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By Jess Nicholas, TideFans.com Editor-In-Chief
Sept. 3, 2013
Last week’s record: 11-2 (84.6%)
Season record:11-2 (84.6%)
The Predictions Dept. got off to a solid, if unspectacular start to the 2013 season with an 11-2 record thanks to overconfidence in Georgia and Kentucky. This week, Alabama is idle, but there are several SEC games worth watching, including Georgia and South Carolina battling for the SEC East and Florida facing old in-state foe Miami.
The Hurricanes got by Florida Atlantic in the opener in a somewhat unimpressive win. But “unimpressive” certainly beats the efforts of a lot of other Division-IA teams, including in-state neighbor South Florida. Florida looked solid against a decent Toledo team, although the Gator offense still suffers from a lack of imagination. The Florida defense, though, is as salty as they come, and for a Miami team that isn’t nearly as talented as the great Miami teams of the past, this Gator team may be just a bit too tough. It doesn’t help the Hurricanes’ cause that the special teams looked spotty against FAU.
It’s always a difficult decision for the Predictions Dept. on when to first break from our preseason predictions. In the preseason, we picked the Bulldogs to win this one. Now, we’re not so sure. Georgia’s offense played to type against Clemson, and the defense struggled a bit with the speedy Clemson offense. Neither was unexpected. What was unexpected was the extent to which South Carolina looked like a complete team against a not-bad North Carolina outfit. South Carolina’s defense looked more stout at linebacker than expected, and the Gamecock offense shone behind new RB Mike Davis. Those factors alone made us take a second look at this game, but the loss of Georgia WR Malcolm Mitchell to a knee injury pushes it over the edge. The Bulldogs have the home field, but that hasn’t always been an advantage for Georgia in big games under Mark Richt.
South Carolina 24
No SEC team disappointed more in Week 1 than did the Wildcats. Mark Stoops’ turnaround efforts aren’t going to come together overnight, but the shocking component to the loss to Western Kentucky was the fact the Wildcat defense – allegedly a strong unit, at least up front – got thoroughly mauled by the Hilltoppers. Fortunately enough, Kentucky faces a team in Week 2 that looked even worse. Miami lost 52-14 to a just-OK Marshall team and, offensively, couldn’t get out of its own way. We’ll take the Wildcats again this week, but if Kentucky loses this game, Stoops could well be looking at a 1-11 debut season.
Missouri ran up nearly 700 yards of offense in its debut against Murray State, but Toledo will be a much tougher opponent. The Rockets are many people’s favorites to win the MAC in 2013, while the Tigers are still trying to figure out what they are as a team. The Missouri running game looks sound now that RB Henry Josey has returned, while there appeared to be good development at receiver. Toledo, meanwhile, gamely hung in against Florida, particularly on defense. There figure to be fireworks in this game, but it’s still the Tigers’ to lose.
Can Western Kentucky beat two SEC teams in as many weeks? Absolutely yes. The Hilltoppers are a solid outfit and Bob Petrino hasn’t forgotten how to coach – plus, Kentucky and Tennessee will be the proverbial two mules fighting over a turnip this year in the SEC East, each trying to avoid a last-place finish. Tennessee’s 45-0 win over Austin Peay in the opener looked good from a distance, but the Vol passing game was nonexistent. Given how bad Austin Peay is, it’s hard to get a read on the Tennessee defense until it faces a legitimate opponent. Cautiously, we’ll take the Vols here, if for no other reason than it’s hard to imagine the Hilltoppers getting up to face two straight BCS conference opponents. Don’t be surprised if it goes WKU’s way, though.
W. Kentucky 21
Speaking of Austin Peay, they get Vanderbilt this week. Eight straight quarters without scoring looks like a distinct possibility.
Austin Peay 0
Samford opened with a win over barely-FBS Georgia State in Week 1, but Arkansas is a much different breed. The Razorbacks put together a sharp performance in their opening win over Louisiana-Lafayette, which is expected to be a bowl team. Arkansas should be expected to put out inconsistent performances while getting accustomed to Bret Bielema’s ways, but even a poor performance wouldn’t likely get the Hogs in trouble against Samford. Furthermore, with Southern Miss struggling and Rutgers perhaps not as good as expected, Arkansas could easily be 4-0 heading into its game against Texas A&M.
Arkansas St. 34
LSU has made a habit out of scheduling (and beating) UAB for a decade or more now, and a Tiger win is hardly in danger this week. UAB lost in overtime to Troy in its season opener, while LSU took down a tougher-than-expected TCU team. UAB is getting better, but expecting the Blazers to challenge a top-3 SEC program is a bit of a stretch for the program at this point.
SeMo lost 45-7 in its opener to SE Louisiana. If Colonel Reb was still on the Ole Miss sideline, he’d be getting snaps before halftime.
Ole Miss 60
SE Missouri St. 0
The Bulldogs had a tough first week, losing not only the game to Oklahoma State, but almost certainly (for this week, at least) the team’s starting quarterback, best cornerback and starting safety, along with a couple of others. Worst yet, the Bulldogs made a good-but-not-great Oklahoma State defense resemble the Siegfried Line. The MSU offense was completely devoid of coordination, imagination or execution. Head coach Dan Mullen is stumbling towards the hot seat with all due speed. It’s highly unlikely MSU will lose this game – although Alcorn State won its opener 63-12, it did so over a school by the name of Edward Waters, which calls into question whether the Braves were playing a football team or a brokerage firm – but if Mullen doesn’t fix what ails Mississippi State and do it fast, it’s going to be a long year in Starkville.
Mississippi St. 27
Alcorn State 7
SAM HOUSTON STATE at TEXAS A&M
Sam Houston St. falls into the category of a good Division-IAA program. The Bearkats beat Houston Baptist 74-0 in the opening week and ran up 365 rushing yards in the process. But SHSU has no Johnny Manziel, and that will make the difference. Texas A&M struggled terribly on defense against Rice, especially against the run, and SHSU can certainly move the ball on the ground. This one may go back and forth more than the Aggie fans would like, but A&M should nonetheless be 2-0 when Alabama comes to down in a little over a week.
Texas A&M 57
Sam Houston St. 27
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