SEC Preview and Predictions: Week 3

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Last week’s record: 10-3 (76.9%)
Season record: 21-6 (77.8%)

If close calls counted, last week would have been a pretty good week for the Dept., as only the Texas-Arkansas game went way off the rails. Included in that was a 62-0 pick in the Auburn game that ended up matching the eventual final score. This week, the slate of games is relatively boring – only Alabama- and Auburn-Penn State are truly interesting, although Tulane-Ole Miss and Mississippi State- could get interesting for reasons the SEC schools don’t want.

SOUTH CAROLINA at GEORGIA
Zeb Noland’s story is going to get translated onto the Hollywood big screen at some point, but this is where the feel-good story ends one way or another. South Carolina may get 2021’s presumptive starter Luke Doty back this week, but even if Doty is full-speed, South Carolina had the league’s worst quarterback situation coming into the season anyway. South Carolina beat a bad FCS team handily (Eastern Illinois) but the offense didn’t shine in that game. It needed a field goal at the end of regulation to beat East Carolina. Georgia will have its way with the Gamecocks, which just doesn’t have the talent to keep up – as long as the Bulldog offense doesn’t itself revert to Week 1 form against a USC that will probably end up being better than expected.
Georgia 41
South Carolina 10

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TENNESSEE-CHATTANOOGA at KENTUCKY
The Wildcats passed a big test last week when they put Missouri away and got control of, probably, eventual third place in the SEC East. Now the question is whether the Wildcats can go higher than that. To do so, Kentucky has to act like it is comfortable in big spots, and avoid things such as fumbling the football while going in for a gut-punch score. This week isn’t one of those big spots – it’s UTC, and the only way this game becomes a big game is if Kentucky finds a way to lose it.
Kentucky 52
Chattanooga 7

SOUTHEAST MISSOURI STATE at MISSOURI
The Tigers didn’t look ready for prime time against Kentucky. While 2021 is just Eliah Drinkwitz’s second season, Missouri fans were probably hoping for quicker sideline improvement than what they saw last week. On top of that, Kentucky abused Missouri’s at times, something the Tigers thought they had fixed. This week doesn’t offer up much of a challenge, but Missouri has some questions to answer internally after a poor showing in Lexington a week ago.
Missouri 55
SE Missouri St. 20

TENNESSEE TECH at TENNESSEE
The loss to Pitt showed the Volunteers are still trying to knock the training wheels off. Tennessee Tech is the opponent at the right time for the Volunteers to continue to work on their base game. TTU is 0-2 by a combined 78-14 against and Samford. If Tennessee finds a way to lose this game, just go ahead and pre-fire Josh Heupel.
Tennessee 59
Tennessee Tech 7

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This was supposed to be a Derek Mason-vs-mentor game but Mason couldn’t stick around long enough for that to come to pass. Instead, a very strange team comes to town now: The Cardinal lost 24-7 to Kansas State in the opener, then blew out Southern Cal and got the Trojans’ head coach fired in the process. is equally strange, but on a lesser scale; the Commodores’ “big” win so far was over Colorado State, while FCS East Tennessee State overpowered them in the opener. Stanford isn’t a complete team, but Vanderbilt was about five minutes away from being a complete mess. A late win over Colorado State probably isn’t enough to launch the Commodores forward.
27
Vanderbilt 14

GEORGIA SOUTHERN at ARKANSAS
Provided Arkansas isn’t completely still drunk after beating hated Texas last week, the Razorbacks will steamroll Georgia Southern. Arkansas still doesn’t have a passing game – the Hogs are winning in spite of their quarterback now – but Georgia Southern is coming off a game in which the Eagles got spanked by Atlantic.
Arkansas 34
Ga. Southern 14

AUBURN at PENN STATE
Auburn has two big wins on the board already, but they were over two of the most terrible teams in their respective leagues, FBS’s Akron and FCS’s Alabama State. Meanwhile, Penn State clocked last week – not much better an opponent than what Auburn had – but did manage to beat a respectable Wisconsin team 16-10 in the opener. The problem in that game was Penn State looked terribly slow compared to most SEC teams. Auburn seems to have made good use of the transfer portal on defense, but the Tiger offense just seems to be along for the ride at this point, especially the passing game. This will be Auburn’s first legitimate test, and it’s on the road. We’ll stick with our preseason prediction of a Penn State win here, but if Auburn wins, and particularly by a comfortable margin, it might be time to reassess the SEC West given Texas A&M’s sudden struggles.
Penn State 27
Auburn 21

CENTRAL at
LSU won last week against McNeese, but was an uninspiring performance, one that came a week after Ed Orgeron’s team laid an egg against UCLA and then Orgeron himself got caught on camera taunting (some would say bullying) a UCLA fan beforehand. Now Central Michigan, coached by former boss Jim McElwain, comes to town, and the Chippewas are coming off a 45-0 shutout of Robert Morris a week after giving Missouri all it wanted in the Tigers’ opener. There isn’t much chance CMU upsets LSU, but LSU is determined to do crazy things, and the wolves are starting to gather at Orgeron’s door. Another half-baked effort this week could get them baying.
LSU 34
C. 21

TULANE at MISSISSIPPI
Tulane was almost everyone’s darling in Week 1, narrowly missing an upset of Oklahoma that would have been the program’s first-ever win over a Top 5 opponent. Last week, Tulane ran up 69 points on Morgan State, so the Green Wave have proven it can score. It has also proven it is need of a defense … well, so is Ole Miss. This figures to be a high-flying affair and while the Green Wave aren’t likely to upset the Rebels, after what we’ve seen from them for two weeks now, we’re not going to count them completely out just yet.
Ole Miss 55
Tulane 35

MISSISSIPPI STATE at
was a 55-50 winner over last week in a defensive struggle – i.e., both teams struggled to play defense. Now the Tigers get a Mississippi State team that keeps cashing in one of its nine lives every week. In the opener, it was Louisiana Tech that nearly beat the Bulldogs; in the second week, MSU was a winner (we would say by upset) over NC State. Now it gets a team that isn’t afraid to throw the kitchen sink, offensively, at opponents. Mississippi State’s offense is improving, but it is still ill-equipped for shootouts, and the Bulldogs might just get one this week.
Mississippi St. 41
35

NEW MEXICO at TEXAS A&M
Statistically, A&M’s offense doesn’t look that bad, but then you look at the scoreboards the first couple of weeks and realize something’s amiss. In addition, the are struggling to stop the run, despite having a primo defensive line. They’ll get the chance to work on all these issues this week, as New Mexico should pose no threat.
Texas A&M 45
New Mexico 14

Follow Jess Nicholas on Twitter at @TideFansJessN

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