By Jim Butler
Keeping a healthy number one quarterback seems to be the issue for many teams around the SEC. Vanderbilt and Tennessee are among those teams that have been hurt by injuries at this most key position and both teams must have someone step up to make it to the bowl season.
The upcoming game for the Volunteers didn't seem so daunting prior to the season, but the Auburn Tigers have been playing some very good football as of late, and Saturday could be one of the best games of the season in Knoxville. Gus Malzahn appears to be the real deal as a college football coach. I don't think anyone predicted Auburn to be ranked in the Top 10 at this point. I'm sure that Frank Gale knows that his adopted team number 117 needs this one badly. Personally, I thought the Vols would show much more success against the other Tiger team from Missouri, but the folks in Columbia didn't drop off much when their starting quarterback went down.
Florida, who will be entertaining Vandy on Saturday, has also been hit at the signal calling position and that should improve the Commodores' chances for an upset in the "Swamp." I give the young men from West End Avenue a good shot at this one and that's not just thinking with my heart. The Gators' strength is supposed to be on the defensive side of the ball and they are also hurting there.
Vanderbilt's Patton Robinette has shown that he can lead his team on offense and he has some pretty good weapons in receiver Jordan Matthews and all-purpose athlete Wesley Tate. The 'Dores have shown that they can put points on the board, but there have been many questions on the defensive side. Maybe the return of Chase Garnham will help me there. Florida is in the unusual position of having to play hard to get into a bowl game, also.
Will this be the week that Nick Saban's bunch falls? I think that Les Miles is an awfully good coach and this matchup is always a good one.
I hope that Oregon can again retake the BCS number two ranking from Rick Dockham's Seminoles, and it will probably take a convincing win over Stanford for that to happen. By the time most of you all read this, that game will already have been played. Florida will probably beat FSU also to take care of that situation. I still believe that the Ducks are the best in the land. They are by far the quickest team that I have seen.
It's hard to believe that the high school playoffs are already here. That season really went by in a hurry and basketball is upon us.
It looks like John Calipari has done it again and, barring any injuries, the Wildcats of Kentucky will again be the early season pick to take it all. The "one and done" concept seems to be working well for him.
Well, it's coming down to the nitty gritty and my recliner has just about lasted another season. I hope I can make it last through the bowl season.
Have another great week and root hard. It's always so much more enjoyable when we treat it as what it is —a ball game.
Go Panthers! Go Jets! Go USA!
(Jim Butler is a Chronicle correspondent and his column appears regularly.)