By Jess Nicholas
Nov. 22, 2017
Last week’s record: 9-0 (100.0%)
Season record: 89-13 (87.3%)
Not only did the Predictions Dept. score a perfect line in Week 12, it also hit the LSU-Tennessee score on the button (30-10) and got close on a couple of others. If only our Week 14 would go as well, given what games are on the slate. Alabama-Auburn is the no-contest leader for game of the week, but South Carolina-Clemson has Final Four implications, and several games (Missouri-Arkansas for one) could have employment implications for head coaches.
FLORIDA STATE at FLORIDA
When was the last time both teams came into this game 4-6? One team will absolutely be out of bowl contention after this, and the other would only get in if there aren’t enough eligible teams. Both teams have had injury issues at the quarterback position, one has fired its head coach and the other might lose its head coach by voluntary means, and neither is anywhere close to its preseason expectation. When this game is this close, for whatever reason, take the home team by default. Both teams tuned up on small schools last week, but Florida’s convincing win over a surging UAB program was objectively better than Florida State’s effort.
Florida State 23
GEORGIA at GEORGIA TECH
After losing in double overtime to Tennessee in the season opener, Georgia Tech has won every home game and lost every away game on its schedule. The fact the Yellow Jackets host in this game – as well as the fact Tech won in Athens last year over the Bulldogs, and are clearly not intimidated by them – makes this a classic trap game for Georgia, which is otherwise looking ahead to the SEC Championship Game and the winner of Alabama-Auburn. Georgia Tech has lost two games by a single point (Tennessee, Miami), another by four (Virginia) and played Clemson a good game. But a 43-20 loss at Duke last week ruined a lot of goodwill. Georgia is clearly the more talented team and clearly the better team, but that’s no guarantee of success. Can the Yellow Jackets pull the upset again? If so, Georgia’s national title run is all but over, and Kirby Smart would have to answer some difficult questions about losing to his chief rival.
Georgia Tech 31
LOUISVILLE at KENTUCKY
Prior to the start of the season, this looked like a shoo-in for Louisville, which had a dangerous offense and a legitimate Heisman Trophy contender at quarterback. But the Cardinals are 7-4 on the year, and has struggled on defense against every decent team it has played. But Kentucky is still Kentucky. Given a chance last week to make a statement against a good Georgia team, Kentucky instead reverted to the stereotype, and folded badly after playing the Bulldogs close in the first quarter. Kentucky lacks a killer instinct, and has all year. The Louisville defense is nothing to write home about, but Kentucky has had problems capitalizing on advantages all year. Why would this be any different?
MISSOURI at ARKANSAS
The Razorbacks may have had their dead-cat-bounce game last week against Mississippi State, jumping out to a big lead over the much better Bulldogs before the inevitable happened in the second half. Bret Bielema is all but certainly gone from Fayetteville at season’s end. Missouri, on the other hand, is having a rather miraculous renaissance at the close of the year, as it has finally improved its defense to average from putrid. The offense has been on-point all season long, and Arkansas’ defense is as porous as a screen door. Missouri has all the momentum at this point, while Arkansas is just ready for it all to be over.
CLEMSON at SOUTH CAROLINA
The Gamecocks aren’t the most talented team in the SEC by far, but Will Muschamp and his staff have gotten maximum return from every player. The result is a South Carolina team with a defense good enough to shut down Clemson if the Tigers don’t take the game seriously enough. South Carolina was often a thorn in a young Dabo Swinney’s side, but as the years have passed, Swinney has been able to keep his in-state rival controlled. This game will be tough for Clemson, and it’s being played in the wrong place this year. Don’t be surprised if this one goes the Gamecocks’ way, at all. Still, it’s hard to find the guts to actually make the upset pick.
South Carolina 21
VANDERBILT at TENNESSEE
Neither team is going to the postseason, which ought to make the crowd for this game somewhere in the approximate range of a cricket match. Despite all its injuries, Tennessee has more talent than Vanderbilt, but the Commodores are better-coached, have a better quarterback and more functional offense overall. What the Commodores suddenly don’t have much of is defense, which is a 180 from where things started the season. Picking between a pair of 4-7 teams is sometimes tougher than between a pair of undefeated teams, and this is one of those cases. We’ll take Vanderbilt simply because the Commodores, even through all their disappointments in 2017, haven’t quit yet.
TEXAS A&M at LOUISIANA STATE
Unless the Aggies upset LSU, Kevin Sumlin likely has no shot of coaching this team again. Even with a win here, Sumlin is on the wrong side of the markers for keeping his job, and many high-dollar A&M boosters want him gone yesterday. Texas A&M should get credit for defeating a still-dangerous Ole Miss team last week, but there’s little question hardcore Aggie supporters are not happy with the current direction of the program. LSU on the other hand is playing good football, but any team led by Ed Orgeron is forever the length one crawfish tail away from flying apart like a spinning top with all the screws removed. On the field, this one will come down to whether A&M can find a quarterback capable of moving the ball on the LSU defense. If it can’t, the Aggies are sunk.
Texas A&M 19
MISSISSIPPI at MISSISSIPPI STATE
Despite all the injuries and distractions, the one thing about teams that attract the attention of NCAA investigators: They typically didn’t attract all that attention by signing bad players. The Rebels still have a fantastic talent nucleus, but attrition has taken hold in Oxford, and head coach Matt Luke still doesn’t look like he’s learned much as a head coach. The Bulldogs are reeling a bit after losing to Alabama; it took Mississippi State a couple of quarters last week to realize Arkansas actually wanted to play football and not just talk about the weather. The Egg Bowl has been unpredictable the last decade or so; there have been several blowouts, and not always by the team everyone thinks is going to win. This year, that team is decidedly Mississippi State, but if the Bulldogs roll into this one unprepared, Ole Miss is more than capable of stinging them.
Mississippi St. 34
Ole Miss 27
Follow Jess Nicholas on Twitter at @TideFansJessN