Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Week 3 Predictions

Mississippi State (1-0, 0-0) @ Auburn (1-0, 0-0)
11:30 CST, LFS
Wednesday's Line: Auburn -13

What looked to be a gimme win for Auburn before the season started, now seems as though it may be something of a battle. Auburn has won 6 in a row in this series, and Mississippi State hasn’t scored in this game since 2004, but this a different Tiger team than the one that's 33-5 the last 3 seasons.

Auburn’s offense has struggled in both games this season, particularly the offensive line. QB Brandon Cox has assumed most of the blame for Auburn’s offensive woes, as he’s barely completed 50% of his passes and has 4 interceptions and just 2 TDs. It doesn’t hep that the Tigers rank last in the conference in rushing ypg either. The defense has played well enough to give them a chance to win, but too many mistakes by Cox and company doomed them against USF.

Mississippi State rebounded from their dismal week 1 performance against LSU to pick up a much needed win against woeful Tulane. The defense played well again, limiting the Green Wave to 243 yards. They’ll face a fired up Tiger team this weekend looking to rebound form last week’s loss. The key matchup will be the Auburn O-Line vs the MSU D-Line.

This will be a low-scoring game, as neither offense is capable of putting up a lot of points against an SEC-caliber defense. It will be all about the in-game adjustments, and Auburn keeping Brandon Cox on his feet. When it comes down to Tuberville vs. Croom, give me the Riverboat Gambler any day of the week, and twice on a football Saturday. Auburn will win the game outright, but the 2 TD line may be too much to ask…

Straight Up Winner: Auburn
Against the Spread: Mississippi State

Western Carolina (0-2) @ (#23, #25)Georgia (1-1, 0-1)
Noon CST, No TV
Wednesday's Line: No Line

This game against the Catamounts falls at a perfect time for UGA. Their offense was held in check last week against South Carolina, so HC Mark Richt and staff can use this game as an opportunity to get things rolling again. In their other visit to an SEC stadium this year, WCU was rolled 52-6 by Alabama.

After an impressive opening game against Oklahoma State, the Dawgs sputtered badly against South Carolina, scoring scored 23 fewer points and converted only 3/18 3rd downs. QB Matthew Stafford should be able to get things back on track this week, and the holes should be much bigger for RBs Moreno and Lumpkin. With 4 SEC games the next 4 weeks – including 3 on the road – this is their last chance to get things back together.

Straight Up Winner: Georgia
Against the Spread: N/A

(#22, #24)Tennessee (1-1, 0-0) @ (#5, #3)Florida (2-0, 0-0)
2:30 CST, CBS
Wednesday's Line: Florida -8

This is another huge early season SEC matchup, much like Georgia/South Carolina last week. While both the Gators and Vols have been explosive on offense, averaging 54 and 35 ppg respectively, neither has shown much on defense. Cal ran roughshod over UT in Week 1 while Florida surrendered 336 yards and 31 points to Troy last week.

UT struggled against the team speed of Cal in Week 1, and they’ll be faced with a faster overall team in Florida. The Vols defense played better last week against USM, forcing 3 TOs and only allowing 2/16 3rd down conversions, but they did surrender 354 yards of offense. QB Ainge was fairly sharp again despite a broken pinky on his throwing hand. Not helping UT’s cause is losing defensive captain Antonio Gaines for the season last week to a knee injury.

If human cyborg Tim Tebow can pull this one out, his cult hero status in Gainesville will begin approaching Legendary. In two games this year, he’s already thrown for 536 yards and 6 touchdowns and rushed for 130 more yards. Florida’s going to score, no doubt, but the question remains if they can stop a real team on offense. The Vols will easily be the most explosive offense they face the first 5 games this season and will provide a stiff test for the Gator’s young D.

This has been a remarkably close series of late, with 6 of the last 9 being decided by 4 points or less, including UF’s 21-20 win last year. Both teams know how important this game is, as the loser of this game hasn’t made it to the SEC Championship Game since 1997. This will be a high scoring affair, but Florida’s got too much speed for the Vols to handle for 60 minutes.

Straight Up Winner: Florida
Against the Spread: Florida

(#16, #16)Arkansas (1-0, 0-0) @ Alabama (2-0, 1-0)
5:45 CST, ESPN
Wednesday's Line: Alabama -3

Two serious contenders for second place in the SEC West do battle at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa this Saturday. Arkansas is coming off an off weekend, while Alabama slogged out a wet and wild victory in Nashville last week, winning 24-10 over an improved Vanderbilt squad. Arkansas has won 3 of the last 4, including 2 in double overtime.

Alabama dominated last year’s game in every aspect… except for the final score. Constant miscues led to a 24-23 loss in a 2OT game that jumpstarted Arkansas’ unlikely run to the SEC West title. This season, the Tide appear more disciplined than the last few years, having committed only 11 penalties and 1 turnover through 2 games. RB Terry Grant leads the SEC in rushing at 154.5 ypg. and TDs scored with 5.

When it comes to RBs though, Grant will only be the third best in this game. Arkansas’ dynamic duo of Felix Jones and Darren McFadden will be turned loose against a Tide D that is only allowing 66.5 yards per game. In its one game earlier this season, Arkansas ran for 350 yards (7.0 ypc) against Troy. While they won't come close to that, Arkansas should find some success on the ground. The question is, how much success will they have through the air. QB Casey Dick or DMac will need to stretch the Tide D to open up the running lanes for the potent ground attack.

This should be a great game. These are two evenly matched teams and I expect this to be a close game throughout. Despite the fact Alabama is playing at home, I give the slight edge in this one to the Hogs. The power running of DMac and Felix Jones will wear down the Tide defense and the Hogs will score on some kind of trick play late in the game to ice it. The Tide just don't have enough offense through the air to counteract Arkansas' ground game.

Straight Up Winner: Arkansas
Against the Spread: Arkansas

South Carolina State (1-1) @ (#17, #23)South Carolina (2-0, 0-0)
6:00 CST, PPV
Wednesday's Line: No Line

Between the emotional high of beating Georgia on the road last week and the excitement of traveling to Baton Rogue next weekend, it’s a good thing the Gamecocks draw SCSU this weekend. Any kind of “real” opponent here would certainly qualify as a trap game.

While the defense has been stout – 2 TDs allowed in 2 games – and the special teams solid, eventually the Gamecocks will need to score a few more points. With Spurrier lurking on the sidelines, you know there’s always the potential to just draw up a pass play in the dirt, but that explosion has been lacking this year. After missing the first game of the season, QB Blake Mitchell played fairly well against UGA, completing a high percentage of his mostly short, safe passes. He should be able to find a solid rhythm early against SCSU, and build for the remainder of the season.

Straight Up Winner: South Carolina
Against the Spread: N/A

Ole Miss (1-1, 0-0) @ Vanderbilt (1-1, 0-1)
6:00 PM, No TV
Wednesday's Line: Vanderbilt -5

Ole Miss travels to Nashville Saturday in what appears to be their best chance for a road SEC victory since 2004. The Rebels saw their long-stagnant offense come to life against a porous Missouri defense Saturday, while the Commodores not only lost the game, but star QB Nickson is questionable for the game Saturday. The Rebels have won 6/7 in this series, including the 17-10 victory last year.

Former walk-on QB Seth Adams has performed admirably for the Rebels in his two starts, throwing for 506 yds and 4 TDs, including 2 to DE Greg Hardy. All-SEC RB Benjaurvis Green-Ellis rushed for a career high 226 yards last week, and currently ranks 2nd in the conference in ypg. The Rebels have struggled in road games under Orgeron though, going just 2-9.

Vandy All-SEC WR Earl Bennett exploded in week 1 against Richmond, but against a tougher D last week, was held to 52 yards. Ole Miss surrendered 560 yards to Mizzou last week, including 330 through the air. Vandy doesn’t have that type of firepower, particularly if Nickson isn’t available or isn’t 100%. Vandy also doesn’t have the ground game to make up for any decline in the passing game, as they don’t have a single player who’s reached 100 yards yet for the season.

This game is important to both teams. For Vandy, bowl hopes ride on getting this win, while for Ole Miss, this would be the closest thing to a signature win for Orgeron. The Rebels want to use second half of last week’s game as a springboard for better times this season, as they outscored Mizzou 18-3 over the last 27 minutes. Vandy meanwhile will be searching for a ground game and some sort of offensive consistency. The Rebels should get the job done in Nashville Saturday and pull the mild upset.

Straight Up Winner: Ole Miss
Against the Spread: Ole Miss

(#9, #9)Louisville (2-0) @ Kentucky (2-0, 0-0)
6:30 CST, ESPN Classic
Wednesday's Line: -6.5

While these two schools really dislike each other, even they have to admit this game has the potential to be one of the highest scoring of the year. Both teams sport ridiculously high scoring offenses (65.5 ppg for Louisville, 53 ppg for UK), Heisman candidate QBS (Brian Brohm and Andre Woodson), and defenses that, well, aren’t very good. Louisville gave up 554 yards and 42 points to Middle Tennessee State last week and UK gave 453 yards and 26 first downs to Kent State, and had a very hard time getting off the field.

This has been a tough series for UK lately, as Louisville has won 4 in a row and 7/8, including a 59-28 win in Louisville last season. If Kentucky is going to beat Louisville anytime soon, this is the year to do it. The Triplets – QB Woodson, RB Little, and WR Burton – are 0-3 against the Cardinals and know they can go to a much better bowl than the Music City Bowl if they pull the upset here. The onus falls on the Defense to get off the field and hold an explosive Cardinal offense in check. Even FGs will be something of a victory, as Kentucky will put up a lot of points in this one.

The Wildcats should pull the upset here, they’re at home, playing at night, and have the bad taste of all the recent losses to Louisville in their mouths. Louisville lost three starters in the secondary during the offseason, so there will be a lot of inexperience in the defensive backfield against a team currently averaging nearly 250 ypg through the air. This could very well be a five hour game with 80 or more points between the two of them, but in the end, the Big Blue Nation will be happy.

Straight Up Winner: Kentucky
Against the Spread: Kentucky

Middle Tennessee State (0-2) @ (#2, #2)LSU (2-0, 1-0)
7:00 CST, No TV
Wednesday's Line: LSU -40

No team in the country has been even half as impressive as LSU has through 2 games. After predictably bombing Mississippi State in the opener, they hosted Virginia Tech last weekend in what was supposed to be a tight, low scoring game. Both defenses were great in Week 1 and both offenses struggled. Needless to say, LSU not only won, but embarrassed VTU on both sides of the ball, racking up 598 yards of offense and holding VTU to 149 yards, 11 first downs, and 7 points.

MTSU is coming off a game in which they gave Louisville all they could handle before falling 58-42. While their offense is explosive, they are defensively challenged, which spells disaster in Baton Rogue Saturday night.

Just like South Carolina (their next week’s opponent), LSU faces a trap this weekend. While MTSU is clearly better than South Carolina State, there’s no way LSU slips up Saturday, particularly with another late night kickoff. It’s hard to imagine that LSU’s focus will be entirely on this game though, or at least enough to cover this ridiculously large spread.

Straight Up Winner: LSU
Against the Spread: Middle Tennessee State

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