Last Week’s Record: 7-1 (87.5%)
Season Record: 81-22 (78.6%)
The Predictions Dept. had probably one of its most accurate weeks, score-wise (including hitting Auburn’s 52-0 slaughter of Samford dead on the nose), but we continue to overrate a Missouri Tiger team that completely skipped the dead-cat-bounce stage and went straight to being dead cats. This week, everyone knows the premier matchup: Alabama vs. Auburn. But there are a handful of games out there that will probably be quite close, including one or two you probably aren’t expecting.
FLORIDA STATE at FLORIDA
And here’s one of them. The Seminoles fired Willie Taggert on Nov. 3, replacing him in the interim with Odell Haggins Jr., who also had the distinction of being the Seminoles’ interim coach in 2017 when Jimbo Fisher resigned to move to Texas A&M. He also has the distinction of being 4-0 lifetime as a head coach. If Haggins were to coach Florida State to a win over hated Florida this week – hey, he did it in 2017, 38-22, a game that, like this one, was played in Gainesville – then how loudly will the bells begin to ring for Haggins to get his shot at the head job?
Florida State is already 6-5 and headed to the postseason, so Haggins could theoretically finish with a 4-0 record down the stretch. The problem here is Florida is not the Florida of 2017, and Haggins’ task is going to be a much stiffer one this time around. Still, consider that Florida State probably wasn’t as bad as its record indicated for most of the year, and the players have launched a campaign to get Haggins hired as the full-time coach. Add all that up and you have to be nervous if you’re a Gator fan this week.
Florida State 24
GEORGIA at GEORGIA TECH
Here’s another one that could end up being a bit closer than expected. You wouldn’t know it from the records; Georgia Tech is 3-8 and that includes some ugly losses to teams like Temple and especially The Citadel. But the Yellow Jackets are playing better of late. They’re 2-3 in the last five games with wins over Miami and North Carolina State, and a pair of close losses to Virginia and Pitt.
A blowout loss to Virginia Tech was the exception rather than the rule. Geoff Collins is having to undo much of Paul Johnson’s triple-option-based teaching and it will be a couple of years before GT is competitive, but it wouldn’t surprise us to see the Yellow Jackets make more of a game out of this than they have a right to. Georgia’s defense is playing big-boy football at the moment, but the offense is sputtering badly. Fortunately for the Bulldogs, Georgia Tech doesn’t stop the run very well. It might be a week for Georgia to – no pun intended – work the bugs out.
Georgia Tech 17
LOUISVILLE at KENTUCKY
The Cardinals had a tough opening to the season, but have righted the ship recently and sport a 7-4 record with an offense that’s coming around. Kentucky is 6-5, a miracle or sorts given what all has happened to the Wildcats, injury-wise.
Kentucky is still mostly a one-dimensional offensive team, and mostly an option outfit at the moment with Lynn Bowden at QB, but here’s where we get to test the theory that SEC athletes are just plain better than those of other conferences. This should be an entertaining game due to both teams playing good football at the moment, and Kentucky should probably be the underdog, all things considered.
MISSOURI at ARKANSAS
These two teams are in freefall, and Missouri has more to play for in name only, given the Tigers are currently banned from the postseason and look to stay that way despite a pending appeal. Arkansas is just looking for a soft place to land. The atmosphere for this game will probably best be described as “sulfuric.” Nobody wants to be there, it stinks, and if you let it affect you for too long, it’ll kill you.
CLEMSON at SOUTH CAROLINA
This could be Will Muschamp’s swan song in South Carolina, and we’ll predict it will be if the Gamecocks can’t keep this game close. Clemson doesn’t need to impress anyone to stay in the College Football Playoff – simply continue to win, and the Tigers make it. But it’s hard to throttle back when facing a hated in-state rival. South Carolina has come apart at the seams down the stretch, and most discussion surrounding Muschamp is that of pundits trying to predict whose defense he’ll be coordinating come 2020.
South Carolina 17
VANDERBILT at TENNESSEE
Now that the Volunteers are bowl-eligible, the focus shifts a bit to springboarding into 2020 with some momentum. Jeremy Pruitt has saved his job over the past month, but Vanderbilt’s Derek Mason may be in the final days at his. Despite this, Tennessee is still just a step above mediocre (if that), and we’ve seen Vanderbilt upset mediocre Tennessee teams before. But the Commodores are too erratic this year and frankly, it doesn’t seem as if Mason has really had this team in 2019. It was to be expected, somewhat, with the amount of turnover Vanderbilt was dealing with following the departure of a stout 2018 senior class, but probably not to this degree.
TEXAS A&M at LOUISIANA STATE
On one hand, you could say Texas A&M has had awful scheduling luck in 2019. On the other, you could say other teams (like LSU) have also faced a lot of top competition, and found a way to win once or twice. Whatever the case, A&M staggers into this game with four losses already, and the Aggie defense looks like it will have its hands full with LSU’s newfound passing attack.
The one bright spot for A&M is the presence of Kellen Mond at quarterback, because his mobility will be tough for LSU to counter if Mond is having one of those few-and-far-between games where his accuracy is on-point. We still expect LSU to win comfortably, but LSU has lost far bigger mismatch games late in the year just because it fell asleep on the matchup and didn’t prepare adequately for it.
Texas A&M 28
MISSISSIPPI at MISSISSIPPI STATE
Probably the hardest game to pick, outside of Alabama-Auburn, not because of team strengths, but because of team shortcomings. Mississippi State’s offense is decrepit; Ole Miss’ defense is horrendous. It’s sort of like a Reese’s commercial from the other side of the looking glass: “You got your stale peanut butter on my toxic chocolate … no, you got your toxic chocolate in my stale peanut butter. Let’s share.”
Arguably, Ole Miss has played better over the last month, although that’s like arguing whether the stale peanut is better than the toxic chocolate in this instance. Neither team is a clear leader, and in this series, just about anything can happen in any given year. Total crapshoot at this point.
Mississippi St. 30
Ole Miss 29
Follow Jess Nicholas on Twitter at @TideFansJessN
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