Last week’s record: 5-1 (80.0%)
Season record: 59-16 (78.7%)
By virtue of Hugh Freeze out-hatting Les Miles in Baton Rouge, The Predictions Dept. missed on a perfect week. With Alabama sitting out this week, the top game in the SEC will be Ole Miss against Auburn, a game that serves as an elimination matchup for the national championship.
FLORIDA vs. GEORGIA (at Jacksonville, Fla.)
It’s been a long time since this game was considered a walkover for one of the two combatants, but Georgia ought to roll here and again the following week at Kentucky, setting up one of the bigger Auburn-Georgia games in years. Florida still has a shot at bowl eligibility, and Will Muschamp may still have a shot to retain his job, but it won’t happen without an upset win here. And that means, most likely, that Muschamp can officially schedule the movers first thing Sunday morning.
KENTUCKY at MISSOURI
Given how wacko the Missouri team has proven to be in 2014, this might be Kentucky’s best chance to get a sixth win and get bowl-eligible. The Tigers barely beat what is by far the SEC’s worst team, Vanderbilt, this past Saturday. That came after huge wins over Florida and UCF, a narrow win over South Carolina and a complete collapse against Georgia. It’s just about impossible to peg the Tigers, and there is no pattern in regards to whether Missouri is at home or away as a means for predicting performance. Kentucky played valiantly against Mississippi State and scored more points than expected, but the Wildcats will need a similar effort this week to get a win in Columbia.
TENNESSEE at SOUTH CAROLINA
This won’t be the most important game this week by any stretch, but it could be the most entertaining. Both these teams played much better than expected last week against top competition, but both came out losers. The questions this week for Tennessee revolve around two areas more than the others: Who is going to play quarterback, and how badly did Alabama beat up the thin Volunteer defensive line late in the game Saturday? Tennessee would probably be best served at this point to bench Justin Worley for Joshua Dobbs, but Butch Jones’ seat gets a lot warmer than it currently is if Tennessee misses the postseason. And if Tennessee loses this game, it must win out against Kentucky, Missouri and Vanderbilt in order to get to a bowl.
South Carolina 30
OLD DOMINION at VANDERBILT
Old Dominion can score points; the problem is, the Monarchs can’t stop other teams from doing the same. If Vanderbilt doesn’t win this game, the Commodores have no chance at bowl eligibility – not that they have a chance anyway; Mississippi State looms on the schedule Nov. 22 – and there’s a pretty good chance the season win total would stop at 2. Vanderbilt’s problem is that its offense can’t keep up with its defense, and that’s not a good thing given ODU can actually put points up on the Commodore D. If Vandy loses here, it’s likely a 2-10 season for Derek Mason in season one, and sets up a situation for 2015 where he might actually have to coach for his job just two years into a tenure.
Old Dominion 21
Mississippi State’s defense suddenly looks very average, especially in the back end, and that’s something nobody expected coming into 2014. Fortunately for the Bulldogs, the Razorbacks can only effectively attack up front; there is nothing resembling a good, SEC-level passing game in Fayetteville. With the game in Starkville, that’s another strike against Arkansas, and it’s unlikely State will be looking forward to anyone, as UT-Martin is the next game on the schedule. Translation: Big win for the Bulldogs.
Mississippi St. 38
The only thing the Rebels have going for them at this point is that this game is in Oxford. The way the Rebels lost on the road last week at LSU, coupled with Hugh Freeze all but throwing QB Bo Wallace under the bus in postgame comments, and Ole Miss is reeling right now. The Rebels may find themselves behind Alabama in playoff projections despite having beaten the Crimson Tide earlier in the season, and the sudden drop into the middle of a pack of one-loss teams might lead Ole Miss to panic. The principal difference between Auburn and Ole Miss here is that the Tigers have been in the middle of enough championship chases lately to know how to handle it, whereas Ole Miss isn’t accustomed to the spotlight. It showed in Baton Rouge on Saturday, and it will likely show up here – along with the usual criticisms of the Rebel team, including a lack of an inside rushing game and spotty QB play.
Ole Miss 24
LOUISIANA-MONROE at TEXAS A&M
Texas A&M has had a week to chew on the aftermath of its 59-0 shellacking at the hands of Alabama, and Louisiana-Monroe hits the schedule at just the right time for the Aggies to blow off some steam. The Warhawks aren’t nearly as potent as in recent years, and these are the opponents that fast, spread passing teams like Texas A&M eat for lunch. The only way this isn’t a big blowout win for the Aggies is if the team has emotionally mailed it in after the Bama beatdown.
Texas A&M 48
IDLE: Alabama, LSU
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