This football season has been hard enough to pick, and now, a hurricane is threatening to blow up the Week 3 schedule. LSU-Missouri has opted to flip locations from Louisiana to Missouri now that Hurricane Delta is lining up to threaten Baton Rouge. It seems LSU and Missouri were ready when Delta was. But Alabama and Ole Miss may not have any good options, as both Oxford, Miss., and Tuscaloosa, Ala., are vulnerable.
Last Week’s Record: 5-2 (71.4%)
Season Record: 11-3 (78.6%)
FLORIDA at TEXAS A&M
Texas A&M now has to prove it can buck the trend and play a solid game of football the week after taking a beating from Alabama. Not many teams can pull it off. Florida comes in playing surprisingly well on offense, especially throwing the ball, where the Gators rank 7th nationally. But Florida’s defense has been suspect at best against two teams – Ole Miss and South Carolina – that weren’t really looked at as offensive juggernauts-in-waiting when the season began. As such, the argument exists that Florida really hasn’t been tested yet.
Texas A&M is capable of administering that kind of test, but will it? The Aggies got thumped by Alabama and the Crimson Tide exposed some deep flaws in the Aggie program – including its secondary. The Florida passing game is already licking its chops.
Texas A&M 31
ALABAMA at MISSISSIPPI
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TENNESSEE at GEORGIA
Again, like Florida, we have a team at the top of the SEC East (Tennessee) that may not have been tested yet. Missouri and South Carolina were Tennessee’s first opponents. Georgia has two solid wins on its sheet so far, but the Bulldogs haven’t put up a coherent offensive performance yet – although the Bulldogs haven’t needed to, as the defense has been dominant. While Tennessee is improving, it’s hard to find a scenario in which QB Jarrett Guarantano is going to be able to mount a charge against what is probably the best defense in the SEC and maybe the nation as a whole.
Given the game is in Athens, it puts Tennessee further at a disadvantage. There is some heat between the two head coaches but the problem for Tennessee is that even though the Volunteers have pockets of talent here and there, they are still several years behind catching up to Georgia, if it ever happens again anyway.
MISSISSIPPI STATE at KENTUCKY
Mississippi State set a modern record for coming back to earth after a big win, flopping against a pitifully weak Arkansas team last week after having knocked off LSU in the opener. Now everyone wants to know which MSU is the real MSU. Kentucky is 0-2 after looking disinterested against Auburn in the opener and then losing in overtime to Ole Miss last week in a big upset.
If the Kentucky secondary shows up for this game as it allegedly should have done already (the Wildcats are bottom-quartile in pass efficiency defense and below the midpoint, nationally, in raw pass defense), it can win this game, because Mississippi State doesn’t have a running game to speak of and the Bulldogs are still feeling their way. MSU QB K.J. Costello has thrown 5 interceptions over the first two weeks.
Mississippi St. 34
MISSOURI vs. LOUISIANA STATE (at Columbia, Mo.)
This game was supposed to be played in Baton Rouge but Hurricane Delta has shifted it to Columbia, Missouri, where LSU will still ostensibly be the home team. LSU got off the deck against Vanderbilt last week and posted an efficient 41-7 victory, but Missouri will be a much tougher take. The problem for Missouri is the Tigers started by getting controlled fairly effectively by Alabama in the opener, then made Tennessee look a lot better than the Vols really are last week.
Moving the game to Columbia saves Missouri at least somewhat, as they won’t have to contend with one of the SEC’s most hostile road trips, but LSU – despite the wacky upset loss to Mississippi State in Week 1 – is still too talented for Missouri to overcome in a brawl. And a brawl is what Missouri will be in, week to week, until the new coaching staff gets buy-in to all of its changes.
SOUTH CAROLINA at VANDERBILT
South Carolina has actually put up two decent performances in the first couple of weeks, getting closer to both Tennessee and Florida than most would have expected. But South Carolina has to start being able to turn close calls into close wins. Fortunately enough, the Gamecocks get a Vanderbilt program that is on the skids and rebuilding.
A victory is certainly a much-needed outcome for Gamecock head coach Will Muschamp; a loss here might actually get him fired. Patience was already on the thin side with Muschamp at the start of the year and it’s doubtful he could come back from losing this game.
South Carolina 34
ARKANSAS at AUBURN
Auburn is in a bad spot right now. The offensive line is in shambles, the Tigers have been hard by injuries and opt-outs, and now may be losing its middle linebacker, K.J. Britt, to a shoulder injury. Ordinarily we’d say it doesn’t matter, because this is Arkansas we’re talking about coming in, but there are no guaranteed wins left on Auburn’s schedule with the program as vulnerable as it is at the moment.
Arkansas should be commended for keelhauling Mike Leach and his band of brigands last week, a game no one other than Arkansas itself probably thought it could win. But Auburn is not Mississippi State, making errors as the result of an adjustment period under a new head coach. Gus Malzahn has proven too many times not to be counted out when his teams seem to have their backs against a wall.
The real question for Auburn is whether the Tigers can get something in the offense, whether it’s the rushing attack or the passing attack, functioning well enough to carry the other half. Georgia throttled the Tigers last week and while Arkansas’ defense isn’t anywhere close to Georgia’s in terms of potency, Auburn can’t keep expecting its defense to carry it every week. The Tigers should have enough in the tank this week, though, against a team that is still rebuilding – especially with the game in Auburn.