After last week’s lackluster schedule, things get a bit heavier with a pair of huge SEC games this week, and some other interesting match-ups. For the second-straight week, I went undefeated (but not so hot against the pointspread) and we’ll see if I can do it one more time. For the record, I’m 37-5 straight-up for the season, and 19-20 against the spread.
LSU at Georgia (-3): This one’s a virtual toss-up. I like Georgia for a few reasons: it’s at home, I think it has a more explosive offense, and it’s been tested more than the Tigers thus far. But I don’t make the pick with tons of confidence. Georgia 38, LSU 34
Ole Miss at Alabama (-14): Two key questions to this game: Is Alabama a national championship-caliber team that plays down to opponents? A litmus test against a legitimate Top 25 Ole Miss team should help answer that today. As for the Rebels, does quarterback Bo Wallace continue to turn over a new leaf after being a turnover machine last year? I don’t have great answers here, but my gut says this: Alabama 34, Ole Miss 27
UAB at Vanderbilt (-20): I’ve maybe been a little too outspoken about Vandy’s sub-par start for some people’s taste, but the truth is, it doesn’t look like the same team from last season. However, with so many returning players, the pieces are still there. I get the sense that VU is starting to shake off all the off-field baggage from the rape scandal and become a more focused team that returns to finding joy in playing football. UAB will score some points with its balanced offense, but I look for Vandy’s best performance since the opener tonight, with stud wideout Jordan Matthews leadign the way. Vanderbilt 45, UAB 21
South Alabama at Tennessee (-16.5): This game looked to be a layup for UT at the start of the season, but today could be a hidden minefield for the Vols, who can’t throw the ball and who’ll be facing a Jaguar defense allowing just 3.4 yards per carry. The Jaguars just got consecutive wins over FBS programs Tulane and Western Kentucky, which would probably help their confidence a bit. I’m not going so far as to call for an upset, though if Tennessee keeps turning it over as it did last week, it could happen. The Vols figure to show a little better after brutal back-t0-back games at Oregon and Florida, but without a huge turnover advantage like they had against Western Kentucky, UT just doesn’t seem to have the talent to run away from much anyone right now. Tennessee 33, South Alabama 27
Texas A&M at Arkansas (+13.5): Another great litmus test for both teams. For A&M, it’ll be interesting to see if the defense can stop an offense that doesn’t have great athletes, but does have a nice run-pass balance. For Arkansas, the Razorbacks have been tremendously improved defensively, but they haven’t faced anybody like Arkansas. I think athleticism is the key here, and I’m not sure the Razorbacks can stop an A&M offense that can put a slew of points on even the best defenses. A&M 48, Arkansas 27
Florida (+11) at Kentucky: I’ve been impressed with UK’s steady improvement and as for the Gators, there are serious concerns now that UF is without its best defender (Dominique Easley) and quarterback (Jeff Driskel) for the season. That could keep this interesting. However, Kentucky’s problem is the same as Tennessee’s: it just doesn’t have the athletes it needs yet. Florida will get enough guys in space and figure out a way to make the offense work, while the ‘Cats should struggle against the kind of elite defense they’ve not seen yet. Florida 30, Kentucky 10
Arkansas State at Missouri (+21.5): The Tigers try to stay undefeated against a cupcake pre-conference schedule that’s gotten a bit easier as ASU isn’t quite the team we expected coming in. However, how will Missouri handle the in-between week coming off a big road win and preceding a huge conference road trip to Vandy last week? ASU is actually moving the ball quite well (though not cashing in points) and comes off an embarrassment against Memphis last week, while Missouri’s defense is surviving on an unsustainable turnover rate. I think Missouri is easily the better team, but look for water to start rising to its own level on both ends, so I think the Red Wolves will fall, but cover. Missouri 40, Arkansas State 27