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By Jess Nicholas, TideFans.com Editor-In-Chief
Sept. 13, 2011
Last week’s record: 9-1 (90.0%)
Season record: 20-2 (90.9%)
The Predictions Dept. had its second consecutive one-loss week in Week 2, and the team responsible for the blemish – Auburn – finds itself in another potential tight one this week, when the Tigers travel to Clemson. Meanwhile, Florida and Tennessee, a pair of rebuilding programs, renew hostilities, while Mississippi State tries to make a statement against LSU.
TENNESSEE at FLORIDA
To say these two programs don’t like each other would be akin to saying babies shouldn’t drink paint. But the last few years have been merely a string of one-sided affairs, thanks in large part to Tennessee’s fall from the ranks of the nation’s football elite. This season, both teams are optimistic. Tennessee’s offense has looked better than expected so far, while Florida’s defense has excelled. Given that Tennessee is further along in its rebuilding process and more familiar with coach Derek Dooley’s schemes, it would seem the Volunteers might have an advantage over the Gators, who are still learning new offensive and defensive systems under Will Muschamp. But Florida has an immense talent advantage and the game is in Gainesville.
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COASTAL CAROLINA at GEORGIA
The Bulldogs limp into this one at 0-2. If they don’t beat Coastal Carolina by a comfortable margin, it will be a sign that the tents have already folded on the 2011 season.
C. Carolina 10
LOUISVILLE at KENTUCKY
Kentucky has looked very unstable in two close wins over opponents that never should have come within sniffing distance of the Wildcats. And that’s the good team in this battle. Louisville is 1-1 with a loss to Florida International. Kentucky needs QB Morgan Newton to start performing up to his potential and fast; the Wildcats rank 115th in passing offense, and they’ll need some sort of competent balance in order to put away their in-state rival. This game often plays against type, but look for Kentucky to pull it out thanks to a defense that matches up well with the Cardinals’ strengths.
NAVY at SOUTH CAROLINA
The Gamecocks shouldn’t sleep on this one. Navy brings the nation’s top rushing attack to Columbia, and the Cocks could be prime for a letdown after a hard-fought win over Georgia on the road last week. Option teams have given South Carolina a ton of trouble over the last few years – see its games against Division-IAA Wofford – and Navy will be hungry to make a statement. This is the most likely potential upset on the board.
South Carolina 40
MISSISSIPPI at VANDERBILT
Ole Miss is an ol’ mess at the moment, while Vandy is 2-0 and drinking the Kool-Aid in gallon-size cups. The biggest problem for the Commodores, of course, is that even woeful Ole Miss has more athletes. When Vandy has won this game in the past, it’s almost always been because the Commodores made fewer mistakes and played with more discipline. Given that Vanderbilt is undergoing changes commensurate with a new coaching staff, it would appear to be Ole Miss that figures to make fewer mistakes. But the Rebels are 1-1 after a dismal loss to BYU in the opener and a not-so-convincing performance against Southern Illinois. The Commodores seem to have more to play for, and are playing with more drive. This could be the game that greases the skids on Houston Nutt’s career.
Ole Miss 17
TROY at ARKANSAS
Troy doesn’t appear to have much of a defense this season. Arkansas appears to have a great offense. While the Trojans are known for putting scares into better teams, it’s hard to imagine the Trojans will have anything for Arkansas, which is just biding its time until next week’s much-anticipated matchup with Alabama.
AUBURN at CLEMSON
Auburn has had two close, exciting wins in a row to start the 2011 season, which is becoming business as usual on the plains since Gene Chizik took over. Clemson was another one of those pulse-intensifying victories in 2010; Auburn now returns the favor and visits the Tigers on their home turf in South Carolina. While that would figure to make Clemson the favorite, Dabo Swinney’s team simply lost too many key players from last season. Look for Clemson to get close a couple of times, but Auburn is playing much better at the moment and is better coached.
LOUISIANA STATE at MISSISSIPPI STATE
Mississippi State had a chance last week to make a statement about its intentions to join the SEC West’s elite. All the Bulldogs managed to do was reaffirm, yet again, that they aren’t ready. As expected, head coach Dan Mullen didn’t have the gameplan necessary to win – the Bulldogs are 0-9 under Mullen against SEC West teams not named Ole Miss – and the Bulldog defense showed exactly why MSU insiders were worried in the preseason. LSU will throttle Mississippi State unless Les Miles decides to play the game with nine men per possession … and come to think of it, that sounds exactly like something Miles would try.
Mississippi St. 14
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