So I'm now in my 3rd week now of doing this (2nd blog post; revert back to the last one if you want to know why there isn't a 3rd), and I like to think I'm sitting pretty with a record of 11-2 (.846), 5-1 last week. South Carolina's 2nd half collapse last week kept me from having what would have been a perfect week. This week poses a couple of tough calls though so we'll see how I fare...
Ole Miss at Arkansas (12:30 PM ET ESPN3) - If you made a bet with Arkansas fans at the beginning of the season, saying they'd put up 43 points against Auburn and lose, you would have had a lot of people betting against you. However, that's just what happened last weekend as Arkansas allowed 65 points to the Tigers. While the defense is still improved from a year ago, the Hogs still have some work to do. It will be interesting seeing how Ryan Mallett responds after suffering a concussion in the 2nd quarter of the Auburn game. Mallett didn't play the second half, but head coach Bobby Petrino says there is a chance he could return to practice today. Ole Miss comes into this game following what was probably their best defensive output all season against Alabama, although the score may not seem to reflect that. Aside from the 85-yard touchdown pass from Greg McElroy to Trent Richardson, the Rebel defense limited big plays and forced Alabama to three field goals in the first half. The problem for Ole Miss however was the offense never could seem to get into a rhythm. QB Jeremiah Masoli completed less than 50% of his passes and Ole Miss was held to 243 yards of total offense. That spells trouble because this Arkansas team can score in bunches. Ole Miss' offense can't match Arkansas' stride for stride. The Rebels lose another and maintain sole possession of last place in the West.
My Prediction: Arkansas 30-17
LSU at Auburn (3:30 PM ET CBS) - This game carries so many implications this week. The winner not only controls their own destiny in the SEC, but also puts itself in prime position to make a run for a national championship. This is also LSU's chance to prove a lot of critics wrong. The Bayou Bengals are ranked #6, but still haven't settled the QB issue. In a game I thought would tremendously boost the confidence of Jarrett Lee, the Tigers failed to pull away until the second half, and Lee only went 9/16 through the air for 75 yards. There are still a lot of questions regarding this offense. On the opposite sideline however, the only question is who can stop Cameron Newton? Better yet, who can even slow him down? Newton jumped to the top of the Heisman list after his performance against Arkansas and has his offense averaging over 40 points a game through 7 games. That in itself is an amazing statistic. He's completing nearly 66% of his passes, has thrown for over 1,250 yards, and rushed for nearly 900. He has carried this team all season, and without him, Auburn is a 3 or 4 loss team at this point. LSU's defense will be the most talented Newton has faced this season so it will be interesting to see if they can contain him. In 7 games though, no one has...
My Prediction: Auburn 24-13
South Carolina at Vanderbilt (7:00 PM ET ESPN3) - Just when you thought South Carolina had taken that leap into the upper tier of college football, they take one step back. The Gamecocks were in control and led Kentucky 28-10 at the half, only to be shutout in the second half and see the Wildcats score 21 straight points (14 in the 4th quarter), en route to a 31-28 comeback win. Keep in mind, that Kentucky defense is not all that great either. South Carolina is looking to rebound, and this matchup against Vanderbilt may be just what the doctor ordered. The Commodores were demolished against Georgia, 43-0, and aside from an upset win against Ole Miss in September, really do not have much to hang their hat on this season. The offense has been stagnant this season (Commodore fans, the 52 points against Eastern Michigan do not count. We all know how bad EMU is), and even the defense is struggling. The Gamecocks win this one and continue their quest for their first division title.
My Prediction: South Carolina 24-7
UAB at Mississippi State (7:00 PM ET ESPNU) - It's obvious. Mississippi State is the most improved team in the league from one year ago, and their #24 ranking is evidence of that. The Bulldogs, winners of four straight, are ranked for the first time since 2001, and are riding a huge wave of momentum into this game following a 10-7 win against previously #22 Florida in Gainesville. The run game has carried the offensive load for this team in 2010, and defensive coordinator Manny Diaz has this defense dialed in. UAB also comes into this game riding a little bit of momentum after handing UTEP only their second loss of the season last week. The Blazers are just a few plays away from being 4-2 instead of 2-4. They lost to Florida Atlantic by a point and would have won the game against Tennessee roughly a month ago had it not been for poor special teams plays. Dan Mullen will make sure his team does not overlook UAB though, and the Bulldogs get the win on homecoming night in Starkville.
My Prediction: Mississippi State 27-6
Alabama at Tennessee (7:00 PM ET ESPN/ESPN3) - Regardless of record, "The Third Saturday in October" (even though it's not on the third Saturday in October this year) almost always provides a show. Don't hold your breath for one this year. Alabama got back in the win column against Ole Miss last week in another dominating defensive effort. A stat that has probably flown under the radar for this team is they have not allowed a 100-yard rushing effort from a player since BenJarvus Green-Ellis did so in 2007, a span of 41 games. This is a series that, prior to Nick Saban's arrival in 2007, the Vols dominated, winning 10 of the previous 12 contests. However, the Crimson Tide have taken the last 3 contests, including a 12-10 win last season in Tuscaloosa after Daniel Lincoln's game-winning field goal try was blocked as time expired. Tennessee is still struggling to find an identity in head coach Derek Dooley's first year. The offensive line has been putrid, and no one can vouch for that statement more than QB Matt Simms. Simms has taken a beating this year, being sacked 22 times thus far. Freshman QB Tyler Bray will also see some reps this weekend against Alabama in a move Dooley hopes will spark the offense, and believe me, they will need all the help they can get.
My Prediction: Alabama 31-9
Georgia at Kentucky (7:30 PM ET ESPN3) - I'm not sure which is worse...the fact that Georgia already has three losses in the conference...or the fact that they still have a chance to win the SEC Eastern Division. That is not a joke. And if South Carolina loses a conference game, and Kentucky manages to win out (including a win vs. Georgia), Kentucky will be in Atlanta...with three losses as well. This game will likely serve as an "elimination game" per se. A team with three conference losses making it to Atlanta is a realistic possibility, but a four-loss team is highly unlikely. Both of these teams come into this game with some momentum. Georgia has won its past two games in convincing fashion, and Kentucky just upset a South Carolina team that did the same to Alabama just over a week ago. Freshman QB Aaron Murray seems to be finding his stride, throwing for 4 TDs, over 550 yards, and 0 INTs through the past two games. Tack on two rushing TDs with those numbers as well. On the other side, Kentucky boasts a playmaker of its own, the versatile WR Randall Cobb. Cobb can do it all. He has rushed for 3 TDs, passed for 3 TDs, and caught 5 TD passes. The problems for Kentucky have been on the other side of the ball though. The defense has been scandalous at best, giving up roughly 30 points per game. The Wildcats are 119th out of 120 teams in red zone defense. They've allowed 25 drives inside their 20-yard line this season, and teams have scored 24 times, including 19 touchdowns. Georgia on the other hand has been very efficient once getting the ball in the red zone, scoring 26 times this season once they get inside the 20. Kentucky's defense costs them this one, and Georgia keeps its slim SEC East title hopes alive.
My Prediction: Georgia 27-24