The Injury Bug

By: TJ Hartnett

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

The playoffs begin this week and the Atlanta Braves await either the St. Louis Cardinals or the Milwaukee Brewers on Thursday at Suntrust Park.

Both will provide unique challenges and Atlanta shouldn’t breathe easy simply because they don’t have the Los Angeles Dodgers in the first round (it is, I will say, massively impressive how the Brewers have clinched a playoff spot and have stayed within striking distance of the NL Central title even after losing last year’s MVP Christian Yelich to injury just a few weeks ago).

It isn’t as though the Braves can rest easy knowing they’re at the height of their powers, either. The team was healthy for so much of the 2019 season, with the exception of injuries to Nick Markakis and Dansby Swanson; both of which took them out of the game for significant periods of time.

However, as I’ve pointed out before, the backups and new acquisitions stepped up and showed out in the absence of the two Atlanta lineup mainstays.

But now, at the worst possible time, the injury bug has started to bite. The Charlie Culberson hit by pitch was a freak accident, nothing really to say about that. But it took out a reliable bench player and pinch hitter that would have doubtlessly gotten huge opportunities to make a difference in October.

The other side of that same coin is Johan Camargo, who has had a fairly miserable season but showed signs of turning things around in the minor leagues, who offers the same defensive versatility as Culberson.

Camargo would have been the obvious choice to make the roster as a super utilityman in Charlie’s place, but it looks like he’s down for the count as well.

That brings us to the other two (three, sort of) injuries, all due respect to Culberson and Camargo, the minor injuries to Freddie Freeman and Ronald Acuna Jr. are more major.

Freeman was benched for a few games to heal a wrist injury from last week. He returned for the season finale series against New York, but that nagging wrist had really been doing on number on Freddie’s production at the plate. He may be playing through it, but the 3-hole hitter is playing at a disadvantage.

Of equal (maybe greater?) concern is Ronald Acuna, Jr., who hurt his hip during the two-game set against Kansas City last week and was benched for the rest of the regular season so that he could heal up.

This did, disappointingly, prevent Acuna from getting the three steals necessary for him to be the fifth player ever to go 40-40 in a season. The leadoff hitter is the dynamic sparkplug that sets the Braves off and they need him as close to 100% as possible for the playoffs.

Piggybacking off of that is something that probably didn’t seem like it would be as important a week ago as it is now. That is Ender Inciarte being ruled out for the NLDS.

Inciarte has been hurt a lot in 2019, his first stint on the IL coming after a disappointing start to the year and his second coming at an equally disappointing time: just as he seemed to have found his stroke and was hitting well.

Him not being on the DS roster doesn’t seem like it changes much, since the team played so much of the season without him, but the Acuna injury makes Ender’s inability to play hugely significant.

A healthy Ender is a multiple-time Gold Glove winner and could patrol center field while Acuna strains himself less in left but it’s not to be.

The Braves seem confident that Freeman and Acuna will be ready to roll on Thursday. Having an additional three days off can’t hurt. Atlanta has to be aware of their ongoing concerns and can’t afford to underestimate the Brewers or the Cards.

Southeast Georgia High School Week 5 Round Up

By: Jason Bishop

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Week 5 of the high school football season played out last night. Here are the games from around southeast Georgia.

Wayne County @ Appling County: Wayne County left the ranks of the unbeaten last week, going down to Glynn Academy. The Yellow Jackets will renew their rivalry with Appling.

Appling came into this game undefeated.

The Pirates dominated the first half and went into the locker room up 24-7 over the favored Yellow Jackets.

That lead would not last. Wayne County scored the 26 points and knocked Appling from the ranks of the unbeatens, 33-24.

Brunswick @ New Hampstead: Brunswick High is coming off a 48-20 loss to Camden, in a game that should have been closer, but the Pirates could not get out of their own way.

The Pirates took to the road to Pooler in hopes of getting their season back on track against the Phoenix.

New Hampstead scored on 2 turnovers in the first half and returned a kick to get up on the Pirates 19-7 early in the 3rd quarter.

The Pirates would not quit and came all the way back to take a 21-19 lead late in the 4th and would tack on later. Brunswick scored the last 22 points of the game to win 29-19.

The Pirates are now 2-3 on the season.

Calvary Day @ MCA: MCA is coming off their first win of the season, a 32-0 blowout of Jenkins County. The Buccaneers were hoping the momentum would carry over against Calvary Day at The Ship in Darien.

MCA’s defense played great, only down 7-0 at the half.

The Buccaneers kept fighting in the back and forth with Calvary Day. MCA took a 21-20 lead late in the 4th. However, Calvary Day responded to go back up 28-20. That would be the final. MCA falls to 1-3 on the season.

Berrien @ Brantley County: The last time we saw Brantley County on the field they were taking their first loss of the season from Jeff Davis, who was also undefeated at the time.

The Herons hosted Berrien looking to prove they are for real.

Berrien made it difficult for the Herons, taking a 17-7 lead into the half.

That would not last as Brantley battled back and would take down Berrien 31-24.

The Herons record improved to 3-1.

Ware County @ Glynn Academy: A huge rivalry game at Glynn County Stadium, in which Glynn Academy has owned recently. Ware County has looked underwhelming to this point and really needed this win on the road.

The Gators came out on a mission and took a 21-0 lead into the half.

The Terrors offense could never get going against the Ware defense and the Gators got a much needed win to bring their record at 3-2. The Terrors fall to 2-2. The final 35-13 in favor of Ware.

South Effingham @ Pierce County: Both South Effingham and Pierce entered into this game undefeated. South Effingham hasn’t been getting a lot respect despite their perfect record. A win at Pierce would change that.

The Mustangs held their own and went into halftime tied 7-7 with the Bears.

Pierce pulled away in the second half and gave South Effingham their first loss of the year, 42-28. The Mustangs fall to 4-1 and Pierce goes to 5-0.

Growing Wings

By: Mike Anthony

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Georgia Southern has a storied history of championship-caliber football teams. And while those types of teams usually need to be well-rounded in order to achieve status, it’s been a tradition at Georgia Southern to throw its belief and support of each season’s team in the direction that the offense has gone.

That trend isn’t without reason. Georgia Southern has built one of the strongest and most consistent offensive identities in all of college football as a team that will run an option attack right at opponents and keep running it – win or lose – until it gets results.

So, it’s a bit ironic that Georgia Southern will open up its Sun Belt Conference schedule on Saturday against a Louisiana squad that will be trying to spread the Eagles’ bread and butter onto the Paulson Stadium turf.

Sure, the Ragin’ Cajuns don’t run the triple option, but their seemingly never-ending stable of capable ball carriers have been putting up numbers over the first four weeks of play that rival some of Georgia Southern’s best showings.

Louisiana is rushing for over 300 yards per game and is currently a top-5 rushing team in the nation and leads the entire FBS with 18 rushing touchdowns over its first four games.

And the truth is, the Georgia Southern offense can’t expect to win on Saturday by beating Louisiana at its own game.

Injury questions and ongoing suspensions will continue to limit the maximum effectiveness of the Eagles’ ground game. And even with substitutes playing capably, penalties have continually killed big plays and taken points off the board for Georgia Southern further lessen the effectiveness of its offense.

While every Eagle fan – as well as the players and coaches – hope that Saturday will be a breakout game for the offense, it’s the Georgia Southern defense that could be key to notching a win and getting the Sun Belt season off to a good start.

There’s no question that stopping the ULL run game will be a challenge, but it’s also been proven that the GS defense isn’t one to give up rushing yards easily.

While each of the Eagles’ first three opponents preferred to move the ball through the air, play by the Eagles’ front seven made that their only way to consistently pick up yardage.

Georgia Southern went a long way towards getting itself back on the right track with last season’s 10-3 mark and bowl victory. But one of the common sound bytes coming out of the locker room throughout the offseason was that the team was more focused on how it finished third in its division and lost a pair of games that would have put it in position to win a Sun Belt title.

So, perhaps, it’s fitting that Saturday’s matchup will face a balance of power on opposing sides of the ball that is in stark contrast to what fans are used to seeing at Paulson Stadium.

For everything that has been gained back by the Eagles over the last 13 months, this is still an Eagle team that sits at 1-2, is expected to be a Sun Belt contender, and is an underdog that is expected to get out-rushed in its own house against a conference rival in a few days.

Maybe the GS defense will rise to the occasion and cage up the Cajuns. Maybe the offense will awake and prove that it is still a gold standard for rushing attacks. Hopefully both will happen at the same time.

But regardless of how things eventually play out, the current state of affairs holds true.

Georgia Southern is a team with a lot of promise on both sides of the ball that hasn’t shown its best in either aspect so far.

If the Eagles want to be the Sun Belt contenders they believe themselves to be, both of those units need to start living up to their potential sooner rather than later.

The Trask Train

By: Robert Craft

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

“What if I told you a quarterback that hasn’t started a game since ninth grade would be the starting quarterback for the University of Florida.” Stealing the tagline for ESPN’s 30 for 30, Kyle Trask made his first start at quarterback last Saturday.

Kyle Trask, a redshirt junior, hasn’t started a football game since he was on the Freshman team at Manvel High. Trask backed up current Houston Cougars starting quarterback D’Eriq King.

Saturday that all changed, Trask led the Gators to a 34-3 routing of Tennessee. Trask went 20 for 28 with 293 passing yards, 2 touchdowns and 2 interceptions.

He completed his first five passing attempts for 98 yard and most of the 98 yards were air yards, not yards after the catch.

Trask stated, “I’ve been waiting for my number to get called, and I knew I was going to be ready when my number was called.”

He came close to starting last season after playing well in relief of Feleipe Franks against Missouri, but a foot injury ended that chance.

Many fans on social media and message boards speculated that Trask would transfer to Central Michigan. Central Michigan is coached by former Florida coach Jim McElwain.

Trask has said repeatedly he never considered entering the transfer portal. That decision has paid off for both Trask and the Gators.

Trask did have three turnovers in the game. He was sacked in the first quarter and fumbled the ball. That cannot happen. The two interceptions are correctable with proper coaching.

The Florida Gators, after this week’s sacrificial lamb game against Towson, will face four games in six weeks against three teams ranked in the top 10. This stretch of games will define the Gators season and Kyle Trask.

Trask has shown in a game and a half that he is pocket passer and a willing runner.

Trask must improve his mental clock, reading coverages and blitzes. He looks too cool in the pocket with defenders bearing down on him.

He must recognize time in the pocket and either throw the ball away or run. Trask must learn to read the blitz package and get rid of the ball to appropriate receiver.

With Auburn, LSU and Georgia will Trask have enough in game experience to make good decisions? Those are the real tests.

For the Gators to be competitive against the Elite programs: Georgia and LSU, they must clean up their carelessness and bad decisions with the ball.

Simply put, they have to stop turning the ball over. Florida will not beat Auburn, LSU or Georgia if they lose the turnover battle.

In my opinion, the Gators are a better team with Kyle Trask at quarterback. His calm cool demeanor makes him QB1. October will make or break Trask.

Gator fans time to hop aboard the TRASK TRAIN.

The Best Of The Best

By: Kenneth Harrison

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

The season has been somewhat unpredictable for 7A teams.

Marietta started the season ranked No. 1 in Georgia and they were nationally ranked. They lost at Grayson 28-14 on September 13. The Blue Devils (3-1) had a bye week after that and they play Edgewater (FL) this week. Marietta dropped to No. 4 in the polls.

Grayson (4-0) is the new top team in the state. They beat Westlake 32-21 last week. The Rams trailed 14-7 at halftime but scored three touchdowns in the third quarter.

Lafayette Gurvin rushed for 200 yards and 3 touchdowns and had a fourth TD receiving. They play at Colquitt County this week.

No. 2 McEachern (4-0) beat Collins Hill 30-14. The Indians led 30-0 in the third quarter, and Collins Hill got most of its 220 yards in the fourth quarter.

Jordon Simmons rushed for 73 yards on 12 carries. They have a bye week now but the next game is 10/4 against East Coweta (1-3).

No. 3 Lowndes (5-0) beat Miami Northwestern (FL) 48-21. The Vikings led 35-7 at halftime, held Northwestern to minus-12 yards rushing and routed a team that entered ranked No. 22 nationally in MaxPreps’ Xcellent 25. Northwestern was Florida’s Class 6A champion last season.

Lowndes QB Jacurri Brown rushed for 174 yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries. Gary Osby rushed for 83 yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries. They play their archrival Valdosta Friday.

No. 5 Colquitt County (3-1) beat Warner Robins at home 31-14.

Jaycee Harden passed for 332 yards and 4 touchdowns, three to Lemeke Brockington.

The Packers lost the game before that at Valdosta 50-49. Colquitt has played an extremely tough schedule before the region play begins. No. 1 Grayson comes to town this Friday for another battle of top teams.

No. 6 Archer (3-1) demolished Norcross 31-0. The Tigers led 10-0 at halftime, then scored three third-quarter touchdowns and shut out Norcross for the second consecutive season.

Archer rushed for 190 yards with no player over 70. This week’s game is at Buford (4-0) and the Wolves are the top ranked team in 5A.

Buford just beat an undefeated 7A team (Newton) 42-14 last week so this is a heavyweight matchup.

No. 7 North Gwinnett (3-1) blew out a good Walton team 35-0. Devin Crosby rushed for 158 yards and 2 touchdowns on 13 carries. Walton was shut out for the first time since 2014 and just the third time this decade.

No. 8 Camden County (5-0) beat Brunswick 48-20. It is impressive to see the Wildcats back in the top 10. Their next game is at Glynn Academy.

No. 9 Hillgrove (4-0) won a close game against Etowah 27-24.

Jose Chaires kicked a 27-yard field goal in overtime after Reuben Lowery got a hand on Etowah’s field-goal attempt in the first OT possession.

The Hawks forced four turnovers and took a 17-7 lead in the third quarter when Jourdan Smith returned a fumble 20 yards for a touchdown.

Garrett Wilds rushed for 86 yards, and Matthew McCravy passed for 242. Their next game is at South Forsyth (3-1).

No. 10 Parkview (2-1) beat Tift County 20-7. Tift County is only 1-4 so this is not impressive.

Cody Brown was held to less than 10 yards rushing in the first half. He finished with 142 and his 92-yard run in the fourth quarter put the game away. The one good team they played is Lowndes and Vikings thrashed the Panthers 38-7.

Turn Off The Cam-Era

By: JJ Lanier

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

We like our athletes a certain way- strait-laced, singularly focused on winning, and someone who plays the game the “right way”.

Of course, the definition of “right way” seems to change depending on what team the player is on.

So, when you have someone as gregarious as Cam Newton, playing the most visible position there is in sports, he’s going to be a lightning rod for all sorts of criticism.

This has led to numerous hot topic articles such as Newton’s post game press conference attire and how he only cares for himself. (Who cares about what he wears; Dwayne Wade wore pants to a presser that were size Osh Kosh B’Gosh for crying out loud. And as for Newton’s selfishness, that’s easily debunked by simply Googling “Cam Newton Charity Work”.)

While those topics may be fun to write about, the main storyline concerning Newton should revolve around whether or not it’s time for he and the Panthers to part ways.

It’s not a new sentiment by any means, but up until recently it was one whose fuel was fired by those who didn’t like Cam for reasons beyond his play on the field.

After the Panthers Week 2 loss to Tampa Bay, WFAN’s Joe Ovies tweeted: “Cam Newton game theory: Proving your shoulder strength is fine by overthrowing it every other pass attempt.” Besides wishing I had come up with that quip, the only thing I would’ve added was “…. while running for his life behind a porous offensive line.”

Cam shoulders a lot of the blame for his play when it comes to his lack of accuracy and his decision making, neither of which has improved much since he was drafted, but it’s not completely his fault he and the Panthers organization may have to decide on his future quicker than originally anticipated.

I think everyone could foreshadow his injuries due to way Cam plays the game, but Carolina’s inability to provide their franchise quarterback with any type of stability on the offensive line sure did expedite the whole thing.

I don’t remember exactly where I read it, but Cam has apparently had either a different Left Tackle or Guard to begin every season since 2013. It’s kind of hard to feel comfortable in a pocket when the people protecting your blindside change as often as Jon Gruden’s feelings towards his quarterbacks. (Knock on wood if you’re with me.)

Plus, it’s not like Cam has had an abundance of talent at the wideout position to help him as he’s scrambling for his life.

Kelvin Benjamin’s talent was surpassed only by his love for Krispy Kreme doughnuts, and Devin Funchess was so ineffective I actually forgot his name for a second.

The Panthers do have some young talent at the position now, but with the beating Cam has taken I’m not sure if it even matters at this point.

Behind Steve Smith and Julius Peppers, Cam is probably my third favorite Panther, so I very reluctantly answer the question I posed above about parting ways with a “yes”.

I still believe Cam can play and is an above average quarterback, I’m just not sure Carolina is where it’s going to happen. Both sides have legitimately done their best to make it work, it just didn’t turn out like they had hoped.

Whether his departure takes place this year or down the road, Cam’s positive impact on the Panthers and the city Charlotte will speak much louder than his fashion sense.

The Wild AL Wild Card

By: TJ Hartnett

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Well, here we are again. In what seems like an increasingly annual tradition, the Tampa Bay Rays are making a run at the MLB playoffs.

Indeed, it feels like I’m writing an article about the unexpected contention and postseason push of that love-able overlooked and under-dogged Rays every September.

This is no different (the Rays are over 90 wins with a week to play and are currently tied for the second American League Wild Card spot) but there are a few extra wrinkles this year. Particularly, how close the three-team Wild Card race is in the junior circuit this year.

Entering the second to last weekend of the regular season, Tampa Bay is tied with the Cleveland Indians for the second Wild Card slot, two games behind the Oakland A’s.

All three clubs are on good-to-great tears right now, with Oakland in particular smoking hot, having won 9 of their last 10 contests.

With three teams so closely competing for two postseason berths, there are a number of different ways this could shake out for Tampa Bay.

The simplest (and, assumedly, preferred by the team) assurance of a longer season is for the Rays to win one of the two spots outright. They get that one-game Wild Card playoff and they’re off to the races.

Tying with either Oakland and/or Cleveland (and/or Minnesota, which is mathematically still possible) is where things get complicated and interesting.

If one team were to fall off and the Rays tied with, say, Oakland, then whoever won the season series would be the host team in the Wild Card Game (Tampa would visit the A’s in this scenario, having lost the season series 3-4). That one is fairly simple as well.

The real fun begins when you think of the likelihood that two teams end up tied for the second Wild Card spot.

If Tampa and Cleveland end the season dead even but still behind Oakland, they would play a one-game play-in contest (which Tampa would host, as they won the season against the Indians 6-1), the winner of which would go on to the Wild Card Game in Oakland.

If all three teams have identical records on Sunday, things get very tricky. Oakland, having the highest winning percentage against the two other teams, would get to choose to be designated Team A, Team B, or Team C. Tampa, having the next highest winning percentage, would choose between the remaining to designations, and Cleveland would be assigned the remainder.

Team A would play Team B, with the winner moving on to the Wild Card Game. The loser of that game would then play Team C for the second Wild Card spot.

The question then becomes: what would Oakland prefer? Team A gets two chances, sure, but Team C gets a day off and wouldn’t need to prepare for the possibility of three straight days of must-win games (four, really, counting what is sure to be an intense final day of the season that leads to this mess).

Tampa, getting to choose second in this scenario, makes essentially the same choice: choose designation B and give yourself the chance for redemption if they lose the first game; or designation C, where they could potentially line up the likes of Charlie Morton to carry the burden of the season.

I’ve always been a supporter of the second Wild Card and the implementation of the one-and-done Wild Card Game.

It’s like having a pair of Game 7s to kick off the postseason every year. This year, with a tightly contested race for the AL Wild Card spots, we’ve got a possibility of seeing four such games.

That’s probably not the way the Rays would like things to shake out, but as a baseball fan, it’s hard to root against it.

Week 4 Friday Night Lights

By: Jason Bishop

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Week 4 of the High School Football is now in the books and here is what went down in South Georgia.

Wayne County @ Glynn Academy: Both of these teams coming into this game trying to figure out how good they were. The game turned into a track meet with the Red Terrors coming out on top 47-35.

It was the first game Glynn had played since August and the Red Terrors ran the ball at will against Wayne.

The Yellow Jackets scored on big play after big play but in the end could not sustain long drives to keep the Red Terror offense off the field.  Glynn goes to 2-1 and Wayne falls to 2-1.

Brunswick High @ Camden County: Camden played a tight game with Richmond Hill the week before, which raised some eyebrows across the state. Brunswick blew out MCA the previous week and this looked to be an interesting game. It ended up not being that interesting.

Camden jumped out to a 14-0 lead, the Pirates answered with a touchdown and it looked like we might have a game with a 14-7 score in the 2nd quarter. That was short lived.

The Camden defense clamped down and the offense went to work. The Wildcats knocked off the Pirates 48-20.

MCA @ Jenkins County: Jenkins came into this game as the favorite to beat winless MCA. Instead the Buccaneers went into to Jenkins and dominated the War Eagles. MCA’s defense was the story, completely shutting down the Jenkins County offense to the tune of a shutout. MCA wins their first game of the year, 32-0.

Augusta Prep @ Frederica Academy: This was the first home game of the year for Frederica.

There is no putting this mildly. This was ugly. Frederica scored on their first play from scrimmage and the rout was on. The Knights ended up putting Augusta Prep on a running clock. The Knights hung 60 on the Cavaliers in a 63-0 laugher.

 

Chopping October

By: Jason Bishop

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

October baseball will take place once again in Atlanta.

The Atlanta Braves defended their 2018 NL East Crown by clinching the division this past weekend.

Most experts did not have the Braves winning the division in 2019, mostly taking into account all the money the Philadelphia Phillies spent in the offseason. Those Phillies most likely will not make the playoffs at all.

As October approaches, there is still the business of Atlanta setting their playoff roster. The Braves roster suffered a ton of injuries in the last two months of the season. Nick Markakis, Ender Inciarte, Austin Riley, Charlie Culberson and Johan Camargo all spent time in the Injured List and Atlanta will be without Culberson and Camargo in the first round and maybe throughout the playoffs.

The Braves will likely be matched up with the St. Louis Cardinals in the Divisional Round of the playoffs.  The Cardinals likely will win the NL Central.

St. Louis, once again, put together a second half run to put themselves into the mix.

The Cardinals will bring with them into a postseason a young starting rotation, headed by Dakota Hudson. Hudson currently has notched 16 wins for the Red Birds with a 3.35 ERA.

Outside of Hudson, the Cardinals will have Jack Flaherty, Miles Mikolas, and Adam Wainwright.

Paul Goldschmidt hit 31 homeruns for St. Louis and led the team.

Meanwhile, the Braves will bring an offense that has carried the team all year long and a decent rotation.

Mike Soroka had a breakout season for Atlanta and along with Dallas Keuchel, Max Fried and either Julio Teheran or Mike Foltynewicz in the rotation.

Realistically, the Braves will be huge favorites to beat the Cardinals in the 3 of 5 series. If that happens, the Braves will get the winner of the NL West Champion Los Angeles Dodgers and the winner of the Wild Card Game.

I believe the Dodgers will get the Washington Nationals in the first round. That series have the potential to go all 5 games.

Last season the Dodgers bombed Atlanta in the NLDS, but the Braves pitching is far better than last season and so is the offense.

The Dodgers will be favored to beat the Braves if that is the matchup but Atlanta would be favored against any other team they may play in the NLCS if they get past St, Louis.

In my opinion, the Braves will do no worse than an NLCS appearance and will give LA all they want in the NLCS. On paper, the Dodgers are deeper and better.

The most exciting thing is the Braves will be making plenty of playoff appearances moving forward. They are good and young.

If not this season, a World Series Championship should be on the horizon for the Braves.

SEC Week 3 Menu

By: Kipp Branch

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

The SEC kicks into full throttle this weekend with a series a good SEC matchups and then you have the monster Georgia/Notre Dame matchup to finish off a great football Saturday in the nation’s top college football conference.

Here are the games and my predictions:

Southern Miss @ (2) Alabama: In case you didn’t know Nick Saban does not like noon kickoffs.

Alabama will score early and often and Tua should have a field day on Southern Miss with Alabama’s NFL wide receiver unit. The entire Alabama WR unit could start this Sunday for the Miami Dolphins. Bama rolls 52-13.

(4) LSU @ Vanderbilt: The Tigers are feeling pretty good about themselves. Vanderbilt may make them uncomfortable for a quarter or so then LSU pulls away for a 38-17 win.

I want to see that Tiger defense improve in SEC play.

Tennessee @ (9) Florida: The Swamp has never been too kind to the Vols. Franks is done for the season and Kyle Trask is now the man in Gainesville.

Dan Mullen is paid to win football games so remember Gator Nation that there was a reason that Trask was the back-up QB.

The Gators seem to be already counting this one in the win column. My gut tells me Tennessee will play inspired football, but it also may be the burrito I ate for lunch. Florida wins 23-14.

(23) California @ Ole Miss: The Rebs should be ready for this one.

Could Cal wilt in the 90-degree heat in Oxford on Saturday? Ole Miss could make a statement and I think they will. Ole Miss 27-24.

That Ealy kid at RB is going to be a star in this league.

(8) Auburn @ (17) Texas A&M: Is Bo Nix ready for 100,000 Aggies in College Station.

The Aggies already played Clemson at Clemson and should be locked and loaded for this one.

I’m not sure Auburn can run the football consistently against a quality defense. Can Kellen Mond make plays on a good Auburn defense? I think A&M makes enough plays to beat Auburn 28-20.

Kentucky @ Mississippi State: The Cats gave away the game to Florida at home last week by playing not to lose.

Mississippi State lost at home to Kansas State and did not look good in the process. I’m not very high on MSU and I’m thinking Kentucky goes on the road and gets the win in a 20-17 type game. Both offenses may struggle in this game.

South Carolina @ Missouri: South Carolina gave up too many big plays against Alabama, and Missouri’s offense is nothing close to what Carolina witnessed last week.

Kelly Bryant is a South Carolina native playing against the Gamecocks. South Carolina needs this one more than Missouri. Give me Carolina 31-30.

San Jose State @ Arkansas: This one is going to be like two mules fighting over a turnip. These are the types of games Arkansas will lose, but maybe they are going to turn the corner with Nick Starkel at QB. Give me the Hogs 38-33.

(7) Notre Dame @ (3) Georgia: This could be the most anticipated home game in the history of UGA football.

The Irish come to Athens undefeated with Ian Book at QB. The Irish have questions stopping the run and UGA has four running backs who can start anywhere and a mammoth offensive line.

This could be the Zamir White and George Pickens coming out party. I think UGA is more talented and I’ll take Jake Fromm over Ian Book. UGA beats ND 31-21 and gets a bye week before Tennessee.