I've been on hiatus from this blog for a while, but I'm back and ready to get this thing going again. I actually tried to get this started last week, mimicking ESPN's prediction style in my own blog, but when I went to submit it, things went crazy and everything got deleted. I guess that's what I get for not saving my work, huh? I went 6-1, including successfully predicting the upset of South Carolina over Alabama, but I lost the LSU/Florida game. I picked Florida in that game. So without further ado, my picks for this week:
Vanderbilt at Georgia (12:21 PM ET ESPN3) - I think Georgia finally performed on Saturday the way many people expected them to play all season, en route to a 41-14 trashing of Tennessee. Freshman QB Aaron Murray looked terrific, completing 17 of 25 passes for 266 yards and 2 TDs, while adding 2 TDs rushing, and A.J. Green has been great since his return against Colorado. This Georgia team is not as bad as their 2-4 record would indicate, and I believe their performance against Tennessee (albeit a lackluster Tennessee team) will give them momentum for the rest of the season. Georgia still has an outside shot at a bowl game, especially with some very winnable games on the schedule...and it starts against Vanderbilt. Vanderbilt helped Eastern Michigan extend the nation's second longest losing streak to 18 on Saturday in a game that was pretty much over before it started. The Commodores scored first and took a 28-point lead into the half, and I'll admit, Vanderbilt has performed a little better this season than I expected them to. However, Georgia will prove too much for the Dores.
My Pick: Georgia 24-10
Arkansas at Auburn (3:30 PM ET CBS) - Arkansas absolutely tore apart Auburn last year in Fayetteville, winning 44-23. That coincidentally was the start of Auburn's 2009 downfall, as they dropped 5 of their final 7 regular season games, after starting 5-0. So you can bet revenge is on the minds of the Tigers. This year's Auburn team is a little different though, standing at 6-0 for the first time since their undefeated season in 2004. Their 19-play drive to set up Wes Byrum's game-winning field goal against Kentucky was the type of drive championship teams orchestrate, and something last year's squad was missing. Auburn's defense is much improved from last year, and I think it goes without mentioning that QB Cameron Newton is an absolute nightmare for opposing defenses. Newton passed for 210 yards and rushed for 198 more against Kentucky's porous defense on Saturday, but it has really been the story for him all year. He is a load to bring down, standing at 6'6" and 250 pounds. He is currently second nationally in passing efficiency, trailing only Kellen Moore of Boise State, and is in the mix on many Heisman lists. However, Arkansas boasts their own explosive QB, Ryan Mallett. Mallett has already passed for 1,748 yards this season and is completing nearly 70% of his passes. However, I think as a whole, Auburn is a better team, and with this game being at Jordan-Hare Stadium, I give the advantage to the Tigers.
My Pick: Auburn 27-21
South Carolina at Kentucky (6:00 PM ET ESPN2/ESPN3) - I stated it in my article, Ten Predictions for the SEC in 2010 , that this South Carolina team would be a contender for the SEC Eastern Division title this year. If their 35-21 upset of top-ranked Alabama was any indication, this team is for real. Stephen Garcia was sensational against the Crimson Tide, and even Steve Spurrier, who has given Garcia a fair share of criticism, was gushing about his QB following the win. True freshman running back Marcus Lattimore has helped the Gamecocks maintain a very balanced offense this season, rushing for nearly 100 yards a game, and sophomore Alshon Jeffery has been a force at the wide receiver position. South Carolina is averaging 31.6 points a game this season, and Kentucky currently ranks 91st in the nation in scoring defense, giving up 30.2 points per game. Advantage: South Carolina.
My Pick: South Carolina 31-17
***Upset Special*** Mississippi State at Florida (7:00 PM ET ESPNU) - I was gutsy last week picking South Carolina over Alabama, but I'm still feeling a little lucky and am going to predict an upset here as well. And I do have my reasons... The Bulldogs come into this game riding a wave of momentum, winning their last three contests by an average of 22.7 points, whereas Florida is searching for answers after losing two straight for only the second time in the Urban Meyer era. Vick Ballard has quietly emerged as a force at the running back position for Mississippi State, currently ranking 2nd in the nation in rushing TDs with 11. Florida is a team that has yet to find their stride on either side of the ball this season. The Gators have been absolutely pathetic on offense, ranking 87th in passing yards and 76th in rushing yards nationally. I was guilty of buying into the preseason hype around QB John Brantley (and he still has time to emerge into the QB many people thought him to be), but this season he has not seemed to be able to find a rhythm, and it has trickled down to the entire offense. The defense has only held opponents under 14 points once this season (12 vs. Miami, OH), and they have given up an average of 32 in their last two games, including 33 to an LSU offense that has seen its fair share of struggles this season as well. Don't get me wrong though. Florida could easily win this game because Mississippi State has struggled protecting the ball at times too, but they've only had 3 turnovers in the past 3 games, as opposed to 5 from Florida in that same time span. Say what you will about the teams each have played in that span, but ball security simply comes down to making good reads on throws and protecting the ball on runs. It's cliche to say the team that limits the errors and turnovers will win a game, but that's exactly what will happen in this one. With that being said, I think the miscues on offense for Florida continue this weekend, and allows Mississippi State to pull off what I thought was a very improbable win back in August.
My Pick: Mississippi State 23-17
McNeese State at LSU (7:00 PM ET ESPN3) - It would take a miracle for McNeese State to even come close to winning this game. This game comes at a good time for the Tigers, as they seem to have found a QB in Jarrett Lee. Les Miles will continue to break him in, after Lee had an excellent game against Florida and was clutch again in leading the Tigers to victory on the final drive of the game. This should serve as a major confidence booster to a player who struggled mightily just two seasons ago. I will even be bold enough to say LSU shuts out McNeese.
My Pick: LSU 38-0
Ole Miss at Alabama (9:00 PM ET ESPN2/ESPN3) - Alabama proved against South Carolina that it is indeed human. However, the Tide are still one of, if not, the best team(s) in the nation. The two-headed monster of Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson were contained in a big way by the Gamecocks' defense, but Ole Miss' defense is leagues behind South Carolina's. The Reblels have given up 32.6 points per game, ranking them 103rd in that category. Ole Miss has been a model of inconsistency this year, being embarrassed by Jacksonville State in the season opener and then losing to Vanderbilt two weeks later, but then routing Fresno State and beating Kentucky the following week. Following the loss to South Carolina, QB Greg McElroy vowed that he was going to do his part to make sure his team his team accomplishes the rest of the goals they set at the beginning of the season. This is not a team I would want to play the week after they saw their 19-game winning streak snapped. They will come out hungry and make quick work of Ole Miss.
My Pick: Alabama 34-10
***I'll probably start doing this a little later in the week (Wednesday/Thursday) than I am doing this one, because I realize a lot of things can happen over the course of a week. I had already typed this one out though so I figured I'd go ahead and post it. If anything major does happen, I will go back and update my predictions.