredictable and that can be good or really bad.
It will not be surprising to see this game come down to who gets the ball for the last drive of the game … if Arkansas’ offense shows up.
Oh, and the guess here is taking the over of 69 on this game is a dead-solid lock.
Mississippi State 42, Arkansas 38
Peter Morgan got a break last week when I went for the South Carolina upset over Tennessee and, of course, the Gamecocks promptly blew an early lead and ended up fumbling away any shot at the end.
Peter is 6-1 after the first week and I’m stumbling around at 5-2 (we both didn’t see Mississippi State’s win over LSU).
This week I’m making my picks first so Peter, of course, has the option of trying to “run out the clock” by mirroring my picks … let’s see what he does.
South Carolina at Florida (-17)
There won’t be a problem with the Gamecocks throwing me a curve this week because they won’t be picked. Florida was my pick in the preseason poll to win the SEC East (as they have been every season since 1992). The Gators are good. Feleipe Franks is at Arkansas because Kyle Trask took advantage of his opportunity when Franks was injured.
Florida 41, South Carolina 10
Missouri at Tennessee (-12)
Sorry, but I’m still not a believer the Vols are really that good. They didn’t exactly run South Carolina of the stadium. Having said that, though, they are good enough to handle Missouri who couldn’t do a thing until Alabama started pouring in backups in the middle of the third quarter last week.
Tennessee 35, Missouri 10
Texas A&M at Alabama (-18)
The Aggies were the most over-rated team in the country and their struggle win over Vanderbilt only confirmed my suspicions. They didn’t give Jimbo Fisher a $75 million contract to struggle against bottom-feeders. He got that over-priced deal to beat the Crimson Tide and he might … but not this week.
Alabama 38, Texas A&M 10
Ole Miss at Kentucky (-6)
Maybe the most intriguing game on the schedule. The Rebels managed to move the ball against Florida last week while the Wildcats got a bad call from officials in a narrow loss on the road against Auburn. This one could likely be a track meet, but I’ll take Ole Miss on the road in a slight upset.
Ole Miss 35, Kentucky 31
Auburn at Georgia (-7.5)
Nobody really knows who’s calling the plays at Auburn, but the guess is Chad Morris wasn’t brought in for a struggle win at home against Kentucky … taking advantage of an official’s call to do it. The only reason the line is this close is that Georgia didn’t look particularly strong in a 27-point win over Arkansas after trailing 7-5 at halftime. That will probably change this week in the Oldest Rivalry in the South.
Georgia 41, Auburn 17
LSU (-21) at Vanderbilt
If this one is close, the Tigers may slip back into town. After losing a ton of players following a national championship season, expecting LSU to not slow up a step or two probably wasn’t realistic. They aren’t Alabama in stacking the roster … yet. But the guess is they will likely take it out on the Commodores, who seem to be dropping back a little every year under Derek Mason.
LSU 38, Vanderbilt 10