By Jess Nicholas, TideFans.com Editor-In-Chief
Sept. 10, 2014
Last week’s record: 12-0 (100.0%)
Season record: 21-2 (91.3%)
A soft schedule in Week 2 helped the Predictions Dept. ride to an undefeated record, although South Carolina at least attempted to make it interesting in its close win over East Carolina. This week, the Gamecocks are again part of the most intriguing conference matchup, as they fight for their SEC East lives in a matchup with Georgia, while Tennessee will get a chance to put its money where its mouth is, as the Volunteers face Oklahoma.
KENTUCKY at FLORIDA
Kentucky was feeling good about its offense after the opener, but then put up just 20 points on Ohio last week. Florida comes into this game limping, suffering injuries at tight end and along the offensive line, but the Gators are showing better offensive spark overall. If Florida loses this game, Will Muschamp can probably go ahead and start packing up. But Florida has so much more talent than Kentucky, the Wildcats are unlikely to be able to even keep this game close.
SOUTHERN MISSISSIPPI at ALABAMA
GEORGIA at SOUTH CAROLINA
The Bulldogs dismantled Clemson in their opener, flashing a potent ground attack that looks as if it will be one of the toughest offenses in the conference to stop, even no-frills as it is. South Carolina, meanwhile, got taken to the woodshed in its own stadium, losing to Texas A&M without putting up any defensive resistance and showing very little ground game of its own, then was unimpressive in a win over East Carolina. While it would seem Georgia is in for an easy SEC opener, Steve Spurrier’s teams frequently play against type when their backs are against the wall. And they’re very much against the wall here: A loss to Georgia means two losses already on the SEC schedule and with the tiebreaker going to Georgia, South Carolina would likely be out of the running for the division. With the Gamecock rushing defense suddenly suspect, it’s difficult to fathom how South Carolina intends to stop all the talent present in the Georgia backfield.
South Carolina 21
CENTRAL FLORIDA at MISSOURI
This might turn out to be the game of the week in the SEC. Central Florida lost at the last second to Penn State in its opener in Ireland, and hasn’t played since. Missouri did a good job beating a decent Toledo team last week, but defensively, hasn’t looked sharp – which was expected, given the losses the Tigers suffered on that side of the ball over the offseason. UCF is a very well-coached team, and if UCF’s defense can slow down the Tiger offense, the Knights are very capable of winning this game. We picked this an an upset in the preseason and we’ll stick with it.
TENNESSEE at OKLAHOMA
And now we come to this, also known as the game all Alabama and Florida fans want to see. Tennessee believes it is on the right track in 2014, and Oklahoma is going to show the Volunteers whether that’s true. The Sooners have mowed over Tulsa and Louisiana Tech so far, while Tennessee opened with a solid win over Utah State, then soft-pedaled a bit in an unimpressive win over Arkansas State. If Oklahoma does what is expected here – namely, beat Tennessee by four scores or more – it could have an unraveling affect on Tennessee’s season. But if Tennessee plays this game close, or especially if the Vols happen to win it, shouts of “we’re back!” will echo across the Smokies for days on end.
MASSACHUSETTS at VANDERBILT
Vanderbilt is in trouble. The new coaching staff overreached badly when it changed offensive and defensive systems, and some of Derek Mason’s other decisions – splitting practice reps three ways between quarterbacks into the season rather than picking a starter and sticking with it – make the problem worse. To add to the problems UMass was supposed to be an easy win for Vanderbilt before the season, but the Minutemen nearly knocked off Colorado last week and the Buffaloes are a better team than the Commodores are at the moment. If Vandy loses this game, it comes down to whether the Commodores can beat Charleston Southern or Old Dominion to break up a 0-12 season. The Commodores won’t win a conference game at this pace.
ARKANSAS at TEXAS TECH
The Razorbacks got out a year’s worth of frustrations in a 73-7 win over Nicholls State last week, but now it’s time to get back to playing real opponents. Fortunately for Arkansas, Texas Tech’s defense is in need of work. The Red Raiders gave up 35 to Central Arkansas in a game they nearly lost, then came within 4 points of losing to UTEP, giving up 26 points in that one. All of a sudden, this is a winnable non-conference game for Arkansas, which looked a bit more composed even against Auburn than most observers expected heading into the year. Were the game in Fayetteville, Arkansas would probably get the nod in this one. But it’s hard to give Bret Bielema the benefit of the doubt yet given no evidence yet that he can get the job done.
Texas Tech 31
LOUISIANA-MONROE at LOUISIANA STATE
LSU won’t get a complete lay-down from ULM in this game; the Warhawks are 2-0 with wins over Wake Forest and Idaho thus far in the season. But ULM has virtually no chance to stay with LSU for four quarters. Too much talent differential here to even talk about the possibility of an upset.
LOUISIANA-LAFAYETTE at MISSISSIPPI
LSU gets one Louisiana-based patsy this week; Ole Miss gets the other. Unlike ULM, ULL isn’t undefeated, thanks to getting beaten fairly convincingly by Louisiana Tech last week. Ole Miss is coming off a romp over Vanderbilt, and Louisiana-Lafayette is about the same level team as is Vandy right now. This one won’t be close.
Ole Miss 41
SOUTH ALABAMA at MISSISSIPPI STATE
USA opened with a win over Kent State, and now goes to Starkville to face a Mississippi State team that opened with a blowout win over Southern Miss followed up by a way-too-close victory over UAB. South Alabama probably doesn’t have the firepower the Blazers had, but Mississippi State can’t be feeling too comfortable after UAB shredded the State defense for 548 yards. MSU has lots to work on here, and if South Alabama comes close to duplicating UAB’s output, the Bulldogs’ immediate future in the SEC gets a lot more cloudy.
Mississippi St. 30
South Alabama 15
RICE at TEXAS A&M
A year ago, Rice won 10 games and a conference title. This year, the train might be off the tracks after just two games. Rice opened by getting clobbered by Notre Dame, and now faces what is arguably the SEC’s most dynamic offensive team. The Owls don’t have the speed to compete in this one, and the final margin could be embarrassingly big.
Texas A&M 55