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By Jess Nicholas, TideFans.com Editor-In-Chief
Oct. 7, 2013
Last week’s record: 6-1 (85.7%)
Season record: 51-6 (89.5%)
Hugh Freeze, in addition to trying to rewrite the way offense is played in the SEC, is apparently trying to rewrite the punt. Freeze’s brain-lock – and a healthy dose of plain, old overrated-ness – conspired to give the Predictions Dept. its first loss in three weeks. This week’s slate of games is headlined by Florida visiting LSU, which will end one team’s hopes of reaching Atlanta, while Ole Miss’ season looks ready to go from mediocre to much worse as the Rebels host Texas A&M.
FLORIDA at LOUISIANA STATE
Florida has very little offense, which is convenient, because LSU has shown very little defense up to this point. Unfortunately for the Gators, LSU’s offense looks outstanding, and the Florida offense can’t keep pace. In addition, Florida’s defense has been thinned by injury, and given the game is in Baton Rouge, all these factors add up to Florida’s season effectively coming to an end this weekend. Florida has yet to lose a conference game, but the Gators will be underdogs against both Georgia and South Carolina, and an improved Missouri team might be more than Florida can take at this moment. But if the Gators were to somehow pull the upset, LSU is almost guaranteed of being out of the SEC West race with two conference losses and Texas A&M and Alabama still left on the schedule.
ALABAMA at KENTUCKY
MISSOURI at GEORGIA
Given what happened to Georgia against Tennessee last week, both in terms of injuries and the way the Bulldog defense failed to show up, this game couldn’t have come at a worse time for Georgia. Missouri is not only 5-0, the Tiger offense is clicking and the Mizzou coaches have the team believing in itself. This game kicks off the worst three-game stretch for any remaining conference contender – Missouri hosts Florida and South Carolina the next two weeks – but if Missouri makes it past Georgia, the Tigers don’t have anything that looks like a “guaranteed” loss on the schedule until they close with Texas A&M on the final week. If Missouri wins this game, it cements the Tigers’ status as a contender. And if it happens, who would have thought Missouri would be the new SEC program with the better chance to make the SEC Championship Game, given the presence of Johnny Manziel at Texas A&M? Missouri’s defense is problematic, though, and for that reason, we still like the Bulldogs.
SOUTH CAROLINA at ARKANSAS
If the Gameocks were playing a more formidable team this week – say, a Missouri or Florida – we’d pick the Gamecocks to lose. There is a lot of drama going on in Columbia right now. Star DE Jadeveon Clowney is basically determining when he will and won’t play. Observers of the sport are concerned that this might become the start of a trend – “draft status management” for lack of a better term – where players with shoo-in draft prospects, but who are yet unable to apply for the NFL Draft, basically call their own shots. Add Steve Spurrier’s relatively gutless response to the problem, not to mention an injury to QB Connor Shaw, and the Gamecocks are dangerously close to skidding into the ditch. But Arkansas can’t do anything about it. At least until the Razorbacks get better offensive linemen to campus, a better QB situation and a more athletic defense, this is going to be Mississippi State under Sylvester Croom. And South Carolina will eat that up.
South Carolina 34
WESTERN CAROLINA at AUBURN
The only thing to say about this game is … after it’s over, Auburn needs one more win to get bowl-eligible.
W. Carolina 10
BOWLING GREEN at MISSISSIPPI STATE
The Bulldogs can’t go to sleep on this one; Bowling Green is 5-1, with its only loss coming to an improving Indiana team. The Falcons haven’t even been threatened in their other games; the closest thing to a challenge was a 41-22 win over Kent State in Week 2. Mississippi State’s offense woke up somewhat against LSU, but the defense looked horrible. That’s not a good combination for the Bulldogs, because Bowling Green can score points and the Falcon defense isn’t bad. Still, it’s hard to pick an SEC team to lose games like this at home.
Mississippi St. 31
Bowling Green 27
TEXAS A&M at MISSISSIPPI
If Ole Miss had any delusions of competing for the SEC West title in 2013 – or, for that matter, of going to a decent bowl game – it might all come crashing down this week. The Rebels get the Johnny Football Show, and this game last year is the point at which Manziel first started to come out as a major player. It doesn’t help Ole Miss’ cause that head coach Hugh Freeze apparently started fancying himself as the next great innovator over the previous offseason. Freeze’s coaching decisions the last two weeks appeared to directly cost himself one game (Auburn) and get himself shut out in the other (Alabama). The too-cute-by-half Rebels probably won’t have the chance to consider themselves jobbed this week, because Manziel and the Aggies are going to run all over them.
Texas A&M 48
Ole Miss 21
IDLE: Tennessee, Vanderbilt
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