Another Tough Decisions Week In SEC

Halfway through the 2014 college football regular season there are teams that have been pleasant surprises and teams that have been surprisingly disappointing. By this time there should be a pretty good idea on just how good the teams are, but there are still opportunities for trends up and trends down.

Our Almost Perfect Picks panel has been trending down and has more tough decisions as we approach the seventh weekend of play in the Southeastern Conference. Can Alabama bounce back? Which team takes a firm lead as best in the SEC and which teams continue to sink, perhaps taking coaches with them?

Here’s how the APP sees it:

Alabama (4-1 overall, 1-1 SEC) at Arkansas (3-2, 0-2), 5 p.m. CDT on ESPN – Last year in Tuscaloosa, Bama won 52-0. Two years ago in Fayetteville the Tide won 52-0. See a trend here? Don’t expect anything like that this year. Arkansas Coach Bret Bielema is making strides in rebuilding with a powerful offensive line and tough running backs. It won’t be quite hog-killing weather, but it will be cool and wet in Fayetteville, where they have an artificial turf field. The Crimson Tide can ill afford a second consecutive loss. Alabama 35, Arkansas 21.

Auburn (5-0, 2-0) at Mississippi State (5-0, 2-0), 2:30 p.m. CDT on CBS -- It’s the Country Bowl as the SEC’s two most rural schools face off with perhaps the SEC’s two best football teams. An interesting aspect of this No. 2 (Auburn) vs. No. 3 (Mississippi State) match-up is that it has almost no national buzz. The winner can begin thinking College Football Playoff, rare indeed for the Bulldogs and rare without hint of scandal for the Tigers. Auburn 49, Mississippi State 21.

Ole Miss (5-0, 2-0) at Texas A&M (5-1, 2-1), 8 p.m. CDT, ESPN – Mississippi has to get its head out of the clouds after its rare win over Bama last week. The Aggies must be scratching their heads, wondering what happened to that extraordinary passing game that had people forgetting Johnny Football at the beginning of the season. A&M still has a nice record, but it’s hard to get over that 48-31 beatdown in Starkville last week. Ole Miss 35, Texas A&M 31.

Georgia (4-1, 2-1) at Missouri (4-1, 1-0), 11 a.m. CDT, CBS – Ordinarily – and it does seem to be ordinary – the suspension of another Georgia Bulldogs football player draws nothing but yawns, except perhaps in the Auburn recruiting office. But the suspension of the Gurley man is another level. Todd Gurley will miss a critical SEC East game between the last two winners of the league’s weak division. This would have been a Missouri pick before the suspension. Now we wonder if the Bulldogs will man up and the Tigers relax. Georgia 28, Missouri 27.

LSU (4-2, 0-2) at Florida (3-1, 2-1), 6:30 p.m. CDT, 7:30 Eastern, SEC Network – Remember when Florida was whining about having to play LSU every season? That doesn’t look so tough today with the Bengal Tigers having just been clubbed, 41-7, by Auburn. Unfortunately, the Gators haven’t been too hot, either, although they did escape with a one-point win against Tennessee last week. Neither team is settled at quarterback. Just assuming SEC West is stronger than SEC East, LSU 21, Florida 17.

Three SEC East teams are playing non-conference competition this week.

Louisiana-Monroe (3-2) at Kentucky (4-1, 2-1), 11 a.m. CDT, Noon Eastern, SEC Network – The Wildcats obviously are improved and last week’s come-from-behind win against South Carolina more than makes up for the disappointment of the only loss, a three overtime setback at Florida a few weeks ago. Louisiana-Monroe has been a giant-killer (inclding Alabama) over the years, but is down a bit this season. Kentucky 35, La-Monroe 17.

Chattanooga (3-2) at Tennessee (2-3, 0-2), 3 p.m. CDT, 4 Eastern, SEC Network – For many years, Chattanooga (now officially Tennesee-Chattanooga) played in Knoxville the week before Tennessee played Alabama, and a condition of the annual payoff to the Moccasins was that Chattanooga play the same schemes as Bama. The Vols have more things to worry about than Alabama these days, but Chattanooga isn’t one of them. UT 35, UTC 6.

Charleston-Southern (5-0) at Vanderbilt (1-5, 0-4), 6:30 p.m.CDT, FSN – A look at the records shows that Charleston-Southern has a nice season going, while the Vanderbilt program has been a big disappointment under new coach Derek Mason. For the most part the Commodores have not been competitive, but that is in SEC games. Vandy did slip by UMass. It is tempting to pick the Bucs, ranked 23rd in the nation in what is essentially Division II (FCS). Vandy 17, C-S 16.

South Carolina, which has already played six games this year (3-3 overall, 2-3 SEC) has an open date.

For the year, the APP is now 47-8 in straight up picks, but only 52-29 in gambling opportunities (point spread and over/under).

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