SEC West Football: Developing Situations – Week 6

Mississippi Rebels quarterback Bo Wallace (14) is tackled by Auburn Tigers defensive end Carl Lawson (55) during the first half at Jordan Hare Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

Alabama

The absence of S HaHa Clinton-Dix certainly didn’t hurt the Crimson Tide during its 45-3 win over Georgia State. S Landon Collins started in place of Clinton-Dix, who was suspended indefinitely last week for accepting a loan from assistant strength and conditioning coach Corey Harris. Coach Nick Saban said Monday that he has no update on a timetable for Clinton-Dix’ return…

Alabama’s midseason schedule gives the top-ranked team a breather and a great opportunity to get healthy. LB Denzel Devall might be the player in most need of the light stretch. A week after playing Georgia State, the Crimson Tide travels to Kentucky – rated by Saturday Blitz as the worst team in the SEC. The following week, Alabama takes on an Arkansas team that needs a strong run game to win. Historically speaking, that has not been a recipe for success against Saban’s Alabama teams…

In all likelihood, Alabama fans caught a glimpse of the 2014 starting quarterback on Saturday. QB2 Blake Sims, the frontrunner to become the starter once senior AJ McCarron leaves, completed 14 of 18 passes for 130 yards and a TD in garbage time against the Panthers. Saban will sign the No. 3 QB prospect in the nation – David Cornwell from Norman, Okla. Imagining Saban starting a true freshman at quarterback, no matter how talented, though, requires a suspension of belief. That Sims received all of the snaps with the game well in hand rather than splitting them with another backup seems to indicate that he is unquestionably the leader to start next year.

 

Arkansas

Though Arkansas’ defense has been hit-or-miss, DE Chris Smith has lived up to potential as a difference-making pass-rush presence. Smith leads the conference in total sacks, though not sacks per game. Trey Flowers and Robert Thomas also rank in the top 10 of the conference. As a team, the Razorbacks lead the conference with 17 sacks…

Between the Razorbacks’ run game and a strong pass rush, they are the type of team capable of stealing a game against an unsuspecting opponent at home. South Carolina, Auburn and Mississippi State are all teams that could be susceptible to Arkansas’ preferred ball-control style. After the back-and-forth between Arkansas coach Bret Bielema and Auburn coach Gus Malzahn, that could be an interesting game of contrasting styles…

True freshman RB Alex Collins ranks fourth in the SEC in rushing yards. His biggest games have come against inferior non-conference opponents, but he did run for 116 yards and a TD against Texas A&M two weeks ago. Collins will be a huge factor in the SEC for years to come and RB Jonathan Williams gives Bielema a nice 1-2 punch…

QB Brandon Allen has shown promise, but finds himself enduring growing pains during his first two conference games. Five games doesn’t present enough of a sample size, but it’s worth noting going forward that Arkansas is 3-0 when he attempts fewer than 25 passes and 0-2 when he attempts more…

Arkansas ranks third in the SEC in total defense and fifth in scoring defense despite having already played arguably the best offense in the league in Texas A&M.

 

Auburn

When the casual fan sees Auburn’s 4-1 start under coach Gus Malzahn, the automatic assumption will be the Tigers have improved dramatically on offense. Truth is, Ellis Johnson’s defense has been the biggest difference. Auburn ranks third in the league in scoring defense largely because of its ability to hold opponents to field goals. Of course, the Tigers still have games against Texas A&M, Georgia and Alabama remaining…

The Tigers defensive line appears sieve-like at times – especially when facing physical, downhill running teams. However, it shows tremendous potential at times. Saturday night marked one of those times, with DEs Dee Ford, Carl Lawson and Gabe Wright disrupting the Ole Miss offense. Lawson, a true freshman, led the charge with 3.5 TFLs and 2 sacks. Auburn finished its upset of the Rebels with 13 TFLs and 6 sacks. Between Lawson and DT Montravius Adams, there’s lots of room for optimism about where Johnson’s defense is headed…

LB Casanova McKinzy is fine a couple days after getting a significant scare on Saturday night. He suffered a stinger and was carted off the field strapped to a headboard. The Tigers lack depth at the position, though LB Anthony Swain filled in nicely. Swain had 8 tackles, including a TFL…

Auburn’s lack of a balanced offense could easily come back to haunt it. The Tigers are putting more and more on the run game, rushing 48 times on Saturday compared to just 17 passes. QB Nick Marshall added another element against Ole Miss, running for 140 yards and 2 TDs. Plus RBs Tre Mason, Corey Grant and Cameron Artis-Payne have shown talent enough to carry the load. However, Auburn won’t be able to get away with such imbalance against the best teams in the conference…

The talented Auburn RBs are starting to show a troubling tendency to fumble in big spots. Mason lost a fumble inside the red-zone Saturday and Artis-Payne got stripped with Auburn trying to run clock.

 

LSU

Until LSU starts dominating the line of scrimmage defensively, this team won’t remind anyone of the program that made itself a perennial national title contender under coach Les Miles. The Tigers have plenty of talent, but defensive coordinator John Chavis is having a hard time replacing so many great players to the NFL. To that end, LSU ranks seventh in the SEC in scoring defense, eighth in rush defense and seventh in total defense. That just looks weird. DT Anthony Johnson, at least, enjoyed a strong performance Saturday at Mississippi State. He recorded 5 tackles, including 2 TFLs and a sack…

QB Zach Mettenberger continued playing at an amazingly high level, throwing for 340 yards and 2 TDs. He did, however, throw his second interception of the season. Still, that’s tolerable when the senior has 15 TDs. It would probably be nice for Mettenberger to develop some new passing targets, but when you have WRs Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham, they aren’t really necessary…

Speaking of Landry, he was seen leaving practice Monday wearing a walking boot and utilizing crutches. Miles said he expects Landry to play Saturday against Florida…

Perhaps the most impressive thing about LSU this year is its third-down success. The Tigers have converted on 58.3 of their third-down tries…

LSU’s defense allowed 216 rushing yards to Mississippi State. The Tigers have now given up 608 rushing yards in three SEC games – to Auburn, Georgia and State.

 

Mississippi State

Coach Dan Mullen needs to choose who he wants to run his offense. QBs Tyler Russell and Dak Prescott present two entirely different offensive systems, but not even a proven offensive mind like Mullen’s can balance the two in one game. Russell got the nod to start the season, so he probably deserves the first chance unless Mullen is ready to completely turn the reins over to Prescott. For the record, Prescott started and played the bulk of the game against LSU. He regressed significantly as a passer against a secondary that looked terrible a week ago against Georgia…

DL Preston Smith enjoyed easily his best game of the season against LSU, recording 7 tackles, 3 TFLs and 2 sacks. If he can get pressure on opposing quarterbacks, it can make life easier for proven DBs Nickoe Whitley (leading the SEC with 3 INTs) and Jamerson Love…

Where is RB LaDarius Perkins? He missed some time with an injury, but he has just 39 carries through five games. At least Perkins seemed to find some rhythm on Saturday, rushing for 81 yards on 10 attempts. It marked the first time in 2013 that he topped the 50-yard mark.

 

Ole Miss

There is plenty of blame to go around on the Ole Miss offense, starting with QB Bo Wallace who threw two big INTs, including a pick-six. Wallace threw for 336 yards, but completed just 25 of 48 passes. WR Donte Moncrief must get more opportunities because he has proven himself to be among the best in the league. The Rebels offensive line managed to make Auburn’s defensive line look like one of the best in the SEC, allowing 6 sacks. The line must do a better job giving Wallace time to find some talented targets. Ole Miss currently ranks as the second-most sacked team in the conference…

The biggest component missing in coach Hugh Freeze’s offense right now is a physical run game. The Rebels run a lot of read-option, which played into the strengths of Auburn’s defensive line that has struggled against downhill, hard-nosed run games. RB Jeff Scott ran for 66 yards, but only got 6 carries. Why? His 8.7 yards per carry easily rank atop the top-15 SEC backs by yardage…

The Ole Miss defense didn’t play especially poorly in its two-game stretch in Alabama. The Rebels defensive line, led by DE Robert Nkemdiche, shows talent but lacks consistency. That Auburn gained 282 yards on the ground is more a product of the Rebels being unprepared for QB Nick Marshall as a runner than being exposed.

 

Texas A&M

The Aggies enter Saturday’s game at Ole Miss as the most penalized team in the SEC. Did a week off do anything to help that? …

As poorly as Texas A&M’s defense has played this season, the Aggies still rank atop the conference in turnover margin at plus-five. That comes in part from the defense forcing 10 turnovers. CB Deshazor Everett has proven himself as one of the best in the conference.

Johnny Football and Texas A&M look to continue  racking up the points this week against Ole Miss. The Aggies are averaging just under 50 points per game for the season. The Aggies are the #9 team in the AP Top 25 and don’t have a ranked team on the schedule until they play LSU November 23rd,  a game that is going to be one of the most coveted Texas A&M football tickets of the entire season. This has caused tickets to skyrocket up 273% to an average ticket price of $465 per seat, much more than the Aggies road average of $170 per seat.

Topics: Alabama Crimson Tide, Arkansas Razorbacks, Auburn Tigers, Louisiana State Tigers, Mississippi State Bulldogs, Ole Miss Rebels, SEC, Texas A&M Aggies

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