We’ll always celebrate the perfect weeks when we can get them, and our 12-0 run through the Week 3 schedule featured some tight moments. This week’s a bit easier to navigate, but there are a couple of games between also-rans that could get testy and not because the teams involved are really any good. Florida-Tennessee is the headliner, but it’s games like Missouri-Auburn and Arkansas-Texas A&M that are really holding our interest.
Last week’s record: 12-0 (100.0%)
Season record: 33-6 (84.6%)
FLORIDA at TENNESSEE
Florida almost blew this matchup last week, as it took a cacophony of unforced errors by South Florida to allow the Gators to escape from that game with a win. Now Florida has to travel to Tennessee to face a team with perhaps the most dangerous offense in the country. Florida is 2-1 but could easily be 0-3 right now, so have the Gators gotten lucky in their two wins, or is this evidence that the new coaching staff led by Billy Napier has potential for long-term success? That isn’t clear yet, and we’re also not sure the results of this game will give any further clarity. Tennessee smoked Akron and Ball State, but neither team was expected to even be halfway decent in the MAC, which looks down across the board. The Vols’ signature win so far came against Pittsburgh in overtime. Tennessee scores a lot but doesn’t seem to care much about defense. Can Florida provide enough offense to keep pace?
VANDERBILT at ALABAMA
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KENT STATE at GEORGIA
Kent State opened the season by losing to both Washington and Oklahoma, so the natural solution to that problem was to also schedule Georgia. In between, the Golden Flashes won 63-10 over … Long Island University? Raise your hand if you knew LIU even played football. Nick Saban’s alma mater probably kept both the first two games closer than expected, but by now one of the issues with playing such a tough schedule is it’s hard to keep the kids from quitting. This might be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.
Kent State 7
NORTHERN ILLINOIS at KENTUCKY
Northern Illinois almost pulled off the win over Vanderbilt last week before wilting late. The Huskies can score points, but didn’t do a good enough job stopping a Vanderbilt offense that, although better than expected, is still a Vanderbilt offense. Kentucky is certainly no less potent. And the Wildcats have a far better defense than do the Commodores.
N. Illinois 17
MISSOURI at AUBURN
This becomes one of the most interesting SEC games by default, because Auburn’s Bryan Harsin is squarely on the hotseat and Missouri’s Eliah Drinkwitz might not be far off. Missouri has looked simply soft, and lacks the ability to make big plays in the passing game. In its only competitive game thus far on the schedule, the Tigers got destroyed by a Kansas State team that later lost to Tulane. Auburn, though, couldn’t have looked worse against Penn State if it had specifically tried to do so, and now AU is in the position of having to play to protect its coach. Auburn likely won’t be favored in a game again until Nov. 19, when it faces Western Kentucky. The Tigers looked only so-so against Mercer and followed that up by struggling with San Jose State. If Missouri’s defense can play over its head a bit, Auburn would be in trouble here. But we still think Jordan-Hare Stadium is worth something in these matchups, and Missouri doesn’t exactly look like an inspired team right now.
NORTH CAROLINA-CHARLOTTE at SOUTH CAROLINA
Somehow, Charlotte went 0-3 through the first three weeks, then found a way to beat a Georgia State team that put early-season scares into both South and North Carolina. Worse yet, Charlotte’s three losses were all by significant margins, including to both Florida Atlantic and FCS William & Mary. South Carolina has plenty of issues of its own, not the least of which is a defense that can’t seem to stop itself from tripping over its own feet. This will be a game where South Carolina can work out the kinks. If this one is even remotely close, Shane Beamer’s honeymoon in Columbia might get very, very short.
South Carolina 47
ARKANSAS vs. TEXAS A&M (at Arlington, Texas)
A neutral-site game is not what the Aggies need right now, especially after an opening trio of home games that found the Aggies sleepwalking against Sam Houston State, being upset by Appalachian State and barely skating by Miami. Arkansas comes into this one off a couple of scares of its own; after getting a nice win over Cincinnati in the opener, the Razorbacks were unimpressive in a win over South Carolina and then struggled to beat FCS Missouri State. This is a game between an all-offense, no-defense team (Arkansas) and an all-defense, no-offense team (Texas A&M) that may be headed in opposite directions as programs. Jimbo Fisher suddenly finds himself suffering a few boo-birds in the stands, while Arkansas is simply not where it needs to be, talent-wise. In this matchup of old SWC rivals, we’ll take defense over offense.
Texas A&M 24
NEW MEXICO at LOUISIANA STATE
New Mexico is 2-1, with wins over Maine and UTEP and a sizable loss to Boise State. LSU may be getting its legs after shutting down Mississippi State last week. If the Tigers start playing with confidence, they become the de facto darkhorse in the SEC West just based off total talent level alone. New Mexico isn’t the kind of team that can get in the Tigers’ way, either.
New Mexico 10
TULSA at MISSISSIPPI
Call us crazy, but Tulsa may be better on paper than Ole Miss was expecting. The Golden Hurricane feature the nation’s top passing offense, but the issue is going to be whether the defense can stop an SEC team. The answer is probably not, but Ole Miss might not be expecting the kind of track meet this game could easily turn into. This just has the feel of that game that gets uncomfortably close in the middle before the favorite pulls away.
Ole Miss 52
BOWLING GREEN at MISSISSIPPI STATE
Here’s what a weird season looks like: Get drummed by UCLA in the opener, lose in seven overtimes to FCS Eastern Kentucky, and then finally beat a Marshall team that had just beaten Notre Dame the week before. That’s Bowling Green in one sentence. Despite the 57-point performance against Eastern Kentucky, Bowling Green has one of the worst collections of offensive metrics of any team in the country, and MSU needs to bounce back after looking outclassed by LSU last week. Don’t look for a lot of mercy here.
Mississippi St. 51
Bowling Green 20
Follow Jess Nicholas on Twitter at @TideFansJessN