This week's SEC Picks

Inside Tennessee staffers Jeffery Stewart and Randy Moore make their picks on this week's SEC contests, including Saturday's showdown in Gainesville.


NORTHERN ILLINOIS AT ALABAMA: Northern Illinois is the type of opponent Crimson Tide fans might tend to overlook with Arkansas coming to Tuscaloosa next week. Maryland made that same mistake and dropped its season opener. Huskies return 13 starters from an 8-4 team. However Bama figures to have enough at home to take care of business. Alabama 31, Northern Illinois 17.

NORTH TEXAS AT ARKANSAS: This game comes sandwiched between road games at Texas and Alabama which makes it a definite letdown contest. But it's also the first time the Razorbacks play in Little Rock this season where they have been virtually unbeatable under the direction of Houston Nutt. Arkansas 38, North Texas 20.

GEORGIA AT LSU: Could this be a preview of the SEC Championship game? At this point these teams look to be the odds-on favorites to reach Atlanta in December. The home-field advantage at LSU is often overstated to the point that it has become almost mythical. Typically the Tigers haven't played that well at home in big games, especially during daylight hours. But LSU is loaded this year with a nice mix of proven veterans and talented rookies. This game figures to be close (LSU is a 11/2 point favorite) and Georgia has done very well in close games under Mark Richt and David Greene. Georgia 24, LSU 21.

KENTUCKY AT INDIANA: This match-up is always more interesting when it takes place on the hardwood. Indiana is down this year even by the Hoosiers' football standards. Kentucky is off to a disappointing start, but should be able to score enough points to win this one. Kentucky 41, Indiana 27.

MISSISSIPPI STATE AT HOUSTON: Are things that bad for Mississippi State that it agreed to take back-to-back non-conference games on the road at Tulane and Houston? These aren't the golden years Jackie Sherrill might have envisioned for the twilight of his college coaching career. Last week's loss to the Green Wave figures to usher in the type of siege mentality in which Sherrill teams have excelled in the past. The talent level at Starkville isn't as low as early play would indicate and the Bulldogs may just bounce back with a little more bite this week. MSU 34, Houston 28.

ALA-BIRMINGHAM AT SOUTH CAROLINA: The Gamecocks came back down to Earth last week after upsetting Virginia the week before. Again this game is sandwiched between Georgia and Tennessee so it's hard to say how well S.C. will respond. This looks like one in which the Gamecocks will win but not impress. South Carolina 27, UAB 17.

VANDERBILT AT TEXAS CHRISTIAN: Vanderbilt takes its act on the road after opening the season with three straight home games. The Horned Frogs were off last week and should be ready to rumble. Some SEC teams might tend to take the Dores lightly, but they won't have that advantage against a Conference USA squad. TCU is coming off a 10-2 season and should prevail at home. TCU 33, Vanderbilt 16.

TENNESSEE AT FLORIDA: What!? There's a game in Gainesville on Saturday? It goes against the history in this series but I like the Vols in this match-up. UT's linebackers will create a lot of confusion for Florida's offensive line and the Gators may have problems developing consistency while shuffling QBs. That's not to say Florida won't score points. There's a lot of talent on that side of the ball and Tennessee will need its offense operating at high capacity to win the game. Still the heady leadership of Casey Clausen and a veteran offensive line gives the Vols a good chance to move the sticks and control the clock. Tennessee 27, Florida 23.


NORTHERN ILLINOIS AT ALABAMA: NIU appears to be a little better than the usual directional school, and it catches Alabama at a great time -- one week after Miami and one week before an SEC West showdown with Arkansas. This could be closer than you expect. Alabama 35, NIU 14.

NORTH TEXAS AT ARKANSAS: Again, how does Arkansas get up for North Texas one week after stunning the Texas Longhorns and one week before facing Alabama? This is another game that could prove more competitive than first glance suggests. Arkansas 28, North Texas. 10.

TENNESSEE AT FLORIDA: Tennessee plays one quarterback, and he's a senior. Florida plays two quarterbacks -- a sophomore and a true freshman. In big games, the veteran QB usually proves decisive. Tennessee 31, Florida 24.

GEORGIA AT LSU: Based on early performances, this may well be the SEC's two finest teams. Both are talented and well-coached but LSU has the homefield advantage. LSU 24, Georgia 20.

KENTUCKY AT INDIANA: The Big Blue acquitted itself reasonably well last weekend at Alabama, so Bloomington should seem a lot easier place to play. Look for a big day by Jumbo Jared Lorenzen. Kentucky 38, Indiana 28.

MISSISSIPPI STATE AT HOUSTON: When you can't beat Tulane, who can you beat? Nobody, when you're allowing better than 500 yards of total offense per game. Another nail in Jackie Sherrill's coffin. Houston 34, Mississippi State 27.

ALA-BIRMINGHAM AT SOUTH CAROLINA: The last two weeks saw the Gamecocks beat Virginia 31-7, then lose to Georgia by the same score. Why buck a trend? South Carolina 31, UAB 7.

VANDERBILT AT TEXAS CHRISTIAN: After pushing Ole Miss and dominating UT-Chattanooga, Vandy returned to the real world last week against Auburn. After opening with three home games, I'm guessing the 'Dores find life on the road less than appealing. TCU 27, Vandy 20.

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