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By Jess Nicholas, TideFans.com Editor-In-Chief
Sept. 19, 2012
Last week’s record: 11-1 (91.7%)
Season record: 31-3 (91.2%)
The Predictions Dept. should have gone with its gut feeling in the Kentucky-Western Kentucky game last week, as doing so would have meant a perfect picking record for Week 3. This week, Kentucky tries to bounce back against Florida – good luck there, Wildcats – while LSU seeks to further rip Auburn’s season to shreds.
KENTUCKY at FLORIDA
It’s possible the Gators could come crashing off the Tennessee sugar high of last week, or that Kentucky could use its embarrassing loss to Western Kentucky to fuel a resurgence. More likely, though, is that the Wildcats will officially begin the process of folding the tent. The Wildcats can’t stop the run and can’t run the ball themselves. Florida has the third-best rushing mark in the conference and is stingy against the run. This is what is known as a mismatch. If the Wildcats don’t find a way to at least make the final score respectable, expect Joker Phillips to wake up to a collection of “For Sale” signs dumped in his yard on Sunday.
FLORIDA ATLANTIC at ALABAMA
See our extended preview!
VANDERBILT at GEORGIA
The Commodores changed quarterbacks last week and won at home over an overmatched Presbyterian squad. Georgia beat Florida Atlantic, but the Bulldogs have given up 20 or more points in all three games and haven’t been sharp on defense. Vanderbilt may be the conference’s hardest team to figure in 2012; the Commodores are obviously getting good coaching, but the bulk of the team’s talent is probably in the freshman and redshirt freshman classes. The only hope for Vanderbilt is to strike early and often with the running game, as Georgia’s rush defense has been mediocre. But the Bulldogs simply have too many athletes and can pull away at any time.
MISSOURI at SOUTH CAROLINA
This is probably the game of the week in the SEC, as it will tell everyone exactly how good Missouri is or isn’t. South Carolina can’t keep its starting quarterback healthy, and will be without safety D.J. Swearinger after a questionable suspension for what league officials deemed a cheap hit on a UAB player last week. Missouri defended its new conference’s honor well in knocking off a much-improved Arizona State team last week, but this is a conference game on the road and will be a totally different kettle of fish than what the Tigers have experienced up to this point. South Carolina’s defense hasn’t lived up to billing, especially against the pass, and Missouri can hurt the Gamecocks through the air. But can Missouri’s small defense stop Gamecock RB Marcus Lattimore? Probably not.
South Carolina 27
AKRON at TENNESSEE
The Volunteers need to look sharp in this one just to keep the vultures off Derek Dooley’s not-yet-dead carcass. Tennessee’s second-half fold-up against Florida lit the bonfire under Dooley’s seat, and if the Vols struggle with Akron – which has yet to win a game this year against Division-IA opposition – that bonfire will be nuclear-fueled next week.
RUTGERS at ARKANSAS
Prior to the season, this game looked like just another stepping stone for the Razorbacks on their way to challenging for a BCS bowl slot. Now, it becomes a must-win game against an undefeated team from a BCS school. The Razorbacks aren’t falling apart, they’ve fallen apart, past tense. Rutgers stumbled along to unimpressive wins in its first two games against Tulane and Howard before beating one of the Big East’s better teams, South Florida, in Week 3. The Scarlet Knights seem to have a tough defense, but have problems moving the ball on offense. Arkansas’ defense couldn’t stop a goldfish from eating a pit bull right now. It’s literally a toss-up, but give the Hogs the edge simply because the game is on their home field.
LOUISIANA STATE at AUBURN
An overtime win over Louisiana-Monroe did little to placate the worried masses in Auburn, which have watched their team stumble out to a 1-2 record and not display any semblance of offense whatsoever. Of greater concern is the defense, which can’t contain a good running game and which is mediocre at best against the pass. LSU can exploit both weaknesses, and it’s hard to imagine the Auburn offense suddenly coming alive against one of the three best and fastest defenses in the conference. Auburn can consider this game a “win” if it’s just able to keep the score close, and with the game being played in Jordan-Hare Stadium, that is very possible. But LSU also has the ability to blow this one wide open, and Auburn doesn’t have the look of a team equipped to deal with adversity.
MISSISSIPPI at TULANE
Ole Miss appears to have an effective offense, but absolutely no defense. Tulane has neither. Advantage: Rebels.
Ole Miss 44
SOUTH ALABAMA at MISSISSIPPI STATE
South Alabama has a solid coaching staff and, in time, will be a legitimate Sun Belt program. But that time is not now. Mississippi State got a scare from Troy last week, but there is a wide gulf between Troy and its Sun Belt brother in Mobile. The Bulldogs shouldn’t go two consecutive weeks playing with questionable focus – and won’t.
Mississippi St. 38
South Alabama 10
SOUTH CAROLINA STATE at TEXAS A&M
The Aggies are looking to get their first conference victory next week against Arkansas. They might be looking past South Carolina State. It won’t matter.
Texas A&M 51
S. Carolina St. 10
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