By Jess Nicholas, TideFans.com Editor-In-Chief
Sept. 18, 2013
Last week’s record: 7-1 (87.5%)
Season record:28-5 (84.9%)
The Predictions Dept. started to shake off the rust in Week 3, missing only the Ole Miss-Texas game. While national pundits on ESPN ponder the future of Texas head coach Mack Brown, TideFans.com turns its attention back to the SEC. This week, while Alabama gets a breather of sorts, SEC fans will largely get a breather as well, as the top games are Auburn-LSU and Tennessee-Florida, simply due to the history of the two series.
TENNESSEE at FLORIDA
This rivalry doesn’t enjoy the profile it did 20 years ago, when Phil Fulmer and Steve Spurrier traded barbs and the talent on both sidelines was the best in the league. Florida still has good talent, and these two teams don’t like each other any better than they did back in the day, but the state of the Volunteer program has eroded significantly. Unfortunately for Tennessee, the Vols also have to deal with an angry Gator bunch fresh off a loss to Miami, another program currently suffering has-been status while talent regenerates. The Gators have something to prove and aren’t out of the SEC East race by any measure, while Tennessee would probably be happy with simply avoiding a blowout. Only Florida’s penchant for underachieving on offense is in Tennessee’s favor in that particular pursuit.
NORTH TEXAS at GEORGIA
Thanks to Dan McCarney, the Mean Green are slowly reaching respectability. North Texas is 2-1 on the season, beating Idaho and Ball State and nearly knocking off Ohio. None of that will mean anything in the face of playing Georgia, which could probably start its second team and beat UNT comfortably.
North Texas 10
MISSOURI at INDIANA
This game suddenly got interesting thanks to Missouri’s early struggles on defense and Indiana’s offensive explosiveness. The Hoosiers blew through a decent Bowling Green team in Week 3 a week after falling by 6 points to Navy. Missouri was off in Week 3 after beating a decent Toledo team in the second week. Indiana will be the best the Tigers have faced by far, and for a Missouri team soft on defense, the Hoosiers could turn out to be a real problem. Tiger QB James Franklin will need to put forth a solid effort to keep this from turning into Kryptonite. Fortunately for Missouri, there is almost no home-field advantage in play at Indiana, which has some of the worst fan support among BCS schools.
VANDERBILT at MASSACHUSETTS
The Minutemen are one of the worst offensive teams in college football. Vanderbilt is coming off its second conference loss and is all but out of the SEC East race, which means UMass is the perfect opponent at the perfect time. Why Vandy agreed to play this game in Massachusetts is anyone’s guess, but unless the Commodores completely forget to show up, they’ll even their record at 2-2 this week.
ARKANSAS at RUTGERS
This game looked like a Razorback loss in the preseason, and now with QB Brandon Allen out for a few weeks, it looks even more like trouble for the Hogs. Rutgers, though, hasn’t been sharp to start the season. The Scarlet Knights lost to Fresno State in the opener, then looked blah in wins over Norfolk State and Eastern Michigan. Arkansas has been the beneficiary of solid play from true freshman RB Alex Collins, but Rutgers is a much better team than Southern Miss or Samford, and this might be the first example of how teams undergoing massive changes in leadership and systems struggle against good, stable opponents.
AUBURN at LOUISIANA STATE
Auburn is being Auburn in 2013, the beneficiary of scheduling the right first-week opponent at the right time (Washington State), then getting all the breaks in its second win (Arkansas State), then narrowly beating a conference opponent whose quarterback was hurt and couldn’t play (Mississippi State). The winning streak stops at three, however, because LSU is better than Auburn’s first three opponents combined. Back when Auburn was among the top four or five teams in the conference in terms of talent, this game was always interesting no matter where it was played, upsets were frequent and Auburn was never out of the game. If LSU doesn’t win this one by three scores, it will be a major shock.
TROY at MISSISSIPPI STATE
State needs a break between opening the season at 1-2 and the prospect of having to face LSU next Saturday. Fortunately, the Troy of 2013 doesn’t look like Troy teams of past seasons. The Trojans had to go to overtime to beat UAB, then lost to Arkansas State last week after whipping up on lower-division Savannah State in the middle. MSU may still be without QB Tyler Russell – whose play, had he been healthy, would have been enough for the Bulldogs to overcome Auburn – but it won’t matter so long as the Bulldog defense plays a reasonably good game. Troy is notorious for getting up for games like this and playing the spoiler, but the Trojans might not have enough arrows in the quiver in 2013.
Mississippi St. 30
SOUTHERN METHODIST at TEXAS A&M
SMU has a one-point win over Montana State on its resume, which followed up an 18-point loss to Texas Tech. Johnny Manziel might find a way to score 30 points on a single play.
Texas A&M 55
IDLE: Kentucky, South Carolina, Ole Miss
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