Friday, November 2, 2007

Week 10: Big Games

The way I see it, there are three big games this week that could have a serious impact on how the SEC turns out: Vanderbilt at Florida, South Carolina at Arkansas, and of course, LSU at Alabama. Now, let's have a look at how the SEC bloggers see these games.

The Vanderbilt Tailgate has hope for the visit to the Swamp, and lists five things that Vandy has to do to be successful. According to my records, Vanderbilt has not won a game against Florida at Florida since before Kennedy was president.

Vanderbilt Sports Line and Saurian Sagacity are doing the blogswap thing. From Saurian Sagacity's post at VSL:

Vandy is a team the Gators should beat. But one thing is for sure, if Vandy wins on Saturday they will have proven that they do indeed belong in the league and that the South Carolina game wasn’t a fluke. I hate to see it, but we are starting to see some parity in the SEC, with teams like Mississippi State and Vandy that can no longer be taken for granted. Vandy, is trying to prove that it belongs with the adults and I for one am hoping the Gators can send the Commodores back to kids table.
It truly is frightening (and a revelation to the Great Powers of the SEC) that this league is more competitive this year than perhaps any time it its history. We are used to seeing Florida, Georgia, Auburn, Alabama, LSU and Tennessee run roughshod over the lower half of the league except every three or four years when one of the lower half rises up to smite the mighty. Will this be that kind of year, or is this a trend for the future?

For their part, VSL puts this post on the Saurian Sagacity blog. VSL predicts that the game will come down to special teams and turnovers:
Like last year, I predict this game will come down to two factors: special teams and turnovers. Vandy special teams have improved significantly over last year, but the kickoff and punt defenses still rank at the bottom of Division 1-A. That doesn't bode well with Brandon James taking back punts for Florida. Both teams have quality kick returners and I think DJ Moore is due to take one to the house.
If this prediction turns out to be true, the Gators will be in trouble, because it will likely mean that the Commodores have a shot at them. I'm not ready to believe in that, especially in the Swamp, but the Gators have lost one game there this year to a good defensive club.

Garnet and Black Attack has a blogswap with Razorback Expats, an Arkansas blog. Instead of swapping posts, this is just a Q&A session from both sides. I found this an interesting question from G&BA, and answer:

What are your feelings about Arkansas being in the SEC?

Actually, they're kind of mixed. I'm sure the accounting books would emphatically validate the move to the SEC. Still, there's something about being in the conference that leaves me a little cold. We've been in the SEC for 15 years, and you can't really point to any program as Arkansas' true rival. I miss how fired up I used to get for games against Texas and Texas A&M. Part of me thinks the Razorbacks would be a better fit in the Big 12, where several of their former SWC foes now reside. But that's emotion talking. Whether that would be as good financially for Arkansas, I have not the slightest idea.

It's kind of funny that Arkansas has no football rival in this league, or hasn't been able to generate one. I would've thought that LSU or Tennessee would have been a natural rivalry, but both those schools have long-established football rivalries within this league, and as we know, rivalries take many years to develop and some event has to occur to create some genuine enmity between fan bases. As far as I know, that hasn't happened with Arkansas yet.

But remember, Arkansas does have a basketball rival in the SEC -- Kentucky. That one has not been too bitter lately, as Kentucky has owned the basketball Hogs for several years. But with former UK player John Pelphrey now at the helm of the Razorbacks, we could see the old days of the early 1990's renewed.

For their part, Razorback Expats had this question, with the answer from Garnet and Black Attack:

9. You’re made czar of college football for one day: Do you put South Carolina in the SEC or the ACC?

I was born and raised in Alabama and started off as an Auburn fan. It wasn’t until I moved to South Carolina and then went to college there that I became a Gamecock — so I’ve only been familiar with the team as part of the SEC, and always loved it being that way. If it were my choice, my team would remain in the best conference in the country.

There were some fans, back when the ACC was expanding, who wanted to return. So some older fans would probably make a different choice than I would.

Its interesting that both of these schools were imports into the SEC from other conferences, and many people still remember those days, although frankly, I had mostly forgotten them. Neither South Carolina nor Arkansas have any natural football rival in the conference, nor have they been able to really develop one since expansion. You would think that Spurrier's presence would have fostered a USC-Florida rivalry, but I guess until USC starts beating Florida with a bit more regularity, that won't have a chance to grow, either.

I'll look at the LSU at Alabama game in a separate post.