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Hot Reads: Even with loss, Mettenberger practically perfect

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LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger tries to rally his troops in a tough loss on the road last week. (Source: Radi Nabulsi/Georgia Athletics) LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger tries to rally his troops in a tough loss on the road last week. (Source: Radi Nabulsi/Georgia Athletics)
LaDarius Perkins is far off his 1,000-yard pace from a season ago, but the Bulldogs need him to avoid losing their 14th straight game against LSU. (Source: Mississippi State Athletics) LaDarius Perkins is far off his 1,000-yard pace from a season ago, but the Bulldogs need him to avoid losing their 14th straight game against LSU. (Source: Mississippi State Athletics)
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(RNN) - Every once in a while, a little irony is good for the soul.

Take, for example, South Carolina. Marcus Lattimore is gone, yet the Gamecocks have the SEC's leading rusher in yards per game in Mike Davis. Jadeveon Clowney is still there, yet they most definitely do not have the league leader in sacks (he's not even first on his own team). Irony.

Lane Kiffin was fired five games into this season. You may remember he left Tennessee after the first year of a six-year contract. Ed Orgeron, who followed Kiffin from Knoxville, is taking over the Southern Cal program in the interim. Irony.

There had been talk the government shutdown could have canceled this weekend's Army-Boston College and Navy-Air Force games. The Midshipmen and Falcons combined have lost their last five games. Congressional opponents of the Affordable Healthcare Act have a losing streak close to 50 and counting. Irony.

You probably had no clue this story contains a hidden message using the first line of each sentence. Actually, it doesn't, but that didn't stop you from checking. That's not irony, it's just plain funny.

H0tty T0ddy

Notice the spelling? Hot Reads really and truly thought Ole Miss might have been ready for prime time, but we should have known better.

When a team's own fan base produces lukewarm enthusiasm about its chances to win a game, it's a sign of bad things to come.

Common sense was screaming in the back of the room that the Rebels were another year away (at least) from making serious noise, but the glitter on the package was too much to resist.

This is still a very good team, and it has time to get that much better, so who knows? Gosh almighty, they might get that big upset this year after all.

SEC vs. SEC

LSU at Mississippi State, 7 p.m. ET Saturday

With all respect to Georgia and Tennessee (at least as much respect as two teams who can't play defense deserve), the best NFL Lite game of the week is taking place in Starkville.

It's about time people started paying more attention to Mississippi State's defense, and they get a golden opportunity to prove why this weekend.

Guess who is second behind steel curtain Florida in the SEC in yards allowed per game. Nope, not Alabama. Not LSU. South Carolina? Not so much. It's the Hail Staters, who are also top 20 in the nation in that category.

It's an even more impressive feat because they only have five sacks. Their performance against Troy two weeks ago was a major statement. And if you're rolling your eyes going, "yeah, but it's Troy," then you're obviously not a Division-I football coach.

The Bulldogs held the Trojans to 186 total yards (139 passing, 47 rushing). Troy has been held to fewer than 200 passing yards and 100 rushing yards in a game just four other times since 2006 - impressive considering the teams that have paid them for butt whippings.

It's also time to recognize just how good the LSU offense is.

The Tigers might have the most perfect scoring attack in the SEC right now. Their balance all year has been remarkable - 199 rushes and 129 passes.

Jeremy Hill leads the SEC in points scored per game and is one of four players with 100 or more rushing yards per game. Backup tailback Terrence Magee actually has a slight edge over Hill in yards per attempt, which is somewhat scary.

Zach Mettenberger leads the conference in passing yards per completion and is second in yards per attempt. Those numbers become more impressive when you consider he gets sacked less than twice per game. It basically means he shoots for big plays through the air, gets those big plays and doesn't lose yardage because of a combination of three things - good blocking, a quick release and receivers who can get yards after the catch.

Any criticism of Mettenberger or anyone else on that offense after the loss to Georgia is unjustified. He made NFL throws all night, the receivers caught balls in traffic to move the chains and Hill grinded out 86 yards.

Yeah, they petered out on the final drive, but their defense blew a lead and the offensive line was spent after standing up for so long. It happens.

It's not an excuse that's particularly comforting to anyone wearing purple and gold, but this team will be fine.

Arkansas at Florida, 7 p.m. ET Saturday

If you call yourself old school (and by old school, I mean you remember when people could do research without Google) then you probably appreciate a good, old-fashioned, punch-you-in-the-mouth, run-heavy football game.

Consider this matchup a surprise answer to your prayers. Florida looks like a brick wall, and Arkansas is trying to prove it can move the football against more than wet paper towels.

The Razorbacks put up 200 rushing yards against Texas A&M last week, but A.) that was still about four first downs fewer than their average for the year, and B.) it's Texas A&M, whose defense apparently thinks every quarterback can play like Johnny Manziel. More on them in a bit.

Arkansas can do everything well except for stay mentally focused when it counts. Without two interceptions against the Aggies and a bad special teams error against Rutgers (and a few defensive lapses against both), we might be talking about the Hogs as a 5-0 team right now.

And then there's Florida, which is playing defense like Alabama (the old Alabama, not the new Alabama). It's just absurd that the Gators are only allowing 149 passing yards and 53 rushing yards per game. Fifty-three rushing yards?! Hot Reads doesn't care if it's against a high school, those are impressive chops.

It's safe to say that number will bend at least a little with tailbacks Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams leading the SEC's second-best rushing attack into Gainesville.

If Florida's defense is going to carry the team for another year (it better), this game will provide a good gauge of just how far.

There's life outside the SEC?

Maryland at Florida State, 12 p.m. ET Saturday

Georgia State's trip to Alabama seems less-than-inspiring, and Hot Reads was rudely reminded that Kentucky-South Carolina still technically counts as an SEC game.

Soooo… we're forced to look elsewhere for a quality nonconference matchup.

Maryland is having its best season since the start of the millennium, going 4-0 for the first time since 2001 and scoring 30 or more points in each of its first four games for the first time since 2002.

Florida State's young quarterback, "Famous Jameis" Winston, will get his toughest test of the season so far. The Terrapins shut out West Virginia, who later beat a good Oklahoma State team.

The Terps lead the nation in sacks and are in the top five nationally in takeaways, but the Seminoles have only given the ball away three times. So what gives?

Wisdom says take the defense. Maryland was without two starting defensive backs against the Mountaineers and was still dominant. Winston is a highly efficient passer, but his preference to work from the pocket makes it easier to contain him. Florida State converts a gaudy 51 percent of its third downs, but Maryland is allowing half that, making it one of the best in the nation.

If Maryland rushes for more than 200 yards, it wins the game. Boston College got exactly that amount and gave the Seminoles trouble. FSU's nearly five-minute deficit in time of possession means it may not have enough time to get back in the game if it's trailing late.

Stat of the Week:

-109.6: Texas A&M is leading all NFL Lite teams in yards per game with 586.4. It's also last in the league in yards allowed with 476.8 - a difference of nearly 110 yards. If the Aggies make it the rest of the way with anything less than two losses, Manziel more than deserves that second Heisman.

Copyright 2013 Raycom News Network All rights reserved.

  • Who is the best quarterback in the SEC this season?

  • Thank you for participating in our poll. Here are the results so far:

    James Franklin
    3%
    4 votes
    Johnny Manziel
    14%
    20 votes
    AJ McCarron
    15%
    22 votes
    Zach Mettenberger
    34%
    48 votes
    Aaron Murray
    30%
    43 votes
    Other
    4%
    5 votes
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