Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Week 6 Picks

(#12,#13)Florida (3-1, 1-1) @ Arkansas (2-2, 0-1)
11:30 CDT, Raycom
All-Time Series: Florida 6-1
Wednesday’s Line: Florida -25

This will be the first meeting between UF and Arkansas since the 2006 SEC Championship game. Arkansas won the first meeting ever between these two teams in the 1982 Bluebonnet Bowl, but has lost the last 6, including 2 SEC Championship games.

This one won’t be much of a game. Florida is coming off an upset loss to Ole Miss while the Hogs are coming off another thrashing, this time at the hands of Texas. The Razorbacks rank 65th in the country in total defense and 74th in total offense. While the Gators gain only a few more yards than they Hogs – 71st nationally – they score more than 15 more than the Hogs do. Their defense – 7th in the nation – is also significantly better.

Any disillusions Razorback fans had that this wasn’t a rebuilding year have gone up in flames the last two weeks that saw Arkansas outscored 101-25. A re-focused Gator team can all but name their score in this one.

Straight Up Winner: Florida
Against the Spread: Florida

South Carolina (3-2, 0-2) @ Ole Miss (3-2, 1-1)
1:00 CDT, PPV
All-Time Series: Ole Miss 8-5
Wednesday’s Line: Ole Miss -2.5

Like the Florida/Arkansas series, this is one of those random East/West matches that only happens every few years. The Rebels have won 5 in a row against South Carolina, including all 4 meetings since the ‘Cocks joined the SEC in 1992. Current Ole Miss DC Tyrone Nix was at South Carolina last year.

Last year, when Nutt was at Arkansas, the Razorbacks slashed USC for 542 rushing yds behind McFadden’s 321 yds and Jones’ 166. This year, Nutt is at the helm of a much more balanced offense that showed equal parts big-play capability and mind-boggling inconsistency last week in the big win against Florida. Unlike last year though, SC’s defense is still healthy and leads the nation in total defense, allowing a paltry 221.4 ypg.

Spurrier is hoping that QB Garcia can bring a little spark to the stagnant Gamecock offense. While the D has been solid, the offense ranks 79th in total offense and 90th in scoring offense. He played well in spurts last year, but hasn’t proven to be a consistent performer yet. He’ll need to use his legs a lot on Saturday escaping the OM pass rush that bothered Tebow so much last week.

Nutt feels last week’s game was a turning point for the Rebels. As losers of nine straight SEC games, no one there “knew how to win”. They’re slight favorites in this game and the defensive line will only be healthier and more in rhythm than last week, when they controlled the line of scrimmage from the beginning. If they can avoid the Sports Illustrated cover jinx, they’ll actually have an SEC winning streak.

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

Kentucky (4-0, 0-0) @ (#2, #4)Alabama (5-0, 2-0)
2:30 CDT, CBS
All-Time Series: Alabama 33-2-1
Wednesday’s Line: Alabama -16.5

One of the most lopsided series in college football resumes this weekend when unbeaten Kentucky travels to Tuscaloosa to tangle with unbeaten Alabama. The ‘Cats are 0-8 in Tuscaloosa and haven’t beat UAT since 1997. UK’s other win in the series came in 1922.

While the ‘Cats have played 3 cupcakes and 1 pseudo-cupcake, they have looked impressive, particularly on the defensive side of the ball. They currently rank 4th in the country, giving up just 227.3 ypg. The offense has been spotty at times, but seemed to hit its stride a bit last week against WKU.

Meanwhile, Alabama has played a much tougher schedule and has compiled the most complete body of work so far this season of any team in the country. They’re certainly due for a letdown this week after the annihilation of UGA last week, but the Tide is too sound fundamentally to lose this game. They lead the SEC in scoring and have given up just 20 more ypg than UK has, despite playing a much tougher schedule.

While this certainly isn’t a make or break game for UK, it certainly is a chance to legitimize their 4-0 record. While they won’t win the game, I do think they’ll keep it close enough to cover. Alabama is 17 points better than Kentucky most days, but as the Tide showed against Tulane, they’re not immune to a bit of a hangover. The Tide may need a special teams or defensive play to spark them, but they’ll move to 6-0.

Straight Up Winner: Alabama
Against the Spread: Kentucky

(#13, #14)Auburn (4-1, 2-1) @ (#19, #19)Vanderbilt (4-0, 2-0)
5:00 CDT, ESPN
All-Time Series: Auburn 20-19-1
Wednesday’s Line: Auburn -4.5

Auburn has won 13 straight in this series, which surprising gives them just a 1-game lead in the all-time series. The Tigers have rarely struggled in that streak, averaging 36.4 ppg and holding VU to 10 pts or less in 9 of the 13 games. Obviously, this weekend’s showdown presents a unique set of circumstances as they’d have to play 3 times for Auburn to reach 36 points.

Hmm… how to say it… Both of these teams are horrid offensively. Auburn ranks 90th in the country with 329.4 ypg and Vanderbilt ranks 112th at 282.8 ypg. Where the big difference lies on the defensive side of the ball. Auburn ranks 11th in the country, surrendering only 246 ypg. Vandy ranks last in the SEC and 73rd in the country giving up 364 ypg. Both defenses should improve their standings this weekend.

This is a chance for Vanderbilt to prove to everyone it belongs on the national scene. GameDay will be in town, it’s a national, primetime broadcast, and this has to be the smallest line on a Vanderbilt/Auburn game in recent memory. Unfortunately for the ‘Dores, this is the type of situation in which they typically fold.

I don’t see how the ‘Dores will move the ball against Auburn’s defense. If the Auburn offense can stay out the way of itself and let the defense win the game, the Tigers will be fine. They’ll have to take better care of the ball, as VU sports the most opportunistic defense in the country as they are currently rising a ridiculous +9 TO margin through just 4 games. South Carolina and Ole Miss seemed to make consistently bad decisions and spoonfed the Commodores TOs. It’s hard to take Auburn on the road against anybody at this point, but it’s even harder to imagine Vandy scoring much against the Tiger D.

Straight Up Winner: Auburn
Against the Spread: Auburn

Northern Illinois (2-2) @ Tennessee (1-3, 0-2)
6:00 CDT, PPV
All-Time Series: First Meeting
Wednesday’s Line: Tennessee -15.5

This will be Fulmer’s first tangle with a MAC opponent as head coach at Tennessee and it couldn’t come at a better time… so long as the Vols win, which is hardly a given regardless of the opponent. UNI has outscored its last two opponents 85-3. While the competition has been weak – Indiana State and Eastern Michigan – those are still gaudy numbers. This is the same program that beat then #21 Alabama in 2003 though, so the Vols will have to be ready to play. As bad as UT has been this year, they can’t afford to take anyone lightly.

My guess is the game goes something like this: Tennessee struggles, fans boo, UNI gets an early lead, fans boo some more, ponder how much it’ll take to bring Lane Kiffin in for the 2009 season, Tennessee’s defense makes a play or two, the Vols win by 10. It’ll be ugly, but a 2nd win for the Vols.

Straight Up Winner: Tennessee
Against the Spread: Northern Illinois


blackink said...

Great site.

Anyhow, if it were LeShon Johnson or Michael Turner or Garrett Wolfe-led Northern Illinois, I might be more concerned for Phil and the Vols. But they should be able to handle this one. If not, that hot seat probably will come with an eject button.

And Tony Franklin should probably start earning his salary, any day now. Ugh. How I detest the spread offense.

me said...

Thanks for the comment Blackink. Tennessee hasn't shown me anything to make me think they could beat a local high school by 2+ TDs. UAB hardly counts, they lost to Memphis at home last night.

As far as the spread, when run at its highest, it's certainly a hassle for DCs. The currently Tony Franklin version at AU though is not. It's just ugly.

blackink said...

Guess you were right about the Vols. Sheesh. What in the hell is going on in Knoxville? Maybe Lane Kiffin would look good in orange after all.

And I agree: the spread can cause lots of problems for defenses. But if I have the personnel, I lean toward a pro-style offense. That way so much of what you do isn't dependent on the play and health of your QB.

If Tebow or, say, Chase Daniel were to go down, I shudder to think of what would become of their team's offenses. Last year's Oregon squad comes to mind.

me said...

I didn't expect it to be that close. That was embarrassing for UT. They were in the SEC CG last season and now their fanbase is looking on the schedule trying to find that 6th win for bowl eligibility.

As for Kiffin, you gotta figure he'll be in Orange next year, either in Knoxville or Syracuse.