SEC Previews and Predictions

Southeastern Conference previews and predictions – Week seven

SEC previews and predictions – Week seven Jess Nicholas Last week's record: 5-2 (71.4%)
Season record: 45-7 (86.5%)

Matchup to watch: Alabama RBs vs. Ole Miss DL
Last year, when Ole Miss had a far better defensive line than the unit that is currently the biggest factor by far in the Rebels' ranking of 93rd nationally in rushing defense, Ole Miss stepped up and showed the rest of the conference how to beat Alabama. Even though the Crimson Tide won last year's game in Oxford on a last-second Jamie Christensen field goal, the lessons Ole Miss taught the rest of the conference were put into play, and Alabama looked neutered on offense the rest of the season. Ole Miss committed to taking away Kenneth Darby's game-changing presence at tailback, and did just that. It wasn't a fancy game plan, but it almost worked. This year, Ole Miss is much worse than in 2005. Both the Rebel defense and offense are gutter fodder – not to mention the usual problem for Ole Miss of trying to win in Tuscaloosa. But Alabama is also not as good, and this game could turn on Alabama if the Crimson Tide approaches it the way they approached the Duke game last week. For Alabama to really succeed, Darby badly needs another 100-yard game. It's possible, considering Duke's rushing defense numbers were in the 40s and Ole Miss doesn't have a single DL starter that could crack the starting lineup for the Blue Devils. The possibility exists for an upset, but even given Alabama's recent struggles, it's not likely. Alabama 20, Ole Miss 10 FLORIDA at AUBURN Matchup to watch: Florida pass rush vs. Auburn QB Brandon Cox I'd really like to take Florida in this one for sentimental reasons, but there's something telling me it's not going to go that way. The Gators have been involved in four dogfights in a row, even including the Kentucky win, and they have Georgia next week. A road game at Auburn comes at the wrong time – but perhaps at the wrong time for both teams. Auburn got nothing going on the ground last week against Arkansas, and missed not having C Joe Cope in the lineup. The Auburn defense also got shelled by a straight-ahead Arkansas running team, and that more than anything may point to Florida's potential demise. The Gators prefer to use the spread-option and finesse the ball down the field, when the best plan of attack may be facing up to Auburn and taking the Tigers' speed out of the equation. What will tell the tale, though, will be how Auburn QB Brandon Cox handles the Florida pass rush. Cox has not been as effective this year as hoped, and if he can't do something to keep the Florida defense from ganging up on Kenny Irons and friends, the Tigers could be in for back-to-back losses. But Florida's recent tough schedule, coupled with Auburn getting LB Trey Blackmon back in the lineup, could be too much to overcome. Auburn 21, Florida 17 VANDERBILT at GEORGIA
Matchup to watch: Georgia QBs vs. Vanderbilt secondary

Until a Georgia quarterback steps up and proves he can make plays, most Georgia games are likely to come down to what the opposition's secondary can do to disrupt the passing game. Against Vanderbilt, Georgia will face the 12th-best total pass defense in Division-IA. But Georgia also holds a major talent advantage, and Vanderbilt is coming off yet another close loss to a team it could have beaten (Ole Miss) had it just minimized mental mistakes. Plus, the game is in Athens. Georgia should be able to win this one without throwing much. Georgia 27, Vanderbilt 10

Matchup to watch: Kentucky rush defense vs. LSU RBs

LSU's running game has been ripped to shreds in 2006, and it's criminal that a team ranked 1st in total defense and passing defense – as well as 18th in passing offense – should be 4-2 at this point. But here LSU finds itself, perhaps the result of getting badly whipped in a matchup of sideline acumen. In Kentucky, LSU gets a team that is reeling from the loss of RB Rafael Little, but is still capable of putting up the points. The key is how well LSU's 60th-rated rushing offense stacks up against Kentucky's 112th-rated rushing defense. Given the talent and depth advantage for LSU, things are looking up for the home team, at least this week. LSU 34, Kentucky 17

There's a point to this game, I'm sure of it. I just haven't identified it yet. Arkansas 55, SE Missouri St. 0

There's not really a matchup to watch, as it's difficult to equate Division-IA and Division-IAA statistics, but that doesn't mean this one doesn't have the potential to be close. Mississippi State is one more injury at quarterback away from playing people that aren't even in the media guide. Jacksonville State, meanwhile, has a good rushing offense and a winning record, two things the Bulldogs don't have. Given that the Bulldogs have already lost to a Division-IAA team this century (Maine), it's not a given that State will beat the Gamecocks. But the safe bet is to take Mississippi State in a close one. Mississippi State 24, Jacksonville State 10

IDLE: South Carolina, Tennessee

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