By Jess Nicholas
Sept. 15, 2014
Last week’s record: 8-3 (72.7%)
Season record: 29-5 (85.3%)
Week 3 was a decidedly mediocre effort for the Predictions Dept., which grudgingly admits now that Missouri might be for real. This week’s headline game is Alabama-Florida, which will be covered in its own article, but LSU and Mississippi State will do their best to be a decent second option, while Auburn and Kansas State meet in a key intra-conference matchup.
TROY at GEORGIA
There was a time when Troy could wreak havoc with SEC schedules – albeit mostly those of teams based out of the state of Mississippi – but this is not one of those years. Troy is 0-3, with losses to UAB, Duke and Abilene Christian, and just isn’t very competitive. Of course, Georgia is, once again, fighting against the notion that its season – for the purposes of winning a national title – is over after three weeks. The Bulldogs will either take it out on the Trojans or hang around long enough to throw further fuel on the fire that warms Mark Richt’s seat.
INDIANA at MISSOURI
Missouri has made a nice effort at staying level following the loss of several key playmakers from the 2013 team. The Tigers will likely make it a 4-0 start after facing Indiana this week. The Hoosiers were unremarkable in an opening-week win over Indiana State, then lost to Bowling Green in their second game. Defense is again an issue for Indiana, and Missouri’s offense appears to have enough firepower to cause problems for the Hoosiers. On the flip side, Indiana’s offense can be dangerous, but Missouri should have the edge in athleticism anyway.
SOUTH CAROLINA at VANDERBILT
South Carolina put itself right back in the SEC East race with an upset win over Georgia; now the Gamecocks face a Commodore program that continues to skid off the rails. Vanderbilt narrowly escaped with a win over New Hampshire last week, but questions about new head coach Derek Mason’s leadership of the team continue to come up. Vandy has played four different quarterbacks, can’t pick a starter and can’t stop anyone on defense. Unless South Carolina comes to Nashville completely asleep at the switch, the Gamecocks will leave a winner and Vanderbilt will have only more questions to answer about the future of its program.
South Carolina 47
NORTHERN ILLINOIS at ARKANSAS
Arkansas might be finally turning a corner under Bret Bielema, but Northern Illinois is no pushover. The Huskies are 3-0 with a win over Northwestern as one of the three. New QB Drew Hare has been the picture of offensive efficiency, and Arkansas is still not to a point where it can start counting out-of-conference games as automatic wins. If Arkansas commits to using its bulk to patiently plow over Northern Illinois as it did Texas Tech, the Razorbacks should come out of this game on top, even if it is by an unimpressive margin. But if Arkansas gets caught up trying to work on things that aren’t in its wheelhouse, an upset is certainly possible.
N. Illinois 28
AUBURN at KANSAS STATE
For all the talk of Bill Snyder’s prowess as a head coach and mentor to countless assistants, Snyder hasn’t been very effective against top 10 teams during his tenure. On top of that, Kansas State might be 2-0 right now, but the Wildcats just did sneak by Iowa State, and defensively, just don’t appear to have either the speed or intuitiveness of prior Wildcat teams. Auburn comes into this game needing to make a statement, not just for its own good by also from a SEC-vs.-Big 12 perspective. If the Tigers can throw the ball effectively against the Wildcats, Auburn will easily win this game. If Auburn tries to take the Arkansas approach and be a one-dimensional ground team, however, the Wildcats might stay in the game long enough to make for an interesting ending.
Kansas State 27
MISSISSIPPI STATE at LOUISIANA STATE
Finally, a real test for both these teams. LSU has pitched two shutouts in a row since allowing Wisconsin to run wild in the opener; Mississippi State sandwiched a near-upset loss to UAB between beatings of Southern Miss and South Alabama. This one is going to come down to the rushing game, because LSU has been fairly mediocre by Tiger standards in stopping the run, while Mississippi State seems to have a better handle on it so far. With LSU being mostly a one-dimensional offense at the moment, if this game were in Starkville, it might actually convince us to pick the Bulldogs in an upset. MSU QB Dak Prescott has been called a fringe Heisman candidate by many, and if he wants those claims to have any traction, he needs to do it in this game.
Mississippi St. 21
TEXAS A&M at SOUTHERN METHODIST
Texas A&M’s tour of the defunct Southwest Conference continues, with SMU up next. The Aggies didn’t exactly look like worldbeaters in their takedown of Rice last week, and SMU is ten degrees worse than the Owls. If Texas A&M doesn’t run this score to 50 by halftime, it will be time to worry.
Texas A&M 62
IDLE: Kentucky, Tennessee, Ole Miss
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