By Jess Nicholas, TideFans.com Editor-In-Chief
Oct. 25, 2011
Last week’s record: 5-0 (100.0%)
Season record: 56-5 (91.8%)
Three perfect weeks in a row for the Predictions Dept. pushes the season average close to 92 percent, which is rarefied air. As most of the college football world – and virtually all the SEC world – waits a week to see Alabama take on LSU, there are still some key games this week, headlined by a cocktail party down in Jacksonville.
FLORIDA vs. GEORGIA (Jacksonville, Fla.)
Jeff Brantley should be back, at least in a limited role, as Florida’s quarterback this week, meaning the Gators at least have a shot against Georgia. The Bulldogs haven’t exactly been setting the world on fire recently, barely beating Mississippi State, Tennessee and Vanderbilt. But the Bulldogs have a lot to play for. First of all, there is the issue of saving their coach’s job. Secondly, one more conference loss by a vulnerable South Carolina team and Georgia controls its own destiny in the race to get back to Atlanta. Florida has scored a total of 27 points over the last three weeks thanks to injuries at the quarterback position, and Will Muschamp needs a statement win in his first season at the helm in Gainesville. This would certainly qualify as much, but with Brantley still hobbled, beating Georgia might be too much to ask.
MISSISSIPPI STATE at KENTUCKY
The Bulldogs had a week off to stew over blowing a very winnable home game against South Carolina. Now, MSU gets a Kentucky team coming off a nice win over a quality Division-1AA opponent. Even though Kentucky is singing a positive note at the moment, the fact remains the Wildcats have issues at quarterback and have looked poorly coached in just about every game. Mississippi State has been a disappointment so far, but the Bulldogs ought to have enough talent to eke out a close win on the road. The loser of this game can probably kiss the bowl season goodbye.
Mississippi St. 21
SOUTH CAROLINA at TENNESSEE
South Carolina is now without both Stephen Garcia and Marcus Lattimore for the balance of the year. The Gamecocks also have the added pressure of Georgia nipping at their heels. With games remaining against Arkansas and Florida, it will take all of USC’s concentration to get through to the end and return to Atlanta. Fortunately, Tennessee is ill-equipped to hinder the Gamecocks much. Tennessee now has its own quarterback issues, with Tyler Bray hurt and Matt Simms clearly not the answer. Tennessee may start a true freshman this week and is still looking for any kind of offensive continuity.
South Carolina 25
ARKANSAS at VANDERBILT
Vandy could conceivably finish 7-5 and get a nice bowl bid. The Commodores are 4-3 now, so who represents the two losses? Arkansas and Florida, the next two weeks’ opponents. Vanderbilt is a much improved team with a good defense and an offense that has been playing over its head. The Commodore secondary is good enough that Arkansas will have to think about things, but the worst thing to happen to Vandy’s chances was for Arkansas to struggle last week on the road at Ole Miss. The close win provided Bob Petrino with a teachable moment for his team, and the Commodores likely lost the element of surprise because of it.
MISSISSIPPI at AUBURN
What’s worse for a team’s long-term psyche: getting blown out the way Auburn did against LSU last week, or losing a heartbreaker against a better opponent, as Ole Miss did against Arkansas? We’ll get our answer this week, as demoralized Ole Miss travels to Auburn to face demoralized Auburn. Neither team is in the SEC West race anymore, and both teams could be on the bowl bubble. Auburn needs only to defeat Samford, however, so the Tigers are somewhat assured of the postseason. But Ole Miss could still make it in by upsetting Auburn and winning three other games, which isn’t a terrible stretch given the Rebels play Louisiana Tech, Kentucky and Mississippi State. The key for Ole Miss is to get out to a big lead early, as this year’s Auburn team is not equipped for comebacks. Auburn, likewise, is looking for an early fast start.
Ole Miss 17
IDLE: Alabama, LSU
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