Three & Out appears every Sunday and Wednesday in 2010 to give you three SEC thoughts, news and notes. In today's edition, we take a look at a key for the showdown in Columbia, the LSU quarterback situation and the line in the Tennessee/Georgia game.
Alabama's game vs. South Carolina this weekend marks the first of Alabama's six game SEC stretch facing teams coming off of a bye week – and it might be one of the toughest of the six.
The game plan for the Crimson Tide is going to be the same game plan as they've employed for mostly every other game, establish the run and wear the Gamecocks out. In case you've been living in a cave, you know that Alabama's been pretty good with that over the last few years.
Since coming back from arthroscopic knee surgery that forced him to miss Alabama's first two games, reigning Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram has been as solid as ever, averaging 118 yards in his first three games of 2010. Not far behind him is "backup" running back Trent Richardson, who already has racked up 419 yards in five games this year.
The vaunted Tide running game has a tough task this week, squaring off with the always-tough South Carolina defense. The Gamecocks' rush defense is ranked 7th in the SEC having given up 128.2 yards per game this season. But don't let that ranking fool you. Before giving up 334 rushing yards to Auburn two weeks ago, the Gamecocks hadn't given up more than 67 rushing yards in any of their previous three games.
If the Gamecocks can stuff the run like they did in the first three games, it will force quarterback Greg McElroy to go win a football game for the Tide. He's done it in the past – see: 2009 SEC Championship Game. If he has to do it this Saturday, he will have to do so against a pretty stout Gamecock secondary featuring Stephon Gilmore and Chris Culliver. Not an easy task.
Psst…Les….if you're still looking for a quarterback, there's a pretty good one on your roster.
LSU's offense is a complete disaster right now, and most of the problem stems from inconsistent quarterback play. Head coach Les Miles tried to stop the madness last week, giving Jarrett Lee more meaningful snaps after starter Jordan Jefferson was ineffective again. Lee wasn't terrible in his return to the Tiger Stadium field – 16-of-23 for 185 yards and one interception – but that doesn't erase the 16 interceptions that Lee threw in 2008 from the minds of LSU fans. Miles has said that both quarterbacks will see the field this Saturday when the Tigers visit The Swamp to take on the Florida Gators.
Let's face it, we've seen both of these quarterbacks before, and neither of them should instill confidence in LSU fans. If they both are ineffective on Saturday, which is a very real possibility considering the Gators' defense, why not turn to former five-star, duel-threat quarterback Russell Shepard? After all, could he be worse than Jefferson and Lee?
Shepard was permanently moved to wide receiver this spring, and there's probably a reason for that – his throwing ability. But honestly, if things aren't working with Jefferson and Lee, Shepard deserves at least a look. Who knows? Maybe he will make enough plays with his legs to open up some passing lanes. One thing is for certain, if the offense doesn't improve and improve quickly, offensive coordinator Gary Crowton and possibly head coach Les Miles will be looking for new employment in the near future.
With a combined three wins between the two teams, the Tennessee/Georgia game doesn't provide much intrigue in the overall SEC race. But the betting line in this matchup caused quite a stir when it was released earlier this week. The Bulldogs have been installed as an 11.5-point favorite over the Volunteers by most services, which begs the question – why?
Considering Georgia's 1-4 record, coaching staff in turmoil and inability to stop anybody on defense, the knee jerk reaction may be to jump all over the Vols. Don't be fooled though, there's a reason that Vegas likes the Bulldogs so much.
Georgia's problems, while numerous, are theoretically fixable. Stud wide receiver A.J. Green missed the first four games and then had to sit out part of the game with Colorado with cramps, the Bulldogs have been stricken with fumblitis at the most inopportune times this season and the defense is still adjusting to defensive coordinator Todd Grantham's 3-4 system.
Meanwhile on the other sideline, the Vols' problems – depth and talent – aren't as fixable. The Vols are already giving regular minutes to three true freshmen on the offensive line, have an inexperienced (and battered) quarterback and a defense that's given up the second-most yards in the SEC. Yes, those problems conceivably could be fixed too, but it's far less likely that Derek Dooley and Co. get things turned around in one week.
It should be an interesting game between the Bulldogs and Volunteers. You never know how a team is going to react when desperation sets in, and both of these teams are as desperate as any team in America.
Barrett Sallee covers the SEC for www.CollegeFootballNews.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter at
Don't forget to check out "Y'all Play Nice" from CFN's Russ Mitchell and Brian Harbach every Thursday during the season.
2010 Three & Out Archive