Oct 26, 2017

Big Ten & SEC Week 9 Preview: Gators, ‘Dawgs Meet Again, While Penn State, Ohio State Square Off in Columbus

In the ninth week of the college football season, members of the Florida Citrus Sports Team Selection Committee are making visits throughout Big Ten and SEC country, meeting with fans across both conferences in advance of the Citrus Bowl on New Year’s Day.

Here are a few of the games our representatives will be taking in this week:

No. 2 Penn State (7-0, 4-0 Big Ten) at No. 6 Ohio State (6-1, 4-0 Big Ten) – 3:30 p.m. on FOX

The undefeated Nittany Lions play in Buckeye territory this weekend in a pivotal Top-10 matchup of Big Ten East foes. After dominating Michigan 42-13 last week, Penn State remains one of the two undefeated teams left in the Big Ten (Wisconsin). Running back Saquon Barkley and quarterback Trace McSorley lead a balanced offense that is averaging 173.4 yards per game on the ground and 289.9 through the air. Barkley leads the team in rushing and receiving while also leading the nation with 211.1 all-purpose yards per game. The Nittany Lions defense is also a strong force, at No. 1 in the nation for scoring defense, allowing an average of just 9.6 points per game.

Ohio State is undefeated in the Big Ten conference, but fell to No. 5 Oklahoma 31-16 in Week 2. The Buckeyes are still No. 1 in the Big Ten and rank in the FBS third in total offense (577.3 yards per game) and second in scoring offense, averaging 47.3 points per game. They have scored at least 54 points in each of their last four games. Quarterback JT Barrett is first in the Big Ten with 21 touchdowns earning him the No. 4 national rank for passing efficiency and No. 3 rank for points responsible for. In the Big Ten, Barrett trails only Penn State’s McSorley in passing yards per game (268.4-262.6) and completion percentage (66.8-66.7).

Penn State and Ohio State both rank in the top 30 nationally in total offense, total defense and scoring defense in this season’s meeting. Saturday will be the 32nd game between the schools and their 18th time playing in Columbus. The Buckeyes lead the all-time series 17-14 and also the record in Columbus, 11-7. This is eighth time that the Buckeyes and the Lions are facing each other as top 10 opponents — with Ohio State winning four of the previous seven games. Last season, Penn State edged the Buckeyes 24-21 in State College, snapping a four game Buckeyes win streak.

 No. 3 Georgia (7-0, 4-0 SEC) at Florida (3-3, 3-2 SEC) – 3:30 p.m. on CBS

SEC East rivals Florida and Georgia battle it out for the 95th time this Saturday in Jacksonville, with the Bulldogs looking to go 8-0 for the eighth time in school history.

The last time an undefeated Georgia team faced the Gators and won was in 1982, when the Bulldogs shut out Florida 44-0. The Bulldogs’ defense is in the top five in the country in several different categories including total defense (3rd), rushing defense (4th), scoring defense (4th) and first downs defense (2nd). In the SEC, Georgia has outscored its four opponents by an average margin of 43-11. The offense is averaging 43 points per game and is tied for first in red zone offense, going for a perfect 29-for-29, including 20 touchdowns.

Florida’s most recent game was a 19-17 home loss to Texas A&M in Week 7. Despite losing, Florida still managed to rush for 242 yards against the Aggies, marking the highest total for the Gators this season. Like Georgia, Florida is also tied for first in red zone offense and is 15-for-15 on the year. The Gators defense has only allowed four rushing touchdowns through their six games this season, which is tied for the third-lowest total in the country. The defense averages 6.8 tackles-for-loss per game, the fourth highest in the SEC and ranks 41st nationally.

The Florida-Georgia rivalry is one of the most prominent games in college football and has been played every year since 1926, except for the 1943 season, when Florida did not field a team due to World War II. The first official game between the two was in 1915 when Georgia shut out Florida 37-0. The Bulldogs continued that early win streak until 1927, when Florida finally got its first victory in the series. In more recent years, Florida has dominated Georgia, winning 20 of their last 26 games. The Gators are currently on a three game win streak over the ‘Dawgs after a 24-10 win last season.

 Mississippi State (5-2, 2-2 SEC) at Texas A&M (5-2, 3-1 SEC) – 7:15 p.m. on ESPN

Mississippi State faces its fourth ranked opponent of the season as it takes on the Aggies in College Station. The Bulldogs started SEC play strong, dominating LSU 37-7, but lost their next two games Georgia and Auburn, ranked No. 11 and 13 at the time. They are most recently coming off a 45-7 blowout of Kentucky in their homecoming game last week. Their defense ranks in the top ten of three national categories including total defense (8th), passing defense (2nd) and first down defense (1st). Quarterback Nick Fitzgerald is second in the SEC and 15th nationally in touchdowns responsible for this season with a total of 20, bringing his career total to 63 — the second most in school history behind only Dak Prescott (114).

With their win over the Gators, the Aggies locked up their first win in the state of Florida since 1944. Kevin Sumlin is seeking his 50th victory as the head coach of Texas A&M, a feat that only four Aggie head coaches have achieved (R.C. Slocum, Homer Norton, D.X Bible and Jackie Sherill). Texas A&M posted its lowest scoring total this season against the Gators, and are still averaging 33.7 points per game thus far. Their offense has run the ball at least 38 times in every game this season and is one of only four SEC teams (Georgia, Alabama and Auburn) to achieve that mark. The Aggies defense has held four of its seven opponents to under 100 rushing yards, including a season-low of 23 by South Carolina.

The Bulldogs and the Aggies will break a 5-5 series tie on Saturday. The home team has won the last four meetings between the programs, but the Bulldogs hope to snap that streak and gain their first victory in College Station since 1913. Both teams are also battling it out for bowl eligibility this week. A lot is on the line as MSU has a seven-year streak of bowl eligibility and Texas A&M’s streak is eight years strong. One of the previous meetings between programs was the 2000 Independence Bowl, nicknamed the “Snow Bowl” because it occurred during a rare snowstorm in the Shreveport, Louisiana area. Texas A&M built a 14-0 lead in the first quarter of that game, but MSU rallied to win 43-41.

Here are the rest of the Big Ten and SEC games our selection committee members will attend:

Rutgers (3-4, 2-2 Big Ten) at Michigan (5-2, 2-2 Big Ten) – 12:00 p.m. on BTN
Indiana (3-4, 0-4 Big Ten) at Maryland (3-4, 1-3 Big Ten) – 3:30 p.m. on BTN
No. 16 Michigan State (6-1, 4-0 Big Ten) at Northwestern (4-3, 2-2 Big Ten) – 3:30 p.m. on ESPN
Vanderbilt (3-4, 0-4 SEC) at South Carolina (5-2, 3-2 SEC) – 4:00 p.m. on SEC Network
Tennessee (3-4, 0-4 SEC) at Kentucky (5-2, 2-2 SEC) – 7:30 p.m. on SEC Network

Other Big Ten and SEC games being played this week:

No. 5 Wisconsin (7-0, 4-0 Big Ten) at Illinois (2-5, 0-4 Big Ten) – 12:00 p.m. on ESPN
Arkansas (2-5, 0-4 SEC) at Ole Miss (3-4, 1-3 SEC) – 12:00 p.m. on SEC Network
Missouri (2-5, 0-4, SEC) at Connecticut (3-4, 2-3 SEC) – 6:30 p.m. on CBS
Minnesota (4-3, 1-3 Big Ten) at Iowa (4-3, 1-3 Big Ten) – 6:30 p.m. on FS1
Nebraska (3-4, 2-2 Big Ten) at Purdue (3-4, 1-3 Big Ten) – 7:30 p.m. on BTN


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