Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Week 4 Predictions

Saturday’s SEC docket includes just 7 games, the lowest total of the season so far. Of those games, 4 of them are conference games and all pit the Eastern division against the Western division. Some very intriguing conference games, as South Carolina travels to LSU, Georgia travels to Alabama, and Kentucky travels to Arkansas. Florida travels to Ole Miss in a not-so-intriguing game. Tennessee, Auburn, and Mississippi State all venture out of conference, while Vanderbilt has the weekend off.

Here’s how the weekend will shake out…

(#3, #3)Florida (3-0, 1-0) @ Ole Miss (1-2, 0-1)
11:30 CST, LFS
Wednesday's Line: Florida -23

In September, under HC Orgeron, the Rebels are 3-0 against Memphis and 0-8 against everyone else, and are 2-14 against the spread in their last 16 September games. Ole Miss is 11-9-1 all-time against Florida, but these are certainly different times from even 2002-03, when the Rebels swept the Gators in Oxford and Gainesville. The Gators have lost their last 3 trips to the state of Mississippi.

This is the perfect SEC game for Tebow to make his first road start. So far this season, he’s been nothing short of spectacular, completing nearly 75% of his passes for 835 yards and has also rushed for close to 200 yards. The Gators’ defense stepped up last week and played its best game of the season forcing a high powered Tennessee offense into 3 turnovers and held them to just one offensive touchdown. On the negative side of things, they have been penalized 28 times in 3 games, which is far more than HC Meyer would like.

QB Brent Schaeffer will get his first start of the season for the Rebels Saturday, as Seth Adams is still out. If you don’t know the Schaeffer saga, Google it, not enough room on this page for it. Suffice it to say, he’s been a disappointment for the Rebels. After rushing for a career high 226 yds against Mizzou, BenJaurvus Green-Ellis came back to earth with a 21 carry/66 yard day against Vanderbilt, just one week after Bama sliced/diced Vandy for 221 yards. The Rebels face an inexperienced Florida defense this week, but unless the offensive line plays its best game of the season, the athletic Florida D will wreak havoc all game long.

This will be the 4th time in 4 games that the Rebels have faced a spread offense. While I would normally say that’s an advantage for them, they’ve been torched in those 3 games for an average of 401 ypg (110 rushing/291 passing) and 30 ppg. The Gators are currently averaging 572 ypg (287 rushing/235 passing) and 56 ppg, so the math is not difficult. This one won’t be close.

Straight Up Winner: Florida
Against the Spread: Florida

(#12, #14)S. Carolina (3-0, 1-0) @ (#2, #2)LSU (3-0, 1-0)
2:30 CST, CBS
Wednesday's Line: LSU -16.5

In a preview of the SEC Championship game, the Gamecocks venture down south to their personal house of horrors. South Carolina is just 2-14-1 against LSU all time, including a 1-9 record in Baton Rogue, their win coming 1994, 18-17.

The Gamecocks survived their first road test in Athens a couple of weeks ago and currently sit 1-0 in the SEC. QB Blake Mitchell’s 3/3 TD/INT ration isn’t near where HC Spurrier would like it to be, or where it needs to be for South Carolina to continue winning in the SEC. Unlike Spurrier’s teams of the past, it’s been the defense and special teams that have been the foundation for this team. The defense did take a blow this week as starting DL Nathan Pepper is out for the season with a knee injury. The offense has been steady, but not spectacular.

As for LSU, everything has been spectacular. 137-7 in 3 games. 3rd in the conference in scoring. 2nd in the nation in pass defense. +7 turnover margin. Best punting average in conference. The list goes on and on. HC Les Miles has the Tigers flying high. He even rested his starting QB Flynn last week and backup Perrilloux threw for ~300 yds and 3 TDs. Flynn will be back for the Gamecocks, though it’s a nice contingency plan to have Perrilloux as #2.

This will undoubtedly be LSU’s biggest test of the year so far. The Gamecocks’ D will be the stiffest Matt Flynn and company have faced this year, and there are few better big game coaches than Spurrier, who, by the way, is 11-1 against LSU (all at Florida). Unfortunately for the Gamecocks, they just don’t have enough on offense to get through the immovable object that is the LSU defense. Mitchell will be under pressure all game, and his tendency to force throws plays right into the Tigers’ hands. This game will not be decided until the second half, but a late defensive TD will ice it for the Tigers.

Straight Up Winner: LSU
Against the Spread: LSU

(#21, #23)Kentucky (3-0, 0-0) @ Arkansas (2-1, 0-1)
5:00 CST, ESPN2
Wednesday's Line: Arkansas -6.5

The last time these two got together on the gridiron, the Hogs won 71-63... in 7 OTs. UK beat Ole Miss to start 1-0 in the SEC for the first time since 1987 last year, and would love to make it 2 seasons in a row. This is the first road game of the season for UK.

Kentucky is coming off its biggest victory in years (arch-rival, first top 10 win since 1977, ranked for the first time since 1984), and this would seem an obvious time for a letdown game. But this Wildcats team has been through the ropes of an SEC season before and is full of veterans. QB Woodson established himself as a legitimate Hesiman candidate with his performance last week, but the Wildcats will need to keep on winning.

Arkansas is left to wonder what could’ve been after last week’s heartbreaker in Tuscaloosa. The Hogs lost by only 3, despite digging themselves a 21-0 hole after just 1 quarter. They actually had the lead for about 8 minutes in the 4th before another passing TD doomed them.

The Hogs rank 11/12 in conference in passing D, while the Wildcats come in at 10/12 in rushing D. Neither team will be able to stop the other team’s strength. Arkansas will be able to control the clock with their power running game, and DMac and company will be looking to atone from their loss last week. Andre Woodson’s conference record of consecutive passes with no interceptions will come to an end, and the Razorbacks grind out an exciting, high scoring win.

Straight Up Winner: Arkansas
Against the Spread: Arkansas

Arkansas State (1-1) @ Tennessee (1-2, 0-1)
6:00 CST, No TV
Wednesday's Line: Tennessee -19

This is the first meeting between these two programs, but Arkansas State is 1-44-3 versus current SEC teams. Tennessee needs a game like this after the shellacking they took on national television last week at the hands of the Gators. Arkansas State had a controversial 8-point loss to Texas in Week 1, so the Vols better not take them too lightly.

Last week appeared to be the first time QB Ainge was affected by the broken pinky on his throwing hand. He did complete 63% of his passes for ~250 yds, but he only threw for 1 TD against a Florida D that had allowed ~280 yds passing and 2 TDs to Troy the week before. Granted, Troy looked like world beaters last Friday against OKSt, but Vols fans would like to think they’ve got better talent than Troy.

For Fulmer’s sake, Tennessee needs a solid effort in all aspects of the game this weekend. The rumblings in Knoxville are getting louder with each passing week. Both Tennessee’s losses – Cal & UF – have come to teams that outclassed them in speed. UT’s defenders have looked flatfooted trying to run down the speedy skill-position guys. While Arkansas State seems to be improved this year, there’s no reason they should hang with Tennessee this weekend.The Vols nearly hung 40 on Southern Miss, they'll eclipse that this weekend.

Straight Up Winner: Tennessee
Against the Spread: Tennessee

New Mexico St. (2-1) @ Auburn (1-2, 0-1)
6:00 CST, No TV
Wednesday's Line: Auburn -17

Offensive guru, cheater, and former UK head coach Hal Mumme returns to the SEC this weekend with his NMSU Aggies. NMSU is 0-13 against current SEC teams, and has lost 15 straight non-conference road teams. This will only be the second time these programs have ever played with Auburn winning 55-14 in 1993. They would have to play this game 3 times for Auburn to score 55 points.

Auburn’s offensive woes have been well documented. The offensive line has been horrid and QB Brandon Cox has struggled, throwing 7 INTs to just 2 TDs. The defense will be tested this week, as – like all Mumme teams – NMSU likes to chuck it all over the field, and currently averages ~400 yds passing. The Aggie D surrenders 370 ypg and 27 ppg, so the opportunity to score is there. QB Kodi Burns may see more PT this weekend, after providing some spark for the Tigers last weekend.

HC Tuberville has made sure his Tigers realize the importance of this game. They need this to get to .500 and preserve any hope of a respectable season. NMSU can’t match the athletes that the Tigers have, but you have to wonder why Vegas thinks this Auburn team could outscore anyone by 17 points. Auburns wins, but not by much.

Straight Up Winner: Auburn
Against the Spread: NMSU

Gardner-Webb (1-1) @ Mississippi State (2-1, 1-1)
6:00 CST, No TV
Wednesday's Line: No Line

Mississippi State HC Croom looks to equal his win total from each of his first three seasons with a victory over 1AA Gardner-Webb this weekend. MSU did stumble against a 1AA opponent in 2004, losing 9-7 to Maine, but this is a fired up Bulldogs team now, with a very strong defense. They haven’t allowed a 2nd half point in either of the last two games, and probably won’t give up a single point all game Saturday.

MSU will be able to control the tempo of this game from the outset with RB Anthony Dixon. Reality will set back in with a trip to Columbia, SC next weekend, but the Bulldogs can enjoy being 3-1 for the first time in a long time.

Straight Up Winner: Mississippi State
Against the Spread: N/A

(#22, #21)UGA (2-1, 0-1) @ (#16, #20)Alabama (3-0, 2-0)
6:45 CST, ESPN
Wednesday's Line: Alabama -3.5

The Georgia Bulldogs travel to Tuscaloosa this weekend to take on the Alabama Crimson Tide. Georgia has won 2 in a row in this series, though they're just 1-7 all-time in Tuscaloosa, with current HC Mark Richt winning 27-25 in 2002.

Georgia is trying to avoid an 0-2 start in conference play, basically eliminating them from the SEC East race. They’ll try to build on their performance last week against Western Carolina. They’ve dominated their two non conference opponents, but failed to score a TD in their conference game against South Carolina. UGA will try to establish its running game early and let QB Stafford ease in to passing game. South Carolina was very effective taking away the deep ball, as Stafford averaged only ~5 yards per completion

Alabama HC Saban’s main jobs this week were to calm down the emotions after a shocking victory over Arkansas with :04 seconds left last week, and to get his defensive linemen rest. They were dragging at the end of that game after chasing down DMac, Felix Jones, and other Arkansas RBs. Saban inherited a veteran team, so the emotions should be in check this weekend. If Alabama wins this one, they’ll be 3-0 in conference before stepping out of conference the next 2 weekends. Freshman RB Terry Grant has been spectacular, ranking 2nd in conference behind DMac in rushing ypg. The Tide’ll have a similar game plan this week as they have all year – disciplined football, power running, efficient passing. QB Wilson gave Georgia something else to think about last week, throwing for 327 yds and 4 TDs.

Talent-wise, Georgia is the superior team in this game. They have big play capability on both sides of the ball. But, until they show consistency against a legitimate opponent, it’s hard to pick them to win in a hostile environment, especially against a veteran team and coach like Saban. Alabama will control the clock with Grant running the ball, and the D and QB Wilson will make just enough plays for the Tide to eke out a tough conference win.

Straight Up Winner: Alabama
Against the Spread: Alabama


Anonymous said...

"Reality will set back in with a trip to Columbia, SC next weekend, but the Bulldogs can enjoy being 3-1 for the first time in a long time."

Wasn't reality supposed to set in on us last week at Auburn? Somebody is still in denial.

Dead Guy said...

I picked MSU to cover that game against Auburn, so no, I'm not in denial. I can't say I was shocked by them winning, as Croom has delivered now 3 big wins in his tenure at MSU.

After this week though, MSU plays @South Carolina, vs UAB, vs UT, @WVU, and @UK. Other than UAB, which game are the Bulldogs going to win?

Moose said...

The game to watch is going to Kentucky vs. Arkansas. This game could turn into a shoot out. Woodson vs. McFadden, I can't believe they are not hyping this game up.

On the other side, Bama Vs. UGA could be a pretty heated Defensive battle. Expect a low score in this one.

Dead Guy said...

No doubt about it. That game will be a high-scoring affair with two legit Heisman candidates. The pressure is on Arky to not start 0-2 in conference.

Moose said...

I thought the officals took Arkansas saw out of the game last week, and McFadden getting cramps.

I would have to give the edge to Arkansas due to the fact they are going to run all over Kentucky. Kentucky will score quickly but in the 4th quarter the defensive line we be worn down and Arkansas will be about to run with ease.

Going outside of the SEC, what about the UNC vs. South Florida game?

Dead Guy said...

The officiating was very iffy in the 4th quarter of that ARK/ALA game. Some interference calls weren't made that could've been, and then the big one in the end zone was made on an uncatchable ball.

As for USF/UNC, I think Butch Davis could do well there eventually, beautiful campus, SEC-caliber coeds, but it's not to be this year. I can't see USF slipping up in that one.

Anonymous said...

"After this week though, MSU plays @ South Carolina, vs UAB, vs UT, @WVU and @ UK. Other than UAB, which game are the Bulldogs going to win?"

Is there a reason you left Ole Miss off?

Dead Guy said...

For the same reason I left off Alabama and @Arkansas... those occur after the bye week. I as just pointing out that reality will sink in after this weekend's game with Gardner-Webb. 3-1 can turn into 4-5 pretty quickly with that schedule. Most likely, MSU will have to beat Alabama or Arkansas for a shot at a bowl game. They should definitely be Ole Miss in Starkville.