SEC Previews and Predictions: Week Two

In his Southeastern Conference week two predictions, Jess Nicholas sees a couple of league games coming out closer than most expect.

Week one: 8-2 (80.0%)

Season: 8-2 (80.0%)

MISSISSIPPI at ALABAMA

Game within a game: Mississippi QB Michael Spurlock vs. Alabama LBs ability to shut down the scrambling

Mississippi fell to Memphis last week, which didn't really qualify as a surprise given the fact that the 9-4 Tigers return most of their playmakers from a year ago. What was surprising was the way Mississippi lost the game. QB Michael Spurlock had a terrible first outing as a starter, but showed enough hints of dangerousness that it's easy to see why he was picked to lead the team. Alabama will have to be very cautious in the way it treats Spurlock. Once Spurlock gets outside the pocket, he's difficult to handle, and he has enough athleticism to be the difference in the game. But the Rebels must also be careful on defense; Alabama displayed some serious speed against Utah State, and Mississippi's defense did little against a Memphis offense that is considerably slower at the skill positions than is Alabama. Mississippi also has an atrocious record in Bryant-Denny Stadium and despite David Cutcliffe's success with the Rebels, has never prepared his team well for a game in Tuscaloosa. Alabama 24, Mississippi 20

TEXAS at ARKANSAS

Game within a game: Arkansas inexperience vs. Texas thirst for revenge

This game, perhaps more than any other on Texas' schedule this year, will hinge on emotion more than anything else. In the second game of the 2003 season, Arkansas went to Texas a huge underdog, dominated the game and went back to Fayetteville with a 38-28 victory. The atmosphere in Austin is decidedly more serious this year and Texas believes it can compete for the national championship, which it very well might do. Like Alabama, Arkansas let several youngsters play against New Mexico State and the result was positive. But like Alabama, many of the Razorbacks have yet to be tested and Texas will certainly do that. Look for Mack Brown and crew to make good on their quest for blood. Texas 37, Arkansas 21

AUBURN at MISSISSIPPI STATE

Game within a game: Auburn short passing game vs. Mississippi State linebackers

Mississippi State was the feel-good story of week one, despite going an entire half without scoring on the porous Tulane defense and learning very little about itself, aside from the fact that much work is still needed. Auburn was a mixed bag as well against Louisiana Monroe; the Tigers shut out the Indians 31-0, but probably should have scored more against one of Div-IA's worst teams. The key this week will be whose new West Coast offense takes flight first. MSU's problem spot on defense is the linebacker corps, and whether Auburn QB Jason Campbell is able to take advantage of their limited mobility will determine whether Auburn sinks or swims. Auburn 27, Mississippi State 10

EASTERN MICHIGAN at FLORIDA

Game within a game: EMU's week one start vs. Florida's hurricane-induced rust

Florida's first game against MTSU was washed out by a pair of hurricanes and rescheduled for October. Eastern Michigan held on for a late win over Buffalo, and considering Buffalo is at the very bottom of most people's Div-IA rankings, it doesn't bode very well for the Eagles to have to travel to The Swamp for week two. EMU was supposed to be a pass-happy bunch, but Matt Bohnet threw for only 91 yards against Buffalo. Meanwhile, Bohnet carried the ball 23 times for 92 yards, and was out-rushed by RB Anthony Sherrill, who had 151 yards on 24 carries. It is unlikely EMU can get away with that kind of performance against Florida, whose biggest concern is the ramping up for the MTSU game and subsequent letdown due to the weather. Expect a slow start, but a fast finish for the Gators. Florida 31, Eastern Michigan 14

GEORGIA at SOUTH CAROLINA

Game within a game: South Carolina rushing attack vs. Georgia linebackers

Both Georgia and South Carolina were involved in big surprises in week one. A troubled South Carolina team traveled to Vanderbilt and not only beat the Commodores, but did it in overwhelming fashion. Georgia, meanwhile, hosted Div-IAA Georgia Southern and allowed 294 rushing yards and also allowed the Eagles to utterly control time of possession. South Carolina doesn't run the option like Georgia Southern does, but the Gamecocks have a potent rushing attack that put up 269 yards against Vandy and helped the Gamecocks record 26 first downs. Georgia's linebackers must contain the play better against South Carolina, because the Cocks are very capable of upsetting the Bulldogs, particularly at home. Given the aspirations of both teams – Georgia, a national championship; South Carolina, an upper-half finish in the SEC East and a bowl game – this game is a watershed contest for both schools. Georgia 27, South Carolina 21

ARKANSAS STATE at LSU

Game within a game: Arkansas State's improving offense vs. LSU letdown

LSU got taken to the wire – and then some – by Oregon State in week one. In week two, the Tigers draw the Indians of Arkansas State, who are hoping to surprise some people in the Sun Belt. The Indians' opening-week loss to Missouri wasn't a complete washout, as the Indians displayed a competent passing attack, in particular the 6-catch, 126-yard receiving effort of senior Chuck Walker. LSU is better by far than Arkansas State, but a lapse in concentration on the part of the Tigers could make it closer than it should be. LSU will probably also be using this game to settle its quarterback rotation for the remainder of the year. LSU 41, Arkansas State 21

IDLE: Tennessee, Kentucky, Vanderbilt


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