By Jess Nicholas
Oct. 14, 2015
Last week’s record: 5-1 (83.3%)
Season record: 43-14 (75.4%)
Only a shocking collapse from Georgia kept the Predictions Dept. from its first perfect week of the season. This week, in addition to an Alabama-Texas A&M matchup that could decide the SEC West, Florida and LSU will face off in a game that could effectively clinch the SEC East for the Gators should they win.
FLORIDA at LOUISIANA STATE
Florida has been enjoying a magic year in 2015 thanks to Jim McElwain, but the magic might run out this week. While Florida’s convincing win over Ole Miss two weeks ago found the Gators firing on all cylinders, the pedestrian 21-3 victory last week over Missouri is much more Florida’s speed right now. LSU is beginning to have some questions on defense – no surprise given what happened at the defensive coordinator slot over the offseason – but the Tigers have RB Leonard Fournette, and the passing game can function well when Fournette is at his best. McElwain’s Gators are in the catbird’s seat to win the East, but they’ll probably have to take the long way home after the Tigers humble them, meaning Florida is likely to leave this game with its first conference loss and see its lead in the East remain (for now) decided by the tiebreaker over Kentucky.
MISSOURI at GEORGIA
The Bulldogs are smarting after two consecutive losses, and now they’re without RB Nick Chubb. In comes a Missouri team that has issues at quarterback, but is still dangerous enough that Georgia can’t sleepwalk through preparation. Missouri was turning into the darling pick in the SEC East again before Florida put its boot down last Saturday. The question here is whether Georgia’s defense – particularly a defensive line that suddenly has problems – can trouble the Missouri offense, which lacks big-play potential. If so, Georgia should eke out a win at home.
AUBURN at KENTUCKY
Here’s a game that suddenly has the potential to be entertaining: Kentucky is 2-1 in the SEC, good for sole possession of second place in the East. Auburn is on the bottom of the West division and desperately looking for something good to happen. On paper, Auburn has far more talent, but the Tigers have not played to potential a single time in 2015, while Kentucky is slightly overachieving. The game is in Lexington. But Auburn has had two weeks to get its quarterback rotation straight, and one has to believe the AU defense can turn the corner soon. If it doesn’t happen, though, and Kentucky comes out the winner in this game, there’s so telling how bad AU’s final record will be.
VANDERBILT at SOUTH CAROLINA
South Carolina needs to catch a break. There’s no guarantee this game will even be played in Columbia, thanks to torrential rains and flooding, and the Gamecocks are 2-4 besides. South Carolina has given up about twice as many points as it has scored. And oh-by-the-way, Steve Spurrier retired this week, effective immediately. Thankfully, the opponent is Vanderbilt, who aside from taking Ole Miss deeper into the game than it probably should have, has been a rank disappointment in its own right. This may be South Carolina’s last chance to win a conference game in 2015.
South Carolina 24
MISSISSIPPI at MEMPHIS
This game suddenly is a real thing. Memphis has been terrible for the last decade or so, but under the guidance of head coach Justin Fuente, the Tigers are suddenly 5-0 and leading the American Athletic Conference’s West division. If Ole Miss approaches this game the way it has Vanderbilt, or especially Florida in recent weeks, this could end up in an ugly upset. The Rebels have demolished out-of-conference teams under Hugh Freeze, but Memphis is about as good as a mid-tier SEC opponent this year. The game is in Memphis and the Rebels need to exercise caution. Memphis boasts the country’s 4th-highest scoring offense and has beaten decent opposition this year, including a decent Bowling Green team.
Ole Miss 40
LOUISIANA TECH at MISSISSIPPI STATE
Like Memphis taking on Ole Miss, Louisiana Tech provides Mississippi State with quality opposition. The Bulldogs (Ruston, La., version, that is) have two losses on the year, one in overtime to Kansas State and the other a 3-point upset at the hands of Western Kentucky. This is a team that can move the football, especially through the air, and the defense isn’t terrible. Louisiana Tech ranks 23rd in rushing defense. The Bulldogs (Starkville version) are also 4-2 and a win here is crucial for bowl eligibility, given the SEC schedule MSU faces the rest of the way in isn’t a pushover. If Dan Mullen intends to continue to build the foundation for future State success, MSU has to take care of business in this game.
Mississippi St. 34
Louisiana Tech 31
IDLE: Tennessee, Arkansas
Follow Jess Nicholas on Twitter at @TideFansJessN
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