Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Week 9 Predictions

A mere 6 games on the SEC docket this weekend for a 3rd straight week, but don't let that fool you... this is a huge weekend for the conference, particularly the East. Florida plays Georgia and Tennessee hosts South Carolina in two huge SEC East showdowns. The losers of those games can all but forget about an early December trek to Atlanta for the SEC Championship game.

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

Miss. State (4-4, 1-2) @ (#14, #14)Kentucky (5-2, 2-2)
11:30 CDT, LFS
Wednesday's Line: Kentucky -13.5

Kentucky leads the series with Mississippi State all-time 20-14, including a 13-4 record in Lexington. Kentucky won last year’s meeting 34-31 in Starkville, despite MSU QB Henig throwing for 383 yds and 3 TDs. The Wildcat D held the Bulldogs to just 24 yds rushing on 24 carries. This is Kentucky’s homecoming game, and the 2nd of 4-straight games against ranked opponents for MSU.

After lining up against South Carolina, LSU, and Florida the last 3 weeks, MSU is a welcome sight to UK. The Wildcats will once again be without the services of SR RB Little, still nursing a leg injury. FR RB Locke has played well though, averaging 5.9 ypc for the season and scoring 3 TDs. UK will rely heavily – as usual – on the arm of SR QB Woodson, who threw for 415 yds and 5 TDs last week against UF. He’s thrown for at least 218 yds and 2 TDs in every game this season. He’ll be tested by an MSU pass defense surrendering just 187 ypg (6th in conference)

As for the Bulldogs, they’re looking to bounce back from a dismal performance against WVU last weekend in which they dug themselves a 4-TD hole after just one quarter. A normally smashmouth rushing attack was held to 45 yds on 33 carries, and the offense lost 3 fumbles. FR QB Carroll completed a little better than 50% of his passes for just 169 yds. Of more concern to MSU is the absence of a once strong D, which has surrendered more than 800 yds over the last two games. SO RB Dixon should have a good game as leads the SEC in carries (184) and rushing TDs (11).

While MSU’s inept passing offense won’t generate nearly 383 yds through the air, they’ll find plenty of room to run through Kentucky’s porous run D (191.8 ypg, 11th in conference). This could be a letdown game for UK. The Wildcats have played the 3 best teams in conference on consecutive weeks and have an off weekend next week. MSU will play well, but just doesn’t have the offensive firepower to keep up with the explosive ‘Cats. The senior-laden team – particularly on offense – will step up and make the plays needed to pick up a solid conference win.

Straight Up Winner: Kentucky
Against the Spread: Kentucky

Florida International (0-7) @ Arkansas (4-3, 1-3)
1:00 PM CDT, No TV
Wednesday's Line: Arkansas -39.5

Florida International travels to Fayetteville this weekend to serve as Arkansas’ punching bag for homecoming. The Golden Panthers have been playing D-1A football for all of 6 seasons now and were drubbed 38-3 last season by Alabama in their only other venture to an SEC stadium.

Do you really want to read any more about this game? FIU is 0-7, and has been outscored by an average of 38.9-8.3 each game, including 59-0 to Penn State and 55-3 to Kansas. They currently sit atop the standings in ESPN’s Bottom 10. Their QB completes 45% of his passes and has a 4/10 TD/INT ratio. Arkansas RBs McFadden and Jones can each name their yardage totals, but they better get it quickly. They’ll be watching this one from the bench in the second half. Hogs win really big in this one, taking out their season-long frustrations on the hapless Golden Panthers.

Straight Up Winner: Arkansas
Against the Spread: Arkansas

Miami (OH) (4-4) @ Vanderbilt (4-3, 2-3)
1:00 PM CDT, No TV
Wednesday's Line: Vanderbilt -14

The Redhawks of Miami(OH) travel to Nashville to renew a rivalry that dates back to 1899. Of course these two teams didn’t play again until 2000, with the Miami (OH) Redmen stealing a 33-30 victory from Vandy. The Redhawks are 11-11-1 all time against SEC foes.

Miami is led by SO QB Raudabaugh, who’s thrown for nearly 1300 yds and 7 TDs this season. They average nearly 400 total ypg, and score 22.6 ppg. While their season record is respectable, they did lose to Cincinnati and Minnesota by a combined score of 88-45, so the potential for a bad game is there.

And it’s certainly there for Vanderbilt too, as they’re coming off the biggest win for the program in a long time, a 17-6 shocker over Steve Spurrier and South Carolina. The defense – which had been stout all season – held USC to 25 rushing yds on 22 carries and forced 4 Gamecock turnovers. The offense took advantage of the early USC miscues, scoring 17 points in the 1st quarter, but was held scoreless through the final 3 quarters. It will be an historic day for VU WR Earl Bennett, as he needs just 2 receptions to become the SEC’s all-time leader. SO QB Adams is getting his 2nd career start Saturday, after directing the ‘Dore’s offense last weekend.

Even with the possibility of a letdown, Vanderbilt will win this game. Miami (OH) has struggled on the road this season, and Vandy knows this game is critical to their now-resurgent bowl possibilities. The line is a little bigger than I’d like it to be, but I’ll show a new found trust in these ‘Dores and say Vandy covers.

Straight Up Winner: Vanderbilt
Against the Spread: Vanderbilt

(#11, #9)Florida(5-2, 3-2) vs (#18, #20)Georgia(5-2, 3-2)
2:30 PM CDT, CBS
Wednesday's Line: Florida -9

Welcome to the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party, just don't let the SEC know you called it that. While Georgia leads this series all-time 45-37-2, you’d never know it lately, as the Gators have won 15 of the last 17, including last year’s 21-14 win. UF has won by a TD or less in each of the last 5 years.

The real question heading into this game is QB Tebow’s health. He’s taken a beating this season (16+ rushes in the last 6 games) and it’s starting to wear on him, as he’ll be have no contact in practice this week. ESPN just recently listed its 10 hardest players to gameplan for, and both Tebow and WR Harvin made the list, so it’s not like Florida is without weapons, even with Tebow less than 100%. Florida is coming off an impressive win at Lexington in which they held UK to 2.8 ypc, though their secondary was lit up for a SEC-season high 415 yards. Considering UK was in catch up mode the entire second half, it’s not surprising the numbers are skewed.

As for the Dawgs, in their last two outings, they were blown away in Knoxville and needed a careless Vandy turnover and a last second FG to beat the ‘Dores. Spotty play from QB Stafford played a big role in UGA’s struggles, as he completed just 50% of his passes for just 3 TDs. His up and down season has defined the Dawgs’ season, ans he’ll need a solid game Saturday for UGA to pull the upset. Florida’s pass D ranks last in conference, surrendering 256.6 ypg, so the opportunities will be there for Stafford. Yards will be harder to come by for RBs Moreno and Brown, as the UF Rush D ranks 2nd in conference (94.4 ypg).

Depending on which UGA team shows up, this could be a close game a Gator romp. UGA has struggled in its lat 2 games, but has had an extra week of preparation for the Gators. I’m not sold though. Until the Bulldogs show some kind of consistency for 4 quarters, there’s no way to pick them against a team that has dominated them for the better part of 2 decades. UGA plays well, but their inconsistency dooms them late.

Straight Up Winner: Florida
Against the Spread: UGA

(#22, #23)Auburn (5-2, 3-2) @ Ole Miss (2-6, 0-5)
5:00 PM CDT, PPV
Wednesday's Line: Auburn -17.5

Auburn leads this series 23-8 all-time, including last season’s 23-17 win in Oxford. The games have been close of late though, with 6 of the last 8 decided by less than 10 points. Current AU HC (and former OM HC) Tuberville is 2-2 against the Rebels in Auburn.

For the Rebels, this game could very well define their season. While expectations weren’t high, last week’s blowout to Arkansas turned up the heat on HC Orgeron. SR QB Adams – who started off the year very well – has lost the touch, throwing 10 interceptions in the last 3 games… all at home. QB Schaeffer made a late appearance last week and led the Rebels to their only score. Orgeron says Adams will start Saturday, but his leash may be fairly short.

Auburn continued its much-improved play for 3 quarters last week, before surrendering 17 pts to LSU in the 4th quarter. SR QB Cox was on target again, connecting on 64% of his passes for 199 yds and 2 TDs. The RB tandem of Lester and Tate will be relied on heavily Saturday, as the Rebel run D gives up 206.9 ypg and has already allowed 18 rushing TDs. The pass D isn’t much better, allowing a 64.7% completions, so Cox should be in rhythm too.

Much like the UGA/UF game, this could be at least an interesting game if the same Rebel team that gave Alabama and Florida scares show up. The Rebels have won twice in Auburn in the last 10 years – 1999 and 2003 – but if they play like they did last week against Arkansas, they won’t score. It will be hard for Auburn to match the intensity they played with last week on the bayou, but even a lackluster effort should get them by the Rebs. I just don’t know if they have offensive firepower to cover 2.5 TDs.

Straight Up Winner: Auburn
Against the Spread: Ole Miss

(#16, #15)S. Carolina (6-2, 3-2) @ Tennessee (4-3, 2-2)
Wednesday's Line: Tennessee -3

Tennessee has dominated this series all-time, posting a 20-3-2 record against South Carolina, including last year’s 31-24 win in Columbia. USC did pick up it first ever win in Knoxville in 2005, and HC Spurrier improved to 10-6 all-time against UT. UT HC Fulmer is 13-1 all-time against USC.

One to watch for in this game is the play of USC QBs – whether it’s Smelley or Mitchell. Spurrier pulled Smelley in favor of Mitchell in the second half of last week’s game. Part of the blame falls on the suddenly porous OL, which surrendered 7 sacks to Vanderbilt. That’s only 2 less than the Vols have all season, so the pass rush shouldn’t be as prominent this weekend. The Vols also surrender 249.0 ypg through the air, which ranks 11th in conference. Of utmost importance though is establishing some sort of running game. USC RB Davis played well last week (9.8 ypc on 5 carries), the rest of the Gamecocks combined for -17 yds on 23 carries. Currently, USC (115.0 ypg) ranks only ahead of Ole Miss (113.5) in rushing ypg.

Just when Vol fans thought their D may have straightened itself out, Alabama runs up 500+ yds, including 363 through the air. Last week’s blowout loss to the Tide actually leaves them with a negative scoring differential for the season (31.9/32.3). RB Foster provided the only highlights for UT, racking up 165 total yards from scrimmage. The USC run D continues to be a soft spot, allowing 177.8 ypg. The most interesting matchup will be UT QB Ainge vs the stout USC pass D. Ainge has complete 60% or better in every game this season, while USC pass D allows just 149.4 ypg and a 49.4% completion rate.

Both these teams are coming off disappointing losses last week, and know this game basically serves an elimination game for the SEC East race. Last time UT played host to a ranked team was 3 weeks ago, when they dominated UGA from the opening kick. That won’t happen this week. Look for Smelley to bounce back strong after being pulled from last week’s game. The Gamecocks right their ship this weekend and earn consecutive wins in Knoxville for the first time ever.

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

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