Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Week 10 Predictions

There are 7 games on the SEC slate this weekend, but just 3 conference games. Vanderbilt and Florida square off, with the loser joining Kentucky in the cellar of the East. South Carolina travels to Arkansas with the loser being relegated to a lower-tier SEC bowl game. And LSU travels to Alabama for a meaningless, ho-hum conference game where both sets of fans wish that Bama HC Saban could come out victorious… or not.

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

Vanderbilt (5-3, 2-3) @ (#18, #17)Florida (5-3, 3-3)
11:30 CDT, LFS
Wednesday's Line: Florida -15.5

Vanderbilt heads to the Sunshine state for a surprisingly important conference game. Florida leads the series 29-9-2 and has won the last 16 meetings. They’ve also won 18 straight Homecoming games and 20 straight immediately following Georgia. Vandy is 1-17-1 all time in Gainesville. The last two games have been decided by a total of 13 points though, including a 2OT game 2 years ago in Gainesville, and the Gators are just 1-4 the last 5 against Vandy.

Vandy WR Bennett had one of his best games as a ‘Dore last year, hauling in 13 catches for 157 yds. VU currently ranks 11th in conference in passing ypg, but the Gator D ranks 11th in stopping the pass, so Bennett will have another opportunity for a big game. Running the ball may be another story, as the Gators rank 2nd in the conference, allowing just over 100 yds per game. One thing’s for certain, Vandy won’t be intimidated here, having played well in the Swamp 2 years ago and upsetting #6 South Carolina a couple of weeks ago in Columbia. The key for Vandy will be keeping it close early on, as they don’t have the firepower to play catch up with the Gators.

The Gators are happy to get back to The Swamp, having not played a home game in the entire month of October. QB Tebow is still banged up, so WR Harvin should get a lot of touches again this week after rushing for 97 yds on 10 carries last week. The Gators will need a better game from RB Moore, who pair a 20-yd effort with 2 fumbles. Tebow’s passing will be tested. He currently leads the nation in pass efficiency, but the ‘Dores rank 4th in the conference in pass defense efficiency and boast a 6/14 TD/INT ratio.

This is certainly a contrast of styles, as the Gators have scored only 3 fewer points (313) than the combined point totals from all of Vandy’s games (316). Florida needs this game to keep any hope alive to defend their SEC East title. Vandy needs this game to become bowl eligible. Vandy certainly has the defense to bother Florida, particularly with a banged up Tebow, but there’s no way he’s held to negative rushing yds like he was last weekend. While this game will be close, the Gators will find a way to pull it out in the end, but not by 2 TDs.

Straight Up Winner: Florida
Against the Spread: Vanderbilt

Troy (6-2) @ (#10, #10)Georgia (6-2, 4-2)
12:00 CDT, No TV
Wednesday's Line: Georgia -16.5

Georgia looks to extend their non-conference home winning streak to 20 games as the host Troy this weekend. This will be the first meeting between these two schools, though UGA is 6-0 all-time against Sun Belt teams. Troy is 1-7 all-time against SEC teams, including losses to Arkansas and Florida to open the season. UGA is 66-17-2 in Homecoming games, though their 11-game homecoming winning streak was snapped last year by Vanderbilt.

This is a tougher game for the ‘Dawgs than they might want, particularly coming off such an emotional win last week over Florida. This Trojan team can score points, having scored at least 24 in every game, including 26 and 31 against Arkansas and Florida respectively. For the season, they are averaging nearly 450 ypg and 34.5 ppg. The ‘Dawgs have been marked by inconsistency all season, but have moved the ball fairly well in every game except South Carolina. RB Moreno should have another big game, as the Trojan D surrenders 200 rushing ypg (5.5 ypc).

This one will be close, but Troy will have no answer for the ‘Dawg RBs. UGA will be able to pound the ball at will, and Stafford will have some time to make some throws. What they cannot do is get caught looking ahead to next week’s showdown with Auburn. Both teams break 20, but too much Moreno in the 2nd half means a UGA victory.

Straight Up Winner: Georgia
Against the Spread: Troy

Northwestern State (3-5) @ Ole Miss (2-7, 0-6)
1:00 CDT, No TV
Wednesday's Line: No Line

This will be the second meeting all-time between these two schools, with Ole Miss claiming a 27-7 victory last season again HC Orgeron’s alma mater. The Rebels are 38-10 since 1994 in non-conference home games.

The Rebels will take the field Saturday without DL Hardy, their best player and the SEC’s leader in sacks and TFL. They’ll also have something of a QB controversy, as starter Adams has been ineffective and injury-prone of late, though backup Schaeffer has been equally as bad. None of that will matter this weekend against the 1-AA Demons. RB Green-Ellis has scored just 2 TDs this season, but should get back in the end zone in this game. Expect the Rebels to pound the ball with Green-Ellis and run a simplified offense to try and build some confidence back for Adams. Orgeron picks up his 10th career win as Ole Miss’ head coach.

Straight Up Winner: Ole Miss
Against the Spread: N/A

Tennessee Tech (3-5) @ (#19, #16)Auburn (6-3, 4-2)
1:30 CDT, No TV
Wednesday's Line: No Line

This will be the first meeting between these two schools. Auburn is 67-8-5 all-time in Homecoming games, including their current 15-game win streak. The 1-AA Golden Eagles are riding a 4-game losing streak. This is their first game against a 1-A opponent since last September when they were edged by Middle Tennessee State 44-0.

Auburn played another tight game last week against Ole Miss before scoring a late touchdown to seal the victory, their 5th in 6 games. The Golden Eagles and their porous defense (59 points to Sanford last weekend) will be a welcome sight after 3 straight grueling divisional games. With a huge rivalry game looming next weekend against Georgia, HC Tuberville will probably rest his starter late in this game. This will most likely be a shutout for the Tigers, as well as an easy day for the offense.

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

LA Lafayette (1-7) @ (#24, NR)Tennessee (5-3, 3-2)
3:00 CDT, PPV
Wednesday's Line: Tennessee -29

This will be the second all-time meeting between these two programs, with Tennessee HC Fulmer notching his first career HC win against the Rajun’ Cajuns. The Vols are 4-0 at home this year and averaging 430 ypg and 37.2 ppg. They’re 13-1 in Homecoming games under Fulmer. ULaLa opened the season in South Carolina with a 28-14 loss, and currently rank 9th in ESPN’s Bottom 10.

After a roller coaster win against South Carolina last weekend – complete with a blowing a 21-point lead, a fumble that netted them several yds, and getting a 2nd try at a FG because of a penalty on one of their own players – the Vols actually control their own destiny in the SEC East. The Cajuns bring the 8th ranked rushing attack in the country (242.5 rushing ypg), but the Vol run D should handle it well, despite ranking 9th in the conference and yielding 160 ypg. They’ll be looking to bounce from surrendering 501 yds to the Gamecocks last weekend. Offensively, the Vols should have no problems moving the ball against an ULaLa defense that gives up 38.4 ppg. QB Ainge and RB Foster should all have plenty of time and space with which to operate. Vols win this one big and probably beat the number.

Straight Up Winner: Tennessee
Against the Spread: Tennessee

(#3, #3)LSU (7-1, 4-1) @ (#17, #18)Alabama (6-2, 4-1)
3:00 CDT, CBS
Wednesday's Line: LSU -7

Alabama has dominated this series all-time, holding a 43-22-5 lead. LSU has had the upper hand recently, winning 4 straight and 6 of 7, including 3 straight in Tuscaloosa. The road team is 7-4 in the last 11 years and LSU HC Miles is 2-0 against Alabama. This game features the SEC’s #1 scoring defense (LSU, 15.4ppg) against the #6 scoring defense (Alabama, 20.8). Both teams face off-field distractions. The Crimson Tide may be without the same 5 players suspended for the Tennessee game 2 weeks ago as the NCAA further investigates the Textbook violations. LSU will definitely be without the services of LB Odom and back up QB Perrilloux, who were suspended following their involvement in a brawl.

The key for the Tide will be finding ways to move the ball against LSU’s defense. Alabama had success throwing the ball last year, as QB Wilson hit for 291 yds and 2 TDs. The 369 yds the Tide put up were the most LSU allowed in 2006. This year though, the Tigers are allowing just 160.6 ypg and an 8/13 TD/INT ratio. Defensively, the gameplanning was a made a little simpler with the absence of the oft-troubled Perrilloux and the option threat he presents. UPDATE: LB Odom and walk-on Benton have been kicked off the team, while Perrilloux wasn't. He still won't make the trip to Tuscaloosa though, according to the The Huntsville Times.

LSU will rely exclusively on QB Flynn this game, so the stable of RBs will have to perform well. Bama sports the SEC’s 5th best rushing defense, allowing 131 ypg, so LSU will have its work cut out for them. The bye last week allowed additional time for DL Dorsey to heal his knee he injured after being chop blocked against Auburn 2 weeks ago. Alabama has given up just 14 sacks this year, but that number could rise significantly if Dorsey is back to 100%.

The best thing for Miles to do is to step back out of the way and let his players win the game. LSU has the talent advantage in the majority of key matchups, and doesn’t need Miles to jeopardize that with questionable judgment calls. He’s pushed mostly the right buttons so far this season, but a loss here would give LSU 2 this season and drop them behind Alabama in the West. What’s worse, it would be a loss to former LSU HC Saban, which would haunt Miles until next year’s rematch in Baton Rouge.

The atmosphere for this game will be electric. LSU fans (if not the players) have had this game circled since Saban abandoned the Miami Dolphins to come back to the SEC. The pressure in this game lies squarely on LSU though, as they still have a shot at a national title and were picked to win the West. When it’s all said and done, LSU is too deep at RB and too strong defensively for Alabama to hang with them for 60 minutes. The game will be close for a while, but a late Jacob Hester TD will ice the game.

Straight Up Winner: LSU
Against the Spread: LSU

(#23, #25)S. Carolina (6-3, 3-3) @ Arkansas (5-3, 1-3)
7:00 CDT, ESPN2
Wednesday's Line: Arkansas -4.5

Arkansas leads this series 9-6 all-time, including last year’s 26-20 win in Columbia. Arkansas HC Nutt is 6-3 against the Gamecocks.

While last week’s lost all but cost them a shot at the SEC East, the Gamecocks are still playing to improve their bowl standings. HC Spurrier has gone to something of a QB platoon system, as SR Mitchell got the majority of snaps last week, despite Smelley getting the start. They moved the ball well all game – 501 total yds – but committed 4 turnovers and missed several opportunities to win the game. They’ll be facing a tougher pass defense this week, as the Razorbacks lead the conference in pass defense efficiency, but opportunities for RB Boyd will be there, as the Hogs rank 8th in rush D (150 ypg).

For the Razorbacks, this game serves as another opportunity to flex their running muscles. South Carolina has real trouble stopping the run (169.2 ypg, 10th in SEC) and Arkansas far and away leads the conference with 287.6 ypg. RB McFadden shredded USC last year for 219 yds and 2 TDs. This season, he and RB Jones rank 1/2 in the conference with 124.1 and 107.9 ypg respectively. The pressure – as usual – will be on the Arkansas QB – whether Dick or Emert – to provide at least some threat of an aerial attack. WR Monk had 8 catches for 192 yds last season, but caught his first passes of the season just last week and may not be much of a factor against a very strong USC pass d (153.7 ypg, 1st in SEC).

According to the stats comparison I did, these are the league's most over-valued (USC) and under-valued (Ark) teams. The once stout Gamecock D has been decimated by injuries, and it’s taking its toll. Even when healthy though, they struggled to stop the run, and they’ll struggle this weekend in Fayetteville against the best 2 backs in the league. The Razorbacks will be able to move the ball at will on the ground and the defense will play with a renewed confidence, sending Spurrier to his 3rd straight loss.

Straight Up Winner: Arkansas
Against the Spread: Arkansas

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