SEC Previews and Predictions

Jess Nicholas previews the Southeastern Conference weekend.

SEC previews and predictions – Week 10 By Jess Nicholas Last week's record: 7-0 (100.0%) Season record: 63-8 (88.7%)

MISSISSIPPI STATE at ALABAMA
Matchup to watch: Alabama QB John Parker Wilson vs. MSU front seven
Usually, a front seven matchup involves the running backs – and while that will still be the case Saturday, as Alabama's rushing attack will be key in this game – how John Parker Wilson performs against the Mississippi State front seven will be huge. Wilson is hurting right now, slowed by an ankle sprain, and suffering through a bit of a performance slump. With a completely healthy Wilson, Mississippi State would have little chance in this game. But if Wilson is struggling, the Bulldogs have enough talent to pull an upset. The problem for MSU is injuries have done much more damage to their own team than to Alabama's recently. MSU averages only 2.4 yards per rush, and the only healthy running back State has is true freshman Anthony Dixon, who's been falling off lately. If Alabama has to switch away from Wilson in this game, it's time to hold your breath, but if he can hang in there for the whole game, Alabama should win. The key for Wilson will be avoiding a pretty good front four, as well as a couple of linebackers who frequently arrive in the opponent's backfield in a hurry and in a bad mood. Alabama 23, Mississippi State 10

FLORIDA at VANDERBILT
Matchup to watch: Florida QB Chris Leak vs. Vanderbilt secondary
Florida is hoping this isn't the week QB Chris Leak picks to go brain-dead, which he has done in recent years. Can the Commodores upset Florida? The idea may not be that far-fetched. Vandy has already found a way to knock off Georgia, but Florida is a slightly different breed of cat. The Gators' defense has been better than Georgia's, and Florida's offense hasn't developed either the identity crisis or the lack of confidence to which Georgia has fallen victim. It comes down to whether Leak has even just an average game against a Commodore secondary that isn't overpowering, but can make plays. Vanderbilt has played Florida much closer than the point spread in many recent years, but Florida is a team on a mission right now. If the Gators can simply hold it together against Vandy and South Carolina, they go to Atlanta. Here's betting they make it. Florida 30, Vanderbilt 20

GEORGIA at KENTUCKY
Matchup to watch: Georgia QBs vs. Kentucky secondary
The problem for Kentucky is its secondary can't stop even decent passing teams, and this game could be one where Georgia's young quarterbacks develop some confidence. Georgia would love to have this win in the big to build on with Auburn and Georgia Tech coming up. Kentucky can taste a bowl invite, and all the Wildcats have to do to get it is beat Louisiana-Monroe in a couple of weeks and win one other conference game, against either Georgia, Tennessee or Vanderbilt. While the most likely victim is Vandy, Georgia hasn't been playing well of late and Kentucky's offense is plenty capable of exploiting the Bulldog defense. Kentucky will scare the Bulldogs, but Georgia should pull away at the end. Georgia 27, Kentucky 21

ARKANSAS at SOUTH CAROLINA
Matchup to watch: South Carolina DL vs. Arkansas RBs Jones/McFadden
There's no mystery to this if you're an Arkansas fan; your team is facing a South Carolina Gamecock team that has played over its heads on rush defense – which still lifts the team only from desperation level to mediocrity. The Gamecocks are coming off a very tough home loss against Tennessee, while Arkansas comes in 7-1 and with a very legitimate chance of representing the SEC West in Atlanta. The Razorbacks are clearly the better team of these two, but with the game in Columbia and Steve Spurrier running the show, that difference is minimized greatly. The nuts-and-bolts issue, though, is that South Carolina has problems stopping the run, while Arkansas is fifth in the country in moving the ball on the ground. With so much to play for, don't expect the great motivator, Houston Nutt, to let his team come into this game flat. Arkansas 31, South Carolina 24

LOUISIANA STATE at TENNESSEE
Matchup to watch: Tennessee QB Erik Ainge's health vs. LSU head coach Les Miles' preparation
This wasn't the best week for Tennessee QB Erik Ainge to find himself walking around on a gimpy leg. This game kind of snuck up on a lot of people, but it has major bowl implications and could end up knocking one team out of its respective division race. One more loss for the Tigers, and LSU is definitely done for in the SEC West. Tennessee could still sneak into Atlanta if Florida loses to either Vanderbilt or South Carolina, but if the Volunteers lose here, a trip to the SEC Championship Game disappears for all practical purposes. LSU leads the nation in total defense and would love to avenge last year's loss in Baton Rouge, a game in which LSU head coach Les Miles was exposed somewhat. Tennessee's last two games have been shaky – but Miles still found a way to give the worst Tennessee team in two decades a gift victory in Baton Rouge last year. In Knoxville, who knows what he'll do. LSU 24, Tennessee 20

ARKANSAS STATE at AUBURN
Arkansas State was shut out by Florida Atlantic last week. The Indians were a bowl team last year, but if Auburn has any problems putting these Sun Belt also-rans away, the Tigers should drop any pretense of being a national title contender. Auburn 52, Arkansas State 14

NORTHWESTERN STATE at MISSISSIPPI
Believe it or not, Auburn-Arkansas State isn't the worst game on the SEC schedule this week. Ole Miss 45, Northwestern State 0


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