By Jess Nicholas, TideFans.com Editor-In-Chief
Sept. 5, 2011
Last week’s record: 11-1 (91.7%)
Season record: 11-1 (91.7%)
The Predictions Dept. had a nice first week, stymied only by the Georgia Bulldogs, who somehow managed to find a way to play below expectations yet again. Games this week are highlighted by a Thursday night battle between Mississippi State and a suddenly troubled Auburn, and a Saturday matchup of legends when Alabama heads to Happy Valley to face Penn State.
ALABAMA-BIRMINGHAM at FLORIDA
Much praise fell Florida’s way after Week 1, but the Gators’ opponent, Florida Atlantic, is a candidate to finish dead last among all 120 Division-IA teams this year. UAB isn’t significantly better, but the Blazers do have more talent than FAU did and showed it last year by nearly upsetting Tennessee. Florida will still cakewalk in this game barring the evolution of some kind of massive weakness yet unforeseen (think AU’s defense against Utah State).
ALABAMA at PENN STATE
SOUTH CAROLINA at GEORGIA
One week after embarrassing themselves against Boise State, the Bulldogs face a fight for their SEC East lives when South Carolina comes to town. South Carolina isn’t without questions of its own, however. Despite being picked to have one of the saltiest defenses in the SEC, the Gamecocks took far too long to get control of its opener with East Carolina. Georgia looked uninspired on offense against Boise State, and the defense simply didn’t appear to be up to the task of stopping decent teams. Assuming a team’s biggest improvement is from Week 1 to Week 2, either of these teams could begin to hit its stride this week. But Georgia is likely still a mental mess, and now the heat’s on Mark Richt to get cracking.
South Carolina 30
CENTRAL MICHIGAN at KENTUCKY
Kentucky may have been the most disappointing SEC team of them all in the first week. The Wildcats took four full quarters to dispatch Western Kentucky, one of the 20 worst teams in the country. They’ll get a crack at another bottom-feeder this week as Central Michigan rolls into town. Central Michigan won a very similar game to Kentucky’s last week by beating Division-IAA outfit South Carolina State 21-6. If Kentucky plays this week as it did in the opener, CMU could beat the Cats. Quarterback Morgan Newton needs to stop playing as if he’s afraid of his own shadow.
C. Michigan 17
CINCINNATI at TENNESSEE
There’s been a lot of braggadocio from Tennessee fans this week, thinking that a big win over hapless Montana qualifies as being “back.” The Volunteers will get the chance to test that hypothesis this week against a Cincinnati team that looked a lot stronger on offense in its opener against Austin Peay than most observers believed they would. Tennessee is still a thin team with uncertainty on offense and a defense that hasn’t played together much. Cincinnati has weapons and could be dangerous, but needs to shake off the hangover of a very disappointing 2010 season. This could be the week’s upset pick, but in a case where not much is known about either team, take the SEC team at home.
CONNECTICUT at VANDERBILT
UConn was in a BCS bowl game last year. This season, the Huskies might not make the postseason. Hiring Paul Pasqualoni was a curious move at best, especially for a team that is rebuilding its offense. Pasqualoni isn’t exactly known as an innovator on that side of the ball. Vanderbilt struggled a bit at first with Elon last week before pulling away, and will probably be considered a betting underdog to the Huskies this week. If Vanderbilt can find a way to score points on what should be a tough Husky defense, though, the Commodore defense should be good enough to stifle the UConn attack.
NEW MEXICO at ARKANSAS (Little Rock, Ark.)
New Mexico continues the Head Coach Mike Locksley Farewell Tour with a trip to War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock. New Mexico needs to make the postseason to save Locksley’s job, and that got a lot more difficult after opening the season with a humdrum loss to Colorado State. Arkansas should have no trouble with the team that posted the second-worst total defense numbers in the nation in 2010. Arkansas’ primary concern is staying healthy.
New Mexico 10
MISSISSIPPI STATE at AUBURN
Dan Mullen is 2-8 against the SEC West so far as a head coach at MSU, and both wins have come over Ole Miss. If he doesn’t lead the Bulldogs to a victory over Auburn this year, he might never do it. Auburn’s defense looked like Swiss cheese against Utah State in Week 1, while the Bulldogs have an impressive power rushing game. The problem for Mullen is that he tends to hit the panic button in close games against better opponents. MSU fans are still smarting from Mullen’s decision to rotate quarterbacks at inopportune times during last year’s 17-14 loss to the Tigers. Judging from Auburn’s performance against Utah State and State’s performance against Memphis last week, there should be no doubt as to who wins this one, particularly with Auburn, which played Saturday, working off a shorter week than MSU, which played last Thursday. But MSU needs to prove it’s not intimidated by better opponents in its own division. We’re having faith that Mullen has learned something in a year’s time.
Mississippi St. 27
NORTHWESTERN STATE at LOUISIANA STATE
NW St. 0
SOUTHERN ILLINOIS at MISSISSIPPI
Ordinarily we wouldn’t talk about supposed mismatches like this one, but a couple of things make it necessary. One, Ole Miss is a year removed from a loss at home to Jacksonville State. Two, the Rebels looked listless in a loss to BYU, and lost starting RB Brandon Bolden for the season and perhaps top backup Enrique Davis for an extended period of time as well. Meanwhile, Southern Illinois spent its first week destroying Southeast Missouri State. Bring your own oxygen to this game, as the Ole Miss fans will be hogging it all, holding deep breaths and waiting for the next shoe to drop.
Ole Miss 30
So. Illinois 20
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