Sept. 29, 2014
Last week’s record: 6-1 (85.7%)
Season record: 41-8 (83.7%)
The Predictions Dept. would like to petition the SEC to remove Missouri from the conference for the remainder of the season. Three of our eight losses this year have come as a result of trying to accurately peg the Tigers one way or another. Missouri now finds itself atop of the SEC East heap as a result of its win over South Carolina, a win that, for all practical purposes, eliminates South Carolina from the divisional race – unless Missouri itself decides to let the Gamecocks back in it, of course, which would be fitting. This week’s top game involves Alabama, so in this space we’ll look at some of the SEC’s other offerings, topped by Florida-Tennessee in the East and Auburn-LSU in the West.
Two programs headed in different directions here. Florida took last week off after its blowout loss at Alabama, while Tennessee nearly upset Georgia on the road. The losing team in this game is probably out of the SEC East race, which adds another dimension. Tennessee has had this game circled for some time, but the question there is whether the Vols’ close-but-not-quite performance against Georgia discouraged them. Florida is immensely more talented than Tennessee, deeper and more dangerous, but the Gators are also circling the drain emotionally, haven’t been able to get out of the gate due to schedule upheaval related to the cancellation of the Idaho game, and coach Will Muschamp’s job future is cloudy. Picking Florida in this one might be akin to picking an upset.
The Commodores took steps forward two weeks ago by challenging South Carolina, but gave it all back last week in a 17-7 loss to Kentucky. But Georgia isn’t running at optimal levels, either; Tennessee nearly came into Athens and upset the Bulldogs last week. Neither of these teams is on course, but Georgia has such a massive talent advantage that it’s hard to imagine Vanderbilt pulling the upset. Were it to happen, though, Mark Richt would land squarely on the hot seat.
This game suddenly got a lot more interesting in light of South Carolina’s loss to Missouri. The Wildcats aren’t a great team by any measure, but they are getting better and South Carolina is in somewhat of a tailspin. The Gamecocks’ greatest opponent in this game is self-doubt. The Cocks’ defense simply isn’t very good, QB Dylan Thompson may not be capable of leading a coherent gameplan on a weekly basis and being out (or all but out) of the SEC East race has to have some effect. Were this Tennessee or Arkansas instead of Kentucky this week, South Carolina might be caught in a trap spot. Against Kentucky, though, the Gamecocks should still have enough on the sidelines to win.
South Carolina 34
This is the hardest game on the docket to pick this week simply because neither team has looked as good as expected. LSU’s problems are mostly located in two areas, quarterback and interior rush defense. Les Miles hopes he has the quarterback issue settled, as true freshman Brandon Harris is set to replace Anthony Jennings this week. But Auburn is a tough place to play for any rookie QB, much less one that was in high school at this time last year. Auburn’s problems are a bit more hard to defense. Auburn has suffered from a general lack of sharpness, and the Tiger offense looks quite a bit more mortal than in previous years. Had LSU managed its quarterback situation better up to this point, and Harris had a start or two under his belt, LSU might be the pick here. But Auburn’s home-field advantage makes the difference.
Texas A&M almost was upset last week by Arkansas, thanks mostly to the Aggies’ indifference to the concept of defense. Sooner or later, that attitude will prove to be their undoing, and it might just come this week against a Mississippi State squad that could be pushing spoiler status in the SEC West. The problem for Mississippi State is that if Texas A&M does happen to get up by a couple of quick scores, the Bulldogs aren’t capable of staying with them. LSU was an easier opponent thanks to its offensive struggles, but Mississippi State lacks the depth at receiver to hang shot-for-shot with the Aggies. Texas A&M’s biggest challenge will be dealing with a MSU secondary that can be pretty stout when it concentrates on the task at hand.
Texas A&M 30
Mississippi St. 24
IDLE: Missouri, Arkansas
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