Vanderbilt seeks an eight-win season for the first time since 1982, the Vols try for a first Southeastern Conference win of the season, the Titans have a great shot at a road win, and several SEC teams have key out-of-conference titls this weekend. Here’s a look at all of that in today’s blog.
Titans slim playoff hopes on the line at Jacksonville
There haven’t been many games this season which one could say definitively ahead of time that the Titans should win, but this one against the 1-9 Jaguars – who have the second-worst point differential in the NFL at minus-125 – is one of them. The Jags’ lone win came in Week 3 against the Colts, while the Titans responded to their beat-down at the hands of the Bears by thrashing the Dolphins, 37-3, before a week off.
With perennial Pro-Bowler Maurice Jones-Drew out, the Jags’ running game should suffer, and though the Jags’ passing attack came alive for over 300 yards behind Chad Henne last week, Henne has long been a backup in the NFL for a reason. I remain a big Jake Locker fan, and I’m encouraged by Chris Johnson’s re-emergence as a runner. There are rarely easy wins in the NFL, and this may not be one, either, but it’s still one that Tennessee should win. Prediction: Titans 30, Jaguars 20
Vandy seeks eighth win at Wake
Following Vandy’s destruction of Tennessee last week, the Commodores travel to Wake Forest for what’s a very winnable game – and after beating the Demon Deacons by a 41-7 count in Winston-Salem last year, VU should have no shortage of confidence for this one.
Looking at it on paper, there’s not really a place where the Demon Deacons have an edge. Wake doesn’t have the downfield passing game to stretch the VU defense, and its thin and inexperienced offensive line hasn’t been opening holes against anyone. Offensively, the tandem of Jordan Matthews and Chris Boyd has been making huge plays, and Wake doesn’t have the athletes to keep up.
Should Vandy play smart and take care of the ball, it should win easily along the lines of this: Vandy 38, Wake Forest 10.
Vols and Kentucky: somebody’s gotta win
It’s not often that two SEC teams that are a combined 0-14 in the conference meet in the SEC, but that’s what we’ll see in Knoxville between Tennessee and Kentucky on Saturday. It’ll be the final game for coaches Derek Dooley and Joker Phillips at their respective schools as well.
As bad as Tennesee’s been, UK’s been even worse; while the Vols can’t stop anybody, neither can UK, and at least UT has an offense. Now… whether that offense shows up is anybody’s guess, given the way UT QB Tyler Bray tanked the Vols’ game last year against the Wildcats in an embarrassing loss for the Vols. But when in doubt, go with talent, and the Vols have more of it. Prediction: Tennessee 31, Kentucky 27
Elsewhere in the SEC
LSU at Arkansas: LSU got the scare it may have needed when Ole Miss nearly shocked the Tigers in Baton Rouge last week, whereas Arkansas got demolished in the second half of its loss to Mississippi State. Arkansas’ defense is starting to look more like the team that couldn’t stop anyone earlier in the year, while LSU QB Zach Mettenberger is finally giving the Tigers a competent passing attack. LSU’s defense should also be able to contain a potent Arkansas passing attack. Prediction: LSU 41, Arkansas 17
South Carolina at Clemson: Clemson’s got an explosive offense that’s scored at least 38 points in its last 10 games, while Carolina QB Connor Shaw limps into this one on a gimpy foot and without RB Marcus Lattimore. But the Atlantic Coast Conference isn’t very good this season, and the Tigers don’t have a defense anywhere near the caliber of Carolina’s. Steve Spurrier is a coaching legend for a reason, and I trust him to figure out how to win even though his team’s beat-up in other places (defensive line) as well). Prediction: Carolina 34, Clemson 31
Missouri at Texas A&M: Johnny Football’s got a shot to win the Heisman, but an underrated Missouri defense won’t be as easy to move the ball on as some of A&M’s opponents again. Then again, Manziel moved the ball quite fine at Alabama, so there’s no reason to figure he won’t this week, too. Prediction: A&M 38, Missouri 20
Georgia Tech at Georgia: Credit coach Mark Richt with some smart scheduling in putting a triple-option team on the schedule a week before Georgia Tech comes to Athens. It’s been a disappointing season for Tech mostly because of an awful defense, and speaking of defense, Georgia has given up just 36 combined points the last four games after safety Shaun Williams called out his mates on that side of the ball. Prediction: Georgia 48, Georgia Tech 20
Florida at Florida State: The Gators’ inability to move the ball concerns me; I know UF’s defense and special teams are tremendous, but at some point these things catch up with you. The Seminoles won’t score at will as they have in the ACC, but they’ll score enough. Prediction: Florida State 23, Florida 16
Auburn at Alabama: Auburn’s only chance is if Alabama shows up unmotivated for a game in which it’s a 31 ½-point favorite. Given that the Crimson Tide play for a national title with two more wins, given that they’re playing their hated rival, and given that Nick Saban is their coach, there’s virtually no chance of that. Prediction: Alabama 41, Auburn 7
Mississippi State at Ole Miss: The Rebels come in at a better-than-their-record-shows 5-6, while I’m not convinced that State is as good as its 8-3 mark. Ole Miss has played tremendously well the last two weeks despite losing to Vandy and LSU and will win the Egg Bowl due to its fast-paced offense that’s been so effective in keeping defenses off-balance. Prediction: Ole Miss 30, Mississippi State 27