Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Week 2 Predictions

Four more teams open conference play, as Alabama hits the road to play Vandy and South Carolina heads to Athens to take on UGA. This week should produce more competitive games as a whole, as only Kentucky and Florida have lower mid-major games scheduled – Kent St. and Troy respectively. Auburn, LSU, and Ole Miss take on BCS schools, Tennessee hosts a very good mid-major in Southern Miss, and there are no gimmes for Mississippi State, even if it is a Tulane team that finished (4-8) last year and has yet to play this year.

Here’s how the weekend will shake out…

Alabama (1-0, 0-0) @ Vanderbilt (1-0, 0-0)
11:30 CST, LFS
Wednesday's Line: Alabama -3.5

HC Nick Saban and the Tide make trip to Nashville this weekend to open conference play against Vandy. Both teams blew out 1AA opponents last weekend, so neither has really been tested this year. Alabama has won 19 straight in this series and 33 of the last 34.

At the top of the Tide's to do list defensively is to try and reign in All-SEC receiver Earl Bennett, who had 13 catches for 220+ yards and 3 TDs last week against Richmond. While Bennett won't approach those numbers against a strong Bama secondary, I don't believe there's a team in the conference that has a good matchup for him.

Of concern to Vandy should be that they surrendered nearly 150 yards rushing and a 4.2 ypc average to Richmond last week. Tide RB Terry Grant ran for 134 yards and a 7.3 ypc average last week against Western Carolina. His ypc won’t be nearly as gaudy this weekend, but he should still have a productive day.

Both of these teams want this game badly. The Tide would love to welcome Saban back to the SEC with a road conference win. For the Commodores, every home game is critical to their goal of reaching a bowl game for the first time in 25 years. In the end, Alabama's defensive pressure and power running game will be too much for the 'Dores to handle.

Straight Up Winner: Alabama
Against the Spread: Alabama

South Carolina (1-0, 0-0) @ (#11, #12) Georgia (1-0, 0-0)
4:45 CST, ESPN2
Wednesday's Line: UGA -5.5

This game will go a long way in determining which team will win the SEC East. The winner of this game will certainly have the early inside track, though each will have Florida to contend with down the line as well. South Carolina will be seeking a measure of revenge, as last year's 18-0 loss was only the second time in HC Steve Spurrier's career he'd been shut out. Overall, UGA has won 5 in a row in this series and is 11-4 in the last 15 years.

Georgia looked impressive in their season-opening win against OKSt last weekend. After leading by only a touchdown at half time, the Dawgs opened it up in the second half, shutting out the high-powered Cowboys offense. Georgia did only muster a 3.0 ypc average on 47 attempts last week, which they'll have to improve on if they want to continue to win. SO QB Matthew Stafford looked confident as he completed 75% of his passes for 2 TDs and no INTs.

South Carolina opened with a sloppy 2 TD win over ULaLa last weekend, playing only their 2nd & 3rd string QBs, as starter Blake Mitchell was suspended for skipping classes. USC did surrender 252 rushing yds (5.4 ypc) last week, as the Ragin' Cajuns moved the ball very well against them all game long. Even if Mitchell had played, the score wouldn’t have been very different. Spurrier called a vanilla offense last week to not show his hand to UGA HC Mark Richt and staff.

While all signs point to UGA having the upperhand, something tells me USC pulls this one out. Spurrier believes this team has what it takes to win the SEC East. I'd feel more comfortable picking it if Mitchell had played last weekend and gotten back adjusted to game speed. Regardless, I’m looking for USC and Spurrier to knock of the Dawgs between the Hedges.

Straight Up Winner: USC
Against the Spread: USC

Missouri (1-0) @ Ole Miss (1-0, 0-0)
5:00 CST, No TV
Wednesday's Line: Mizzou -6

The Rebels' season began to unravel last year in Columbia, as Mizzou crushed them 31-7. Fortunately for the Rebels, the Tigers return only 5 starters from the defense that stifled them so badly last year, and Illinois lit them up for 34 points last week. Unfortunately, for the Rebels, the offense that carved them up returns 9 starters, including QB Chase Daniel, and appears in midseason form, hanging 40 on the Illini.

If the Rebels can find some sort of offensive rhythm, this could be a high scoring affair. Mizzou surrendered 430 yards of offense to Illinois last week, while Ole Miss gave up 480 to Memphis. Mizzou can expect a healthy dose of RB Green-Ellis, while Daniel will again look to carve up the Rebel secondary, much like Memphis QB Hankins did.

While this game will not be a blowout like last year, the Tigers will again prove to be too much for the Rebels. Ole Miss' offense sputtered last week, only scoring one offensive touchdown for the game against Memphis. Unless the defense plays like it did in the first half of the Memphis game for the entire Mizzou game, Daniel and the Tigers should pull out a solid non-conference win.

Straight Up Winner: Missouri
Against the Spread: Missouri

Troy (0-1) @ (#4, #3) Florida (1-0, 0-0)
Wednesday's Line: UF -27

Troy, apparently thinking they were snubbed from playing in the SEC Championship game last season, continues its quest to right that wrong. After a 20-point loss to to Arkansas last week, they now head south to Gainesville and take on the Gators of Florida, fresh off a 49-3 thumping of Western Kentucky.

Another easy game to ease Tebow into a full-time player's role, though after last week, it looked like he's got it under control. With next week's huge game against Tennessee, look for the Gators to keep things fairly simple (as simple as the spread option can be) and try and solidify the leaders on defense.

As with last week against Arkansas, I hate the spread being so high. It burned me last week, and UF may reign it some with UT looming next week.

Straight Up Winner: Florida
Against the Spread: Troy

Kent State (1-0) @ Kentucky (1-0, 0-0)
Wednesday's Line: UK -13

Fresh off an upset of Iowa State in Ames last weekend, Kent rolls into Lexington this weekend looking for another major road victory. Kent's offensive numbers weren't overwhelming, but it was obviously enough to get the job done. Unlike Iowa State, under first year HC Gene Chizik, Kentucky is fully aware of who they are and what their gameplan is... score a whole bunch and hope the D makes a couple of key plays.

This is UK's last game before arch rival Louisville rolls into town next weekend. The high flying offense scored a 51-yd TD on its first snap of the season, and continued to soar, tacking on 6 more touchdowns in a 50-10 rout of Western Kentucky. This one won't be as ugly, but it won't be pretty. UK is 5-0 in this series with an average score of 35-6. Kent State just doesn't have the horses to run with UK for 4 quarters.

Straight Up Winner: Kentucky
Against the Spread: Kentucky

Mississippi State (0-1, 0-1) @ Tulane (0-0)
6:00 CST, CSS
Wednesday's Line: MSU -6

Unfortunately for Bulldog fans, they’ve seen this script before. Preseason hope for a return to a bowl game. A national showcase on Thursday night ESPN week 1. Opening conference season at home. But for the second straight season, Mississippi State was shut out with the entire nation watching. A loss to #2 LSU was a foregone conclusion, but Bulldog fans wanted to see progress. What they saw was a veteran QB who still looks lost in Croom’s system, often throwing into triple coverage against one of the top defenses in the country, on his way to tying a school record with 6 interceptions. The Bulldogs can take solace knowing their defense played well, but they constantly had their backs against the goal line with the careless turnovers on offense. The 45-0 final is more a reflection on the inept (to put it nicely) offense than the defense.

The interesting thing to watch in this game will be QB Henig's confidence level. HC Croom will probably have a much shorter leash with him this weekend, as a loss to Tulane would be devastating to State's hopes of a successful year.

As long as Henig - or JuCo transfer Josh Ridell - can minimize mistakes, MSU should win this game. Their defense is solid and SO RB Anthony Dixon is a solid back. This game will probably be an ugly, low-scoring affair. The Green Wave will be making their debut under new head coach Bob Toledo, so they may struggle a bit as they adapt to a new system offensively. The Bulldogs realize how important this game is to their season, and bounce back against a poor offense in Tulane.

Straight Up Winner: Mississippi State
Against the Spread: Mississippi State

Southern Miss (1-0) @ (#24,#24) Tennessee (0-1, 0-0)
6:00 CST, CSS
Wednesday's Line: UT -11

USM HC Jeff Bower has done a great job in Hattiesburg. They love to brag they'll play anyone, anytime, anywhere. And while they rarely score a big non-conference win, they normally play the big boys close. They believe that this weekend in Knoxville presents a solid chance for a huge non-conference win, while Tennessee feels they can use it as a chance to lick their wounds from their opening loss to Cal.

I can’t see USM winning this game though. UT is 48-12 under HC Fulmer against non-conference opponents and is 11-0 against CUSA schools since 1998. Cal exploited some weaknesses on UT's defense, but USM doesn't have nearly the speed and athletes that Cal does. QB Ainge will have had another week to heal his broken pinky as well as adjust to the tape on his hands and should perform as well or better than his 271 yd/3 TD day against Cal.

The line is a little bigger than I would like it to be, but UT has the firepower to cover.

Straight Up Winner: Tennessee
Against the Spread: Tennessee

South Florida (1-0) @ (#17,#13) Auburn (1-0, 0-0)
8:00 CST, ESPN2
Wednesday's Line: AU -7

Auburn, fresh off skating by Kansas State by the skin of their teeth - welcomes the South Florida Bulls to the Plains this weekend. USF is a chic pick to make some major noise in the Big East this year, so Auburn looks to have its hands full for the second straight weekend.

Key for Auburn will be limiting the hits on QB Brandon Cox, who was battered and bruised all game by Kansas State. HC Tuberville needs to come up with a scheme that either allows for more time for Cox to make throws, or gets the ball out of his hand quicker. Auburn only rushed for 62 yards (1.7 ypc), putting more pressure on Cox to connect.

USF struggled with Elon last week, only winning by 15. Hard to know if it was opening game jitters, a conservative offense, being overrated, or a combination of factors. This will be a big showcase for them with national exposure, on the road, against a top-tier SEC school.

Everything is in place for a USF upset here. They return 16 starters from a 9-4 team last year and they catch Auburn in a rebuilding mode. Auburn is normally very tough at home, but after last week's performance, I'm not sure they have it all in place this year... at least not yet.

The Bulls will pull the upset Saturday night on the Plains.

Straight Up Winner: South Florida
Against the Spread: South Florida

(#9,#9) Virginia Tech (1-0) @ (#2,#2) LSU (1-0, 1-0)
8:15 CST, ESPN
Wednesday's Line: LSU -13

This promises to be one of the marquee non-conference matchups of the season. Both teams bring smashmouth defenses and offensive question marks to Baton Rogue Saturday night. Last man standing wins.

Everyone knows about the terrible tragedy VTU suffered back in April. It's absolutely despicable how ESPN and other media outlets just won't leave them the hell alone and get on with their lives, but that's another post all together... VTU's hopes for a magical season almost hit an early snag, as they trailed East Carolina for the majority of the first half and compiled only 278 yds of offense for the entire game. Their defense was stout - as usual - and rescued them with a Pick6 in the first half and held ECU to 261 yards.

Don’t let last week’s final score form Starkville fool you. While LSU thoroughly dominated the overmatched Mississippi State Bulldogs, the 45 points can be misleading. LSU’s offense sputtered at times, but long drives were rarely needed with MSU’s propensity to turn the ball over in their own territory. VTU's defense is quicker than MSU's and their offense (most likely) won't commit as many turnovers.

This - much like the MSU/Tulane game - could be a low scoring game, reminiscent of LSU's 7-3 loss to Auburn last year. These are two of the biggest, strongest, and fastest defenses in the country, and VTU's special teams send chills down coaches' spines every FG or Punt attempt. You can bet they'll key in on WR Early Doucet and make QB Matt Flynn go elsewhere with the ball.

In the end, the LSU D-Line will wear down VTU's O-Line and LSU wins this one late. LSU showed more on offense last week, compiling nearly 350 yards against MSU. They did stall sporadically, but with the raucous atmosphere in Tiger Stadium on a Saturday night, you can be sure the Tigers will ready to go.

Straight Up Winner: LSU
Against the Spread: VTU

Off Week: Arkansas

No comments: