Like Alabama, the Predictions Dept. seems to be peaking at the end of the season, finally notching an undefeated week when there were enough games to be significant. This week, Alabama again has the headline game against LSU, but there are a couple of other games that could prove to be interesting, including Auburn’s matchup with Texas A&M and a game between two programs on a bit of an upswing, Arkansas and Missouri.
Last Week’s Record: 6-0 (100.0%)
Season Record: 41-14 (74.6%)
FLORIDA at TENNESSEE
While Arkansas and Missouri are on the list of teams that may have bright futures, Tennessee is not one of them. Tennessee is already in a major tailspin in 2020, Jeremy Pruitt’s job is suddenly in legitimate danger, and the Volunteers, losers of five straight already, now are faced with playing the SEC East’s hottest offensive team. Tennessee has many problems, but primary among those is the lack of a quarterback, a problem magnified by an outdated offensive philosophy.
Pruitt has made little secret of his plan to bring a Nick Saban-like atmosphere to Knoxville; apparently, that included bringing Saban’s pre-Lane Kiffin offensive system with him, and running it with not nearly as much talent. This is a problem to overcome in any week, but especially when facing Kyle Trask and an explosive Florida offense.
The only slight glimmer of hope for Tennessee comes from the fact that Florida’s defense is still in a little bit of a smoke-and-mirrors stage, but Tennessee can’t match the Gator offense score for score anyway, so it really doesn’t matter.
VANDERBILT at GEORGIA
It’s been quite a week in Nashville. Vanderbilt created all kinds of headlines when it selected a female placekicker, Sarah Fuller, for its game against Missouri, but the extent of Fuller’s contribution turned out to be a single kickoff, as the Commodores never got into scoring range during a 41-0 shutout. Then, head coach Derek Mason found himself fired. That was followed by Fuller being named SEC Special Teams Player of the Week, despite a wobbly kickoff attempt, which drew fire from those who saw a historically performance-based award losing its focus.
Now comes a trip to Georgia, Fuller is still the presumptive kicker – Vanderbilt’s other kickers are all marked out due to Covid-19 tracking – Vanderbilt’s interim coach is a longtime assistant named Todd Fitch, who will be heading up his first game ever, and the opponent is still a balanced Georgia team that is absolutely licking its chops right now. Because of all the uncertainty in college football due to Covid-related cancellations, Georgia believes it legitimately has a shot at the college football playoff if a lot of things fall its way the next couple of weeks. Therefore, Georgia will be looking to posterize Vanderbilt. And Georgia will do it.
ARKANSAS at MISSOURI
Arkansas has run out of steam a bit, but the Razorbacks, even with a loss here to go to 3-6 (and presuming a loss to Alabama next week to finish 3-7), will have accomplished much more than anyone expected. The Hogs have been a tough out against all opponents in 2020 with only the exceptions coming against Florida and Georgia, teams the Razorbacks aren’t anywhere near yet in terms of talent. For teams with similar talent levels to Arkansas, or even modestly better talent levels, the Hogs have given them terrific fights.
Missouri will move to 5-3 with a win here, a good year for first-year coach Eliah Drinkwitz. The Tigers came out of the game strong against Alabama, giving the Crimson Tide what is still one of its toughest games of the year, and seem to be finishing well. The Tigers have more talent than Arkansas; it’s not particularly close. But Sam Pittman has cracked the code on getting the Razorbacks to play above their abilities. This could be the most fun game on the schedule this week.
SOUTH CAROLINA at KENTUCKY
Two programs that had high hopes in the preseason both find themselves collapsing at the finish line. South Carolina has already moved on from Will Muschamp, but Kentucky has arguably been the greater disappointment. The Wildcats weren’t expected to contend for the division lead, but were expected to finish with a winning record, earn a bowl trip and perhaps supplant Tennessee and Missouri behind division leaders Florida and Georgia. It managed only half of the third goal, but that’s because Tennessee is finding new ways to disintegrate every week.
This game will be a matchup of bad quarterbacks and teams with no future – perhaps long-term as well as short-term. Give Kentucky the edge due to the Wildcats having a better defense.
South Carolina 17
TEXAS A&M at AUBURN
This is uncharted territory for Auburn, as the Tigers never have a regular-season game after an Alabama beatdown. It’s significant, because any loss in the Alabama-Auburn series is magnified, especially the bad ones, and Gus Malzahn is taking it on the chin right now from the Tiger fan base. If Texas A&M hadn’t fiddled around against LSU last week, ultimately winning because LSU simply could not, we’d be expecting the kind of loss that really could accelerate Auburn’s plans to replace Malzahn. But there’s a hefty buyout to consider, an issue in any year but especially in a season where revenues have torpedoed under the weight of Covid-19. Auburn – and most especially, Malzahn – need to keep this game close.
Replace the LSU Tigers with the Auburn Tigers, and Auburn probably beats Texas A&M last week, as Aggie QB Kellen Mond had one of his signature horrible games. But if Mond bounces back, it’s going to be hard for Auburn to win. Texas A&M is one of the few teams never to show particular reverence for Jordan-Hare Stadium and all its wackiness, and without a big crowd in the stands, the home-field advantage for Auburn will be even less than normal. If the Tigers have quit, we’ll know it quickly.
Texas A&M 38
IDLE: Ole Miss, Mississippi State
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