This week's SEC schedule is one for the books, offering up some star-studded matchups peppered in with intriguing games with division title race implications on the line. The huge one this week is Georgia-Alabama, which could help slowly swing the tide of power back into the hands of the Eastern Division with an UGA win between the hedges. Mississippi State travels to Texas A&M to take on a program that is like a shinier version of itself, and both Tennessee and Arkansas are praying for a rebound after gut-wrenching losses on the road last week in a matchup that could be played in a literal hurricane.
That's how you know SEC play is upon us.
InsideTennessee managing editor Danny Parker continues his assault on the prediction circuit, leading the pack with a 37-6 record. After both Parker and publisher Josh Woodward were perfect last week, Woodward has closed in on reporter Cory Gunkel, as both now have 35-8 records heading into this exciting week of SEC play.
Will both Bulldogs be able to get the job done? Does Tennessee have what it takes to dispatch of Arkansas at home? Will there be any monumental upsets? We'll find out when foot mets leather Saturday.
Danny Parker's Picks (37-6):
Arkansas vs. Tennessee:Ding, ding, ding. The Razorbacks pack a punch along the offensive front. This is the Vols' chance to show their 10-man rotation on their D-line is ready to stand up to the test. The back end of the defense needs to turn the Hogs over. Joshua Dobbs must show he can go through his progressions, throw receivers open, spin the football downfield and score touchdowns with his right arm. It's step-up time for Zach Azzanni's group of receivers, too. Star ratings and talent don't equal catches and first downs. Show me. It's not a program-changer should the Big Orange win, but it may be if it loses. Mistakes from heart-breaking losses evolve into lessons for the future. Tennessee, 34-23.
South Carolina vs. Missouri:The last few years this matchup has been fun to watch and both teams had ample NFL talent on the field. Those days have come and gone. However, the future of Tigers football gets a boost with Drew Lock getting the start at quarterback. Lock figures to be one of the best in program history based on my scout. Missouri, 23-17.
Alabama vs. Georgia:Old Georgia or a new-age Georgia that win major matchups and achieves expectations? Can Jeremy Pruitt teach his pupils enough to turnover Jacob Coker — will it even take much scheming to do so? Dinner plans should be easy to make as I expect both to concentrate on what they do best and that's run the football. It becomes a battle of the O-lines and backfields with Derrick Henry and Kenyan Drake versus Nick Chubb and Sony Michel. It's sure to be a dandy. Alabama, 28-24.
San Jose State vs. Auburn:The Tigers need to build some confidence up front and in the backfield to get that ground game going. They're not strong enough to beat teams with their throw game. They must figure it out from the ground-out. Pound the football, Gus. Auburn, 37-13.
Ole Miss vs. Florida:Going against the trend here. The Rebels aren't quite what some think they are. Not ready to crown them because they turned 'Bama over five times and turned the Tide. Chad Kelly makes too many mistakes and the Gators front seven slows down the Ole Miss ground game just enough to win ugly. Florida, 20-17.
Eastern Michigan vs. LSU:If I play defense for the Swoop, my No. 1 goal is to not be in the highlights shown all weekend and at the Heisman ceremony in December. Leonard Fournette is a runaway locomotive. LSU, 56-6.
Vanderbilt vs. Middle Tennessee:The Commodores are inching their way toward becoming an average team. Derek Mason's taking over the defense months ago clearly paid off. Will the Commodores make another step forward against an in-state rival hosting a blue out at Floyd Stadium? Not an easy one to pick. Vanderbilt, 17-13.
Mississippi State vs. Texas A&M:One of the better SEC West matchups of 2015. Tough one to predict as well. The best quarterback showdown of the fall no doubt as well. Give the Aggies a slight edge since they're at Kyle Field and riding high. Texas A&M, 31-27.
Eastern Kentucky vs. Kentucky:Don't quite think this one deserves a civil war type moniker. The sucker punch thrown by Eastern's Patrick Graffree at then-Kentucky freshman Drew Barker regains headlines this week. Interested to see if Barker gets into the game. If I was the quarterback, I would want to throw it deep up 60 points with 12 seconds to play. Kentucky, 41-20.
Cory Gunkel's Picks (35-8):
Arkansas vs. Tennessee:Arkansas has actually been able to throw the ball this season despite losing three of its best wide receivers. Tennessee, on the other hand, has taken the Woody Hayes approach this season and the results have not been promising in the stat sheet. Regardless, the Vols are showcasing one of the best run games in the country, and despite the Razorbacks' propensity to stop the run, Jalen Hurd and company should cause major problems for Bret Bielema's team Saturday. Arkansas' defense is last in the SEC in pass defense, so this might be the time for Tennessee to break out of its shell and actually test its opponent in the air. Team 119 is undoubtedly more talented, and at home, and wanting to prove this season is not totally lost. One of these two press conferences is going to be a more depressing place than the Nationals clubhouse. The Vols will get the passing attack going more than it did last week against an atrocious Razorback pass D and snag the win. Tennessee 27, Arkansas 21
South Carolina vs. Missouri:You'll be able to smell this one before you see it. Missouri QB Maty Mauk has been suspended for this one, but he'll still find a way to throw an interception somehow. South Carolina is egregiously bad, and Steve Spurrier has overseen a worse passing offense than Tennessee. This will be a game of attrition, and one that Mizzou will eventually win. Missouri 24, South Carolina 21
Alabama vs. Georgia:This week's Game of the Century and a chance for UGA to finally shed the reputation of being a program that's good but not good enough. Greyson Lambert came out of nowhere to be a productive quarterback in the Bulldogs' first four games, but can he keep it up against a good team? Alabama was pronounced dead by many of you. Nick Saban still coaches this team, correct? The Tide have the best statistical run defense in the SEC going up against one of the prolific running backs in the country between the hedges. Sorry, Georgia. . No way Saban starts SEC play 0-2, right? Alabama 31, Georgia 24
San Jose State vs. Auburn:Auburn needs this after a rough start, but it ain't gonna be easy against a balanced Spartan offense. The Tigers have already shown they can play down to the lowest depths of the gridiron. Pray for Tammy on Finebaum Monday even though her team will win. Auburn 31, San Jose State 21
Ole Miss vs. Florida:This one might be much better than we think. Florida's secondary is one of the best it's ever had and Ole Miss doesn't have the dogs to run on the Gators like other teams. Will Grier has shown he has the onions to handle adversity early and will make this a good game. But can Florida's offense score on Ole Miss more than twice? Methinks not. Ole Miss 21, Florida 10
Eastern Michigan vs. LSU:Eastern Michigan began selling beerl in its stadium this season and already has a net loss of $3,000 because of it. Ship the remaining stuff down to Baton Rouge this weekend and you'll make your money back and be able to buy a condo in South Beach. LSU 55, Eastern Michigan 3
Vanderbilt vs. Middle Tennessee:I wanted to pick an upset this week and I think I've found my match. Vandy travels to Murfreesboro in an attempt to upend a Middle Tennessee squad that fully expects to win this game. The Commodores' defense is shaping up to be a really good unit, and holding Western Kentucky to just 14 points looks pretty good at the moment seeing as how the Hilltoppers average nearly 400 yards in the air per game. MTSU is a solid C-USA team, but the 'Dores will pull off the win on the road. Vandy 21, Middle Tennessee 17
Mississippi State vs. Texas A&M:It feels like Texas A&M is putting it all together right now under Kevin Sumlin. The Aggies finally have a semblance of a defense and just came away from a big win over Arkansas in which they diced up the Razorbacks for over eight yards per play. Mississippi State just beat a reeling Auburn team on the road and isn't looking like the worst team in the SEC West, which is what we all thought going into this year. This one will be fun to watch. Texas A&M 35, Mississippi State 31
Eastern Kentucky vs. Kentucky:Kentucky is off to a 2-1 SEC start, which has everyone in Lexington putting off basketball season in their minds for at least another four days. The Wildcats will come out of this one primed and ready to go for Auburn after a bye. Kentucky 45, Eastern Kentucky 10
Josh Woodward's Picks (35-8):
Arkansas vs. Tennessee:
Game of the year as far as I'm concerned. How will Tennessee respond? I think they come out flat. It will be hard to overcome that Florida loss. This is the kind of game where Butch Jones earns his money. He will have to do some major coaching to get his team to leave Neyland with a "W" on Saturday Night. I see Arkansas being able to score some points on Tennessee, as I see Tennessee being able to score on Arkansas. This one could come down to the last possession. I think Aaron Medley will make this one though. 31-28 Vols
South Carolina vs. Missouri:Could be one of the better games of the weekend, but no one will watch. Both are starting young, talented quarterbacks. I like the home team in this one. 33-20 Tigers
Alabama vs. Georgia:Georgia has a chance to finally prove it is a national power. They get an Alabama team that did everything it could to lose to Ole Miss. Alabama will likely be able to slow down Nick Chubb and make the passing game beat them. If they can't slow down Chubb the look for Georgia to win. I think Alabama can slow him down. 31-24 Crimson Tide
San Jose State vs. Auburn:Auburn will sleep walk through this one. 42-10 Tigers
Ole Miss vs. Florida:Looks like the Gators are riding high after their big comeback last week, but this week they will likely get smacked in the face by the Rebels. I don't see this being close. 45-17 Rebels
Eastern Michigan vs. LSU:Will we see a Heisman pose? 48-7 Tigers
Vanderbilt vs. Middle Tennessee:Man, I saw this as an easy win for Vanderbilt before the season, but this one will be quite difficult for the 'Dores. MTSU has been playing well and will pull out all the stops against the neighboring university. I really have zero idea on who to pick here, so I'm asking my son Jacob. He says Vanderbilt. 12-9 Dores
Mississippi State vs. Texas A&M:Another good matchup for the SEC West. I like Texas A&M at home in this one. 45-38 Aggies
Eastern Kentucky vs. Kentucky:Should be an easy win for Kentucky. 45-17 Wildcats
Michael Spencer's Picks (Sports Director for WATE):
Arkansas vs. Tennessee:Tennessee should be 4-0 at this point after blowing fourth quarter leads to Oklahoma and Florida. Instead the Vols are 2-2 and people in Knoxville are wondering what's going on. Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me; Butch Jones just better hope a third time doesn't happen. On paper the Vols should beat the Razorbacks by two touchdowns, but the worry is that the Tennessee coaching staff will overthink itself again and the Vols will suffer another fourth quarter collapse. I don't see that happening this week though. Tennessee 31, Arkansas 17
South Carolina vs. Missouri:Can I pick both teams to lose this game? Missouri isn't the team it has been the last two years; and it's rare that a team might be better after it's starting quarterback gets suspended, but the Tigers may have found a way to prevent a quarterback controversy if Drew Lock plays well. Missouri gets the edge because it's at home, but only slightly. Missouri 21, South Carolina 17
Alabama vs. Georgia:Let's be honest, do any of the other games really matter this week? Alabama seems to be sliding while Georgia can really put its stamp on the SEC by picking up a big time win. Nothing about Georgia's past history makes me confident the Bulldogs can win, but nothing about Alabama's 2015 team makes me confident they can win either. The SEC will know a lot about two of its top teams after this game. Georgia 21, Alabama 17
San Jose State vs. Auburn:This game couldn't come at a better time for Auburn. The team picked to win the SEC has looked anything but good in the first month of the season. This game gets them back on track, at least for now. Auburn 35, San Jose State 17
Ole Miss vs. Florida:Florida has played two SEC games and is 2-0 just like everyone thought they would be, and Ole Miss went to Alabama and beat the Tide just like everyone thought the Rebels would. Wait, what?! I don't think either team is as good as the records indicate, but I think Ole Miss is a better team than Florida and I think that will show on Saturday. Ole Miss 35, Florida 21
Eastern Michigan vs. LSU:No one in college football has been as dominant as LSU running back Leonard Fournette. The question isn't if he'll have a big game, but how big of a game he'll have. I say 150 plus yards on the ground. In three quarters. LSU 45, Eastern Michigan 7
Vanderbilt vs. Middle Tennessee:The battle of Middle Tennessee should draw a massive crowd. I'd expect at least 10,000 to attended this barnburner. I could spit out stats, but I have better things to do, and chances are so do you. Vanderbilt 21, Middle Tennessee 13 (Come on, Vandy, act like you belong in the SEC, if only for a weekend).
Mississippi State vs. Texas A&M:These two teams weren't suppose to be this good, but after an overtime win over Arkansas the Aggies are 4-0 and Dak Prescott is proving it doesn't matter who his teammates are he's still one of the best QB's in the country. Make sure the scoreboard lights are ready because these two teams could put up a lot of points, but I expect A&M to put up more. Texas A&M 35, Mississippi St. 28