By Jess Nicholas
Oct. 21, 2015
Last week’s record: 6-1 (85.7%)
Season record: 49-15 (76.6%)
Sometimes, the trendy pick is correct, as it was this week, when Memphis knocked off Ole Miss as many had thought would happen, giving the Predictions Dept. its only loss of the week. This week, the biggest game by respective rankings is Texas A&M against Ole Miss, but Alabama-Tennessee figures to be a better game.
KENTUCKY at MISSISSIPPI STATE
This is an intriguing matchup between two second-tier teams that are, from an overall program standpoint, improving. Kentucky nearly knocked off Auburn last week in Lexington, while Mississippi State took care of a quality Louisiana Tech team. Mississippi State is 5-2, which is relevant here because the Bulldogs need one more win for bowl eligibility – and the future schedule does the Bulldogs no favors. With the possible exception of Arkansas, Kentucky is the weakest team left for Mississippi State. Kentucky, which still has Vanderbilt and Charlotte on the schedule, figures to get bowl-eligible without help from this game. Statistically, Mississippi State is slightly ahead of Kentucky in most categories, but the presence of Dak Prescott at quarterback gives State a playmaker that Kentucky doesn’t have. He, and the homefield advantage, figure to be the differences in this game.
Mississippi St. 27
MISSOURI at VANDERBILT
The Tigers forgot to turn their offense on last week in a 9-6 throwback against Georgia. Vanderbilt would love to see the Missouri offense struggle similarly this week, as it’s probably the only chance the Commodores have for a win. Vandy hung tough with a reeling South Carolina team before losing Saturday by a 19-10 score. Missouri still has something to play for with Florida losing, but all Vanderbilt can do now is take some heat off head coach Derek Mason by winning this game. Presuming Missouri is able to move the ball better against the Vanderbilt defense than it did Georgia’s, the Commodores face an uphill climb despite hosting this game.
AUBURN at ARKANSAS
This game is a total tossup at the moment thanks to the struggles of both teams. Arkansas has failed to live up to expectations this year, primarily due to losses out of conference against Texas Tech and Toledo. While both of those teams – particularly Toledo – have since proved to be better than many prognosticators thought they’d be, Arkansas is still on the underachieving side of the ledger. But it’s nothing like Auburn. The Tigers were expected to challenge for the national title; discipline problems, a near-disaster at quarterback and a defense that has been slow to improve have combined to make Auburn very average up to this point. Having this game on the road doesn’t help Auburn, nor does having a quarterback situation in flux. But Arkansas is down its best running back, and its defense hasn’t lived up to expectations, particularly in the back end. The Razorbacks have more to play for, as the schedule is getting tougher while a bowl game is still four wins away. This game will tell much about Auburn, which hasn’t faced a quality running game since getting blown out by LSU. It just feels like one of those games the Tigers usually find a way to win.
WESTERN KENTUCKY at LOUISIANA STATE
Don’t look now, but the Hilltoppers are 6-1 with wins over Vanderbilt, MTSU and Louisiana Tech, and its only loss a nailbiter to Indiana. LSU should almost certainly win this game, but if the Tigers completely sleep on this game, the Hilltoppers can at least make them work for it. LSU’s Leonard Fournette continues to tear up every defense he sees, and the smallish Hilltopper front won’t be much of a match for him. But if Les Miles eats the wrong kind of grass and decides to use this game as a passing scrimmage, anything could happen.
W. Kentucky 24
TEXAS A&M at MISSISSIPPI
Three weeks ago, this looked like the game that might decide the SEC West. Now the Rebels limp in trying to salvage their season, precariously holding onto a tiebreaker lead over Alabama in the division. For A&M to advance to Atlanta, the Aggies must win here and against LSU to close to season, then hope LSU or someone else knocks off Alabama. A loss to the Rebels comes very close to eliminating the Aggies from consideration. Ole Miss is playing while looking over its shoulder, not a good scenario for any team. Both Ole Miss and Texas A&M were beaten up to one degree or another last week; Texas A&M had more players affected overall, but Ole Miss lost DT Robert Nkemdiche to a concussion. He should be back but Ole Miss will have to manage his snaps. Left tackle Laremy Tunsil returns, however, which may be enough to push Ole Miss over the top. The Rebels’ biggest problem is their offense is a terrible matchup for A&M’s defense, which thrives against wide-running teams.
Texas A&M 40
Ole Miss 34
IDLE: Florida, Georgia, South Carolina
Follow Jess Nicholas on Twitter at @TideFansJessN
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