Week 8 Preview: Questions Getting Answered

Week8_medium
You think Steve Spurrier has a special play ready for the Bayou Bengals when they come to Columbia this weekend? My guess, after last year's game, is yes. After all, Les Miles not only embarrassed Spurrier by outsmarting him, he sparked even more questions about whether the Ol' Ball Coach has lost his fastball.

The psychology of these teams coming into this game is fascinating. LSU comes in after suffering its worst defeat under Miles and without much to hang its oversized hat on. A supposedly quality win against Auburn is losing value more quickly than anything not being bailed out by the federal government; everything else on LSU's slate is weak.

South Carolina, meanwhile, is on the upswing. The loss at Vanderbilt seems far better than it did when it happened, and the Gamecocks finally found an offense in back-to-back road wins against Mississippi and Kentucky. So far, at least, Stephen Garcia looks like the solution at quarterback and could help jump-start the lethargic running game.

LSU's offense looks to be built on a house of cards that came tumbling down in Gainesville, where there defense also got torched. South Carolina's defense might be better -- but who can tell, really, until they also play the Gators? Playing a hunch: The Gamecocks stun the Bengals.

South Carolina 13, LSU 10

CAN WE GET BACK TO WHERE WE USED TO BE?
No. 24 Vanderbilt at No. 9 Georgia, 12:30 p.m. ET

Vanderbilt's history of playing even the best SEC teams close has finally begun to catch up to the big boys. Georgia lost this game, at home, in 2006 and nearly lost it in Nashville last year. (South Carolina, of course, now sports back-to-back losses to the Dores, and Vanderbilt fought Florida to the wire in 2005.)

Meanwhile, these teams both seem to have the same question hanging over them: Yeah, but are they really that good? Georgia is still dealing with the air of collapse that accompanied their loss to Alabama; Vanderbilt is still dealing with the air of, well, being Vanderbilt.

That the Commodores look more and more like they built their success on smoke and mirrors and a win over a truly awful Auburn team doesn't help matters. Simply put, Vanderbilt has moderate success on the ground and otherwise has been unable to move the ball. It's not clear to me that elevating Mackenzi Adams is the answer, though it probably can't hurt.

Georgia's only weak spot on defense is pass defense; the Dawgs have stopped the run all year long. And they have more than enough offense to put this one away early. The Dores have to wait another week for that elusive sixth win.

Georgia 34, Vanderbilt 13

RETURN TO GLORY?
Mississippi vs. No. 2 Alabama, 3:30 p.m. ET

Alabama returns from a bye week that apparently (and inanely) cost the Tide a chance to be No. 1. With Texas now facing three straight ranked teams and Alabama playing perhaps the easiest three-week stretch on its schedule, the Tide could get another opportunity if they just take care of business.

Ole Miss is the first part of that business. The Rebels are also coming off a bye week following a heartbreaking 31-24 home loss to South Carolina. Mississippi appears to be just what its 3-3 record would suggest: a middling SEC team. The offense is strong, but the defense is disappointing.

Expect the Mississippi defense's 112.67 ypg rushing average to balloon after the Rebels face Glen Coffee and Mark Ingram; as usual, the Tide will ask John Parker Wilson to do some, but not too much. Jevan Snead and the Ole Miss offense might have some success early, but Alabama should be able to contain Jevan Snead, the Wild Rebel and anything else Nutt throws at the Tide.

Alabama 28, Ole Miss 10

WELCOME BACK TO KENTUCKY
Arkansas vs. Kentucky, 7 p.m. ET

It's worth noting that this will likely be the first time that Bobby Petrino will be an underdog against Kentucky. Despite the Hogs' win over Auburn, no one really believes in Arkansas -- your humble correspondent included.

While Arkansas' offense can be combustible, their defense is terrible, especially against the run -- and Kentucky would like nothing better than to rely on the running game and take the game off of Mike Hartline's shoulders. But can they? Kentucky is 80th in the country rushing, though they're also 90th in passing yardage.

The Wildcats' defense will be the key to this game. If they can lock down on the Arkansas offense, or at least keep it from scoring often, Kentucky should produce just enough offense to win.

Kentucky 20, Arkansas 17

IF A GAME IS PLAYED, AND NO ONE'S THERE TO WATCH IT ...
Mississippi State at Tennessee, 7 p.m. ET

Avert your eyes! This is going to be an ugly, ugly game. The Bulldogs rank no better than 91st in any major offensive category; the Vols' high-water mark is 89th. If these two teams surpass 400 combined yards of offense, it will be a minor miracle.

The game is in Knoxville, giving an edge to Tennessee. I hate relying on home-field advantage, but these teams are really indistinguisable, except that Mississippi State defeated Vanderbilt, and I'll be shocked if Tennessee can pull that off. Here's a statistically sound reason: Both these teams should rely on the run (yes, Mr. Clawson, that means you), and the Vols are much better defending the run (20th nationally, 100.2 ypg) than are the Bulldogs (76th, 156.17).

Tennessee 6, Mississippi State 3

BYE WEEKS
Auburn, Florida

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