By Jess Nicholas
Oct. 10, 2018
Last week’s record: 5-2 (71.4%)
Season record: 49-11 (81.2%)
As we move past the halfway point in the regular season, the Predictions Dept. is enjoying a decent year, albeit a not spectacular one. While we got the Florida-LSU and Texas A&M-Kentucky upsets correct last week, we continued to show too much confidence in Auburn, and the outcome of Missouri’s game against South Carolina caught us off guard. This week, it’s a small slate of games, with Georgia-LSU and Alabama-Missouri the headliners.
FLORIDA at VANDERBILT
The Commodores look to be on the verge of beginning a slow slide, as the offense just can’t provide enough help for a young defense. This week, the ‘Dores get the unfortunate task of facing the SEC East’s hottest (or second-hottest, depending on how one categorizes Georgia) team in Florida, fresh off its upset of SEC West challenger LSU. Florida doesn’t have much offense, either, but the defense has been unexpectedly salty and Dan Mullen is answering all critics of his coaching ability by the way the Gators have dispatched with good teams like LSU and Mississippi State. The Gators still need to work on their passing attack, and suddenly Vanderbilt looks soft there.
TEXAS A&M at SOUTH CAROLINA
All of a sudden South Carolina has a second game potentially endangered by a hurricane this season. The Marshall game is already a casualty of bad weather, and now Hurricane Michael could threaten this one. South Carolina as much as played in a hurricane last week against Missouri, shocking the Tigers in no small part due to weather woes. Now comes Texas A&M, which is coming in off an upset over Kentucky, but suddenly the Aggies can’t score points. That’s not a good place to be against South Carolina, which has some explosiveness in its offense but also a heaping helping of inconsistency. Bowl eligibility is not assured for the Gamecocks, which have to go 3-1 in games that are toss-ups or better in order to get to a bowl. Chattanooga is the only dead-lock victory left on the schedule. Losing here wouldn’t help.
Texas A&M 26
South Carolina 24
TENNESSEE at AUBURN
Anyone who had watched the Tennessee and Auburn teams of the last couple of years would be shocked to find out these may now be the two worst offensive teams in the SEC. Auburn’s running game has vanished, and the passing game isn’t good enough to pick up the slack. Tennessee is terrible everywhere; what promises to be a multi-year transformation from soft spread team into a power attack offense has so far failed to provide any proof of improvement. As a result, Alabama’s two most-hated rivals are now elbowing each other in a race to the bottom. Fortunately for Auburn, the game is at home, and the Tiger defense has proven its mettle. But Mississippi State opened up some embarrassingly large holes in the running game last week, and that may have given the Volunteers some hope. If Auburn were to lose this game, even Gus Malzahn’s astronomical buyout suddenly begins to look simply like the cost of doing business.
MISSISSIPPI at ARKANSAS
In a matchup of two teams Alabama handily dispatched, Ole Miss has rediscovered its offensive prowess and Arkansas looks to be working on some of its own. This game has the chance to create some decent fireworks thanks to an Ole Miss passing attack that takes no prisoners, positioned against an Arkansas offense that went from inept to surprisingly balanced and innovative against Alabama last week. The overriding factor, though, might be proximity to a date on a calendar – specifically, who has had the most time to move on from its Bama-brought whoopin’. And that would be the Rebels.
Ole Miss 51
GEORGIA at LOUISIANA STATE
The undisputed conference headliner this week despite LSU’s loss to Florida last Saturday. It’s a matchup of two teams still trying their best to play power football while everyone around them are turning into spread heads. The big difference, of course, is balance – Georgia has it in overflowing quantities, while LSU has virtually none of it. Tiger QB Joe Burrow isn’t terrible but he’s not really the guy to lead comebacks or build commanding leads. He’ll need to be greater than the sum of his own parts this week in order to pull the upset, even with the game being played in LSU’s own backyard. The Bulldogs have been mashing people all year, and with the Florida loss now giving the Tigers an excuse to begin questioning themselves, this has the look of a hard-fought, but ultimately clear Georgia victory.
IDLE: Kentucky, Mississippi State
Follow Jess Nicholas on Twitter at @TideFansJessN
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