By Jess Nicholas, TideFans.com Editor-In-Chief
Oct. 24, 2012
Last week’s record: 5-1 (83.3%)
Season record: 60-9 (87.0%)
A lack of faith in Vanderbilt cost the Predictions Dept. for the second time in three weeks, as the Commodores’ defeat of Auburn was Week 8’s only blemish. This week, Florida and Georgia headline the slate of conference games, with the winner taking control of the reins in the SEC East. On the SEC West side, Alabama and Mississippi State meet in a battle of unbeatens.
FLORIDA vs. GEORGIA (at Jacksonville, Fla.)
This shapes up to be a classic offense-vs.-defense battle, with Florida bringing the defense and Georgia bringing the offense. The Bulldogs nearly let Kentucky upset them last week, which might have gotten Mark Richt fired on the spot had it happened. Florida, meanwhile, ran up less than 200 yards of total offense, but still hung 44 points on turnover-prone South Carolina. Since defense trumps offense most of the time in the SEC, Florida is the popular favorite, but the Gators don’t have great comeback ability and must guard against letting Georgia get a couple of cheap scores early on. If that happens, Florida will be in big trouble. Georgia, though, is playing horribly on defense, especially in the light of the talent the Bulldogs have on that side of the football. It may even be horrible enough to make Florida’s offense look dangerous.
MISSISSIPPI STATE at ALABAMA
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KENTUCKY at MISSOURI
On several occasions this year, Kentucky football has looked left for dead. But last week, the Wildcats showed a pulse when Georgia came to town. Ultimately, the Wildcats lost the game and assured themselves of missing the postseason, which may very well be enough to cost Joker Phillips his job this offseason. Unfortunately for Missouri, the Tigers haven’t looked much better lately. Furthermore, if Missouri doesn’t win this game, a bowl appearance becomes a tough get. Missouri’s offense has been out to lunch for six weeks now, and QB James Franklin remains doubtful for this game. Without him, even Kentucky becomes a formidable opponent. Perhaps the week off that Missouri had last week will have been put to good use.
TENNESSEE at SOUTH CAROLINA
The Predictions Dept. has had this game circled since the preseason, when we picked Tennessee to pull the upset on the road. The thought process here isn’t scientific, but intuitive: South Carolina annually tends to struggle in one game it has no business struggling in (see Auburn, 2011), and the Gamecocks are primed for an upset this week. For one thing, Tennessee is in somewhat of a desperate situation; the Vols need a win to bring a bowl game closer to reality, not to mention that Derek Dooley and his staff need to assure themselves of future paychecks. South Carolina has been beaten up two weeks in a row, and the Gamecock defense does not match up well with Tennessee’s offensive style. Moreover, the Gamecocks are sputtering on offense. Does a Tennessee win make sense? No, but sometimes that’s what picking an upset is all about.
South Carolina 27
MASSACHUSETTS at VANDERBILT
Vanderbilt isn’t a juggernaut by any stretch of the imagination, but UMass is one of the worst teams in Division-IA football this year. Actually, Massachusetts isn’t a full-fledged member of the Football Bowl Subdivision just yet, as the Minutemen are in a transitional year prior to joining the MAC. UMass is 0-7, coming off a shutout loss at the hands of Bowling Green, and has lost three games against BCS conference opponents by a combined score of 145-19. Look for the Commodores to notch back-to-back wins for the first time this year.
MISSISSIPPI at ARKANSAS (at Little Rock, Ark.)
The last time the Razorbacks played at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock, Louisiana-Monroe shocked the world. This time around, the Razorbacks look much improved, but so too is Ole Miss, which is the surprise team of the SEC West so far. The key to Arkansas’ resurgence the last two games has been its defense, which yielded just 14 combined points to Auburn and Kentucky. But the Ole Miss offense is light years better than either of those two opponents, and the Razorback offense is still a bit shaky, particularly on the ground. If Arkansas can somehow find a way to win this game, bowl eligibility isn’t out of the question. Lose this game, and John L. Smith can get a head start on packing.
Ole Miss 37
TEXAS A&M at AUBURN
Prior to the season, this looked like a pretty good matchup on paper. Now, it looks like an Aggie romp unless Auburn suddenly finds an offense. Texas A&M was humbled somewhat last week by LSU, at least in terms of offensive output, but the Aggies held their own and put a good scare into the Tigers. The Aggies won’t find these Tigers nearly as fearsome as the ones they faced last week, but LSU physically pounded Texas A&M and it will be interesting to see if the Aggies have fully recovered. Auburn, though, is completely lost at the moment, with rumors swirling about the fate of some or all the members of its coaching staff. A road loss to Vanderbilt last week pretty much put a bow on the season, and bowl eligibility is little more than wishful thinking. A loss to A&M cinches a homebound holiday season.
Texas A&M 35
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