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By Jess Nicholas, TideFans.com Editor-In-Chief
Sept. 23, 2013
Last week’s record: 9-0 (100.0%)
Season record: 37-5 (88.1%)
The Predictions Dept. finally scored a perfect week, hitting all nine games and doing a good job getting final scores reasonably close. This week’s slate of games might prove more difficult to pick, however, as Georgia and LSU square off in a game that could decide one or both divisions, while South Carolina travels to visit a surprisingly good Central Florida team.
FLORIDA at KENTUCKY
This game got a little more interesting when Florida lost QB Jeff Driskel for the season against Tennessee. Tyler Murphy did a good job in relief of Driskel, but Tennessee’s defense is so bad that Murphy’s solid play may have been just an illusion. It’s not likely the Wildcats will give Florida any greater of a challenge than Tennessee did, but the Gators need to start amping up Murphy’s role in the offense in anticipation of tougher games in the near future, such as Georgia and LSU. The Wildcats were off last week following a loss to Louisville two weeks ago that was closer than expected. Kentucky appears to be getting better from a fundamental standpoint, but the talent differential here is too great, with or without Driskel in the lineup for Florida.
MISSISSIPPI at ALABAMA
See our extended preview!
LOUISIANA STATE at GEORGIA
This is the second-most important game left on the SEC regular seasons schedule this year (Alabama-LSU is first), and both teams come into this game with significant question marks. Georgia’s defense, which was well-known to be in a rebuilding mode, has been even more porous than expected, while the Georgia special teams have bordered on the disastrous. But LSU isn’t without its own issues. TCU, UAB and Auburn all moved the ball better on LSU than Tiger fans would like to have seen, and the Tiger passing game has yet to firmly establish itself as consistently effective in big games. This is a recipe for a rare shootout between these two teams, which are both more accustomed to asserting their dominance both defensively and through the running game and waiting for the other team to eventually collapse. When in doubt, go with the home team.
ARKANSAS STATE at MISSOURI
One of these days, Missouri will actually play an SEC conference game. For now, the Tigers get an Arkansas State team coming off a 24-point loss to Memphis. ASU hasn’t been quite up to par this season, and Missouri will take any charity it can get while Gary Pinkel attempts to stay away from the hot seat. The Tigers’ conference slate begins next week, and getting there with a 4-0 record would do wonders for confidence.
Arkansas St. 24
SOUTH CAROLINA at CENTRAL FLORIDA
Don’t look now, but UCF is 3-0 with a win over Penn State on its ledger so far. Unfortunately, the Penn State win was by only 3 points, and the Gamecocks are significantly better than were the Nittany Lions. Both teams were off last week – hopefully enough time, in South Carolina’s case, for the Gamecocks to figure out what’s wrong with its defense. The pass rush has been OK, but South Carolina’s secondary – thought in the preseason to be a strength for the team – has been ineffective thus far. UCF isn’t known for having an overwhelming home-field advantage, and the talent imbalance leans heavy toward the Gamecocks, but if South Carolina doesn’t keep its focus up, the Knights are capable of pulling the upset.
South Carolina 31
SOUTH ALABAMA at TENNESSEE
Let’s get this out of the way first: South Alabama should not beat Tennessee. But the Jaguars do find themselves coming into the game with a 2-1 record. After opening with a loss to Southern Utah (Southern Utah?), the Jags upset Tulane and Western Kentucky in consecutive weeks. Beating WKU is no small feat for this team, and given how the Hilltoppers looked in their opener against Kentucky, one might begin to believe the Volunteers are also ripe for an upset. This will be the biggest game in USA’s short history so far, and head coach and Alabama alum Joey Jones could raise his coaching profile significantly with a victory here. Tennessee is coming off a loss to Florida that saw the coaches make a curious – and poorly thought-out – decision to bench Justin Worley at quarterback in favor of Nathan Peterman. The wheels may already be coming off a bit for new Vol coach Butch Jones, who so far has done nothing to improve upon the Derek Dooley years, with the possible exception of displaying more interesting (and painful) facial expressions when things start going off-track. Look for this one to be closer than expected.
S. Alabama 23
ALABAMA-BIRMINGHAM at VANDERBILT
The Commodores are dealing with the fallout from the campus rape scandal in more than one way. The roster is depleted, head coach James Franklin is under fire and the Commodores have looked listless ever since the opening-day loss to Ole Miss. Vandy’s win over UMass on Saturday was about as boring a game has could have been played, and if the ‘Dores treat UAB with the same disinterest as they did the Minutemen, this could end up being a shocker. If you’re looking for a potential upset game this week, here it is. We’ll take Vandy, but confidence is low.
TEXAS A&M at ARKANSAS
Arkansas’ loss to Rutgers ought to have ended any talk of Bret Bielema being ahead of schedule with the Razorbacks’ rebuilding and refitting plan. This game could end any talk of the Razorbacks competing for a decent bowl bid. Look for this one to be ugly from the outset, as Arkansas’ overmatched defense, coupled with injury issues at quarterback, will make for easy pickings for Johnny Manziel and Co. Arkansas’ best hope for keeping this one close stems from the fact that Texas A&M would likely have trouble keeping a good high school’s rushing attack stifled, and the Razorbacks can indeed move the ball on the ground. But no one has stopped Manziel yet, and Arkansas certainly won’t be the first to do it.
Texas A&M 52
IDLE: Auburn, Mississippi State
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