SEC Preview and Predictions: Week 4

Last Week’s Record: 10-1 (90.9%)
Season Record: 28-9 (75.7%)

The Predictions Dept. finally broke out with a solid effort in Week 3, missing only the MSU-Kansas State game. This week, there’s one intraconference (Auburn-Texas A&M) and one interconference (Georgia vs. independent Notre Dame) leading the list, with a lot of fluff behind it. Ole Miss trying to survive against a wobbly Cal team is probably the third-best offering.

Tennessee got off the schneid against Chattanooga last week, finally breaking through for a win and looking good doing it. Meanwhile, Florida looked like … some kind of circus act, but the Gators did finally put Kentucky away. Unfortunately, Florida is down a starting quarterback, and the Gators still have issues with a lack of explosiveness on offense. This would seem to be the perfect place to pick an upset, but Florida has now won two games it probably had no business winning, and that’s the hallmark of strong coaching and a team that believes. We haven’t seen either out of Tennessee just yet.
Florida 27
Tennessee 17

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Now we’re going to see just how overrated Notre Dame is. The Fighting Irish looked more like the Surrendering Irish during last year’s College Football Playoff, to the point that its future candidacy for an at-large spot in the playoffs has probably been damaged for some time to come. So this game isn’t just about beating Georgia, it’s about reestablishing, for the national media, that Notre Dame isn’t just some second-tier program half-in, half-out of the ACC. The Irish looked good in its opener against an improving Louisville team, but was off for Week 2 and then went unchallenged by New Mexico last week. Georgia, on the other hand, has stomped three straight opponents and isn’t likely to waste its home-field advantage here.
Georgia 42
Notre Dame 21

Hardest game on the list to pick by far. Both teams have quality pieces, but not enough of them; both teams have lost starting quarterbacks. Kentucky’s defense has turned out to be better than advertised, though, while Mississippi State’s defense has struggled a bit. And therein might be the difference here. If the game were in Lexington, we’d pick Kentucky and not think twice. But with the game at Scott Field in Starkville, that changes things a bit. Kentucky is one of those programs that seem to melt down a lot on the road. With both teams losing late in their respective games last week, it’s hard to pinpoint which one will bounce back more quickly. Coin flip.
Kentucky 27
Mississippi St. 24

Predictably, people are looking at the respectable showing South Carolina put up against Alabama last week (if 24-point home losses can be considered “respectable”) and declaring the Gamecocks to be much-improved, or to predict the Gamecocks will now launch themselves into the middle of the East race. Balderdash. More often than not over the years, teams come out of games with Alabama flat the following week. Granted, it doesn’t happen to the extent it used to, thanks to Alabama’s offense picking a less physical route, but look for Missouri to win comfortably here after righting the ship following the opening-week loss to Wyoming.
Missouri 38
South Carolina 24

The rough start to the season figures to continue for Vanderbilt, which was off last week and thus had plenty of time to watch LSU explode for 41 points in the second half of its game over Northwestern State. Vanderbilt won’t be as bad an opponent as Northwestern State was, but the final numbers might not be far off. LSU has figured things out on offense, while the Commodores are in the middle of an ugly rebuilding season.
LSU 45
Vanderbilt 14

Arkansas looked much better on offense last week now that Nick Starkel is running things at quarterback, but the Razorback defense suddenly looks very porous. Whether San Jose State can do anything about that remains to be seen. The Spartans had an off-week following a ho-hum win over lower-division Northern Colorado, then lost convincingly to Tulsa. For those reasons, Arkansas enters this game a sure favorite. Last week, Arkansas worked on its offense. This week, Arkansas better work on its defense.
Arkansas 38
San Jose St. 20

We’re going to get to test the hypothesis that Auburn – at least under Gus Malzahn – has its hopes for an entire season determined within the first 3-4 weeks of the schedule. So if it holds, then the Oregon win means Auburn is set until it faces the LSU-Georgia-Alabama triumvirate at least. Texas A&M has disappointed the national pundits, but had pegged the Aggies as a mid-pack finisher from the start. Aggie QB Kellen Mond has looked average so far this year, and Auburn’s defense is the worst matchup on his dance card for 2019. Meanwhile, Auburn’s offense started to get on-track against Kent State, but the Golden Flashes are so terrible in 2019 that last week’s output might not have meant much in reality. We’ll see this week just how good each of these programs are.
Auburn 34
Texas A&M 23

Raise your hand in you knew Cal was 3-0 with a win over Washington. Unfortunately, wins two and three came by a whopping 14 points over UC-Davis and 6 points over North Texas. Ole Miss beat Southeastern Louisiana last week, but only by 11 points when the margin should have been triple that. Like Kentucky-MSU, if this game was in California it would be an easy pick for the Bears, but the game is in Oxford. Cal hasn’t scored 30 points yet in a game and Ole Miss’ offense has already been more successful than that twice. So why are we taking Cal? Because Ole Miss is, well, Ole Miss.
Cal 27
Ole Miss 21

Follow Jess Nicholas on Twitter at @TideFansJessN

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