Thrill of Victory

Previewing the Titans and SEC football weekends

Big weeks are ahead for the Titans, Vandy, and the Vols… and, oh yeah, there’s a game in Baton Rouge that a couple of people might watch as well. Here’s a look at the Titans and all the Southeastern Conference games below.

Cutler comes home to face Titans
Sunday’s contest is one of the more eagerly-awaited football games for Nashvillians this year, as the Titans face the Chicago Bears/Vanderbilt North, as the Bears feature three prominent Vandy alums in quarterback Jay Cutler, receiver Earl Bennett and cornerback D.J. Moore.

The Bears haven’t exactly been an offensive juggernaut, but have some talent there between Cutler, Brandon Marshall and Matt Forte. Then again, it’s not like the Bears need it: not only is their defense hard to move against, but it scores in bunches, too.

Meanwhile, the Titans appear to be starting Matt Hasselbeck again since Jake Locker’s shoulder’s not ready. Tennessee probably would have been better with Locker, but I’m not sure it’ll really matter; the point spread is only 3 ½ and anything can happen in the NFL, but I just haven’t seen the Titans do any one thing consistently well enough that I expect they’ll win. Prediction: Bears 31, Titans 17
Vandy tries to climb above .500 at Kentucky
So the Commodores climbed back to .500 for the first time all year by destroying a terrible UMass team. Now, they’ll face the Southeastern Conference’s worst team in Kentucky this week.

Vandy’s just a seven-point favorite, but look for the Commodores to win by more. The Wildcats will rotate three quarterbacks (two of them freshmen) and their defense is loaded with freshmen in the secondary. That ought to provide plenty of opportunity for Jordan Matthews, Chris Boyd and Jordan Rodgers in the passing game – the three of them have been clicking of late, and I don’t see the ‘Cats stopping them. Prediction: Vanderbilt 34, Kentucky 13

Vols out-of-conference tilt should provide fireworks
After eight games, what do we know about the Vols? That they can score a ton of points, and give up even more than that. That sounds a lot like Saturday’s opponent, Troy – enough that the odds-makers have set an over-under of 69.5 points on this one, with the Vols being an 18.5-point favorite.

That’s a lot of points, but I’ll take the “over,” since Troy has eclipsed over 400 yards five times this season, and given up that many on five occasions as well. First one to 50 wins? Maybe not, but it might be the case. Prediction: Tennessee 44, Troy 34

Elsewhere in the SEC:
Alabama at LSU: This rematch of last year’s national title game features the top-ranked Crimson Tide heading to Tiger Stadium, where no opponent has won in 22 games. LSU has come with back-to-back impressive performances in victories over South Carolina and Texas A&M after not playing so well the previous month. But anything LSU can do, Alabama can do as well – or, on the case of quarterback, better, since A.J. McCarron is miles better than Zach Mettenberger. Alabama doesn’t make mistakes, and Mettenberger does, and that’ll be the difference. Prediction: Alabama 23, LSU 10

Texas A&M at Mississippi State: MSU gets a shot at redemption for its embarrassment against ALbama against a surprisingly-good A&M team. A&M’s played well when tested, while MSU played poorly against the only thing close to a good team that it’s played all year. Managing the turnovers is a concern for the Aggies and not for the Bulldogs, but I’ll A&M, anyway: Texas A&M 31, MSU 24

Ole Miss at Georgia: So Georgia finally arose from its slumber last weekend, but now, it has the charge of playing consistently, which it has not done all year. Ole Miss is severely undermatched in this one, but I like the way the Rebels play well-coached, disciplined football better than UGA does. The Bulldogs will win, but it might be closer than you think: Georgia 31, Ole Miss 24

Missouri at Florida: The Gators should be hopping mad after losing their undefeated season to Georgia last weekend, while Missouri gets quarterback James Franklin back this week. That’ll help the Tiger offense, but it’s still not the potent group we saw last year. Look for the Gators to take out a few frustrations this weekend. Prediction: Florida 34, Missouri 13

Tulsa at Arkansas: Any real hope the Razorbacks had of a bowl game is now gone after last week’s loss to Ole Miss, which brings into question how focused the Razorbacks will be this week (it’s been a problem for parts of the year). Tulsa is 7-1 against a slate of nobodies and is a nine-point underdog, but something just tells me this is another bad-news day for the Hawgs. Prediction: Tulsa 37, Arkansas 31

New Mexico State at Auburn: How bad is New Mexico State? Bad enough that a 1-7 Auburn team is a 22.5-point favorite on Saturday. The real question is whether Auburn can score 22 points on anybody, especially with true freshman Jonathan Wallace getting his first start at quarterback. I say AU will, though perhaps not by much: Auburn 24, New Mexico State 17