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SEC Preview and Predictions: Week 3

The Predictions Dept. almost put together a second perfect week, but was foiled in the most frustrating fashion possible: an Alabama loss. For Week 3, intraconference games are beginning to pepper the schedule and some of the matchups are intriguing, led by LSU-Mississippi State.

Last week’s record: 13-1 (92.9%)
Season record: 28-1 (96.7%)

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Neither team has looked great on offense yet, especially Tennessee. The Volunteers struggled to pull away from Austin Peay for a good bit of its game Saturday. We knew Florida’s offense was going to be work in progress, especially with the Gators getting very average quarterback play at best. But Tennessee was a juggernaut in 2022 and new QB Joe Milton, while not the kind of threat Hendon Hooker was, was still expected to shine in this offense if for no other reason than because of its design.

The Tennessee offensive line is doing its best to hold everything together, and Tennessee ranks 4th in the country so far in rushing attack. Milton has prime-level arm talent but is erratic; however, you just know he’s going to find it three or four times this year and make the opposing defense miserable. Florida’s defense is improving, and probably overachieving if we’re honest about it, but the Gators just don’t seem to be a candidate to match Tennessee point for point in this game. Maybe having the game in Gainesville will at least keep the margin close and give the Gators a chance late.
Tennessee 34
Florida 17

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While most of the negative attention has been on Alabama and, to a lesser extent, Tennessee, South Carolina has quietly gotten out of the starting gate like a three-legged donkey. The Gamecocks were overwhelmed by North Carolina in the opener, and at one point trailed Furman on Saturday before finally deciding it was time to play football. This game had been circled by a lot of people in the media as a potential trap game for the Bulldogs, who are breaking in a new quarterback, but there’s nothing about South Carolina’s early-season resume that would lead one to believe the Cocks can win against Georgia and especially do it on the road. South Carolina’s primary issue is that neither line of scrimmage is SEC-ready – and Georgia is the stiffest test imaginable right now.
Georgia 40
South Carolina 10

Akron lost its opener to Temple by 3 points and then won its Week 2 matchup against Morgan State, also by 3 points. What chance do the Zips have of upsetting Kentucky? Zip.
Kentucky 38
Akron 7

The Tigers barely got by MTSU in Week 2 and appear to have some significant, fundamental issues on the offensive side of the ball. That’s a bad mix against a Kansas State team that has a top-10 rushing defense and is almost as good against a passing game. Missouri doesn’t have enough playmakers on the offensive side of the ball, at least not yet. Perhaps if this matchup were occurring around Week 10, once the roster had time to jell and develop, Missouri would have a better chance. Right now, though, this looks like a game Kansas State will win relatively comfortably.
Kansas State 34
Missouri 17

At least the Commodores will be getting a road trip of some significance this year – it just won’t come during bowl season. This appears, on the surface, to be the Commodores’ last legitimate chance for victory in 2023, because the conference schedule is brutal. UNLV is coming off a performance against Michigan that was actually somewhat respectable, defensively – the Rebels lost 35-7, not a close game but not the abject dismantling that many were expecting it to be – but the problem for UNLV is that the offense is worse than even Vanderbilt’s, by several degrees.
Vanderbilt 27

Neither team has gotten off to a particularly strong showing early on, as each has been plagued by offensive misfires. It’s a bit more surprising in Arkansas’ case, because K.J. Jefferson is one of the most senior quarterbacks in the league and was coming off a solid 2022 season. Arkansas’ desire to move more toward a conventional offensive set may be to blame, as Jefferson, like Alabama’s Jalen Milroe, is more at home in an offense that asks him to run and to freestyle. BYU has two unimpressive wins over Sam Houston and Southern Utah so far. The defense has performed well, but the level of competition is too poor to mean anything. In the end, just take the SEC team playing at home, with the good defense against the team that hasn’t shown it can move the ball consistently against air yet.
Arkansas 34
BYU 13

Auburn is coming off a weird 14-10 win over Cal, and needs to build some confidence for its offense. Samford is the perfect foil for such a scenario. Expect Auburn to make this one look as ugly as possible in order to build momentum.
Auburn 48
Samford 7

The Bulldogs probably have the best body of work of any SEC team so far, given what happened to their program over the offseason. LSU has been all over the map in the early going, and if one were asked to pick the team that was going through great adversity right now based solely on how the two have played, it certainly wouldn’t be the one that actually is trying to replace a coach and change its offensive direction.

Mississippi State absolutely has the opportunity to win this game. Davis Wade Stadium has become a legitimate venue over the last decade or so, LSU was exposed in the back end against Florida State and MSU can certainly pressure the Tigers behind QB Will Rogers. LSU is the more talented team, but it isn’t by much, and Mississippi State’s talent is more balanced out over the two sides of the ball. This one will be entertaining, to say the least.
LSU 31
Mississippi St. 27

The Yellow Jacket program is getting better, slowly. Tech played Louisville tough in the opener and then cruised by South Carolina State, but the Yellow Jackets aren’t ready to take on a team like Ole Miss just yet. Ole Miss blends just enough physicality with a heaping helping of improvement at the quarterback position, not really a surprise given who its head coach is. The college football world is better (unless you’re a Georgia fan) with a good Georgia Tech program in it, but that day isn’t here. Not yet, anyway.
Ole Miss 38
Georgia Tech 20

The Aggies still have a long way to go but at least the offense appeared to wake up against Miami last week. The real question is whether Texas A&M will stick with Jimbo Fisher long enough to see if he can turn it around. That decision won’t likely be on the table this week, because while ULM is 2-0, the team’s offense has been absolutely putrid and the level of opposition the Warhawks have faced pales in comparison to Texas A&M. This is a nice reunion game, Terry Bowden against Jimbo Fisher. But that’s about it.
Texas A&M 47
La.-Monroe 6

Follow Jess Nicholas on X at @TideFansJessN

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