Last Week’s Record: 3-2 (60.0%)
Season Record: 58-18 (76.3%)
When anyone can make sense of what is happening to the SEC East, please let the Predictions Dept. know. Missouri’s implosion and a sudden resurgence from Tennessee caused problems for our picking abilities last week. In Week 10, Alabama and LSU are off, preparing for their much-ballyhooed matchup that will likely decide the SEC West. For now, fans will have to be content watching Florida and Georgia face off in what will probably be the deciding game for the SEC East.
FLORIDA vs. GEORGIA (at Jacksonville, Fla.)
Both teams come in with just one loss, suddenly making this game very relevant again after several seasons where Georgia was just expected to show up and win. Florida’s season has been shocking in that the Gators were expected to lose three or four games – at least – in the regular season and now may end up losing just two. This is the second of those, however, as the Bulldogs are far more talented across the board. But Georgia has been skating sideways a bit as the season has gone along, losing inexplicably to an outgunned South Carolina squad playing a quarterback who primarily lines up at wide receiver, and barely beating a Kentucky club that was doing the same thing. Assuming Florida doesn’t bring Percy Harvin out of retirement to do the same thing in this game, we like Georgia to win, simply the result of having more big-game experience and a better quarterback.
VANDERBILT at SOUTH CAROLINA
How Vanderbilt beat Missouri two weeks ago, fresh off losses to Ole Miss and UNLV, we’ll never know. Statistically, Vanderbilt is one of the worst teams in the nation by any measure. Of the 25 statistics the NCAA lists on the face page of every team’s stat summary page, the Commodores rank in the top 40 of just one non-special-teams category: 3rd-down conversion defense (26th). Yet Missouri absolutely wilted in that game. South Carolina briefly had a chance two weeks ago to make a push for the SEC East crown after beating Georgia, but the Gamecocks followed up that effort with losses to Florida and Tennessee. Neither loss was particularly close, either. What to pick this week? You’re either taking a team that completely soiled its armor the first chance it saw to become a division leader, or another team that is completely inept and rebuilding. Take the home team and be done with it.
South Carolina 30
ALABAMA-BIRMINGHAM at TENNESSEE
Suddenly this is a fun game, potentially, Tennessee has an outside shot at bowl eligibility after finding itself at 3-5 with a workable schedule. But one of those “workable” wins would come against a team that is currently 6-1. UAB’s only loss came against Western Kentucky, which consequently is probably the best team the Blazers have faced. Tennessee is in a whole different atmosphere than a bunch of Sun Belt and MAC teams, but the Blazers have improved as the season has gone along. Unfortunately, that’s what appears to be happening with the Volunteers, too. A loss here could endanger Jeremy Pruitt’s continued employment in Knoxville. But UAB looks like a paper tiger that has played a weak schedule.
MISSISSIPPI STATE at ARKANSAS
Two teams that appear to be close to quitting on the season, the Bulldogs have at least shown signs of offensive life. Arkansas couldn’t have looked worse in its loss to Alabama if it had purposefully tried. It will be interesting to see what Arkansas does with its quarterback situation in this game, as Bama so completely exposed Matt Starkel that you couldn’t find many people who could believe the Razorbacks would ever win again with him under center. Mississippi State’s injury situation, particularly at quarterback, is its own rough sea to navigate. Ordinarily we’d take the home team in a game like this but something just says that Arkansas will find a way to lose again.
Mississippi St. 27
MISSISSIPPI at AUBURN
If Ole Miss’ offense was just a bit more potent, we could see this as an upset special. Auburn’s passing game is currently defunct, and if this game turns into a track meet, Auburn might seriously not be able to keep up. As always, though, games at Jordan-Hare Stadium have a tendency to wake up the spirits, with Auburn suddenly finding an almost ethereal path to victory in the end. The big challenge for Ole Miss is to stop Auburn’s ground game, which is easier said than done. If the Rebels can force Auburn to pass to win, they have a chance.
Ole Miss 24
TEXAS-SAN ANTONIO at TEXAS A&M
Talk about your weird games, stuck in the middle of a schedule: The Aggies host fellow Texas-based UTSA here, with the Roadrunners coming into the game at 3-4. It’s hard to say what the “best” win is for the Roadrunners – it’s either Rice or UTEP – but it’s not hard to find the one game against a good Power Five team (Baylor) or the margin of loss (49 points). Texas A&M isn’t firing smoothly on all cylinders right now, but the Aggies don’t have to be in order to get by this opponent. There’s no reason to think the Roadrunners will be anything more than road bumps.
Texas A&M 51
IDLE: Alabama, Kentucky, Missouri, LSU
Follow Jess Nicholas on Twitter at @TideFansJessN
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