By Jess Nicholas
Oct. 11, 2017
Last week’s record: 5-1 (83.3%)
Season record: 51-7 (87.9%)
Thank the two circuses currently operating in Gainesville and Baton Rouge for spoiling the Predictions Dept.’s perfect record last week. Florida almost pulled off the win but somehow that ol’ Orgeron voodoo was too tough to cure. This week, Florida again finds itself in one of the SEC’s key games, facing a Texas A&M squad that acquitted itself well against Alabama in College Station.
TEXAS A&M at FLORIDA
Teams typically don’t show better the week after a loss to Alabama, although it could be argued Ole Miss did just that last week against Auburn. The Aggies managed to make it through their loss to Alabama physically intact, which is a good start; the key question here is how emotionally drained Florida is after coming so close to beating LSU, but ultimately failing. Florida has been walking a tightrope all season thanks to the loss of more than a dozen players, and there’s an off-field scandal hanging over the program like a cloud of cheap cigarette smoke. Texas A&M has nothing to hang its head about following a game against Alabama in which the Aggies refused to quit, and actually seemed to get stronger as the game went on. If they can repeat that second-half tenacity this week, it will certainly serve them well against a Gator team that also seems to hang around for 60 minutes no matter the odds. It makes no sense, but take the upset here.
Texas A&M 23
MISSOURI at GEORGIA
The Tigers played probably their best game of the year against Kentucky, but still came up short. That’s more on Kentucky and its tendency to play down to the opposition, however. This week, Missouri faces Georgia, which is not anything like Kentucky. This game will be a murder scene unless Georgia de-throttles, and so far, the Bulldogs haven’t shown the propensity to do that. The Missouri defense is still junk.
SOUTH CAROLINA at TENNESSEE
An interesting matchup here. Erratic South Carolina looked to be in the doldrums prior to a breakout performance against Arkansas last week, a 48-22 Gamecock win in which the Hogs were never in it. This week, South Carolina draws a Tennessee team that was off last week, which means the Volunteers went two whole Saturdays without any points. UT’s last game? A 41-0 slaughter at the hands of Georgia, a game in which the Vols couldn’t even claim to be champions of life anymore. Butch Jones is clearly on the hotseat, and if South Carolina does to Tennessee what it did to Arkansas, Jones might be out of a job before he has to visit Tuscaloosa on Saturday-next. Trying to figure out what the Gamecocks are going to do, though, is a tough one. This is a team that alternatively looks tough as nails, then resembles bottom-feeder pushovers. Has Tennessee quit? If not, the Vols should win. If so, anything could happen.
South Carolina 20
VANDERBILT at MISSISSIPPI
Some of the same questions facing Tennessee also apply to Ole Miss. Outside of quarterback Shea Patterson, who refuses to go down easily, the rest of the Rebel program is looking for a soft place to land. The head coaching job has now been posted as open – goodbye, Matt Luke, and thanks for the Landshark fish – and Ole Miss has spent the last two Saturdays getting pounded by both Alabama and its black-sheep cousins from across the state. Vanderbilt, though, has been outscored 142-38 over the last three weeks and this game marks the end of a run that went Alabama-Florida-Georgia. The Commodores have been thorns in the Rebels’ side in recent years, even when Ole Miss had some of its best teams. This is not one of Ole Miss’ best teams, but the Commodore offense has misfired so much lately that it can’t be counted upon to aid in an upset attempt.
Ole Miss 30
AUBURN at LOUISIANA STATE
Suddenly this game gets dangerous for Auburn, if and only if Ed Orgeron is able to build off the momentum of what this team accomplished in Gainesville last week. Auburn did a good job of running out to a big lead against Ole Miss, but got sloppy on defense. LSU, however, just doesn’t have the weapons necessary to challenge. The LSU quarterback situation is no better than it was in the preseason, when the Bayou Bengals were picked to finish at or near the bottom of the conference in regards to strength of its quarterback position group. Nothing has changed; for that matter, it’s probably gotten worse. And for whatever struggles Auburn has had consistently moving the ball on offense, the Tiger defense is elite.
BRIGHAM YOUNG at MISSISSIPPI STATE
This game looked interesting in the preseason, and then two things happened: Mississippi State presented as perhaps better than expected, while BYU has fallen completely apart. Aside from a 20-6 win over lower-division Portland State in the opener, BYU has accomplished nothing. The Cougars have lost five straight, and have achieved complete incompetence in both running the football (120th) and passing it (116th). Once an offensive juggernaut of a program that no team really relished facing, no matter which conference it hailed from, BYU is now one of the most hapless programs in the sport. The Cougars failed to score against LSU earlier in the year, and while the Bulldogs might allow them in the end zone a time or two, it won’t be enough to fear an upset in Starkville.
Mississippi St. 37
Follow Jess Nicholas on Twitter at @TideFansJessN
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