SEC Previews and Predictions: Week 6

SEC Previews and Predictions...

Last week's record: 3-2 (60.0%)

Season record: 31-8 (79.5%)

 

MISSISSIPPI STATE at FLORIDA

Game within a game: MSU's confidence vs. Florida's lack of it

Put these teams across from one another on a sheet of paper, and Mississippi State's ink bleeds off the page. But you could have said the same thing last year, and Mississippi State beat Florida 38-31 in the game that ultimately got Ron Zook fired as the Gators' head coach. Things would figure to be different this year with Urban Meyer at the UF helm, but after the Gators got exposed by Alabama last Saturday, anything is possible. Mississippi State is playing better on defense in 2005, but the Bulldogs have very little offense. Essentially, MSU is Alabama Lite, with a decent front seven, fairly good secondary and an offense tilted towards the run. But the Bulldogs lack Alabama playmaking ability on defense and especially Alabama's offensive explosiveness. Starting running back Jerious Norwood is banged up, too, and that's not going to help things. For Florida, it's imperative the team get back on track quickly, else the players lose even more confidence in the system they use. Comments from Florida players in the days after the Alabama game were sounding like the right things, but there have been hints of questions coming through in their comments. In a week where Florida should be concentrating on revenge against the Bulldogs for last year's snafu, Florida instead has to concentrate on getting back to basics. Florida should win the game regardless, but the margin of victory could be closer than expected and Florida's offensive output lower than the Gators might like. Florida 27, Mississippi State 10

 

GEORGIA at TENNESSEE

Game within a game: Georgia QB D.J. Shockley vs. Tennessee pass rush

This will be the game of the year in the SEC East and could determine who ends up in Atlanta. With Georgia figured to be favored against the Florida Gators later in the year, Tennessee represents the only other legitimate challenge from the East. Unfortunately for Georgia, the Bulldogs haven't looked the same since their 48-13 shellacking of Boise State in the season opener. Since then, Georgia has won unimpressively over South Carolina and Mississippi State, while beating up on Louisiana-Monroe late after struggling a bit in the first half. Tennessee is coming off a middling performance against Ole Miss and hasn't looked sharp at all this year except for the second half against LSU. Still, the Vols have the home field advantage for this game, and that means something when Neyland Stadium is the home field in question. The key for Georgia will be QB D.J. Shockley, who hasn't been asked yet this year to take control of a game on his own at the beginning and be the key cog in the machine. He'll have to do that against Tennessee, and it will be tougher than year's past because the Volunteer defense is improving, particularly against the pass. All eyes will be on this game and Georgia enters as the favorite, but Tennessee may be on the cusp of getting back to where preseason predictions put this team. An upset would not be unexpected. Tennessee 21, Georgia 17

 

KENTUCKY at SOUTH CAROLINA

Game within a game: South Carolina secondary vs. Kentucky WRs

Kentucky enters this game more beat up than a Muhammad Ali sparring partner, while South Carolina is looking to atone for its manhandling at the hands of both SEC teams from the state of Alabama. South Carolina is also holding out some hope of a bowl trip, and to keep entertaining those thoughts, a win over Kentucky is a must, as the Gamecocks don't figure to get too many more legitimate opportunities. Neither team has a healthy quarterback coming into this game, but Kentucky is down to one scholarshipped wide receiver and a running back, Draak Davis, playing the position ahead of a group of walk-ons. South Carolina's secondary is good, so if USC can completely shut down the Kentucky passing game and force the Wildcats into continually running the football, Steve Spurrier should even his record to 3-3. For Kentucky to pull the upset, South Carolina will have to commit several severe errors. South Carolina 34, Kentucky 21

 

LSU at VANDERBILT

Game within a game: Vanderbilt head coach Bobby Johnson vs. LSU head coach Les Miles

Rarely does a game come down expressly to the men on the sidelines rather than the ones between the lines, but this game might – particularly if Vanderbilt holds any chance of an upset. Bobby Johnson's team is coming off a disappointed, albeit it not unexpected loss to MTSU last week, but Johnson also has to get kudos for his work in getting Vanderbilt to 4-1 in the first place. On the other side of the field, Les Miles' performance as LSU's head coach has been questionable to date, and he flopped in his only true prime time test, losing to Tennessee. Is Vanderbilt talented enough to beat LSU straight-up? Not even close. Is Vanderbilt dangerous enough to upset LSU if the Bayou Bengals fail to show up with their heads in this game? Yes. Quarterback Jay Cutler figures to have a good day against what has been a porous LSU secondary. But LSU is too talented offensively not to take advantage of holes in Vanderbilt's defense, particularly in the running game. Look for Vanderbilt to play LSU tough, but the Tigers have too many athletes to let this game get away from them. LSU 34, Vanderbilt 16

 

LOUISIANA-MONROE at ARKANSAS (Little Rock, Ark.)

Game within a game: Arkansas secondary vs. La.-Monroe QB Steven Jyles

The Indians are on a bit of a streak at the moment, coming off two conference wins against Florida Atlantic and Arkansas State. That's nice – it will end this week. ULM's only shot in this game is for QB Steven Jyles, a dual-threat quarterback, to take the game over single-handedly and confound the Arkansas defense. Arkansas faces Auburn next week, so there is a chance the Razorbacks could be overlooking ULM. Also, Arkansas is coming off and off-week and this game is in Little Rock's War Memorial Stadium, so it's not a typical week of football for their players. Again, it won't matter. Louisiana-Monroe has a poor history against top-level opponents under any scenario, and it won't change this week. Arkansas 47, La.-Monroe 7

 

THE CITADEL at OLE MISS

Game within a game: Ole Miss RBs vs. The Citadel rush defense

The Citadel is ranked 13th in Division-IAA in rushing defense, and that's basically the only good news. In all other categories, The Citadel ranks 53rd or worse. Ole Miss is coming off a loss to Tennessee in which the Volunteers basically toyed with the Rebels for four quarters. It's a tough year in Oxford, but The Citadel will provide a nice salve before Ole Miss reenters the conference fray next week against Alabama. Look for Ole Miss to better its ranking of 110th in scoring offense this week, but The Citadel has upset Division-IA teams before and won't be intimidated in this contest. Ole Miss 30, The Citadel 10

 

IDLE: Alabama, Auburn


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