Stuart McNair

Almost Perfect Picks Department selects Alabama in Week Two

Western Kentucky passing game could challenge Alabama

This is the week that the fans of those teams that played good opponents in Week One of the Southeastern Conference football season get to bemoan the travesty that non-conference games can be. Those who played cupcakes last week take a step up this week.

Thus, one would think that our Almost Perfect Picks Department would have no problem hitting about 75 per cent on games in the first two weeks of the season – 50 per cent practically automatic and law of averages on the other half of the games. But the nerds insist there is more to it than common sense and a coin toss.

 It’s also the second week of the season, when history (legend?) has it that teams make the most improvement – game one to game two. Of course, almost every team is playing its second game in the second week.

In the first week, the APP had a record of 9-4 in selecting the winning teams, but only 6-7 against the point spread (line) and 9-4 vs. the over-under (combined points by both teams).

Here are this week’s selections with the point spread and over-under courtesy of the local newspaper on a random day this week:

Nicholls (0-0) at Georgia (1-0), Noon EDT (11 a.m. Central), SEC Network –  There is no line on this game.  Last week Georgia tailback Nick Chubb, who a few weeks before the start of the Bulldogs training camp was considered doubtful for September, ran 32 times for 222 yards and two scores. Could he do that against Nicholls, a team that did not win a game last year? He could, but even a first-year coach like Kirby Smart should know not to risk Chubb, at least not until he gets the Bulldogs other star tailback, Sony Michel back. Georgia 56, Nicholls 0.

Prairie View A&M (1-0) at Texas A&M (1-0), 11 a.m. CDT on SEC Network Alternate – No line. Prairie View can sling it around and Josh Rosen of UCLA exploited A&M’s pass defense to some extent last week, but even with the possibility of a letdown by the Aggies, this is a blowout. Texas A&M 55, Prairie View 16.

Kentucky (0-1) at Florida (1-0), 3:30 EDT (2:30 central), CBS – Florida favored by 17, over-under 47 1/2 – Neither team was impressive in its opener, Kentucky losing to Southern Miss and Florida being challenged by UMass, but that doesn’t mean these teams are equal. Florida should be able to run, run, run on the Wildcats, and the Gators have a tough pass defense, which would be Kentucky’s best hope for success. Florida 34, Kentucky 16.

Wofford (1-0) at Ole Miss (0-1), 3 p.m. CDT, SEC Network – No line. Ole Miss is playing with a couple of fewer days to prepare and coming off a disappointing second half meltdown in a loss for Florida State on Monday. Nevertheless, this is a game where Chad Kelly will pad his stats in less than three quarters of play as the Rebels begin to lather up in anticipation of perhaps a third straight win over Alabama Sept. 17. Ole Miss 52, Wofford 0.

Middle Tennessee (1-0) at Vanderbilt (0-1, 0-1SEC), 3 p.m. CDT, SEC Network Alternate –Vanderbilt favored by 5, o-u 47 – This is a bad game for Vanderbilt and one that could turn Coach Derek Mason’s seat into scorching hot. The Commodores are likely down after last week’s anemic showing against South Carolina and this is the biggest game on the schedule for the Blue Raiders, who have a fine quarterback in Brent Stockstill. Maybe the Vandy defense can make enough plays to win, but it will be difficult. Vanderbilt 24, MTSU 20.

South Carolina (1-0, 1-0 SEC) at Mississippi State (0-1), 6 p.m. CDT, ESPN2 – Mississippi State favored by 7, o-u 44 1/2 – After South Carolina’s upset win over Vanderbilt and Mississippi State’s upset loss to South Alabama in opening games, there is a temptation to pick an upset. But Mississippi State’s defense should be good enough to keep the Gamecocks in check. It will be an upset if this is not one of the worst SEC games of the year. Bulldogs 21, South Carolina 17.

Arkansas (1-0) at TCU (1-0), 6 p.m. CDT, ESPN – TCU favored by 7 1/2, o-u 58 1/2 – Arkansas was terrible in its one-point opening win over Louisiana Tech, but the Razorbacks have players. TCU had its struggles, too, in week one. It will take a very good defensive game by the Hogs on the road, but Arkansas is capable of that. In an upset, Arkansas 31, TCU 30.

Arkansas State (0-1) at Auburn (0-1), 6:30 p.m. CDT, SEC Network – Auburn favored by 19 1/2, o-u 54 – The second biggest news of the week in this game is that Arkansas State has a number of players who will miss the game because of illness, which is why the line has gone up by almost 9 points. The second biggest news is that Auburn Heisman Trophy candidate Jeremy Johnson seems to be out of the quarterback picture. Arkansas State has a good mid-major team and excellent coaching, but it’s not Jacksonville State. Auburn 31, Arkansas State 14.

Eastern Michigan (1-0) at Missouri (0-1), 6:30 p.m. CDT, SEC Network Alternate – Missouri favored by 24 1/2, o-u 55 – Eastern Michigan is figured for a cupcake, but last week the Eagles crushed Mississippi Valley, 61-14, while Missouri was throttled by West Virginia. Still, Tigers 42, Eastern Michigan 24.

 Jacksonville State (1-0) at LSU (0-1), 6:30 p.m. CDT, ESPNU – No line. Jacksonville State has a nifty quarterback, a solid running back in former Auburn tailback Roc Thomas, and an excellent coach. But LSU – new offense or not – has too much firepower for the Gamecocks. Obviously the Tigers fans want to see a win, but they also want to see evidence that Coach Les Miles is making an attempt to do something about a passing game. LSU 42, JSU 17.

Tennessee (1-0) vs. Virginia Tech (1-0) at Bristol, Tenn., 8 p.m. EDT (7 p.m. Central), ABC – Tennessee favored by 11 1/2, o-u 54 1/2 – This is not a powerhouse Virginia Tech team, but Appalachian State showed last week that it doesn’t take much power against the Vols. Tennessee has to have a rebound in this game, which is being played in a problematic environment – the infield of an automobile race track. UT quarterback Joshua Dobbs did not appear sharp in the opener, but history says he’ll play well. Vols 31, Hokies 21.

Western Kentucky (1-0) at Alabama (1-0), 2:30 p.m. CDT, ESPN2 – Alabama favored by 29 1/2, o-u 61 – A cursory glance at Alabama’s schedule finds games that stand out, and Western Kentucky is not one of them. But a more careful examination is that this will present a challenge for Bama in that the Hilltoppers have a very good offensive coach in Jeff Brohm (Nick Saban tried to hire him for Alabama in 2007) and an excellent quarterback in Mike White who passed for 517 yards last week. (This will also be good preparation for Alabama’s game the following week against the Ole Miss spread offense in Oxford.) Another week of watching Crimson Tide quarterback and tailback competition. Alabama 41, Hilltoppers 10.

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