Early in a college football season the Almost Perfect Picks Department always has some easy games to predict. The deeper into the season, the tougher it gets, even though we begin to get some idea of the relative strengths and weaknesses of the teams.
The season is one-fourth over and already there is at least one team fighting for its life. That team is Alabama. The Crimson Tide, picked by most to win the Southeastern Conference Western Division and probably the SEC Championship Game and probably make it back to the College Football Playoff, could have its season end for all practical purposes. If Bama loses at Georgia, the Crimson Tide will be 0-2in the conference, the first time since 1990 Alabama would have lost its first two SEC games of the year.
There are a few other big games, but this one matches the teams expected in pre=season to play in December for the SEC Championship. That still could happen, but only if Bama can pull out a victory.
The APP is diligent in its quest to pick all the games correctly, but is particularly concerned with the Saturday afternoon meeting in Athens.
Through four games the APP has a record of 36-7 in picking winners and 23-13 against the over/under (number of points estimated to be scored by both teams), but only 15-21 against the point spread.
Here’s how the APP sees the SEC’s games in Week 5:
South Carolina (2-2 overall, 0-2 in SEC games) at Missouri (3-1, 0-1), 11 a.m. CDT on SEC Network (Missouri favored by 4, o/u 43) – Location, location, location. Columbia, Mo., has a much better chance of avoiding the soaking Saturday rains of the Southeast, including Columbia, S.C. The Gamecocks and the Tigers share the distinction of both having lost to Kentucky this year. Missouri has suspended returning starting quarterback Maty Mauk, but replacement Drew Lock has the talent to keep the momentum rolling for the retirement of the self-proclaimed Ball Coach. Missouri 27, South Carolina 21
San Jose State (2-2) at Auburn (2-2, 0-2), 3 p.m. CDT on SEC Network (Auburn favored by 19 1/2, o/u 54) – Last year Auburn was able to run it up on San Jose State to the tune of 59-3. The Tigers will be able to rest Heisman Trophy hopeful Jeremy Johnson. Actually, Johnson has been relegated to the bench and likely hopes that the Tigers can pull away so he can get some mop-up time. One would think that could happen, but San Jose State may be as much a challenge as was Jacksonville State. The visitors have a running attack and Auburn defenders aren’t known for fierce tackling. Still, let’s be real here. Auburn 31, San Jose State 16
Eastern Michigan (1-3) at LSU (3-0, 2-0), 6 p.m. CDT on ESPNU (LSU favored by 44 1/2, o/u 56) – Eastern Michigan likely had quite a problem in emulating Leonard Fournette in practice this week. It’s hard to keep those Michigan schools separate – Eastern, Western, Central, etc. – but this one looks to be less a problem for the Tigers than the LSU scout team. Still, it’s hard to give up 44 ½ points. LSU 49, Eastern Michigan 6
Vanderbilt (1-3, 0-2) at Middle Tennessee State ((2-2), 6 p.m. CDT on CBS Sports (MTSU favored by 1, o/u 52) – Even before the game begins, it is embarrassing for the SEC to have one of its members – even Vanderbilt – as an underdog to Middle Tennessee State. In fact, it’s embarrassing that Vandy is playing at MTSU, which is only a few miles down the road from Nashville. We have seen the Blue Raiders, and they aren’t bad (Alabama 37, MTSU 10). The biggest embarrassment is yet to come. Middle Tennessee 27, Vanderbilt 21
Arkansas (1-3, 0-1) at Tennessee (2-2, 0-1), 7 p.m. EDT (6 central) on ESPN2 (Tennessee favored by 6, o/u 56) – Call it the Disappointment Bowl. Two teams that were expected to be challengers for the division championships have not lived up to expectations yet. The loser of this game will definitely have a “Wait ‘til next year” mentality going forward, and it maybe not much better for the winner. Bama plays both in Tuscaloosa its tough four-game October stretch, which is about the only reason to care about this one. The bad news for Tennessee is that Arkansas played Texas A&M to an overtime game. The good news for Tennessee is that Arkansas didn’t need overtime to lose to Toledo. Tennessee 27, Arkansas 17
Ole Miss (4-0, 2-0) at Florida (4-0, 2-0), 7 p.m. EDT (6 central) on ESPN (Ole Miss favored by 7 1/2, o/u 51 1/2) – If Will Muschamp was still coaching Florida, this would be an easy pick. Muschamp hasn’t had much success at anything lately, and his version of the Gators would be no match for the Ole Mercenaries. Under former Bama assistant Jim McElwain, Florida is returning to form, but the Gators aren’t there yet. Mississippi was scared by Vanderbilt last week, but gets another important road win. Ole Miss 31, Florida 20
Mississippi State (3-1, 1-1) at Texas A&M (4-0, 1-0), 6:30 p.m. CDT on SEC Network (Texas A&M favored by 7, o/u 59) – The Bulldogs are more than Dak Prescott. In fact, the most impressive thing about Mississippi State this year has been its defense, holding LSU to 21 and Auburn to 9. Texas A&M also has been notable for having improved on defense (and sackmaster Myles Garrett will introduce himself to Prescott), but it’s still mostly about the Aggies’ offense, notably quarterback Kyle Allen and receiver Christian Kirk. Texas A&M 38, Mississippi State 30
Eastern Kentucky (2-1) at Kentucky (3-1, 2-1), 7:30 p.m. EDT (6:30 central) on SEC Network Alternate Channel (no line) – We have been missing the Kentucky outcome almost every week, and for the most part the Wildcats have played well. They won’t be looking ahead because they have an open date. There is no line, which means Kentucky is expected to win big. It would, of course, be the biggest win in Eastern Kentucky history, but that’s not happening. Kentucky 42, Eastern Kentucky 10
Alabama (3-1, 0-1) at Georgia (4-0, 2-0), 3:30 p.m. EDT (2:30 central), on CBS (Georgia favored by 2, o/u 52) – In case you haven’t heard, when Alabama played Georgia in the SEC Championship Game at the end of the 2012 season, the Bulldogs came within five yards of beating Alabama. They actually were four points short, and Alabama went on to crush Notre Dame and win the national championship, while Georgia had another nice season. There are so many ways to analyze what might happen in this game, which features transfer quarterbacks, outstanding runners, tough defense, and possibly bad weather. It’s a big game, so take the coach who has been very good in big games (i.e, 2012 SEC Championship Game and three national championship games) against the one who hasn’t. Alabama 27, Georgia 17