With another perfect week in the books, the Predictions Dept. turns its attention to the first all-SEC week on the schedule. Other than Georgia-Auburn, every game will be competitive, as the teams are extraordinarily well-matched-up this week against other teams of similar strength.
Last week’s record: 9-0 (100.0%)
Season record: 44-5 (89.8%)
FLORIDA at KENTUCKY
Florida had a very Kentucky-esque week last week, getting by Charlotte in a sleepwalk after coming off a big win over Tennessee the week before. Now the Gators are matched up against their doppelgangers, a Kentucky program that likes to mix up big wins with slide-bys against lesser teams. The Wildcats did a nice job last week of building a lead over Vanderbilt and then letting the clock run out, which is counter to how Kentucky usually wins such games. The difference in this game will probably come down to how Florida QB Graham Mertz performs; if he’s mediocre in this game, Kentucky will likely win it. Billy Napier needs to continue to build on successes and stay ahead of the job mob, and losing to Kentucky, even on the road, would get the fires under his seat rekindled.
GEORGIA at AUBURN
Georgia isn’t the team it was a year ago, but the Bulldogs are still the best team in the SEC and Auburn’s offense is terrible. The Tigers looked inept against Texas A&M and may have a real quarterback controversy brewing now. Jordan-Hare Stadium has been the site of several lucky Auburn wins over the Bulldogs over the years, but the Tigers don’t have enough firepower here to challenge. Georgia can simply box Auburn up and wait for the inevitable mistake.
MISSOURI at VANDERBILT
Missouri is a quiet 4-0 and is coming off a win over a quality opponent in Memphis. Vanderbilt’s offense showed a bit of life late against Kentucky, but the Commodores have got issues on defense and still make too many mental errors. If Vandy is going to avoid a 10-loss season, this is probably the best chance it has the rest of the way at stealing a victory. The game is in Nashville, but that’s not exactly a big deal. The much bigger deal for the ‘Dores here is to find a way to shut down Missouri’s passing attack. Without doing that, it’s going to be hard to score the upset.
SOUTH CAROLINA at TENNESSEE
South Carolina held on against Mississippi State last week and got a much-needed victory, but the Bulldogs are so much a mystery at the moment, that the win may not have really meant much in the grand scheme of things. The key matchup here is the Gamecock secondary against Tennessee’s quarterbacks. South Carolina has struggled to stop passing games and especially struggled against MSU, giving up 487 yards to QB Will Rogers. If they can’t cut that number by about half this week, there’s no chance to get by the Volunteers. Tennessee isn’t the same team it was last year, but the Gamecock secondary might make us all think the Vols are unless changes are made.
South Carolina 20
TEXAS A&M vs. ARKANSAS (at Arlington, Texas)
A week after losing at home to BYU, Arkansas almost managed to upset LSU on the road. Now Arkansas has to go to the “neutral” site of Arlington, Texas, to face Texas A&M (next priority for the Arkansas AD: Make this series a home-and-home affair). The Aggies beat Auburn in a solid outing last week and may have found something in QB Max Johnson, who looks like a pretty good fit for Bob Petrino’s offensive style. This game is technically a road game for the Aggies but isn’t really. Were it in Fayetteville, we’d probably take the upset here, but asking Arkansas to play as well as it did last week, or better, with the game in the middle of the DFW metroplex, is just not happening. Arkansas is all about what it can get out of QB K.J. Jefferson, and Texas A&M’s defense is capable of stopping him.
Texas A&M 31
LOUISIANA STATE at MISSISSIPPI
Interesting matchup here between a team that nearly got beat by an inferior opponent (LSU) against a team that thought it was better than Alabama and found out the hard way that it has a long way to go (Ole Miss). Whether Ole Miss can get up for a second big game in a row remains to be seen, but what also remains to be seen is whether LSU’s secondary can stop Ole Miss QB Jaxson Dart. LSU has been porous in the back end this year and unlike last season, the LSU coaches don’t seem to have an answer for how to get a transfer-heavy secondary to learn to play together effectively. The good news for LSU is that its offense has been aces so far in 2023, and the Ole Miss defense visibly wore down over the course of the Alabama game. Lane Kiffin suddenly needs to win this game not to bolster his resume for the Alabama job some day, but to keep himself out of the crosshairs of Ole Miss fans who are demanding more.
Ole Miss 31
Follow Jess Nicholas on X at @TideFansJessN