Last Week’s Record: 4-3 (57.1%)
Season Record: 49-15 (76.6%)
The Predictions Dept. accepts the lack of faith in Tennessee and South Carolina to pull upsets, but Vanderbilt falling to UNLV is completely on the Commodores. Unfortunately, Week 7’s results were much worse for the coaching futures of two SEC head men (Mississippi State’s Joe Moorhead, Vanderbilt’s Derek Mason) than for the future of the Predictions Dept. Moorhead and Mason should now consider themselves on-watch from their employers. This week’s games are a bit less interesting once you get past Florida-South Carolina, although Ole Miss-Texas A&M could be one to watch if the Aggies can’t bounce back from the loss to Alabama.
FLORIDA at SOUTH CAROLINA
Here’s where things get tough if you’re doing this job: Florida is the superior team, but the Gators aren’t flawless by any means. The SEC East supposedly had just one of those, but South Carolina, Florida’s opponent this week, put the Georgia Bulldogs on ice last week. That sets up a scenario here where the Gamecocks suddenly could find themselves in a three-way tie for the SEC East lead at the end of the season simply by beating Florida here, and Texas A&M on Nov. 16. This assumes wins over Tennessee and South Carolina, a pair of teams that don’t appear to match up well with the Gamecocks. Florida swerves more than a bicycle with bent rims, but given South Carolina’s quarterback situation and the superior coaching on the Florida sideline, this at first looks like a sure Gator victory. But the game is in Columbia, suddenly South Carolina has a lot to play for, and the Gamecocks are the one with the momentum. Overall, Florida is much healthier at the moment than South Carolina, and the Gamecocks have been unable to string successes together under Will Muschamp. For those reasons, take the Gators here.
South Carolina 17
TENNESSEE at ALABAMA
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KENTUCKY at GEORGIA
Kentucky took care of business last week against Arkansas, something Georgia can’t say coming off a dismal upset at the hands of South Carolina. Now we’ll see whether the loss is the start of a torpedo run for the Bulldogs, or whether they get up off the mat and refocus. We’re betting the latter. Georgia no longer can safely back its way into the College Football Playoff with a loss in the SEC Championship Game; the Bulldogs have to win every game from here on out and hope for a little help around them at the same time. Kentucky, meanwhile, may have beaten Arkansas, but that’s not exactly an accomplishment these days. It’s more like an inevitability. The Wildcats lack even the limited offensive wrinkles South Carolina possessed, and they won’t win here.
MISSOURI at VANDERBILT
There aren’t words out there adequate enough to describe what losing 34-10 at home to UNLV means to the Commodore program. Given the expectations set over the past decade in Nashville, the UNLV loss is under serious consideration for worst loss in the modern era for Vanderbilt – certainly, in the running for most damaging. Derek Mason’s job was already hanging in the balance somewhat, and he was trying to pedal it in, in what has shaped up to be a rebuilding season. But 24-point home losses to UNLV, one of the worst FBS programs of the past decade, is the quick way to go from being in limbo to negotiating freight costs with a moving company. The Commodores have the look now of a team that has shut it all down, and Missouri is much too dynamic to get caught up in this drama.
AUBURN at ARKANSAS
Auburn lost its starting tailback two weeks ago, and this will be the Tigers’ first game without JaTarvious Whitlow. Fortunately for Auburn, it probably won’t matter much. Arkansas’ offense struggles against even tame competition, and Auburn’s defense is stronger than that by many degrees. The real question for Auburn is can it find a way to score. There’s a potential quarterback controversy brewing, and you can bet your life it’s going to meet every definition of “controversy” if it gets going. Joey Gatewood’s dual-threat capabilities may be just what Auburn needs until Whitlow gets back, but popular freshman Bo Nix has gotten every benefit of the doubt so far. Auburn won’t have to bring its A-game this week, but the Tigers need to figure out how to get through the rest of the season without its only balanced running back.
LOUISIANA STATE at MISSISSIPPI STATE
Granted, the Bulldogs were on the road last week, but it’s hard to defend losing 20-10 to a Tennessee program that’s in such dire straits. LSU, meanwhile, comfortably beat what’s no worse than the conference’s fourth-best program at the moment, and this game is going to get ugly. The only weak spot LSU needs to work on is a general tightening up of its defense, which has not been playing at an optimal level so far in 2019. Mississippi State, though, isn’t a good challenge for this defense, as it has no playmakers in the passing game and a quarterback situation that is in bad need of an overhaul. MSU head coach Joe Moorhead has been an odd fit from the day he was hired to replace Dan Mullen; it now looks like he’ll have to win big in 2020 to be more than just an error in an athletic director’s judgment.
Mississippi St. 21
TEXAS A&M at MISSISSIPPI
Upset special here, if you tend to want to look for such things. Ole Miss is starting to build some life offensively around freshman QB John Rhys Plumlee, whose scampering ability bests that of any other SEC quarterback at the moment. Offensive coordinator Rich Rodriguez probably prefers to work with guys like that anyway, instead of trying to meld his spread-option leanings into an offensive system run by a pro-style quarterback, even a decent athlete like Matt Corral. Despite all this, there’s no talk of upset unless Texas A&M shows up unprepared for the fight. The Aggies have every reason not to; they failed to beat Alabama, failed to even beat the Crimson Tide up, and watched any chance of a championship pass in front of their eyes like flags attached to the backs of Jaylen Waddle and Henry Ruggs III. With nothing left to play for, can the Aggies rally on the road against a team hungry to do something positive? Good question. If the Rebel defense was any better, we’d say possibly yes. But it’s just too much to expect at this point.
Texas A&M 30
Ole Miss 28
Follow Jess Nicholas on Twitter at @TideFansJessN
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