The SEC slate this week is lean on ranked matchups and heavy on interesting ones.
Missouri hosts Florida in a pivotal SEC Eastern Division contest. Tennessee hopes to stop the bleeding against Georgia, while Alabama hopes to fend off a surging Arkansas team at home. Other than that, it's cupcake city, and that includes South Carolina heading to Death Valley.
Managing editor Danny Parker made the pick of the season so far, predicting Florida to topple Ole Miss, bringing his record to a pack-leading 45-7 on the year. Publisher Josh Woodward and beat writer Cory Gunkel are behind him and tied for No. 2.
Danny Parker's Picks (45-7)
Georgia vs. Tennessee:Have to think that the Volunteers break through at some point. Removing all the clutter, this is a team that's gotten exceptionally close to turning the page and rejoining the top half of the Southeastern Conference. When I predicted Tennessee to go 7-5, figured it would lose to Florida and Oklahoma (and possibly even Arkansas) but thought it would hang a loss on the Bulldogs. In spite of the injuries, including four seniors missing, it's still possible for the Big Orange to pull this one off. John Jancek needs a scheme that involves heavy run blitzes and puts pressure on cornerbacks to defend one-on-one and safeties to have their best game of the season. Mike DeBord needs a blend of the Florida game plan (heavy run) and Arkansas game plan (horizontal throws) with more dump-offs over the middle to Ethan Wolf. Aaron Medley cannot miss kicks. It's giant game for not only the program but for coach Butch Jones and his staff. They can shut a ton of people up with an upset of the SEC East preseason favorites. It's also huge because of so many extremely talented prospects that will be watching every move (and listening if boos strike) from behind the north end zone. In the end, just believe that Georgia linebacker corps and offensive line make all the difference. Georgia, 34-24.
New Mexico State vs. Ole Miss:A turn to the friendly confines of Vaught-Hemingway Stadium for the Rebels after getting drubbed last week. Have to think the Chad Kelly led offense gets back on track and in a major way. Ole Miss, 49-13.
LSU vs. South Carolina:Thoughts are with those in the Palmetto State as the flooding moved this one to Baton Rouge. Tough ordeal for those young student-athletes. Let's hope they rally together and play well. LSU, 38-14.
Troy vs. Mississippi State:Another Magnolia State team looking to get its offense back on track with a far lesser opponent than what it sees in league play. If Dak Prescott wants to be considered for end-of-season awards, he needs to have a major stat-padding game. Mississippi State, 47-16.
Arkansas vs. Alabama:If you like pound-the-rock rushing attacks and naked bootlegs, strap in and tune in. Badly want to pick the underrated Razorbacks but with it being in Tuscaloosa, can't do it. Alabama, 31-21.
Florida vs. Missouri:Expecting the Gators to look like a very different team away from Ben Hill Griffin Stadium but defenses don't tend to go into slumps. Interested to see if Florida can run the ball ion Mizzou's front six. Also want to see how the Tigers pass the ball on that Gators secondary with a true freshman quarterback. Florida, 20-17.
Cory Gunkel's Picks (42-10):
Georgia vs. Tennessee:Yet another heartbreaking loss has spiraled Tennessee into a tailspin coming into this weekend's matchup, but Georgia is also coming off a big loss as well after being drubbed by Alabama between the hedges. The Vols trade Alex Collins for Nick Chubb, a darkhorse Heisman contender who's ran for a bazillion yards (which is good for just second in the SEC behind Leonard Fournette's gagillion) and a version of Greyson Lambert that looks, for the most part, formidable and competent. Tennessee's offense is going to have to do its part to keep Chubb and his merry band of running backs on the sideline by controlling as much of the clock as it can and jumpstarting a passing game that isn't completely inept. I think Tennessee's staff tired to overcorrect the passing game woes by abandoning the run at times last week (Jalen Hurd's four carries in the second half come to mind), and they'll have to strike a balance this week and get production from quarterback Josh Dobbs and his legs to keep Georgia's linebacking corps, led by Jordan Jenkins, at bay. The Vols also have to stay ahead of the sticks to keep UGA from its exotic blitzes in the nickel package that has, in part, made the Bulldogs the second-best pass defense in the SEC. Tennessee has the talent to win this game, but until it can close out a big one, I can't predict them to do as much. Georgia 34, Tennessee 28
New Mexico State vs. Ole Miss:Tee Shepard quit football this week, exacerbating the issues that have crept up in Oxford since Florida manhandled the Rebels in a big win in The Swamp last week. Ole Miss gets back to business against a winless cupcake this week, and might continue its 70-point assault on teams that don't have defenses. Ole Miss 65, New Mexico State 10
LSU vs. South Carolina:This game, originally scheduled to be played in Columbia, heads to Baton Rouge due to flooding in South Carolina. The Tigers' badn is learning South Carolina's fight song and ticket prices will go to the Gamecocks because it's technically their home game, but that's about where the feel-good story ends. USC's offense is anemic and its defense should probably just run away from Leonard Fournette when they see him coming. It's gonna get ugly in Death Valley, which is fitting due to the whole death thing in the name. LSU 38, South Carolina 17
Troy vs. Mississippi State:The Bulldogs are coming off a defeat at the hands of Texas A&M, but Dan Mullen's team gets a nice break before SEC play picks back up with the Trojans of Troy. This one will be about as close as Mullen vs. Hugh Freeze in a pray-off. Mississippi State 42, Troy 7
Arkansas vs. Alabama:Alex Collins goes head-to-head against Derrick Henry in a very intriguing matchup. Alabama proved its, in fact, not dead after shellacking Georgia in Athens, while Arkansas comes off a huge win at Tennessee that could spark a nice run for the Hogs. Will Bret Bielema's grind-it-out offense be enough to keep Lane Kiffin's offense off the field for extended periods of time? Can the Hogs' physicality match a Bama run D that has been lights-out so far this year? This one could be closer than we think. Alabama 24, Arkansas 17
Florida vs. Missouri:Florida might be in for a let-down against a Missouri team that treats the SEC East like the MAC West. The Tigers ho-hummed their way to a 2-0 start once again in the Eastern Division and now host the favorites in a game with tons of division race implications. Mizzou has looked bad this season. Florida looks unreal, especially defensively, since Jim McElwain took over in 2015. Could this be the Gators' trap game? Maybe, but Florida should pull it out. Florida 27, Missouri 17
Josh Woodward's Picks (42-10):
Georgia vs. Tennessee:What a week it has been on Rocky Top, from the allegations that Butch was in a fight with a player to people calling for his job. I'm sure it has distracted this team some, but all that can change with a win over the Bulldogs. The Big Orange have their backs against the wall this week and most of us would like them to come out swinging Saturday afternoon. I, for one, believe they will, but it will be a challenge for the defense against this Georgia offense and Nick Chubb. If Tennessee is able to slow Chubb like Alabama did, then they have a good chance. The Vols on offense need to keep running the football and make good, timely decisions when they need to throw. It is time to let it all hang loose in this one and see if you can squeak out a big win. In the end, it it likely will be to big a mountain to climb for the Big Orange. 31-24 Georgia
New Mexico State vs. Ole Miss:Ole Miss is licking its wounds after the Florida game. The Rebels should be back to their normal 70 points this game. 72-10 Rebels
LSU vs. South Carolina:Tough week in Columbia with all the flooding that has happened. The Gamecocks will be the home team, but travel to Baton Rouge to face the best running back in the country. I don't really see the Gamecocks having much success. 33-10 Tigers
Troy vs. Mississippi State:What's up with these Mississippi schools and their non-conference schedule? 38-7 Mississippi State
Arkansas vs. Alabama:I see this one being close for three quarters, but Alabama pulling away in the second half. 42-10 Crimson Tide
Florida vs. Missouri:Has the potential to be a big let down game for Florida. They could easily lose this one. The Gators looked fabulous against Ole Miss last week, but will likely come back down to normal against the Tigers. This will be a close one. 34-31 Gators
Jillian Mahen's Picks (Sports Anchor for WATE):
Georgia vs. Tennessee:The Vols are 0-2 when wearing Smokey grey. They lost to Georgia and Vandy in 2013. Granted that was a James Franklin Vandy team that finished 9-4. But still, it's Vandy. Based on that alone, I have my doubts about Team 119 pulling out a W (I'm very superstitious). HOWEVER, I'm also a sucker for the underdog and for some reason Butch's teams seem to play exponentially better when the odds are against them. And the odds are certainly against them this weekend. Georgia's run game is scary. Nick Chubb has 745 rushing yards this season and 7 touchdowns. Sony Michel has 276 yards and 4 touchdowns. Based on how Tennessee handled Arkansas' run game last weekend (allowing 275 rushing yards on 50 attempts) I should be anything but optimistic. But, I pick my winners like my fantasy players-- with my heart not my head. I think Tennessee's coaching staff and players finally get on the same page and scrape together a miraculous win in front of all 102,455. Tennessee 27-24
New Mexico State vs. Ole Miss:I know I said I'm a sucker for the underdog ... but I have my limits. I feel bad for New Mexico State this week taking on an Ole Miss team that's been on a roller coaster the past two weeks. First, overcoming the odds and beating Alabama IN Tuscaloosa for the second year in a row. Then, losing at The Swamp to a Florida team thought to be in a "rebuilding" year (more on this later). I think the Rebels will use this game as their personal stress ball to alleviate their accumulating frustration. Ole Miss 62-17
LSU vs. South Carolina:Whenever we talk about LSU things are a little weird. (Thanks, Les Miles!) This game should be weird because it's in Baton Rouge but technically it's supposed to be a South Carolina home game. I thought the Gamecocks would struggle in Williams-Brice Stadium against Leonard Fornette. But, on the road, in Tiger Stadium... yeesh. While a South Carolina win would be a PHENOMENAL story and a huge pick-me-up for the state suffering so much already, I think the Tigers have this one on lock. LSU 31-13
Troy vs. Mississippi State:Much like Ole Miss, the Bulldogs are pissed. Coming off of a loss to the Aggies- their second SEC loss before the midway point in the season- Mississippi State needs to take out some frustration. Enter: the Trojans. Dak Prescott hasn't quite lived up to the hype he garnered at the beginning of the season, this is one game he should be able to show off all his tricks. Miss. State 42-10
Arkansas vs. Alabama:Fine. Maybe I'm not as much of an underdog lover as I previously stated. Alabama already had its' "mistake" of the season when they lost, at home, to Ole Miss. Saban doesn't allow more than 1 per regular season. That being said, I don't see the Crimson Tide putting the Hogs on a spit and roasting them either. Arkansas proved they have a healthy run game and they're not afraid of tough environments when they beat the Vols last weekend. I think they stay in this one for the first half but Alabama wears them down late in the game. Alabama 35-17
Florida vs. Missouri:I'm not convinced Florida is the real deal yet. Granted, Missouri has been less than spectacular this season. But, I think the Gators might be flying a bit too high and the Tigers are all too aware of how poorly they've lived up to expectations this season. Will Grier had his flu game last week and played spectacularly, but Mizzou's defense is likely one of the Tigers few bright spots this season. I see Grier struggling. And yes, Drew Lock is young and this is a huge amount of pressure to put on a true freshman. But, he performed well last week against South Carolina. Garnering a W in your first career start, against an SEC opponent is nothing to scoff at. I think that was a solid confidence boost for the young QB. Also, this is homecoming at Mizzou... in case you haven't heard, it's kind of a big deal. I give the Tigers the edge in this one. Missouri 20-17