By Jess Nicholas
Sept. 7, 2016
Last week’s record: 10-3 (76.9%)
Season record: 10-3 (76.9%)
All things considered, a 10-3 week wasn’t a bad start for The Predictions Dept., given the level of craziness SEC teams displayed in some of their respective openers. The biggest upset, by rank, was Wisconsin’s surprise victory over LSU that put Les Miles back on the hotseat. But South Alabama beating Mississippi State may have been even more shocking. The quality of games this week takes a nosedive, as it almost always does in Week 2, with the Tennessee-Virginia Tech NASCAR crossover at Bristol Motor Speedway probably taking the prize as the most interesting spectacle.
KENTUCKY at FLORIDA
This won’t be anyone’s A-card for the week, but this matchup holds plenty of sway in the weirdness column. For Florida, a former Alabama walk-on is the Gators’ new starting quarterback, but the most interesting thing we’ve seen out of Gainesville yet has been the return of Steve Spurrier to the Florida program as some kind of sensei/advisor – with predictable results. Spurrier is doing exactly what most outsiders expected him to do: being a distraction to the program and its current head coach, Jim McElwain. Kentucky, on the other hand, opened the season by losing to Southern Miss, which throws the future of its coaching staff into question, as the Wildcats badly needed to chalk up a win against USM in order to total six wins for the year and become bowl-eligible. The outcome of this game has all the predictability of the outcome of a minor league baseball game on Elvis Bobblehead Night.
WESTERN KENTUCKY at ALABAMA
NICHOLLS STATE at GEORGIA
Kirby Smart gets his first chance as a head coach to decide whether to run the score up or display sportsmanship.
Nicholls St. 7
Eastern Michigan is 1-0 after a win over Mississippi Valley State in the first week, which technically allows the Eagles to call themselves undefeated, an occurrence that happens in Ypsilanti about as often as it happens in Jamaican bobsledding. If Missouri plays as poorly in Week 2 as it did in its opener against West Virginia, though, EMU might actually do the unthinkable. Missouri’s offense is a hot mess, has been one for awhile, and there are no signs of it abating. But Eastern Michigan is still one of the least potent teams in FBS and the building (not rebuilding) project will take years.
E. Michigan 13
In this matchup, we have the SEC team that found a way to lose to South Alabama, squaring off the team that barely had enough gas in the tank to beat Vanderbilt. If this were the 1970s, this would be the game to which the SEC would send whatever officiating crew was on probation that week. Neither team has much of an offense. We’re picking Mississippi State here simply because we did it in the preseason. Inertia.
Mississippi St. 23
South Carolina 17
VIRGINIA TECH vs. TENNESSEE (at Bristol, Tenn.)
This exercise in P.T. Barnum appreciation would have lurched to new heights (lows?) had Appalachian State followed through with the near-upset of the Volunteers last week. Virginia Tech had a ho-hum opener of its own, defeating lower-division Liberty but not exactly dispatching them, while Tennessee is left to wonder where all the preseason-hyped offense went. Butch Jones’ teams are somewhat famous for looking like swill one week, then nearly pulling a fabulous upset (see: Alabama, 2015) out of the hat the next. Add to the tableau the fact that this game will be played in the infield of a NASCAR track, for the express purpose of setting an artificial attendance record, and it gets even better. One wonders whether the play-by-play announcers will stop calling quarterback sacks “sacks” and begin describing them as “the linebacker got the quarterback loose and put him in the wall.”
Virginia Tech 20
MIDDLE TENNESSEE STATE at VANDERBILT
MTSU looked pretty sporty in its opening win over Alabama A&M, while Vanderbilt’s offense was inept once again in a close loss to South Carolina. A Blue Raider victory here would not surprise anyone, really. But it would probably mark the official start to the process of nailing the door shut on Derek Mason’s tenure as Vandy head coach. Vanderbilt’s bowl pathway is already muddled thanks to the loss to the Gamecocks; if the Commodores were to also lose here, avoiding a 10-loss season suddenly becomes an issue.
ARKANSAS at TEXAS CHRISTIAN
Neither team looked particularly special in its opener; Arkansas’ offensive struggles were more pronounced than most expected, while TCU’s excuse for a defense nearly put into peril a game against South Dakota State. The stoppable force thus faces off against the movable objects this week, and the biggest question is whether Arkansas can keep up. This is the kind of game Bret Bielema needs to win to prove he can move Arkansas up to the next level, but the Razorbacks might not have the quarterback they need to get the job done.
This game was probably dreamed up as some kind of homecoming/feel-good story for Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn, who once coached the Red Wolves, but with the way these two programs are headed, there is no longer any sentimentality to be had. Arkansas State was toothless in an opening-week loss to Toledo, while Auburn’s offense was inept in a Week 1 defeat at the hands of Clemson. A bright spot, though, was the play of Auburn’s front seven on defense, which look legit. As bad as Auburn’s offense might be, Arkansas State’s offense might be worse, and the Red Wolves don’t have Clemson’s defense.
Arkansas St. 7
It must be said that Jacksonville State has played spoiler to an SEC team before, because at this point, any win the LSU Tigers get should be considered found money. LSU’s opening-week disaster, coming at the hands of Wisconsin, might as well have come with a directive to Les Miles attached: Win out, or pack up. LSU needs to find a passing game, and on a more macro level, Miles needs to stop playing offensive football like it’s 1969. LSU’s offense has all the imagination and pizzazz of linear math. It may be time for a change in Baton Rouge after all.
Jacksonville St. 7
WOFFORD at MISSISSIPPI
Wofford has made somewhat of a name for itself in recent years by giving South Carolina semi-annual fits as a homecoming opponent. Wofford typically trots out an option offense and goes to work in the trenches. There’s no way Ole Miss is going to enjoy that kind of experience five days after coming up short against Florida State. Whatever the line is in this game, don’t expect the Rebels to cover it. And if Wofford could somehow find the way to do the impossible …
Ole Miss 30
PRAIRIE VIEW A&M at TEXAS A&M
Break out the M&M’s, it’s A&M vs. A&M in the A.M.
Texas A&M 59
Prairie View 10
Follow Jess Nicholas on Twitter at @TideFansJessN
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