By Jess Nicholas
Oct. 16, 2018
Last week’s record: 4-2 (66.7%)
Season record: 53-13 (80.3%)
Two major upsets caught the Predictions Dept. off-guard last week, especially LSU’s defeat of SEC East-leading Georgia. The bigger surprise, though, might have been a horrid Tennessee team knocking off an Auburn squad that started the year ranked inside the top ten. This week, Auburn, which suddenly doesn’t have much of an offense, has to hold off an Ole Miss team that has no defense. Outside of the LSU-Mississippi State, it’s the most intriguing game on this week’s schedule.
VANDERBILT at KENTUCKY
The Commodores’ up-down season continued, this team going up and coming down in the same game. Vandy looked to be well on its way to upsetting Florida before the second half doomed the ‘Dores’ chances. This week, they get a Kentucky team that is suddenly back in the middle of the SEC East race. With Georgia now looking vulnerable, Kentucky could steal a trip to Atlanta if it is able to knock off the Bulldogs and keep winning the games it should win. Such a strategy starts here, where the Wildcats, on paper, would seem to dominate Vanderbilt. It’s translating paper to practice that trips up a lot of recently-mediocre-yet-improving ballclubs.
ALABAMA at TENNESSEE
See our extended preview Wednesday!
MEMPHIS at MISSOURI
This game just became a lot more interesting thanks to Memphis showing the ability to nearly knock Central Florida from the group of unbeaten teams last week. The Tigers eventually lost by a single point; now, they get a mid-to-upper level SEC East team coming off a physical loss to Alabama. Many teams fail to show up the week after losing to Alabama, but with this year’s Alabama team relying more on speed and finesse than outright power, the “Post-Bama Effect” hasn’t been out in full force. Missouri didn’t come with the best game plan for Alabama, but more importantly, was slow to adjust. Memphis isn’t the team it was in recent years, but those Tigers are still capable of upsetting the SEC Tigers if the opportunity presents itself.
TULSA at ARKANSAS
Tulsa may be 1-5 but the two losses suffered against the strongest teams on the schedule – Texas and South Florida – were close games. The Longhorns knocked off the Golden Hurricane 28-21 back on Sept.8; this past week, Tulsa came within a point of upsetting heavily-favored USF. Arkansas comes into this game on an improvement upswing, but it wasn’t enough to reverse fortunes against either Alabama or Ole Miss. The Alabama loss was understandable; the Ole Miss loss was a golden opportunity to take a step forward but the Razorbacks couldn’t hold it together for four quarters. Still, the Razorbacks have improved to a point where this game should go down in the win column. It might be the last win of the season for Arkansas, but the long-term health of the program is more important at this point, anyway. The Razorbacks are beginning to show some signs of life, but a loss here would do heavy damage to the Hogs’ recovery.
AUBURN at MISSISSIPPI
On one level, this is the age-old question of which team wins in a matchup where one team has no offense but a good defense, and the other has a good offense but no defense. If the idiom “defense wins championships” matters, then Auburn should win. But there’s no “championship” on the line here; rather, it’s a case of two mediocre teams having a dispute over which has looked worse relative to expectations. In that regard, Auburn is the clear winner (loser?), given that the Tigers were thought by some (not this website, though) to be a title contender in the preseason, but now are struggling for bowl eligibility. Ole Miss is largely on track in the predicted win-loss department, but the Rebel defense smells less like a Landshark and more like three-day-old fish. Can Auburn’s offense struggle here, even if it tried? Moreover, if Ole Miss wins this game, what of Gus Malzahn? Let’s put it this way: For no good reason, we’re taking Auburn here, because top to bottom, the Tigers are the more talented team. But our confidence level is less than zero.
Ole Miss 27
MISSISSIPPI STATE at LOUISIANA STATE
Fresh off a big upset of Georgia, LSU finds itself in a classic trap-game setup against a Jekyll-and-Hyde Mississippi State team. How well LSU does here will depend on how contained they can keep MSU quarterback Nick Fitzgerald, whose inside running game is what makes the Bulldogs go. LSU overpowered Georgia last week, which begged the question whether LSU was that good or Georgia that overrated. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle, given Georgia’s losses to graduation following the 2017 season, but no one is sleeping LSU anymore. LSU’s defense will be the focal point in this game, but if the Tiger offense continues to plug along the way it’s been going lately, LSU may be more than just a solid opponent for Alabama in a few weeks. MSU must get more consistent play out of its wide receivers to threaten for an upset here.
Mississippi St. 21
IDLE: Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Texas A&M
Follow Jess Nicholas on Twitter at @TideFansJessN
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