Last week’s record: 5-1 (83.3%)
Season record: 62-14 (81.6%)
The Predictions Dept. bounced back last week, missing only on Tennessee-South Carolina as the Volunteers entered full meltdown mode. This week, Alabama-LSU is undoubtedly the premier game in the conference, but Florida-Arkansas might get intriguing and Kentucky will try to keep its slim SEC East hopes alive while hosting Georgia.
FLORIDA at ARKANSAS
Arkansas could probably be dangerous for Florida, but so far, the Razorbacks have been just mostly annoying to top teams. Only Ole Miss, which is in full crash-landing mode at the moment, is the only one of those teams to actually fall to Arkansas. The rest have gotten by the Hogs. Florida has problems at quarterback and as a result, isn’t explosive on offense, but the Gator defense is the truth. The health of Arkansas QB Austin Allen is the biggest issue for Arkansas; if he’s not both 100 percent and having one of his best career games, Arkansas won’t come close. But Florida needs to keep its own offense on track here, lest the Gators fall victim to the long road trip to Fayetteville.
GEORGIA at KENTUCKY
Kentucky’s greatest problem may just be that the Wildcats don’t believe in themselves. Kentucky, with the exception of a decent-but-not-very-good Southern Miss team noted, has basically won the games it was expected to win this year and will achieve bowl eligibility in a couple of weeks when Austin Peay comes to town. But the two good teams on the Wildcats’ schedule, Alabama and Florida, smoked them. Georgia has issues, but talent alone means the Bulldogs will be the third-best team Kentucky has faced in 2016. If this game was in Athens, it probably wouldn’t be close, and new Georgia head coach Kirby Smart would use the victory as a springboard for a stretch run. But the game is in Lexington, and not just that, Georgia needs two wins for bowl eligibility and can only really count on Louisiana-Lafayette as one of those. This would be the other. Kentucky still wobbles like a baby deer, but Mark Stoops is hoping there’s a future stag in there somewhere. Whether it emerges this week is anyone’s guess. It’s just too hard to pick Kentucky to do something meaningful right now.
MISSOURI at SOUTH CAROLINA
The Gamecocks are coming off a major upset of Tennessee, while Missouri is in freefall. Having said that, neither team is really all that good. Offense is a problem at both schools, and South Carolina is just a week removed from also looking vulnerable on defense against Massachusetts, of all teams. Missouri hasn’t beaten an FBS school since Week 2, and that opponent was Eastern Michigan. Many observers were critical of Missouri’s offseason coaching search, to say nothing of the way a threatened player strike was handled last year – i.e., by many of the same people still allowed to be at the head of the program. Politics aside, Missouri has been a strange bird ever since its arrival in the SEC, and it’s not clear to outside observers whether this team knows what it takes to really succeed in this league, two appearances in the SEC Championship Game notwithstanding. That’s a kind way of saying South Carolina, despite the lunacy of how Steve Spurrier opted to exit Columbia and the subsequent coaching search that brought in Will Muschamp, at least looks like a real football team. Missouri has the talent to win this game, maybe even better talent than South Carolina, but when the chips are down, the Gamecocks are less likely to fold.
South Carolina 23
TENNESSEE TECH at TENNESSEE
The Volunteers better be grateful that Tennessee Tech is this week’s opponent, because otherwise it would be a good bet to pick whoever the Vols were playing. Tennessee will get bowl-eligible with this win but there’s nothing to cheer about in Knoxville. Each day brings more rumors of players quitting and a program in complete disarray. Butch Jones’ job is in jeopardy and even though Tennessee finishes with Kentucky, Missouri and Vanderbilt, the Volunteers’ chances of getting to 9-3 look almost impossible right now. They’ll kill Tech, though.
Tennessee Tech 20
AUBURN at VANDERBILT
The Commodores hold a winning record over exactly one SEC opponent: Auburn. But that ends this week, as Auburn will even up the all-time record. The Tigers have found a running game and a change in playcallers has apparently been the salve Auburn needed to get to the next level. Vanderbilt has a good defense, but Vandy has no offense and Auburn could easily pitch a shutout here. This game is only slightly less in doubt that Tennessee-Tennessee Tech.
GEORGIA SOUTHERN at MISSISSIPPI
This game could actually get a little interesting, because Georgia Southern isn’t a disaster and Ole Miss’ players would rather be doing anything else than playing this game. The Rebels are on the verge of quitting on the season, as they’re 3-5 at the moment and starting a visit to a lesser SEC bowl game in the face. Games against Texas A&M and Mississippi State await, which means Ole Miss could possibly miss out on a bowl game altogether. Georgia Southern has been a trap game for multiple teams over the past few years. Ole Miss should be careful.
Ole Miss 44
Ga. Southern 24
TEXAS A&M at MISSISSIPPI STATE
The Bulldogs ran up a bunch of offensive highlights against Samford last week, but barely beat the FCS school. That win came after three straight losses, a testament to the fact this team just isn’t very good. MSU arguably hasn’t put a good offense and defensive performance together in the same game this season, except maybe in Week 2 against South Carolina, and that’s a stretch to say. Texas A&M is No. 4 in the first College Football Playoff rankings, which seems a bit high given its performance against Alabama, but regardless, the Aggies are a far sight better than Mississippi State and this game won’t be close once the Bulldogs’ defense does its weekly swan dive.
Texas A&M 38
Mississippi St. 20