A second good week in a row for the Predictions Dept., with only the LSU-Arkansas toss-up going against us. This week, there is really only one game that should be hotly contested, the Alabama-Auburn contest we preview in a separate article. The second-best game on the sheet is the Egg Bowl, but neither team is really going anywhere this year, so the game is just a mildly interesting sideshow to the main event.
Last Week’s Record: 5-1 (83.3%)
Season Record: 35-14 (71.4%)
KENTUCKY at FLORIDA
Things couldn’t have gone worse for Kentucky last week against Alabama, with the possible exception of having the Wildcats lose a key player to injury. There’s no let-up this week, as the Wildcats have to follow up a visit to Tuscaloosa with one to Gainesville to face the SEC’s other hot offense. Kentucky’s offense just can’t keep up even with most mid-level opponents right now, and stands almost no chance of being able to match Kyle Trask and the Gators in a track meet. Florida’s defense is a bit of a mirage, yes, but whether Kentucky has enough weapons to leverage those holes is another matter. We’re betting the Wildcats don’t.
GEORGIA at SOUTH CAROLINA
Georgia may have appeared to find the answer at quarterback in its game against Mississippi State, but why was that game so close? It looked like a mismatch on paper, with Georgia’s defense well-built to stop the pass-happy Bulldogs, but Georgia found itself fighting for its life late in the game. Fortunately enough, South Carolina has all but quit on the year. The Gamecocks’ shoddy performance last week against a middling Missouri team portends no potential for an upset of the far more talented Dawgs this week. South Carolina’s coach is gone, and with him, any sign of enthusiasm. Georgia will roll.
South Carolina 17
VANDERBILT at MISSOURI
Vanderbilt has improved as the season has gone along, but incremental improvement is not what Derek Mason needs most right now. He needs a win, any win, to be able to show he has the team pointed in a positive direction heading into 2021. Missouri is the much better team here, but the Tigers themselves are still in a fits-and-starts state, trying to decide how they want to attack on offense while still feeling out a new coaching staff whose head coach didn’t have a lot of career experience coming into the season. How this goes for Vanderbilt will be driven by how the Commodores continue to grow and improve on offense. If the Commodores of the first 3-4 weeks of the season show up, this will be a bloodbath. If Vandy can maintain some of the momentum they’ve ginned up over the second month of the season, an upset isn’t out of the question.
LOUISIANA STATE at TEXAS A&M
This game will tell a lot about whether Ed Orgeron is capable of salvaging the season and perhaps his job as well. That was an unthinkable question earlier in the season, with the Tigers coming off a national championship year, but a mixture of NCAA and bad-conduct issues have made Orgeron a pariah among progressive sports fans, and the school’s apparent attempts to cover up boorish behavior on the part of many Tiger athletes across a number of sports have brought calls for multiple firings, both inside and outside the athletic department. In the middle of that, Orgeron’s team appears to have reverted to the mean without former quarterback Joe Burrow and offensive coordinator Joe Brady, now with the Cincinnati Bengals and Carolina Panthers, respectively. LSU is still very, very dangerous due to a lot of elite talent still left in Baton Rouge, but the team has very little discipline or direction. Texas A&M, meanwhile, is knocking on the door of the College Football Playoff after a rocky start, thanks to veteran leadership at the quarterback position and an improving defense. This is the wrong game at the wrong time for LSU and Orgeron, especially with hated rival Alabama looming. The chances that LSU’s focus is singularly on Texas A&M? Slim to none.
Texas A&M 45
MISSISSIPPI STATE at MISSISSIPPI
Two weeks ago, we wouldn’t have given you a snowball’s chance that Mississippi State could challenge the offensive juggernaut that Lane Kiffin has quickly built in Oxford. In addition to extreme growing pains in Starkville, and the loss of its original starting quarterback – AND the loss of more players to Covid-19 protocol – MSU was in danger of finishing the season on its belly, crawling back to their dog houses. Instead, the team seems to have rallied, nearly knocking off Georgia last week and making a statement that maybe Mike Leach can work his magic one more time, and do it in the nation’s premier conference. Ole Miss remains an offensive power, but the Rebels have far less talent on their defense than the Bulldogs do on theirs. Kiffin is just trying to glide the plane in right now, and then go fix it with new talent in the recruiting season. All of that makes for a very interesting brew – a completely pointless game that might still be the most entertaining one on the docket.
Ole Miss 43
Mississippi St. 41
IDLE: Tennessee, Arkansas
Follow Jess Nicholas on Twitter at @TideFansJessN
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