By Jess Nicholas, TideFans.com Editor-In-Chief
Sept. 20, 2011
Last week’s record: 7-2 (77.8%)
Season record: 27-4 (87.1%)
The Predictions Dept. navigated Week 3 with minimal damage. The Louisville-Kentucky tossup went the wrong way, while the second loss came from the Clemson-Auburn game when the Lee County version of Tigers found no divine intervention awaiting them in the Carolinas. This week, Alabama and Arkansas headline the conference slate, but there are plenty of other key matchups to hold fans’ interest.
FLORIDA at KENTUCKY
Florida didn’t look like world-beaters in a victory over Tennessee, but the Gators could beat Kentucky in their sleep. The Wildcats are getting nothing from the quarterback position and can’t run the ball, either. Kentucky has looked lifeless and listless to start 2011 and the meat of the schedule is just now arriving. This is a good tune-up for Florida with Alabama coming to Gainesville next week. If Florida were to somehow lose this game, it would be a signal that the Will Muschamp-led retooling of the Gator program is on a longer timeline than most think.
ARKANSAS at ALABAMA
This is almost too good to be true: The SEC East’s coach with the hottest seat visiting an SEC West program whose coach is searching for a pair of asbestos pants. Ole Miss officials are saying all the right things about Houston Nutt at the moment, but if Ole Miss continues its tailspin, nothing is going to save Nutt’s job. Across the field, Mark Richt has to be secretly thankful that the brightest spotlights are off him, at least for a moment, and are fixated on Nutt. Georgia hasn’t played a good game start-to-finish yet, and Ole Miss has a handful of weapons, but it’s hard to imagine the Bulldogs falling so completely apart that they let the SEC’s worst team sneak up on them. If they do, Richt will need to snatch those asbestos britches away from Nutt.
Ole Miss 17
This game is interesting for a couple of different reasons. First of all, Vanderbilt is better than most prognosticators expected. Secondly, South Carolina might not be as good as advertised. Also in the mix now is a confirmed, full-blown NCAA investigation of the South Carolina program, and if the NCAA has what it says it has in the way of evidence, the Gamecocks are in deep trouble. It’s never clear how an announcement of an investigation will affect teams; some are oblivious to it, while others tend to implode because of it. In the here and now, though, South Carolina has to contend with a 3-0 Vandy team that is playing with confidence. If this game were in Nashville, the Gamecocks would have something to worry about. But look for the home-field advantage to give South Carolina the edge in the end.
South Carolina 29
FLORIDA ATLANTIC at AUBURN
Fortunately for Auburn, the Tigers get to regroup against the Florida Atlantic Owls, who appear not to give a hoot about playing good football in 2011. The Owls have scored 3 points this year and are ranked at or near the bottom of virtually every statistical category of relevance. The Tigers are giving up 534 yards per game to opponents, but if Florida Atlantic gets even half of that, it will be a serious surprise. If Auburn were to find a way to lose this game – or even allow it to be close – it might signal an impending implosion on the plains.
Florida Atlantic 14
LOUISIANA STATE at WEST VIRGINIA
Reports surfaced this week that West Virginia had petitioned the Southeastern Conference for inclusion. Supposedly, the SEC declined to pursue the Mountaineers. LSU arrives just in time to show West Virginia why it should be counting its lucky stars that it won’t be accepted into SEC membership. The Mountaineers are a decent team, but the LSU defense presents a horrible matchup for WVU. Anything can happen on the road, but an LSU loss this week would be highly unexpected.
West Virginia 9
LOUISIANA TECH at MISSISSIPPI STATE
The Louisiana Tech Bulldogs have had an interesting 2011 season thus far. It took overtime to defeat Central Arkansas, but the Bulldogs lost by an aggregate 3 points to Houston and Southern Miss. Mississippi State needs something good to happen after hard-fought losses to Auburn and LSU. LaTech has been an SEC killer for years, and this is just the kind of game the Bulldogs tend to get up for, but MSU simply has more talent.
Mississippi St. 37
Louisiana Tech 14
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