By Jess Nicholas
Nov. 18, 2015
Last week’s record: 4-4 (50.0%)
Season record: 67-24 (73.6%)
The Predictions Dept. couldn’t follow up two solid weeks with a third, as upsets by Arkansas and Vanderbilt conspired to ruin its record in Week 11. This week, LSU and Ole Miss is the most important game, as LSU would lock up the SEC West for Alabama with a victory over the Rebels. But almost as intriguing is watching to see whether a self-destructing Texas A&M team has trouble with a Vanderbilt squad still – for the moment – chasing bowl eligibility.
FLORIDA ATLANTIC at FLORIDA
The Owls are one of the most anemic offensive teams in the country this year, scoring more than 19 points in only 4 of their 10 games. However, Florida isn’t much better since QB Will Grier was suspended for PED use. The Gators have staggered sideways each of the last two weeks, nearly losing to Vanderbilt and then beating South Carolina in ho-hum fashion. The Gator defense will be the difference in this one, as Florida Atlantic might struggle to even cross the midfield stripe unless a special teams breakdown is involved.
Florida Atlantic 3
GEORGIA SOUTHERN at GEORGIA
Don’t look now, but this might actually be a game. Georgia deserves kudos for keeping upset-minded Auburn at bay last week, but the Bulldogs haven’t been able to consistently put forth good efforts each week. A clean win two weeks ago over Kentucky has been Georgia’s only good effort on both sides of the ball since dominating Southern University back in September. Meanwhile, Georgia Southern is 7-2 and coming off a 45-10 trouncing of Troy. Depending on whether the Bulldogs are looking forward to next week’s game against rival Georgia Tech, the Eagles could make this game very uncomfortable for embattled Mark Richt and his team.
Georgia So. 27
NORTH CAROLINA-CHARLOTTE at KENTUCKY
Charlotte is a transitional program in 2015, meaning the 49ers aren’t a full-fledged member of FBS yet. And the record shows it: Charlotte is 2-8 with wins over woeful Georgia State and lower-division Presbyterian. Those two wins came in the first two weeks of the season, meaning the 49ers are riding an 8-game losing streak which included a 73-14 drubbing at the hands of MTSU and an overtime loss last week to UTSA. Kentucky wet the bed against Vanderbilt and in doing so, probably cost itself a bowl trip. While the Wildcats should romp in this game, Louisville closes out the season and it’s hard to imagine Kentucky winning that game.
TENNESSEE at MISSOURI
As much as emotion matters in college football, it’s hard to understand how or why Missouri was able to funnel the turmoil of last week into an upset of BYU at home. Not only did campus erupt into protests, Gary Pinkel is resigning due to a cancer diagnosis. So who knows what kind of Tiger team shows up for this one. Tennessee was unimpressive in a win over a horrid North Texas team last week, and frankly if the Vols play the same way this week, Missouri will win. Missouri might win anyway, which would be par for the course for a team that plays with its heart on its sleeve – perhaps a bit too much, in fact If this game comes down to what should happen, however, Tennessee should win by two scores.
THE CITADEL at SOUTH CAROLINA
The Gamecocks continue to play better in the post-Spurrier era, and came within a touchdown of upsetting Florida last week. Bowl eligibility is off the table, so the Gamecocks are just playing for pride now. It’s possible South Carolina could drop this game, but it would take the Gamecocks playing their worst game of the year for it to happen, and that hasn’t been the trend in Columbia in recent weeks.
South Carolina 27
The Citadel 10
TEXAS A&M at VANDERBILT
The Commodores used their defense to beat Kentucky and keep slim bowl eligibility hopes alive. Vanderbilt has to notch wins against Texas A&M and Tennessee in the last two weeks to make a bowl, which would have seemed completely impossible a month ago but now looks not so bleak. The Aggies are playing terrible football at the moment and there are rumors that Kevin Sumlin has lost the locker room. But Vandy is ill-equipped to take advantage of the situation unless the ’Dores’ defense can do it almost by itself. Look for the Aggies to get a scare in this one, at least.
Texas A&M 23
MISSISSIPPI STATE at ARKANSAS
The Bulldogs are next in line to suffer from the post-Bama hangover. LSU was last week’s victim, falling to this same Razorback team, and Arkansas might just benefit from two consecutive weeks in picking up the Tide’s scraps. Mississippi State’s running game has proven to be vaporware, so if Arkansas can even halfway shut down Dak Prescott, the Hogs can improve their bowl position. Depending on what happens with the Alabama-Auburn game next week, Arkansas could even gain a share of the SEC West title, even if they can’t make it to Atlanta.
Mississippi St. 20
IDAHO at AUBURN
Thank goodness for the Vandals; otherwise, Auburn might not make it to a bowl this year. Idaho has traditionally been one of the worst teams in Division-IA football and this year is no different. Auburn came close against Georgia last week before a special teams breakdown cost the Tigers the win. Don’t look for this game to come down to something like that; if Auburn even struggles with Idaho for a half, it portends bad things for the Tigers next week when Bama comes to town.
LOUISIANA STATE at MISSISSIPPI
Ole Miss still has an outside shot to go to Atlanta for the SEC Championship Game. If the Rebels beat LSU and Mississippi State, and Auburn upsets Alabama next week, the Rebels go to Atlanta no matter what Arkansas does. This is the toughest game on the board to pick this week by a long shot, thanks to LSU totally folding up after its loss to Alabama two weeks ago. The Tigers looked like they had forgotten how to play defense against Arkansas, and RB Leonard Fournette was underutilized in the offensive gameplan. Ole Miss has the talent to beat LSU and the Rebel offense has better balance. But Ole Miss’ defense has betrayed the Rebels, and while LSU is not a premier passing team by any measure, the Tigers’ wide receivers are a bad matchup for Ole Miss’ corners. If LSU beats the Rebels, Alabama is locked into the SEC Championship Game. Here’s one vote that it happens.
Ole Miss 21
Follow Jess Nicholas on Twitter at @TideFansJessN
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