Well, here we are again with another pivotal weekend in the SEC East upon us, as four teams look to take the next step in their respective seasons. The games in Athens, Knoxville and Baton Rouge could end up deciding how the rest of the 2021 season plays out.
Florida must take advantage of the wounded Tigers
It’s definitely not a secret anymore about the situation LSU finds themselves in, especially at head coach. Everything we’ve seen over the course of the 2021 season from the Tigers suggests that we may see a change of leadership soon. The Tigers still look like a lifeless football team, which is filled with injured players and defeated morale.
Now the Gators travel to Baton Rouge this Saturday, and they are looking to add another loss to the already wounded Tigers. Can Florida play up to their potential and not let LSU hang around in the fourth quarter? This is the question that Gator fans are asking themselves. Florida is a 11.5 point favorite, according to FanDuel.
If Dan Mullen can have his offense clicking on all cylinders, then this game shouldn’t be much of a problem for his team. But that will depend on how well they use Emory Jones and the rushing attack. We’ve seen them have success against teams like Alabama and Tennessee, and we’ve seen them flounder, as they did against Kentucky. The key for Florida will be to limit the Tigers’ run game, which has struggled the last few weeks.
At the moment, I don’t trust the LSU coaching staff to put together a game plan to stop Florida from rushing the football. They’ll have to prove it on Saturday. I expect Florida to win this football game, but they cannot give LSU any kind of hope, especially late in the game.
Can Kentucky live up to the hype?
It’s hard not to hear the noise coming out of Lexington about the Wildcats football team. To be honest, it’s very much deserved, especially now that they’ve beaten both Florida and LSU. The play of Chris Rodriguez, Will Levis and Wan’Dale Robinson hasn’t gone unnoticed, and the defensive output has made life a lot easier for the Wildcats, who sit 6-0 on the season.
The Wildcats also rushed for 330 yards against LSU this past Saturday, which should give their offensive line even more confidence. But, now they will face their toughest opponent of the season and the best defense in college football. So, if Kentucky is going to upset Georgia on Saturday, they’ll have to get creative. Georgia is a 23.5 point favorite, according to FanDuel.
The Dawgs will put pressure on Will Levis from the first snap, as they want to contain him in the pocket and take away his scrambling ability. This is the one area in which the Wildcats could have success moving the football, so how they offset the Dawgs’ defensive scheme will be something to watch. Kentucky cannot just rely on Chris Rodriguez to get them out of a jam on 2nd or 3rd down. They’ll have to throw different looks at Georgia. If that means getting the ball to Robinson in the flat or trying to take advantage of a double-team down the field, then Kentucky must try it.
This isn’t the time for the Wildcats to try and stand firm with their previous strategies, mostly because they are playing a defense that won’t give up the easy yards they’ve been accustomed to. I want to see the Wildcats get creative in their blitz packages against the Georgia QB — whoever it is — and put pressure on him to make the splash plays. Anything can happen in college football, but for Kentucky to win Saturday, they’ll need to think out of the box.
Can Tennessee actually pull off the upset?
Over the past month, we’ve seen the Tennessee offense take gigantic steps when it comes to production and points scored. A lot of this has to due with the emergence of Hendon Hooker at quarterback and his ability to play at the tempo that Josh Heupel wants.
The Vols dominated both Missouri and South Carolina, thanks in part to the powerful rushing attack, which gave Hooker the opportunity to make plays down the field. If you noticed during the first few weeks of the season, the Vols struggled to maintain consistency, due to overthrown balls and missed reads. Now that Hendon has had the opportunity to build up a cohesiveness with his receivers, you’re seeing a more consistent downfield attack.
We’ve also seen the defense play well, despite a lack of depth at certain positions. This has all bundled up into a progressive attack from the team on both sides of the ball.
Now, the test on Saturday will be a bit different, as the Ole Miss offense seems to score at will. Lane Kiffin has put together an offense that causes teams problems outside the pocket and forces them to put a spy on QB Matt Corral. It won’t be an easy task for the Vols’ defense, but if they can force the Rebels into a few 4th downs early on, then the offense can try to build off their mistakes. Tennessee must put Corral in uncomfortable situations and try to force a few turnovers, but that won’t be easy, as the Ole Miss QB has done a great job of protecting the football this season.
The way the Vols win this game on Saturday is by getting out to a fast start and making Ole Miss play from behind. After watching the Rebels’ defense against Arkansas, I know that there are holes that Tennessee can take advantage of. This will most likely turn into a shootout, with Heupel and Kiffin trying to out-scheme each other, which will be fun to watch.
I think the Vols can win this football game, but they will have to play with the same mindset on offense that has gotten fans so excited. Neyland Stadium will be rocking, the Vols should be juiced, and they have the opportunity to make a statement. Everything is coming together for a Tennessee upset, but can this team take advantage of the circumstances?