KEVIN CARTER BLOG: FLORIDA WILL PREVAIL
By KEVIN CARTER
ESPNU Sports Analyst
There are lots of good games this weekend, starting with one that's always tough for me to watch -- No. 7 South Carolina at No. 2 Florida.
I'm pulling for Florida, because that's where I played in college. But my coach at Gainesville was Steve Spurrier, and I love his style of play and the way he drives his South Carolina players. When the Gamecocks go into battle they're always united, so I have a lot of respect for both programs.
South Carolina won't make any excuses about Marcus Lattimore's hip troubles hurting their running game or Jadeveon Clowney's foot injury limiting their defense. If that's the case other players will have to step in, and South Carolina has always been good about handling those types of situations.
For Florida, Will Muschamp's offense has come together and isn't going to take any chances in a game of this magnitude. Early, they'll run, run, run with Mike Gillislee, and play a game of patience. Then the Gators will make adjustments at halftime, which they perhaps do better than any other team. So far, they're outscoring opponents by a staggering 98-23 in the second half.
South Carolina's best chance is to get ahead early. The first half will be very telling, because Spurrier always has about 14 plays dialed up to attack the holes in every defense. Every team's coverage has a weakness, something they haven't recognized yet, and Spurrier will exploit that.
So I think it will be a tight game where they go stride-for-stride and blow-for-blow, but the home-field advantage at The Swamp means the win goes to Florida.
NO. 18 TEXAS A&M CAN'T HANG WITH LSU
Texas A&M will have the home-field advantage, but I don't think they have the formula figured out yet on how to beat this kind of SEC team, one that doesn't make mistakes and has a powerful running game. I just don't think A&M's defense is there yet.
Johnny Manziel ran for 189 yards last week, and threw for 395, but that was against Louisiana Tech. Against a defense like this, Manziel will have to take chances, and LSU knows how to take full advantage when an opponent's offense gets desperate.
NO. 13 WEST VIRGINIA GETS REDEMPTION VS. NO. 4 KANSAS STATE
Texas Tech put it on West Virginia last week. They could do no wrong, they exposed the West Virginia defense and they showed the blueprint for beating the Mountaineers: pressure the quarterback, maintain solid coverage downfield and force Geno Smith to be flawless.
But I still think this is where West Virginia gets back in the driver's seat for the Big 12 championship and where Geno Smith resumes putting up eye-popping numbers and reclaiming the lead in the Heisman race.
For Kansas State, Collin Kline is one of the best raw talents at quarterback, a great example of the new generation. But I think he has to do too much to win this game. Geno Smith will score too quickly and Kline won't be able to get the big chunks of yardage that he'll need, to keep pace.
NO. 1 TIDE KEEPS ROLLING, BUT DON'T DISCOUNT TENNESSEE
Alabama at Tennessee is an upset-alert kind of game, because Tennessee has nothing to lose and will be playing in front of more than 100,000 fans at Neyland Stadium. Tennessee is going to throw everything it can at Alabama, on punts, on kickoffs, and I think it will be an exciting game, but Alabama will still get the win.
One thing that could hurt Alabama is that A.J. McCarron is hobbled a little with a knee injury, and without his arm that offense isn't the same.
Everyone says that Alabama's defense can carry them, but you have to remember that this year's defense is very good but isn't at the same level as last year's national championship team. Nick Saban is the best teacher in the game, and he does a great job reloading, but they lost a lot of talent and experience from last year's group.
NO. 5 NOTRE DAME WON'T HIT SPEED BUMP VS. BYU
This might look like a trap game for Notre Dame, because the Fighting Irish just survived a battle with Stanford, and next week they face a tough road contest at Oklahoma.
But I think Notre Dame knows it has a proven way to win -- play good defense and just keep running the ball. Everett Golson has been good enough at quarterback to keep them winning, and if the concussion he suffered against Stanford keeps him out the Irish still have a very capable Tommy Rees ready to fill in again. No matter who's at quarterback they don't have to put up a huge amount of points to win, because they're defense is stopping people.
This Notre Dame team has done a great job of taking each game one at a time, and with the way its front seven has been playing on defense I really doubt that BYU has a shot at winning.
BIG PICTURE: SEC WON'T HAVE TWO TEAMS IN BCS TITLE GAME
The first BCS rankings came out this week, and the main thing I took away was the respect that was shown for the strength of the SEC schedule. Six SEC teams are in the top 12, and Florida was able to leapfrog Oregon for the No. 2 spot.
Give the Gators credit. They've had a lot of convincing SEC wins, and if they beat South Carolina there's no way anyone will be able to take away their No. 2 spot.
But I think there's very little chance that we'll have another BCS championship game with two SEC teams. If Florida and Alabama keep winning they'll have to play each other in the SEC championship, and one of those great teams will go down.
That means Oregon should feel very confident. The Ducks control their destiny, and they just need to keep winning. And I think most of the nation would agree it's good that we won't see another national championship decided by two teams from the same conference.
I'll finish up with one possible upset alert: South Florida at No. 16 Louisville. This is a game where the two teams always pretty much beat each other up, and things happen that have no rhyme or reason, so don't be surprised if the Cardinals get beat.