Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Week 6 Predictions

After last weekend offered mostly drab games (on paper), this weekend is back with a vengeance, with 3 huge matchups that will go a long in shaping the SEC East. Every team is back in action this week, including several homecoming games.

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

(#8, #8)Kentucky (5-0, 1-0)@(#11,#18)S. Carolina(4-1, 2-1)
6:30 CDT, ESPN
Wednesday's Line: South Carolina -3.5

Kudos to the ESPN scheduling committee for picking this game out in the preseason. They're certainly getting more than they bargained for with this one. South Carolina has won 7 in a row in this series and HC Spurrier is 14-0 against the Wildcats. The series has been close of late though, with 4 of the last 5 games decided by a TD or less, including the Gamecocks' 24-17 victory in Lexington last year.

UK QB Woodson continued to stake a legitimate claim towards Heisman consideration with a 5 TD effort last week against FAU. The Wildcats have scored at least 40 points in every game this year, but that streak will end tomorrow night against a stout Gamecock defense. The Gamecock pass D is the best in conference, allowing just 106 ypg, so Woodson and his WRs will be tested.The question will be can the Wildcats win without scoring 40+?

As for the Gamecocks, I'd be more confident in this defense had it not suffered season ending injuries to two starters, including All America LB Jasper Brinkley. The defense bowed up against Mississippi State last week in the second half, but the Bulldogs have no QB. The Wildcats have one of the - if not the - best in the country. The Gamecocks will undoubtedly play a ball-control type game, pounding the porous Wildcat D with RBs Corey Boyd and Mike Davis. QB Smelley will be asked to be very smart with the ball, as the opportunistic Wildcat D has forced 14 TOs this year.

Something's gotta give... Kentucky leads the conference in scoring, averaging better than 46 ppg. South Carolina is second in the conference in defensive ppg, allowing only 15.6. I picked the Gamecocks to win the East in the preseason and I stand by that pick. Much like their game against UGA earlier this season, I think the Gamecocks are the less-talented team offensively in this matchup. That being said, Spurrier lives for games like these. I'm not saying UK isn't for real this year - they are - it's just that Spurrier is the master game-planner. The Gamecocks win a close one.

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

Vanderbilt(3-1, 1-1) @ Auburn(3-2, 1-1)
11:30 CDT, LFS
Wednesday's Line: Auburn -7.5

Auburn has won 12 in a row in this series. The games on the Plains haven't been close either, as each of the 6 games there resulted in 17+ point victories for the Tigers. Auburn improved to 16-4 in their last 20 games against the SEC East with their victory in Gainesville last weekend. They'll welcome back RB Brad Lester this weekend, who's finished serving his 6-game academics-related suspension. He was slated to be the starter this season before his troubles arose. He won't start, but the staff expects him to play.

Is there a more painful sounding injury than the one AU DE Quentin Groves suffered? 3 dislocated toes? Anyway, AU's offense came to life in the second half 2 weeks ago, and played a steady, consistent game against UF last week. When the OL gives him time, QB Brandon Cox can be an efficient field general, capable of leading a team to big wins. The problem has been keeping him upright this year. Vandy does have 10 sacks through 4 games, so that will be an interesting matchup to watch unfold.

Vandy WR Earl Bennett got back in the end zone last week, with 9 catches for 93 yds and a TD. While the Vandy D forced 6 TOs, the Auburn D must be licking their chops thinking of VU QB Nickson, who threw 4 INTs of his own, and has just a 6/5 TD/INT ratio on the season. For Vandy to win this game, they'll need a breakout game from RB Cassen Jackson-Garrison, who's averaging just over 60 ypg.

Last week's win over Florida breathed new life in this Tiger team many had left for dead. All that would be thrown away with a slip up Saturday. Every thing is they're favor... They're more talented, the favorite, the home team, and confident after last week's big game. They'll come out and seize momentum early and cruise to a fairly easy victory.

Straight Up Winner: Auburn
Against the Spread: Auburn

Louisiana Tech (1-3) @ Ole Miss (1-4, 0-3)
1:00 CDT, No TV
Wednesday's Line: Ole Miss -13

It's homecoming weekend in Oxford as the Rebels take on the Bulldogs of Louisiana Tech. Ole Miss is 7-1 all time against La Tech, but the two schools haven’t played since 1992. The Bulldogs are 7-54-2 all time against current SEC schools.

Since battling Hawai’i tooth and nail in week 2 before falling in OT, La Tech has dropped consecutive games on the road to California and Fresno State. QB Zac Champion has thrown for 586 in 4 games with a 5.2 ratio and RB has rushed for 361 yds and 3 TDs.

The Rebels battled Florida down to the wire and were tied with UGA late into the 3rd quarter, but have not been able to finish. WR Mike Wallace has emerged as one of the league’s most dangerous big play threats, averaging 24.3 ypc and scoring 5 TDs, including 4 TDs of 45+ yards.

Louisiana Tech views this as a statement game with a possible win over a BCS school. The Rebels will be pressed to maintain focus after playing so hard and so well for 7 of the last 8 quarters and having nothing but 2 conference losses to show for it. It seems the Rebels are finally coming together as a team, but just need a little extra oomph to get that first “signature win” for HC Orgeron. This weekend is a good place to start.

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

UAB (1-3) @ Mississippi State (3-2, 1-2)
1:30 CDT, No TV
Wednesday's Line: Mississippi State -19

This is the third meeting between these two schools, and the visiting team has won the previous 2, including the Bulldog’s 16-10 win in OT in Birmingham last season. UAB is 2-9 all time against SEC teams. MSU can eclipse their season win total from each of HC Croom’s first 3 seasons with a 4th victory Saturday.

This will be UAB’s 4th road game of the season, having already lost at Michigan St, Florida St, and Tulsa. QB Sam Hunt has thrown for 580 yds in 4 games with a 5/3 ratio and RB Rashad Slaughter has rushed for 135 yds and 0 TDs. Needless to say, MSU’s stout D should have a field day with these guys.

Starting at QB for the Bulldogs will be Michael Henig Josh Ridell Wesley Carroll. He’s completed less than 45% of his passes this season with a 0/0 ratio. Fortunately for him, he’s got a healthy pair of RBs to hand off to in Anthony Dixon and Christian Ducre, who have combined for 662 yds and 7 TDs. The MSU staff can ease Carroll into a starter’s role against a soft Blazer D, allowing 236 rushing ypg. The majority of the play calling will center around hand off left, hand off right, etc.

For the second time in 4 seasons, UAB serves as MSU’s homecoming game. The Bulldogs are hoping that’s where the similarities end, as the Blazers pulled the 27-13 victory in 2003. The Blazers are far worse than their 2003 5-win team, and even without a QB, the Bulldogs are much improved from their 3-win team, so that won’t happen. MSU picks up a much-needed victory, though the spread may be a little too large to cover.

Straight Up Winner: Mississippi State
Against the Spread: UAB

Houston(2-2) @ Alabama(3-2, 2-1)
2:00 CDT, PPV
Wednesday's Line: Alabama -11

Alabama is 9-0 all time against the Cougars and are 6-0 vs CUSA since 2001 and 13-1 in their last 14. This is Alabama's homecoming game.

The Cougars bring a high-powered offense to Tuscaloosa this weekend (33 ppg). QB Case Keenum has thrown for 656 yds in 4 games with a 5/5 ratio and RB Anthony Alridge has rushed for 443 yds and 3 TDs. Their big play offense features 5 guys who have caught passes for 27+ yards. The Cougars are coming off a 37-35 home loss to Eastern Carolina. Despite the loss, the Cougars still lead CUSA in total defense, allowing 364.2 ypg.

As for the Tide, if they're ever going to find any sort of consistency on offense, this will be the game it happens. QB Wilson played well against FSU last week, throwing for 240 yds and 2 TDs, but the Tide's ground game - which had been the strength of the team so far this season - was held in check, mustering only 89 yards. The Cougars are giving up 178 ypg on the ground, so it's a good chance for FR RB Terry Grant to get back on track.

Tide fans want to see something from this team this weekend. They've dropped back to back close games, and now face one of the top teams in C-USA. The Cougars and sport a very tough passing D, so the Tide will need to come out and control the clock and the line of scrimmage with a strong running game. The Tide D will take advantage of a sometimes sloppy offense (-6 TO margin) and roll to a 2 TD victory.

Straight Up Winner: Alabama
Against the Spread: Alabama

(#12, #11) Georgia(4-1, 2-1) @ Tennessee(2-2, 0-1)
2:30 CDT, CBS
Wednesday's Line: Tennessee-2

One of the SEC's better rivalries will be renewed in Knoxville this Saturday when UGA rolls into town. The away team has won 4 straight games in this series, including UT's 51-33 thrashing of the Dawgs in Athens last season. UGA HC Mark Richt is 3-0 in Knoxville. This is the first time in 6 seasons that both teams haven't been ranked.

The Dawgs are coming off a 45-17 win over Ole Miss last week, in a game that was tied late in the 3rd Q. UGA wore down the Rebels with 300+ yds rushing and scored the last 4 TDs the game. This doesn’t bode well for the Volunteers, whose defense has been eaten alive by speedy BCS opponents Cal and Florida. Here’s where they rank in conference:
- 37.5 ppg (12th)
- 250.8 ypg passing (11th)
- 188.2 ypg rushing (9th)
- 5.2 yards per carry against (12th)
- 6.5 yards per play against (12th)

For the Vols, it's time for the defense to step up and do anything. 52 ppg in 2 games against BCS competition is unacceptable. There will be a real sense of urgency surrounding this game, as another loss would drop UT to 0-2 in the SEC and greatly increase the heat around HC Fulmer’s derriere. QB Erik Ainge is 2-0 against UGA as a starter. The Vols high powered offense (34.5 ppg) makes them a threat to anyone they play. They should put up some points against the Dawgs, but their defense is too large a liability to overcome. The Vols had an extra week of preparation for this game, but unfortunately, they won't get faster in a week. In something of a high-scoring game, The Dawgs get revenge for last year’s debacle, and spring the ever-so-mild upset.

Straight Up Winner: Georgia
Against the Spread: Georgia

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

Arkansas takes on the 1-AA UTC Moccasins in their first of two “home” games in Little Rock this season, where they’re 20-2 under HC Nutt.

UTC has a -11 TO margin, and has given up 35.3 ppg to the likes of Carson Newman, Jacksonville State, Georgia Southern, and the Citadel. This will be another game where DMac, Felix Jones, and company run wild for a half, then sit and watch the scrubs do the same. Another efficient game from QB Casey Dick will go a long way in building his confidence before SEC play starts back up next week.

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

(#9, #7)Florida (4-1, 2-1) @ (#1, #2)LSU (5-0, 2-0)
7:28 CDT, CBS
Wednesday's Line: LSU -9

What a way to cap off an SEC weekend… Florida @ LSU. Currently the two premiere programs in the conference, both have won BCS titles in the last 5 years. This marks only the second time in history both schools are ranked in the Top 10 when meeting. Florida is 15-4 in the last 19 meetings, including last year’s 23-10 win in Gainesville. While this game may have lost of it luster in the nation’s eyes with UF’s loss last week, it’s still paramount in the shaping of the SEC races.

Since Saturday, the Gators have not only had to deal with their first loss in 12 games, but also some off the field distractions as well, as a few Gators found themselves in unfavorable situations in the eyes of the law. Only time will tell whether that will be a distraction heading into Saturday’s showdown on the bayou.

LSU and Florida are ranked #1 and 2 respectively in the conference in rushing defense, so rushing yards may be tough to come by. LSU has the clear advantage rushing, as their tailback by committee has put up great numbers all year, while Florida relies far too heavily on QB Tebow and WR Harvin in the rushing game. LSU’s defensive speed ot the outside will take those runs away, forcing Tebow to make plays with him arm down the field. Tebow’s passing yards and QB Rating have decreased each of the last three games, and LSU is by far the most talented defense they’ll face this season.

Both Ole Miss and Auburn were able to exploit some weaknesses in Florida’s offense, and LSU’s defense is bigger, stronger, faster, and tackles better than either of theirs. If this were a day game, UF may have a chance, but no way LSU loses under the bright lights of Tiger Stadium.

Straight Up Winner: LSU
Against the Spread: LSU

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