Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Week 7 Picks

South Carolina (4-2, 1-2) @ Kentucky (4-1, 0-1)
11:30 CDT, Raycom
All-Time Series: South Carolina 12-6-1
Wednesday’s Line: South Carolina -1

This series has not gone well for UK lately as the Gamecocks have claimed the last 8 meetings. Most meetings have been close – 4 of last 6 decided by a TD or less – but SC seems to always manage to pull this one out. UK is also 0-15 against a Spurrier-coached team.

Last year, both of these teams were ranked when they squared off on a Thursday night. This year, both are still trying to identify who they are. The ‘Cats feasted on a diet of cupcakes early on while the Gamecocks have been up and down from game to game. They’re currently as “up” as they’ve been, coming off a nice road win in Oxford where the long-dormant passing game suddenly awoke.

This certainly has the makings of one of the most competitive SEC games of the season. Neither team is great, certainly, but they are evenly matched. Both rely heavily on a strong defense as neither offense has been consistent this year (USC ranks 6th in the conference in total offense, UK 8th).

Last year, SC DE Norwood busted onto the national scene returning two fumbles for TDs in the Cocks’ win. It’s certainly not out of the question that there could be a defensive score in this game as well. With neither team particulary effective running the ball, the game will boil down to USC’s play under center. If the Gamecocks get the same kind of production they got last week in Oxford, they’ll roll to a victory. If they get the kind of play they had against Vanderbilt in Week 2, Kentucky will steal one.

When it’s all said and done, look for Spurrier to continue his mastery of the ‘Cats and SC wins a close one.

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

(#13, #14)Vanderbilt (5-0, 3-0) @ Mississippi State (1-4, 0-2)
1:30 CDT, No TV
All-Time Series: Mississippi State 10-7-2
Wednesday’s Line: Vanderbilt -2.5

The Commodores will be looking to start a season 4-0 in SEC play for the first time in program history, and the 4-game win streak would also match the longest SEC winning streak in program history. Starkville has never been kind to VU though, as the ‘Dores are just 1-6 through the years. They lost 5 straight there by and average of 27 ppg.

They won’t have to worry about that this year as neither team will approach 27 points. Like the UK/SC game, this is set up to be a very competitive, probably low-scoring game. Neither team is particularly effective offensively, and that won’t change this weekend against the others’ soft defenses. Mississippi State is going to pound the ball with a power-run game and not abandon it like Auburn did last week.

This game has upset written all over it. The Bulldogs are desperate for a win and the ‘Dores are coming off the biggest home game in recent memory and are truly in uncharted waters as a program. If this were last year’s MSU team, it would be a no-brainer, but the luck that followed the Bullies last year has gone. Neither of these teams is very good offensively, but the Bulldogs turn the ball over more than Vandy does, and that plays right into VU’s hands. It’s a good thing this game isn’t on TV, because – much like last week’s AU/VU game – this will be ugly.

I’ve gone back and forth on this one 100 times, but I just get the feeling that MSU pulls this one out. Croom always seems to pull one out of his… um, hat, and this seems like the perfect candidate in 2008.

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

Tennessee (2-3, 0-2) @ (#10, #10)Georgia (4-1, 1-1)
2:30 CDT, CBS
All-Time Series: Tennessee 20-15-2
Wednesday’s Line: Georgia -12

This marks the 2nd straight year UT has been unranked when it faces UGA, although the Vols have taken 3 of the last 4, including the last 2 by a combined 39 points. The visitors have won 4 of the last 5 and UT is 8-5 Between the Hedges. Overall, Fulmer sports an 11-5 record against the ‘Dawgs.

If UT wants to remain relevant for the rest of this season, they’ve got to continue the recent trend of visitors’ victories in this series. QB Nick Stephens will get another start under center for the Vols. He was effective against NIU, but nothing more. That’s certainly more than Crompton had been in earlier games though.

Unfortunately for the Vols, they’ll be dealing with a UGA team that’s had 14 days to simmer and stew over being embarrassed on national TV by Alabama. With Vandy sitting 3-0 in conference, the ‘Dawgs know they can’t afford to lose any more ground. They’ll welcome back human battering ram Brannan Southerland as well. The Vols have (statistically) the toughest defense in conference to move the ball against, allowing just 244.4 ypg, 3.9 ypp, but Moreno should find more room to run than he did against Bama, particularly with Southerland’s return.

It’s been ugly for the Vols this season and it could get even uglier Saturday afternoon. They just don’t have the offensive power to hang with UGA for 60 minutes. While I don’t think it’ll be the outright skull-dragging many are predicting, there’s no reason to think this won’t be a nice, comfortable conference win for the ‘Dawgs.

Straight Up Winner: Georgia
Against the Spread: Georgia

Arkansas (2-3, 0-2) @ (#20, #23)Auburn (4-2, 2-2)
4:00 CDT, PPV
All-Time Series: Auburn 10-6-1
Wednesday’s Line: Auburn -18.5

As if the Tuberville/Petrino melodrama weren’t intrigue enough, Tony Franklin’s firing makes this game a little more interesting. The Tigers have won 4 of the last 5, though the road team has won the last 3 and 5 of the last 6. Tuberville surely has been dreaming of Jason Campbell handing off to Ronnie Brown and Cadillac Williams and pounding the Hogs into oblivion. He’s certainly not a Bobby Petrino fan.

The Hogs are coming off their best 3 quarter game of the season last week against Florida. They fell apart in the 4th and wound up on the wrong end of another blowout, but looked like a legitimate football team – at least defensively – before that. They’ll ride RB Michael Smith as far as he can take them, but against an AU defense that’s surrendering just 11.7 ppg and 248.8 ypg, hard to imagine that would be very far.

Who knows how AU’s offense will function this weekend against Arkansas? Even if it’s not a well-oiled machine, you’ve got to believe it will operate better than Arkansas’ has. Plus, I’ll take a chip-on-his-shoulder Tommy Tuberville over Petrino any day of the week, particularly on a Saturday gameday with these two defenses in play as well. Auburn wins this one comfortably, though 18.5 points may be a bit much to ask.

Straight Up Winner: Auburn
Against the Spread: Arkansas

(#4, #3)LSU (4-0, 2-0) @ (#11, #12)Florida (4-1, 2-1)
7:00 CDT, CBS
All-Time Series: Florida 28-23-3
Wednesday’s Line: Florida -6

This is one of the biggest game nationally Friday, and certainly the highest profile conference game since Alabama/Georgia a couple of weeks ago. LSU has won 3 of the last 4. The home team has won the last 3, but the road team won the previous 4.

This is a statement game for both programs. The Tigers have been impressive against a less than stellar schedule while the Gators have struggled moving the ball at times this season, though still lead the league in ppg. LSU ranks 2nd, just ½ a point behind them. It also pits a couple of coaches under comparison by ESPN’s Chris Low.

Florida doesn’t seem right to me at this stage of the season. The defense is certainly better than last year, but the offense has shown some signs of vulnerability. LSU is going to win the battle in the trenches on both sides of the ball and cause a lot of trouble for the Gators. I look for LSU to go to the Swamp and hand Florida its 2nd consecutive SEC home loss.

Straight Up Winner: LSU
Against the Spread: LSU

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