By Jess Nicholas
Oct. 26, 2015
Last week’s record: 3-3 (50.0%)
Season record: 52-18 (74.3%)
The Predictions Dept. could be forgiven for taking chances on Auburn and Texas A&M last week and losing the picks; many people did that. But if you had Vanderbilt beating Missouri, you might want to get $100 from the ATM and find the nearest casino, because it just might be your week. For Week 9, Alabama is off, but will be watching the Ole Miss-Auburn game with great interest. Meanwhile, Georgia and Florida renew friendlies in Jacksonville.
FLORIDA vs. GEORGIA (at Jacksonville, Fla.)
SEC fans don’t need to play a game in Jacksonville to have an excuse to break open the liquor, that’s for sure. But Georgia fans might want to start drinking early just in case. The Bulldogs are flailing badly at the moment, coming off a three-game stretch where they lost twice (Alabama, Tennessee) and barely beat the same Missouri team – by a 9-6 score, no less – that just lost to Vanderbilt. Florida, meanwhile, stayed within a touchdown of a much better LSU team and is 6-1 on the year. The real question in this game is the Florida QB situation, which was thrown into flux when Will Grier was suspended for use of a banned substance. If Treon Harris can continue to play well (not to mention stay healthy), the Gators have an outside chance of winning the SEC, perhaps even getting into the final four playoff if other dominoes fall. This looked like a sure Georgia win in the preseason, but with the Bulldogs’ own quarterback play a bit of a mess, look for Florida to come out on top.
TENNESSEE at KENTUCKY
This game will be most interesting to watch if for no other reason than to see if the “week after Bama” curse continues. Both Georgia and Texas A&M, to name two recent opponents, came out the week following their losses to Alabama sluggish and visibly beaten. Alabama is the most all-around physical team in the conference, and Tennessee didn’t have a lot of depth going in to its game against the Crimson Tide to begin with. Kentucky has been backsliding in recent weeks, and came apart completely in a 42-16 thumping at the hands of Mississippi State last Saturday. While it might be nice to ponder what would happen if the Vols couldn’t answer the bell in Lexington, the reality is the Wildcats just don’t have enough talent yet to give Tennessee more than a cursory scare. The Volunteers would have to outright give this game away in order to lose it.
SOUTH CAROLINA at TEXAS A&M
Texas A&M may have unofficially quit on the season, judging by its performance against Ole Miss and the subsequent reports out of College Station that there is a growing rift between the players and the coaching staff. If the Aggies have quit, they will at least have company this week. South Carolina’s season is in the dumpster after opening to a slow start, having its starting quarterback get injured and then having Steve Spurrier walk out on the team. No one would blame the Gamecocks if they just decided to phone it in and head for the beach. The difference in this game will probably come down to offensive explosiveness; i.e., Texas A&M at least has the potential for it, while South Carolina does not.
Texas A&M 31
South Carolina 17
VANDERBILT at HOUSTON
Had the Commodores not found a way to shut down the Missouri offense last week, even the trendiest and/or bravest of prognosticators would not have taken them this week at undefeated Houston. The Cougars are 7-0 and looking to force their way into the college football playoff at year’s end. If Houston defeats Vanderbilt – a result that most expect to see – there are only a couple of competitive games left on the Cougars’ schedule. An undefeated season could very well be in the picture. For Vanderbilt fans looking to get an accurate gauge of Houston’s abilities, the only legitimate team the Cougars have played all year was Louisville in Week 2; Houston won 34-31. The Cougars don’t stop the pass very well, but the Commodores can’t throw it very well, either. Vanderbilt’s problem in this game is that if Houston gets up by two or more scores, the Commodores have virtually no comeback ability.
TENNESSEE-MARTIN at ARKANSAS
UT-Martin’s best hope is that the Arkansas players, still exhausted from a quad-overtime win over Auburn last week, sleep through their alarms.
MISSISSIPPI at AUBURN
Ole Miss has stepped forward to claim the mantle of most unpredictable team in the SEC this year, wresting the honor away from Missouri. Ole Miss lost to Memphis two weeks ago, but then crushed Texas A&M last Saturday. This might be an even tougher test; Auburn’s front seven is potentially better than A&M’s and the game is on the road. Auburn’s quarterback situation is starting to stabilize, and the Tigers probably won’t try to go at the teeth of the Ole Miss defense (i.e., the secondary). Auburn is struggling, but the Tigers are still a dangerous team with quite a bit of talent. If they get a hero-level effort from QB Sean White, it’s not unfathomable to see Auburn pulling the upset here. But Ole Miss is the undisputed favorite going in.
Ole Miss 30
IDLE: Alabama, Missouri, LSU, Mississippi State
Follow Jess Nicholas on Twitter at @TideFansJessN
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