The Predictions Dept. righted the ship last week after two subpar efforts, missing only on the LSU-Auburn game thanks to an LSU team that ought to replace Mike the Tiger as its mascot with a statue of Janus. This week, it’s a thin slate of games, headlined by Florida squaring off against Georgia. The only other game of significance is Tennessee-Arkansas, notably mostly for what effect it might have on Jeremy Pruitt’s employment in Knoxville should the Volunteers lose.
Last Week’s Record: 5-1 (83.3%)
Season Record: 24-12 (66.7%)
FLORIDA vs. GEORGIA (at Jacksonville, Fla.)
Only one big game in the conference this week, but it’s a doozy. Let’s recap the week: Georgia comes into this game off a 14-3 win over Kentucky in which it became painfully clear, if it wasn’t clear already, that Stetson Bennett IV is at best not a glaring liability for Georgia.
Ever since the opening snaps of the Alabama game, it’s been fairly clear that Bennett was not going to be the reason Georgia won a championship, but could be a useful part in a larger machine. After his performance against Kentucky, we’re not even sure of that. Suddenly, this game began to look like a clear Florida victory – and then Dan Mullen absolutely lost his marbles in the middle of the Missouri game, probably incited a brawl that got himself fined and two of his players suspended for the first half of this game.
One of the suspended players is a freshman reserve who has barely played, but the other is a starting defensive lineman, Zachary Carter. Mullen then added to the chaos by showing up to the postgame press conference dressed in a full Darth Vader uniform, complete with helmet, for reasons known only to himself. Provided everyone can stay out of fights (and out of the wardrobe room) heading into this game, it’s basically a question of whether Bennett can do enough at quarterback while Georgia’s stout defense holds Florida at bay.
Both teams have long injury lists to deal with, but the most relevant this week could be Georgia safety Richard LeCounte, the quarterback of the Bulldog secondary who was injured in a traffic accident following last week’s game. Florida’s defense, which has been porous at times, can’t really afford the Carter loss, even for a half. Tough call, but Georgia should be able to find a way and if it can’t, the Bennett era is almost sure to come to a fast end, as Georgia begins looking to the future.
TEXAS A&M at SOUTH CAROLINA
Texas A&M is playing like the No. 2 team in the entire SEC right now, and South Carolina is still an incomplete team with a head coach who is both thoroughly predictable and emotionally unpredictable at the same time. About the only thing that’s going to stop Texas A&M from an ugly win here is if the long flight gets the better of the Aggies, and we don’t think that will happen.
Texas A&M 44
South Carolina 17
TENNESSEE at ARKANSAS
Tennessee is a loser of three straight games and was manhandled by Alabama, not a good sign considering Arkansas has developed a physical identity and is capable of pushing around weaker opponents. But the Razorbacks still need weapons, depth, consistency and most importantly, poise – something that was in short supply as the game reached its crucial midsection last week against Texas A&M.
The Razorbacks finished strong (as much a function of Texas A&M sitting on the lead as anything else, however) and have shown that they won’t back down from a fight, but the fact remains this is still a team that is almost an entire four-year recruiting cycle away from contention. Now the question becomes whether it has the weapons to score enough points against Tennessee to stay ahead.
The Volunteers have their own problems on offense, namely an underperforming offensive line, a stale offensive playcalling system, a lack of talent at wide receiver and a quarterback room that collectively looks cowed under pressure. But the Tennessee defense is overachieving, and this is one offensive line against which the Volunteer defensive line might be able to make plays. A tough game to pick, to be sure.
VANDERBILT at MISSISSIPPI STATE
The difference here will be the Bulldog defense, which is playing sound football almost in spite of its offense’s ineptitude. The biggest issue for the Bulldogs this week is the health of QB K.J. Costello and RB Jo’quavious Marks, both of whom got knocked out of the Alabama game last week. Costello is probably out for an extended period of time, but Marks has been marked as probable for this game and that may be enough given there isn’t much difference between Costello and his backup, Will Rogers.
This may be Vanderbilt’s last chance to avoid a 0-10 season, and it doesn’t look like the Commodores can score enough to pull that off.
Mississippi St. 30
IDLE: Alabama, Auburn, LSU, Ole Miss, Kentucky, Missouri
Follow Jess Nicholas on Twitter at @TideFansJessN
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