Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Week 5 Predictions

After high drama in 4 inter-division games last week, this weekend seems to be a little slower pace. There are 3 more inter-division games – Ole Miss @ Georgia, Mississippi State @ South Carolina, and Auburn @ Florida – but none seem to offer the appeal that last week's slate had. Alabama ventures out of conference to tangle with Free Shoes University Florida State University while the rest of the league dines on cupcakes.

Here's how the weekend will shake out...

(#2, #2)LSU (4-0, 2-0) @ Tulane (1-2)
11:00 CDT, ESPN2
Wednesday's Line: LSU -40

LSU travels 80 miles down I-10 to New Orleans to take on Tulane in the Superdome. LSU has won 15 straight in this series (avg score 34-16), including 49-7 last year.

Tulane RB Matt Forte had 303 yds rushing and 4 TDs last week against SE Louisiana, but my Spidey-sense tells me he won’t approach that number Saturday against the Tigers. Fresh off a victory over South Carolina, the Tigers basically have an off weekend to rest players like QB Matt Flynn, who is still nursing an ankle injury.

Not to write this game off as a gimme for LSU, but… LSU beat Mississippi State 45-0 in Starkville. Mississippi State beat Tulane 38-21 in New Orleans. LSU can name their score in this one. HC Les Miles will probably feel like rubbing it in, as the national media (like ESPN) is still having fun with his preseason postulating that USC has an easier road to the BCS Title Game. And they’ll be rubbing it in these new unis, now with pelican goodness!

Straight Up Winner: LSU
Against the Spread: LSU

Mississippi St (3-1, 1-1) @ (#16, #21)S. Carolina (3-1, 1-1)
11:30 CDT, LFS
Wednesday's Line: USC -13.5

Mississippi State takes their 3-1 record north to South Carolina this weekend for a conference showdown featuring two of the stingiest defenses in the league. The Gamecocks have won 4 in a row in this series was one of three SEC teams (LSU and Auburn were the others) that shut Mississippi State out last year. MSU was shutout again by LSU this year, but rebounded to beat Auburn. MSU has won 3 in a row for the first time since 2000.

This will be Gamecock FR QB Chris Smelley’s first career SEC start, replacing the surprisingly inefficient Blake Mitchell. Smelley has thrown for 2 TDs and 2 INTs this season, so it will be interesting to see how – if at all – Spurrier’s game plan for the Bulldogs changes. The Gamecocks will also be without LB Jasper Brinkley for the rest of the season, which is a big blow to the defense, which already lost starting DE Nathan Pepper for the season. The Bulldogs will also be without their starting QB Michael Henig, and backups Caroll and Ridell should both see PT.

This will be a low scoring game featuring two strong defenses and two lackluster offenses. After giving 45 points to LSU in the opener, MSU has only allowed 46 in its last 3 games. USC currently ranks 2nd in the league allowing only 14.2 ppg, though their rush defense has struggled, allowing more than 200 ypg. Spurrier will have his team ready to go Saturday. The Bulldog’s defense will keep them in the game for a while, but an inefficient offense will be their ultimate undoing. No way Spurrier drops two in a row.

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

Florida Atlantic (3-1) @ (#14, #15)Kentucky (4-0, 1-0)
12:00 CDT, No TV
Wednesday's Line: UK -22

This will be the first time these two programs have met asFAU has only been playing football since 2001. Kentucky is 6-1 all time against teams currently in the Sun Belt, but only beat Louisiana Monroe by 2 points last year at home. FAU coach Howard Schnellenberger was an All America performer for UK in the mid 50s under HC Bear Bryant.

Kentucky needs a break from the rigors of the SEC after back to back emotional wins over Louisville and Arkansas. Next weekend, they start a 3-game stretch playing the 3 best teams in conference - @USC, vs LSU, vs UF – so this is a good chance to fine-tune anything that needs to be worked on, as well as rest some starters. UK’s secondary will be tested as FAU QB Rusty Smith has thrown for 1100+ yds and 8 TDs in 4 games. FAU has beaten Minnesota this season, but fell to OkSt 42-6 on the road.

With the emotional 2 weeks Kentucky has had and the impending schedule of doom, UK’s focus won’t be entirely on this game. They’ll win, but won’t cover the 22 points.

Straight Up Winner: Kentucky
Against the Spread: Florida Atlantic

(#22, #24)Alabama (3-1, 1-1) @ Florida State (2-1)
4:00 CDT, CBS
Wednesday's Line: FSU -2.5

Alabama HC Nick Saban squares off against his former OC Jimbo Fisher in the SEC’s marquee non-conference matchup in Jacksonville this weekend. The Tide have never lost to FSU (2-0-1), but there’s no recent history, as the teams last met in 1974. The Seminoles are coming off a bye week, but have won 2 in a row, including 10-point wins at home over UAB and on the road at an upstart Colorado team. FSU HC Bobby Bowden actually played QB for the Tide as a freshman before transferring.

Tide freshman RB Terry Grant has been spectacular this year, averaging 120 ypg and scoring 5 TDs. He’ll be tested this weekend against a stout FSU defense allowing less than 75 ypg on the ground. Tide QB John Parker Wilson will have to make plays downfield to open things up for Grant and the other Tide backs.

Meanwhile, FSU averages 132 ypg on the ground and 200 ypg through the air. Junior QB Drew Weatherford has been average adapting to Fisher’s system, completing 54% of his passes for 4 TDs and just 1 INT. He’ll face a decent Tide pass defense allowing 180 ypg and has picked off 4 passes.

This Alabama team is battle tested. They’ve beaten Arkansas and battled UGA down to the final seconds before losing last week in OT. FSU has underachieved for a few years now, having not won 10 games in a season since 2003. The Tide will be playing for SEC pride, while the ACC gave up any hope for pride a long time ago. The Crimson Tide will pull the mild upset.

Straight Up Winner: Alabama
Against the Spread: Alabama

Ole Miss (1-3, 0-2) @ (#15, #16)Georgia (3-1, 1-1)
12:00 CDT, No TV
Wednesday's Line: UGA -15

The Rebels head to Athens Saturday looking to avenge a 14-9 loss to Georgia last season. The Bulldogs have won 7 straight in the series and own the all-time series 29-12-1. Four of those 7 games have been decided by 7 points or less. UGA has won 14 of the last 16 against Ole Miss in Athens as well as their last 13 in weeks before they play Tennessee.

If moral victories counted, Ole Miss HC Orgeron’s career record would be much better. The Rebels nearly upended Florida last week in Oxford, but now have to avoid a letdown this weekend. QB Seth Adams continues to be the foundation of the offense as he ranks 5th in the conference in pass efficiency and has throw 7 TDs, just 2 fewer than the Rebels threw for last season.

Georgia avoided what would have been a disastrous loss last week, nipping Alabama in OT with just one offensive play. An 0-2 start would have all but eliminated them from the tough SEC East race. SO QB Matthew Stafford is licking his lips looking at an OM secondary allowing a 67% completion rate and 284 ypg and 8 TDs. Freshman RB Knowshon Moreno leads UGA with 86 ypg and 2 TDs.

Both teams need this game, though for different reasons. For OM, it would prove that last week’s valiant effort the Gators wasn’t an aberration. For UGA, it would put them at 2-1 in conference and keep them tied with the Gamecocks and just one game behind UF. In the end, Georgia will pull out close game. The Rebels play well, but drop another close game to the more-talented Dawgs.

Straight Up Winner: Georgia
Against the Spread: Ole Miss

North Texas (0-3) @ Arkansas (1-2)
6:00 CDT, No TV
Wednesday's Line: Arkansas -36

This will be the 9th time that these two programs will square off, with Arkansas holding an 8-0 record. The Razorbacks are 21-0 against teams currently in the Sun Belt Conference and have outscored the Mean Green 300-104 in their previous 8 games. NTU hasn’t beaten an SEC team since 1977.

This is just what the doctor ordered for Arkansas. After back to back crushing losses to Alabama and Kentucky, the Razorbacks can use this game to right the ship a bit. NTU ranks last in the country in scoring defense (51.3 ppg) and is ranked 9th in ESPN’s Bottom 10.

Arkansas can expect the Mean Green to throw the ball a whole lot. NTU QB Casey Meager hit 46/64 passes a couple of weeks ago for 601 yds against SMU, and has completed 99/154 passes on the season… in just 3 games.

By the time this one’s over though, the Mean Green will do little more than serve as punching bags for a frustrated Hogs team. DMac and Felix Jones will run wild in this game, and QB Casey Dick will be able to build his confidence against a horrendous defense. I really hate the line being so large, but Arkansas has some face to save, so they’ll run up the score.

Straight Up Winner: Arkansas
Against the Spread: Arkansas

Eastern Michigan (2-2) @ Vanderbilt (2-1, 1-1)
6:00 CDT, No TV
Wednesday's Line: Vanderbilt -20

This will be the first ever meeting between the Commodores and the Eagles. Vanderbilt sits at 2-1 and should be fully rested after their bye week. They’ll look to get their first win under HC Bobby Johnson after a bye week (0-4). EMU is riding a 2-game win streak after opening the season 0-2. Their 2 wins this season double their total from all of last season.

Vanderbilt has 3 straight SEC games after this one, so it’s imperative to win and to play well to build some momentum. EMU’s offense is mediocre at best, averaging less than 280 ypg and 19.5 ppg. Last week’s 38 point outburst against 1AA Howard skews those numbers a bit. Vandy has a solid defense (top 5 in both passing and rushing ypg in conference) that should have a fairly easy time with the Eagles.

When Vandy gets the ball, the Eagles will be very quickly introduced to VU WR Earl Bennett, who will promptly reintroduce himself to the end zones on Dudley Field. Bennett hasn’t scored a TD since week 1, so he’s chomping at the bit. The off week last week gave QB Chris Nickson time to heal as well, so he should have a solid game as well.

When it’s all said and done, the ‘Dores will win consecutive games for only the 5th time in the last 8 years and be half way to bowl eligibility. I think the spread may be a bit much for them to cover though.

Straight Up Winner: Vanderbilt
Against the Spread: Eastern Michigan

Auburn (2-2) @ (#4, #3) Florida (4-0, 2-0)
7:00 CDT, ESPN
Wednesday's Line: Florida -18

Florida will host the Auburn Tigers this weekend, looking to avenge their only loss last year, a 27-17 defeat on the Plains. Only Arkansas scored more points against the Gator D last year (28 in the SECCG) despite Auburn scoring 0 offensive TDs. Auburn has won 2 of the last 3 in this matchup, but Florida has won 8 of the last 10.

Auburn’s offense finally woke up last week, pouring in 55 points against Hal Mumme’s NMSU. The defense stepped us as well, holding the Aggies scoreless in the second half. RBs Ben Tate and Mario Fannin both eclipsed the 100 yd mark, and QB Brandon Cox was steady, completing a high percentage of passes and managing the game well. This weekend will be a different story though, as the Gator defense is getting more and more experience with each passing game.

The Gators’ll take the 6 point win in Oxford last week, but I’m sure most thought it would be a little easier than that. Penalties have to be a major concern to HC Urban Meyer and staff, as UF is far and away the most penalized team in the league. QB Tim Tebow turned in another unbelievable performance, with 166 yds rushing and 250+ yds passing. They’ll need to avoid a trap game here, before embarking on a season-defining stretch against LSU, UK, and UGA.

This game may looked a lot better on paper before the season started. Auburn has won 4 of the last 5 games when Florida is ranked in the top 4 of the AP poll, but they just don’t have the horses on offense to run with the Gators. UF survived a scare last week in Tebow’s first road start, but back home, at the friendly confines of The Swamp, the Tigers will just be plain ol’ out manned. They probably won’t reach their scoring average (49.3), but Auburn won’t reach 20. The bigger drama in this game may be waiting to see if Mike Patrick inexplicably references Britney Spears again...

Straight Up Winner: Florida
Against the Spread: Florida


PhilipVU94 said...

Thanks for the predictions! Small correction: Your game times say CST, but in fact all SEC states observe daylight savings time into October, and I'm pretty sure all your times are actually in CDT. Standard time is the opposite of daylight time.

Dead Guy said...

Nice Catch. Regrettably, I've done that on all 5 weeks now without even realizing it. Made the changes for this week.