By Jess Nicholas, TideFans.com Editor-In-Chief
Oct. 6, 2014
Last week’s record: 3-3 (50.0%)
Season record: 44-11 (80.0%)
Week 6 made it clear that this is not the SEC of old. Wins by Kentucky and Ole Miss upset the Prediction Dept.’s apple cart, and things will remain cloudy this week as more close contests are likely on the horizon.
LOUISIANA STATE at FLORIDA
LSU has to be considered the SEC’s most disappointing team so far in 2014, relative to expectations. While South Carolina is also in the running for that award, LSU was seen as a true title contender by many. Instead, the Tigers lost badly to both Auburn and Mississippi State (a late rally notwithstanding) and almost lost to QB-less Wisconsin in the season opener. But Florida is hardly any better. The Gators had to rally to beat Tennessee 10-9 on Saturday, not exactly a show of strength for the Gators. Worse yet, the quarterback who led the comeback, Treon Harris, is now accused of sexual assault and has been suspended from team activities. That means Jeff Driskel is back in the saddle. Fortunately for LSU, it probably wouldn’t have mattered which quarterback Florida used. The Tigers are defense-poor against teams with good inside rushing games, and Florida’s attack is borderline. While Florida has the home-field advantage, LSU should still be in a position to win this game.
ALABAMA at ARKANSAS
GEORGIA at MISSOURI
This one may be for the SEC East title. If Georgia wins this game, only Auburn looks able to knock off the Bulldogs down the road. Missouri, meanwhile, has to get through Texas A&M and the Tigers are still prone to drop a conference game from completely off the radar screen somewhere. Beating Georgia would give Missouri a nice cushion over its chief competitor, but the Bulldogs still have a sizable talent advantage in this matchup and tend to be tough in the middle of a season under Mark Richt.
LOUISIANA-MONROE at KENTUCKY
Kentucky is 4-1 and coming off a big win over South Carolina, so naturally, this is the kind of game the Wildcats should be worried about. It will be interesting to see what the Wildcats do down the stretch in the SEC East, as next week begins a four-game run through some of the toughest opponents in the entire conference. That’s why beating Louisiana-Monroe this week is crucial for Kentucky: It might literally mean the difference between bowl eligibility and sitting home, even though Kentucky has already won four games.
TENNESSEE-CHATTANOOGA at TENNESSEE
So far, the season has played to form for Tennessee, which has had almost-there games against Georgia and Florida the past two weeks, but nothing to show for it. Fortunately for the Volunteers, UT-Chattanooga will put up virtually no resistance in this game, and with a win here, the Vols don’t have an impossible path to the postseason. In the event Chattanooga was to somehow win this game, though, Butch Jones’ recruiting class might start to fall apart.
CHARLESTON SOUTHERN at VANDERBILT
Nothing is assured for Vanderbilt this season, as the Commodores are questioning whether they got their most recent coaching search right, or even how to make the evaluation. Vanderbilt has looked feckless against Ole Miss and Temple, but nearly upset South Carolina and showed late resilience against New Hampshire. Given Charleston Southern’s lower-division pedigree, Vandy should win this game, but it might very well be the last game of the season the ‘Dores win unless Old Dominion isn’t as good as its 3-3 record indicates.
Charleston So. 17
AUBURN at MISSISSIPPI STATE
Auburn is coming off a masterpiece win over LSU during which everything that could go right, did go right. Mississippi State, meanwhile, is coming off the same kind of win over Texas A&M. Someone is due for an emotional letdown here. In State’s corner is the fact that this game is in Starkville; otherwise, it would be an easy Auburn pick. But Mississippi State is absolutely the underdog in this game, and until the Bulldogs put together a more consistent string of solid performances against equal or better teams – and this weekend’s game would certainly help build such a resume – taking Mississippi State is too much of a gamble. Look for Auburn to lean on its recent successes in big games to make the difference if the game is still on the line late in the second half.
Mississippi St. 34
MISSISSIPPI at TEXAS A&M
Ole Miss has a different problem on its hands: The Rebels will have to win with defense against a team it cannot match score-for-score, on the road. Texas A&M has issues on defense, as evidenced by Mississippi State making a near-mockery of its game against the Aggies last week, but the Aggies can score points quickly, something Ole Miss struggles to do. There is also the threat of the Rebels not being able to put their win over Alabama out of their minds quickly enough to turn around and win a tough game on the road. If Texas A&M can build a big lead in the first half with Ole Miss safety Trae Elston serving a suspension, it might be too much for the Rebels to overcome.
Texas A&M 31
Ole Miss 27
IDLE: South Carolina
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