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Hot Reads: Special teamers make us proud

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Auburn's Steven Clark and the entire class of SEC kickers get largely overlooked - that is, by everyone except for us. (Source: Todd Van Emst/Auburn University Athletics) Auburn's Steven Clark and the entire class of SEC kickers get largely overlooked - that is, by everyone except for us. (Source: Todd Van Emst/Auburn University Athletics)
The LSU Tigers have had plenty hills to climb early this season, but like any elite team they are well-poised to overcome them. (Source: Todd Van Emst/Auburn University Athletics) The LSU Tigers have had plenty hills to climb early this season, but like any elite team they are well-poised to overcome them. (Source: Todd Van Emst/Auburn University Athletics)
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(RNN) – Hot Reads had the brilliant idea of featuring kickers this week, but since we know it would take people all of 0.2 seconds to leave the page, that idea got trashed.

Instead, we're going to give you all the passing, scoring, hitting and blah blah blah that you want and create intermittent ways to show off the best legs in the SEC. Yes, we know that should technically include sorority girls in sundresses, but the editors won't allow that. Focus, man, focus.

Unless, you want to hear all about the kickers? Never mind.

Why you should (and shouldn't) respect LSU

Bad Louisiana-themed cliches coming in 3, 2, 1 …

LSU's schedule this season has been seaux soft, it's like they're hammering nails through toilet paper. Just about every SEC team should be able to geaux 3-0 against North Texas, Washington and Idaheaux. And Auburn is as iffy a team as there is in the league, maybe in the country.

A comparison of numbers through the Tigers' first four games this season and last season is pretty unimpressive. They have scored only two more points and hold a slightly lower third-down conversion percentage this year than they did against four teams that included three ranked opponents in 2011.

The program purged Heisman finalist Tyrann Mathieu, suspended starting outside linebacker Tahj Jones and three other players for the season for poor academics, and lost left tackle Chris Faulk and running back Alfred Blue to knee injuries.

Neaux reason to get really excited about that. So does a team that has that much going against it really deserve a No. 3 ranking and a mention in the BCS title conversation?

Short answer: Yes. Long answer: Yes.

Hot Read's opinion about poll rankings falls somewhere along the lines of portable toilets, but if you care about that stuff we'll geaux ahead and say LSU is a top-5 team because of three things: depth, talent and coaching.

LSU has running backs to spare, and they're all productive. That's largely due to an offensive line that could clear forests even without the 6'6", 325-pound Faulk.

And let's clear this up about Mathieu once and for all. Cornerbacks just don't have two consecutive seasons like the one he had last year, which is why a lot of writers didn't immediately mention him as a Heisman favorite. His impact on special teams was the thing that was going to propel LSU, but even without him they rank 10th in the nation in yards per kickoff return.

Not to mention, punter Brad Wing is a stud that could pin offenses inside the 10-yard line right after saving his teammates from a burning building and acing a final exam. Not really, but he is very good, and we promised to show kickers some love.

And then there's the quarterback ... Zach Mettenberger is, well, he's tall. That's all we can say for now. But that's where coaching comes in. As long as he can stay further away from handcuffs than previous LSU quarterbacks, he'll figure it out.

SEC vs. SEC

We've taken a vote, and the consensus is that the Tennessee-Georgia game is the most compelling NFL Lite game this weekend. It might as well be the only league game this weekend.

Why? Because of Georgia's placekicker, Marshall Morgan, and punter, Collin Barber. No, we're serious this time. Both these guys are true freshmen, and they're almost as big as their long snapper.

Aside from that, their performance could impact the game because of the field position factor. Tennessee so far has had a solid, not great, punt return game, and Georgia has the lowest average yards per punt in the SEC. That does include some thoroughly unimpressive kicks from Adam Erickson, but still, Barber has some work ahead of him.

The real X factor, though, will come on kickoff returns, where the divide could not be greater.

For comparison sake, the Bulldogs' kickoff coverage is like, "No," and the Vols' kickoff return ability is like, "Whoa!"

Cordarrelle Patterson is an all-purpose yardage machine for UT, and Devrin Young has not really hit his stride yet.

So what notable things has Georgia's kickoff coverage done so far this year? Yeah, we don't know either, aside from giving up the third most return yards in the SEC.

It may not be a total stretch to say this game's most important plays could happen right after the ball flies off the tee.

This would be a really bad game for Georgia's kickers to play like true freshmen.

Showing Belated Love

It was recently brought to the attention of Hot Reads that South Carolina is the only SEC team that has not yet been prominently featured this season.

That's not entirely true. We dropped the hint that Vanderbilt could beat the Gamecocks the first game of the season, and if not for a missed interference call reminiscent of an NFL replacement official, that prediction might have turned true.

But hey, since criticism is as important as praise, it's only fair we show some love to the Gamecocks, who in true Steve Spurrier fashion have one of the most balanced squads in the nation and a Heismanesque talent in the backfield. No, not Connor Shaw.

We're going to tell you right now if South Carolina will win the East Division …

But only after we tell you about placekicker Adam Yates. He's pretty decent. He's made all of his PATs, 2-of-3 on field goals. He's smart, too. He's majoring in hotel, restaurant and tourism management. That'll come in pretty handy if he wants to stick around the Columbia area after graduation.

What were we talking about again, SEC championship or something other? Yeah, about that. Can we hold off on that prediction for a couple of weeks?

It's not that Hot Reads is afraid of getting it wrong (as evidenced by Ole Miss's favorable scouting report against Texas), and it's not so much because the season is only a quarter through.

Rest assured, little variables like potential injuries, suspensions, hot and cold streaks and the pure unpredictability of athletes that are not old enough to drink alcohol (but still do) have not added to our hesitance.

And it most definitely has nothing to do with the fact that neither a crystal ball nor a descendant of Nostradamus helps construct this weekly column.

The reason Hot Reads won't tell you whether South Carolina will take the East crown is simple. We just can't remember what that reason is. Sorry.

But would you like to know about this awesome kicker we've heard about? No? Whatever.

This Week's Unique Stat

473: Marcus Lattimore became South Carolina's career leader in rushing touchdowns (33) with two scores against Missouri last week. He has 473 fewer career carries than George Rogers, who previously held the record. Rogers, coincidentally, won the school's only Heisman in 1980.

Copyright 2012 Raycom News Network. All rights reserved.

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