In a year where anything is possible in the SEC and college football as a whole, it seems to me like quarterback turmoil is a big issue for several programs across the country with the SEC not immune to the chaos.
In honor of the late Alex Trebek of Jeopardy! fame, I wanted to give my articles this week a game show vibe for sure. More on that in a moment.
First off, I want to pay my respects to UK offensive line coach John Schlarman, who courageously battled stage four cancer before falling to the dreaded disease Thursday. Schlarman was the architect of the “Big Blue Wall” that helped lead to the renaissance Kentucky football is experiencing currently. Schlarman taught his young men to be warriors and lived the example himself. He will be greatly missed. Prayers for his family.
Next, I hate that the coronavirus pandemic is blistering the country right now. With the number of cases rising almost astronomically daily, it was sure to affect college football, and it has. A number of games have been postponed this week, four in the SEC. It’s a terrible situation for our country. Praying for a cure or vaccine soon.
Last week, the Backwoods Swami went a respectable 3-1 in a short week, winning Arkansas, Texas A&M, and Mississippi State and losing Georgia. For the year, the Swami is 26-14 (65% win percentage).
This week’s schedule promises to be an interesting week in a lot of ways, especially at the quarterback position. Two of the three scheduled games this week has some type of quarterback controversy brewing.
In honor of my second favorite game show Whose Line Is It Anyway?, I have chosen to play the game with you my readers Whose Team Is It Anyways? Once again, come on and play, it’s fun for the whole family.
Vanderbilt at Kentucky
For the Cats, who are coming off a bye week, this game represents an opportunity for UK to get some momentum going into the second half of the season. It also represents an opportunity for either Terry Wilson or Joey Gatewood to establish themselves as QB1 on the Wildcat depth chart. As of this writing, both Wilson and Gatewood are listed as the starter so it will be interesting who takes the opening snaps. But for the Cats to have success, they must re-establish the running game that has been so good to UK. Kentucky must feed Chris Rodriguez the ball 20 plus times for the Cats to open the Vandy defense up enough to make some throws down the field. Combine this with a stout Wildcat defense and you have the opportunity to pick up win No. 3 Saturday.
For the Commodores, they come to Lexington winless on the season, but don’t be misled; this team will compete for 60 minutes. True freshman quarterback Ken Sears has his moments of success but will also throw interceptions at the wrong time. The defense, usually a staple under coach Derek Mason, is struggling, especially against the pass. It’s not the best of seasons for sure in Nashville.
The opening line for the game has the Cats as a 17-point favorite. I think that’s accurate, but I don’t expect an offensive explosion. The Cats have too many weapons and too stout of defense for Vandy. I look for the Cats to pick up win number three, but kind of close.
PREDICTION: Cats 24, Vandy 7.
Arkansas at 6 Florida
This might be the one game that has two firmly entrenched signal-callers in the Gators’ Kyle Trask and Arkansas’ Feleipe Franks ( a Florida transfer). The Gators come into this one off of dominating Georgia in Jacksonville, firmly entrenching them as the SEC East favorite the rest of the way. Heisman candidate Kyle Trask had another huge day through the air but lost his star tight end, Kyle Pitts, to a concussion during the game. Granted, the Gators had their bevy of receivers step up and produce. The story of the game was how the Florida defense stepped up big and clamped down on the Georgia offense.
Unfortunately for the Razorbacks, coach Sam Pittman is unable to coach Saturday due to contracting the COVID-19 virus. His loss will be big for the Hogs. Pittman has led the comeback of Arkansas’ program to SEC relevancy. Former Missouri head coach Barry Odom will likely be the interim coach this week, so there will be a level of comfort for the Hogs.
If the Hogs can get the Gators offense off the field and control the ball on offense, then they have a chance to pull off the upset. However, I don’t see it. I look for the Gators win comfortably on the scoreboard but not without a fight from the Razorbacks.
PREDICTION: Gators 45, Hogs 20
South Carolina at Ole Miss
The hottest coaches seat in the SEC belongs to Carolina coach Will Muschamp. The Gamecocks are coming off a 48-3 throttling to Texas A&M in which USC was something much less than competitive. It’s just a matter of time before there is a change in Columbia. The first change that needs to happen is at quarterback, where Collin Hill is struggling mightily. I look for USC to go back to Ryan Hilinski or maybe give Luke Doty a chance pretty quick Saturday.
The Rebels are just doing their thing; score a ton of points and hope the defense gets just enough stops to win the game. If you are an offensive connoisseur, you have to like what the Rebs do with the football, a mix of rushing and passing that is arguably one of the top three offenses in the SEC. That defense, however, isn’t so much a work of art. I’ll leave this here; Ole Miss gave up 24 points to Vanderbilt. Vanderbilt.
I don’t think the Gamecocks can score enough points to beat the Rebels, but I think the Ole Miss defense will give up enough points to USC to keep them in the game. In another high-scoring affair, I’m going Rebels.
PREDICTION: Ole Miss 52, Carolina 28
12 Georgia at Missouri: PPD.
5 Texas A&M at Tennessee: PPD.
24 Auburn at Mississippi State: PPD.
1 Alabama at LSU: PPD.
Shane Shackleford is a regional sports columnist from Speedwell, Tenn. You can follow him on Facebook and Twitter as well as local media outlets The Corbin Times-Tribune, London Sentinel-Echo, A Sea of Blue, KySportsStyle.com Magazine, HarlanCountySports.com and Wildcat Sports Talk.