It's the first weekend of fall, which means you get to pop the top on a pumpkin flavored beer and open the screen door to watch the meat of the SEC schedule begin to play out. Managing editor Danny Parker still leads the pack at 29-5, but beat writer Cory Gunkel is nibbling at his heels after picking Florida over Kentucky last week to bring his record to 28-6. Publisher Josh Woodward rounds out the bottom at 26-8, but we still love him anyway.
This week is one of enormity for the SEC Eastern Division, which sees Tennessee head to Gainesville to take on Florida in this nasty rivalry, while Kentucky faces Missouri in an intriguing tilt between two teams that seem to be on opposite trajectories recently. Mizzou barely clawed its way out of an early deficit to dispose of UConn, while UK nearly beat a Florida team it hasn't bested in almost 30 years and is looking like a bowl contender. This one is big.
Auburn hopes to shake off the demons of a bad defeat to Leonard Fournette and LSU in Death Valley by taking on Mississippi State, while the Bayou Bengals head way north to face the Orange of Syracuse.
The InsideTennessee staff is joined in its predictions this week by KNS Sports Talk host and friend of the site Vince Ferrara. Can Danny keep his lead? Will Tennessee finally throw the monkey off its back? Can Vandy keep Ole Miss under 50 points? Find out what the guys think below:
Danny Parker's Picks (29-5):
Tennessee vs. Florida:Joshua Dobbs has to continue taking care of the football and run for something near the 100-yard mark. The Tennessee offensive front that isn't near as inexperienced as it was a year ago will have to communicate facing an extremely mobile Florida defense. Aaron Medley must make every kick. Trevor Daniel needs to keep on being Trevor Daniel. A start similar to the Vols' early-game performance in Game 2 would go a long way in hushing The Swamp. Can't see either team reaching the 21-point mark and two touchdowns may do it. Both defenses figure to impress. Both quarterbacks will be rather sore come Sunday morning. Two suspensions to key Gators caused me to waver some at the final hour but couldn't change my pick. Florida, 13-10.
Southern vs. Georgia:Chances are Mark Richt and staff will pull Nick Chubb early. Otherwise the Bulldogs may have three rushers pass the century mark. Simple tune-up before hosting 'Bama. Georgia, 56-6.
UCF vs. South Carolina:Sounds like Lorenzo Nunez will get his first collegiate start. Proud for him. Will he be enough? These aren't the same Knights from 2 years ago. South Carolina, 27-7.
Leonard Fournette is grown and if your son plays defense for Syracuse, make an appointment for a mani-pedi Saturday morning. Fournette's going to be hurting peoples' kids. LSU, 41-17.
Louisiana Monroe vs. Alabama:Since the Crimson Tide isn't matched up against a Top 15 team, have to think it'll roll in T-town. May want to figure out the quarterback situation and in a hurry. Throwing the football to patches of grass and players not wearing crimson is a bad thing. Oh, and the kicking situation looks average at best. Treacherous stretch of six straight Southeastern Conference games coming up. Alabama, 45-12.
Kevin Sumlin offense is a glorious thing to watch. On the flip side, why did the Razorbacks stop running the football down teams' throats? Weird. A third straight Arkansas before coming to Neyland Stadium figures to only help Tennessee. Texas A&M, 34-20.
Vanderbilt vs. Ole Miss:Gulp. Ole Miss, 38-0.
Mississippi State vs. Auburn:The Hard-To-Figure-Out Bowl on The Plains. Who knows, man? Guess I'll go with the Bulldogs since the Tigers are going with a new quarterback and are banged up defensively. Mississippi State, 26-17.
Cory Gunkel's Picks (28-6):
Tennessee vs. Florida:Tennessee heads into The Swamp with plenty of question marks. Can the offensive line contain a ferocious Florida D-line? Will Aaron Medley be able to put point on the board with his foot if the offense stalls? Can the Vols run the football on one of the best rushing defenses in the country? Those questions are enormous, but Florida has many more. The Gators will trot out an O-line with only one player who has started a game and an anemic offense spearheaded by a young quarterback who has never played in this rivalry before. The Gators' special teams, like Tennessee, has been plagued by missed kicks and their insanely talented secondary took a hit with the absence of cornerback Jalen Tabor due to suspension. Florida will also miss two key linebackers in this one and is almost as banged up as Tennessee. This game will come down to a defensive splash play and who can put the ball in the end zone from the red zone. The Vols' offense is as good as it has ever been under Butch Jones, and much better than Florida's, which will be the difference. Put on your party hats and pop a bottle of champagne. The streak ends Saturday. Tennessee 17, Florida 10
Southern vs. Georgia:UGA rolls like UGA has done in the past three weeks. Georgia, 45-0
UCF vs. South Carolina:This game would have been intriguing two years ago. Now it's two programs in a total free-fall with experienced head coaches trying not to lose the ship. Steve Spurrier might be playing golf this time next year, but George O'Leary's bunch just lost to FCS Furman. That's probably not something he wants to put on his resume. ZING! South Carolina 24, UCF 14
LSU vs. Syracuse:The Bayou Bengals invade New York to face a Syracuse team that has been great against the run so far in 2015. Problem is, the Orange haven't faced a human like Leonard Fournette before. The Heisman hopeful will show 'Cuse's rushing defense how impossible it is to stop someone with bionic attachments as legs. LSU 35, Syracuse 17
Louisiana Monroe vs. Alabama:A moment of silence for the 2007 game between Louisiana Monroe and Alabama, when the Warhawks upset Nick Saban's squad in Tuscaloosa. Now let's have a moment for what 'Bama is about to do to Monroe this time around. Pray for them, if you have the heart to do so. Alabama 48, Louisiana Monroe 3
Texas A&M vs. Arkansas:Arkansas is spiraling out of control, and the Hogs are only worth watching right now to see what Bret Bielema will say after the game. Texas A&M is firing on all cylinders, meanwhile, and Kevin Sumlin will take the Texas torch and slaughter the Razorbacks in style. Will he wear a flower lapel after the game? Only time will tell. Texas A&M 38, Arkansas 20
Vanderbilt vs. Ole Miss:Ole Miss is for real. That much we know. Granted the Rebels needed five turnovers and the luckiest play in college football history to do it, but they were able to upend the Tide last week and vault into the Top 5 in the process. Vandy's defense is not bad, but it may look the part as it's carved up by an Ole Miss offense littered with NFL talent. Ole Miss 42, Vandy 17
Mississippi State vs. Auburn:Jeremy Johnson has been benched for freshman Sean White, who will get his first career start at home on The Plains. The Bulldogs' linebacker play is questionable, but I don't think Auburn will be able to take advantage of it. Dak is Dak, and despite being on the road, MSU will take care of business. Mississippi State 28, Auburn 17
Missouri vs. Kentucky:This one is so interesting. Mizzou needed the worst special teams play of all time called by Bob Diaco to escape with a win over UConn last Saturday. Kentucky completed only eight passes in another futile loss to Florida. The Tigers aren't as bad as they looked, but UK keeps this game close. Missouri 24, Kentucky 21
Josh Woodward's Picks (26-8):
Tennessee vs. Florida:Butch Jones has downplayed this game all week. I haven't heard him say the word Florida or Gators in any of his post-practice pressers or on the radio. He knows it's a big game, he just doesn't want his team nervous or his staff for that matter. This game is huge, not only for his program, but for the Tennessee fan base as well. Does that put too much pressure on Tennessee Saturday ? I believe it will affect them some, but this Tennessee team has way more talent than any team that has lost to Florida for the past ten years. Florida has a great defense, but with the absence of Jalen Tabor, that will help Tennessee. The Florida offense, on the other hand, is one of the worst we have seen in years. I really like the Will Grier kid at quarterback and think he will be a good one in the next couple of years. They just need to get some playmakers on offense like the Florida of old. I think it comes down to the Tennessee offense vs Florida defense, The Vols need to run the ball at least 40 times in this game to win. When in passing situations, go five wide an open lanes for Josh Dobbs to run. Keep passes to a minimum and don't lose the game on interceptions, as the Florida defense is that good. So will the streak end? I think so. 20-13 Vols
Southern vs. Georgia:I'm not sure anyone will read this after reading my Tennessee pick first. 49-7 Bulldogs
UCF vs. South Carolina:Gamecocks need a win and this game provides that opportunity. Could be close early, but South Carolina should cruise. 38-19 Gamecocks
LSU vs. Syracuse:I see this game and think of the Tennessee game during the 1998 national championship season. LSU has that kind of talent and I'm beginning to believe they are the only team that can expose Ohio State. This one might get ugly, as they are trying to keep climbing the polls. 48-17 Tigers
Louisiana Monroe vs. Alabama:Man, this one could get ugly for Monroe. I hope they are being paid well. 55-3 Crimson Tide
Texas A&M vs. Arkansas:I could really see Arkansas slip up and win this game, but I have lost two games picking them already this season. I ain't doing it again. 45-30 Aggies
Vanderbilt vs. Ole Miss:If Vandy can keep them under 50, that will be a win in my opinion. 49-10 Rebels
Mississippi State vs. Auburn:This is a game I would like to watch this week, I would like to see the Auburn offense with a new quarterback. Auburn is favored in this game, but is 0-3 against the spread this season. I think 0-4 after this one also. 31-20 Bulldogs
Missouri vs. Kentucky:This is a really hard game to pick. Missouri hasn't played that well all year and Kentucky is much improved. With this game being in Lexington, I'm going with Kentucky. 24-20 Wildcats
Vince Ferrara's Picks (Host of the KNS Sports Page on WNML):
Tennessee vs. Florida:Josh Dobbs, Derek Barnett and “coaching to win” are my three keys for the Vols to get a win. I’ve said this all week. Tennessee is the better team. It’s time to “pay the bills” so to speak and win a big game. Tennessee should win. But, “should win” and “will win” aren’t necessarily the same thing. In this case, to me, the answer is different. Because of the streak and home field advantage I’m picking Florida to win. I need to see the team and the staff do it first. In predicting an 8-4 record for the Vols before the season, I had UT beating Oklahoma and losing at Florida. I’ve seen nothing yet to change that. Many fans, to me this week, have added “better win” to the list of choices. So much at stake for Butch Jones. Florida, 24-23.
Southern vs. Georgia:This is a nice opportunity to play backups a bunch of snaps, rest your starters and fine tune things for the tough three-game stretch (vs. Alabama, at Tennessee, vs. Missouri) that starts next week. You should see more great stats from UGA QB Greyson Lambert, from the first half at least. Georgia, 56-0.
UCF vs. South Carolina:If this was the UCF of the last three seasons I’m picking the Knights without blinking. It is strange to see UCF 0-3 after winning nine or more four of the last five years. Now, UCF kicking off their talented RB Will Stanback from the team. SC is as bad as we’ve seen them in a long time. The talent, overall, is lacking. The HBC will get a win, but it won’t be very pretty. South Carolina 27-10.
LSU vs. Syracuse:3-0 Syracuse has already matched its win total from last season. You don’t often see LSU have such an early kickoff. It would be 11 a.m. CT for them. It won’t matter though. LSU RB Leonard Fournette and the Tigers offense will be too big and fast for Syracuse to handle in the Dome. LSU, 42-14.
Louisiana Monroe vs. Alabama:ULM is in a bad spot here. After last week’s eye-opening loss at home to Ole Miss, you know Nick Saban had the attention of every player and coach this week. “Tide Rolled! ULM 21 Alabama 14” is what the I-20 billboard read after the Warhawks upset Alabama in Saban’s first year at Alabama. Nothing like that will happen this time. Bama will play like you’d expect Alabama to play. Alabama, 49-7.
Texas A&M vs. Arkansas:The Aggies have been impressive this year overall. The defense had its best game in the opener versus Arizona State. It has allowed yards and points to lesser teams since. The running game has improved, and Kyle Allen looks great at QB. Bret Bielema should worry about running the ball a lot more rather than anything happen outside of his program. Arkansas is reeling. Texas A&M cruises in Jerry Jones’ palace. Texas A&M, 38-17.
Vanderbilt vs. Ole Miss:The Commodores look to be slightly improved on offense, which is surprising considering some of their injuries. Ole Miss is too good at the line of scrimmage on both sides and at wide receiver for Vandy to stay in this game. Ole Miss, 52-13.
Mississippi State vs. Auburn:You actually believed in Auburn before the season? That’s silly. Who would do such a thing? Guilty as charged! I’m long off that bandwagon though. Sadly for Auburn, I don’t see it getting much better. Sean White takes over at QB for the Tigers. He can spin the football. He’s got some moxy to him. He may remind some of Baker Mayfield when you watch him. Auburn would take that all day. Mississippi State hasn’t dropped off from last year as much as many thought. MSU QB Dak Prescott leads MSU to a road win. Mississippi State, 28-16.