SEC Preview and Predictions: Week 5

 

Last Week’s Record: 7-2 (77.8%)
Season Record: 35-11 (76.1%)

The Predictions Dept. is pleased, overall, with its Week 4 effort, as really the only tossup game not covered well turned out to be Kentucky, our regular futurecasting nemesis. Arkansas’ gloomy effort seemed to surprise everyone equally. This week, there are literally no good games on the short schedule. Kentucky-South Carolina, in what is probably a battle for bowl eligibility, is the best on the list.

TOWSON at FLORIDA
Florida’s first game with Kyle Trask at quarterback ended in a solid beatdown of Tennessee, so this one should be a cakewalk, right? It should be, but Florida has a habit of turning easy games into hard ones. Towson is 3-1, losing last week in overtime to Villanova. Noteworthy here is that the Tigers started the season beating The Citadel, which later upset Georgia Tech. It doesn’t mean Towson is going to upset Florida, but it does mean the Gators didn’t schedule an FCS lightweight. This is a pretty decent little team and it wouldn’t be a surprise if the game was close at halftime.
Florida 45
Towson 20

MISSISSIPPI at ALABAMA
See our extended preview!

KENTUCKY at SOUTH CAROLINA
Almost predictably, South Carolina has a starting quarterback who made life hard for Alabama one week and then dissolved into vapor the next. Ryan Hilinski went 13-for-30 for 166 yards, a touchdown and an interception against Missouri a week after looking like Stephen Garcia Lite in a scrappy loss to the Crimson Tide. Kentucky went on the road to Starkville, where it wilted under the heat and a hostile crowd. This is yet another matchup between two teams playing backup quarterbacks, but given South Carolina has actually shown signs of life under its new starter, whereas Kentucky last week came apart at the seams, we’ll take the Gamecocks and their home-field advantage in this one.
South Carolina 31
Kentucky 18

NORTHERN ILLINOIS at VANDERBILT
Vanderbilt made noise last week, not by beating LSU, but by scoring 38 points and refusing to completely go away. Unfortunately, this looks like one of those years that Vanderbilt players won’t have to worry about holiday-season conflicts, but the Commodores should be able to pull out a win here. Northern Illinois has one win, by a 24-10 score over FCS Illinois State, and two resounding losses to Utah and Nebraska. The only edge for NIU is that the Huskies took last week off to mend injuries. It probably won’t help.
Vanderbilt 27
N. Illinois 10

MISSISSIPPI STATE at AUBURN
If Mississippi State plays like it did against Kentucky and Auburn’s offense plays like it did against Texas A&M, then we might have something here. Otherwise, this is another game Auburn is going to win by two scores. Auburn is winning almost solely with its defensive front seven at the moment, because the secondary is vulnerable and the offense is getting stuck in the mud far too often. The key for the Bulldogs is that Kylin Hill has to have a good day on the ground to take all the attention off QB Garrett Shrader, who used the presence of Hill to springboard to a 300-all-purpose-yard day against Kentucky last week. Auburn is building its confidence week by week, and if QB Bo Nix ever begins to live up to the early hype that has been thrown his way, the Tigers might have something. Right now, they’ve just been facing opponents not good enough to expose their weaknesses.
Auburn 30
Mississippi St. 20

TEXAS A&M vs. ARKANSAS (Arlington, Texas)
This game somehow rates a neutral site, but not neutral-site attention. Texas A&M has been exposed as not quite ready for prime time, but Arkansas has been exposed as something far worse. A loss to San Jose State last week ends any talk of a bowl for the Razorbacks, and now the questions are flying as to how long Hog leadership gives Chad Morris to completely turn the team into a spread-based passing attack, something that runs counter to Arkansas’ DNA. Texas A&M made a game of it against Auburn, but breakdowns at critical moments kept the Aggies from ever really mounting a challenge. The eight-point loss didn’t feel that close. One thing is for sure this week, though: If Texas A&M loses this game, College Station would implode. Too many Aggie fans already thought this would be their year, and it didn’t turn out that way.
Texas A&M 44
Arkansas 20

IDLE: Georgia, Missouri, Tennessee, LSU

Follow Jess Nicholas on Twitter at @TideFansJessN

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