In the week nine mid-week edition of Three & Out, we take a look at the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party, a resurgence in Oxford and a freshman WR on a top 25 team flying WAY under-the-radar.
RIPE FOR THE PICKING
A tradition is renewed this weekend, as the Georgia Bulldogs and the Florida Gators both head to Jacksonville, Fla., to take part in the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party (yes Michael Adams, we are still calling it that). If you judge this game based on the records, you would probably view this as a colossal mismatch. After all, Florida is the defending National Champion, is currently undefeated and, statistically speaking, boasts the SEC's best offense and defense. Meanwhile, the Bulldogs hobble into this game 4-3 overall, 3-2 in the league and sporting the worst scoring defense in the league.
No contest, right? Don't be so sure about that.
The Florida Gators have been very un-Gator-like the last few weeks. Sure, the 35 points per game they are putting up on average this season looks great on paper, but they've averaged only 22 over the last four games. That four game stretch included games against Mississippi State, Arkansas and Tennessee, all of which are in the bottom half of the SEC in scoring defense.
The offensive struggles apparently have gotten to the Gators a bit. Following the win in Starkville last weekend, Tim Tebow, never one to shy away from a microphone or a camera, skipped out on the interview session. Tebow was 12-for-22 for 127 yards, zero touchdowns and two interceptions in the game. On Monday, Tebow responded to the frustrations surrounding the offense.
"We're just having struggles with things we really haven't had struggles with, so it's kind of new and it is frustrating. I'm not going to lie to you and say it's not frustrating because obviously I want to score every time we get in the red zone. The turnovers are frustrating. Just things that we're not used to doing, and so that is frustrating and we're working on it ."
Following two National Championships in three years, the goal of this years Gator team wasn't just to win another crystal football – it was to go undefeated. That's proving to be a little more difficult than originally thought.
With Florida ripe for the picking, the Georgia Bulldogs could be getting them at the exact right time. Granted, the Bulldogs aren't going to set the world on fire But if you don't think that there's talent up and down that roster, you've been drinking too much Tantrum ($1 to How I Met Your Mother). A.J. Green is one of the best wide receivers to ever put on a Bulldog uniform. If Joe Cox can get any semblance of a running game behind him (which has been easier said than done this year), Georgia could stand a chance. With a bye week to prepare, you know Mark Richt will throw the kitchen sink at the Gators. Don't forget, the team coming off a bye week in this rivalry is 17-6 all-time.
WILD REBEL RESURGENCE
Dexter McCluster, meet 2009. 2009, meet Dexter McCluster.
Now that we've gotten that out of the way, let's move on with the season.
McCluster finally broke loose on Saturday, setting career highs in rushing (123 yards) and receiving (137 yards) vs. the Arkansas Razorbacks. In the previous six games, the senior managed a total of 164 rushing yards and 198 receiving yards. If you wondered why Ole Miss wasn't matching the pre-season hype, there's your answer.
The trend is likely continue this week. The Rebels head to the Plains on Saturday to take on an Auburn defense that is only slightly better than the Razorbacks (which is like comparing Gigli to Kazaam). Auburn's problem this year has been tackling, which doesn't bode well for the Tigers facing the speedy McCluster. In the last three games, the Tigers have been torched on the ground by Arkansas' Michael Smith, Kentucky's Derrick Locke and Randall Cobb and LSU's Russell Sheppard. Have fun Dexter.
The SEC West title is pretty much out-of-reach for Ole Miss. But now that McCluster is back in the mix for the Rebs, it's likely that they will rekindle the offensive magic that saw them reel off six straight wins to end the 2008 campaign. This, of course, begs the question – where was he earlier in the season?
MID SEASON PUSH
South Carolina heads to Rocky Top this weekend to take on Tennessee. If you don't know the name Alshon Jeffery, you will after this week. The South Carolina WR, who was in the center of Lane Kiffin's "pumping gas" controversy this past off-season, has gone largely unnoticed by many SEC fans. Quietly, Jeffery is making a strong mid-season push to earn SEC Freshman of the Year honors.
During his last three games, the freshman from St. Matthews, S.C., has racked up 372 receiving yards and four touchdowns – all against SEC defenses (Kentucky, Alabama and Vanderbilt). Jeffery has been the deep threat that has sparked the passing resurgence that Steve Spurrier's Gamecocks have enjoyed this season. The Gamecocks rank second in the SEC in passing offense, averaging 229 passing yards per game. I fully expected South Carolina to be better-than-advertised this season. But, I certainly didn't expect passing numbers like that.
Coming into the season, the main question in Columbia was whether the Gamecocks had enough offense to compliment Eric Norwood, Cliff Matthews and that solid D. Thanks to the play of Jeffery, the answer is yes. Now that Stephen Garcia has a legitimate deep threat, that could be all South Carolina needs to propel themselves into second place in the SEC East.
Everyone seems to be jumping on to the Tennessee bandwagon after Jonathan Crompton had good games against Alabama and Georgia. Not me. Those are aberrations, not the start of a trend. South Carolina will beat Tennessee in Knoxville by at least 10, and Alshon Jeffery will be a big reason why.
Barrett Sallee covers the SEC for www.CollegeFootballNews.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter at
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