Vols-'Cats among important SEC games Saturday

The InsideTennessee staff predicts this week's SEC slate.

We're in Week 9 now in the SEC schedule, one that looked so promising in June but now sits before us like a wilted flower. Kentucky-Tennessee, which was once thought to be a de facto darkhorse SEC Eastern Division title play-in game, has now become a bowl placement bowl. The Auburn-Ole Miss rematch that looked so titilating before the season began is now one in which the Tigers could lose by 30. Who would have thought Temple would be ranked higher than Texas A&M at this point in the year?

In fact, the most interesting contest of the entire slate might be Tom Herman's offense going up against Derek Mason's defense in Nashville. Who woulda thought? 

Managing editor Danny Parker continued his lead on the rest of the pack Saturday with a 59-12 record overall. Publisher Josh Woodward and beat writer Cory Gunkel fall behind in that order. Can they make up some games this week? We shall see. 

DANNY PARKER'S PICKS (59-12)

Tennessee vs. Kentucky

Could this be a kick-start to a five-game winning streak for the Volunteers to cap their season? It should be. It's still hard to get a read on an underclassmen-laden team dealing with major injuries to pivotal guys but the Big Orange ground game should be too much for the Wildcats to handle. Expecting Kentucky to play the matchup game and torch the Tennessee secondary a couple times but Patrick Towles doesn't do what Joshua Dobbs does and that's avoid the interception bug. This is a chance for the Vols to build some confidence and send some terror into the final four opponents. Tennessee, 42-21.

Ole Miss vs. Auburn

Can't figure out what's going on with the Rebels and the Tigers are dealing with a roster void of a talented, SEC level quarterback. Things look to be trending in the Rebels' way as they may get two more first-round picks back to the lineup this week. Ole Miss, 38-17.

South Carolina vs. Texas A&M

Not a whole lot of great news with either team at the moment but this could be a solid football game. Don't be surprised if the Gamecocks come out swinging. However, the Aggies just have too much firepower. Texas A&M, 41-14.

Georgia vs. Florida

Extremely tough game to predict. If I had a shiny coin nearby, I'd trust what it told me over my own thoughts. Expecting to see a ton of Sony Michel and a loaded box out of the Gators defense. The question mark is what to think of the Florida offense. I got nothin'. I'll go with the home-state team because of defense. Florida, 21-14.

UT-Martin vs. Arkansas

Nothing like November homecoming games. Walk-ons, you can wear your face paint this week. Game on! Arkansas, 56-0.

Vanderbilt vs. Houston

Cougars coach Tom Herman gets a chance to put his program on TV versus an SEC school, perhaps for South Carolina athletics director Ray Tanner to get a look at Herman for his vacant coaching position. Interested to see how his offense matches up with coach Derek Mason's defense. Houston, 24-13.

JOSH WOODWARD'S PICKS (58-13):

Tennessee vs. Kentucky

Tennessee has proven it can play with anyone in the country this season, but now I need to see them take care of teams they are supposed to beat. Kentucky is improved this season, but the talent that Tennessee has is just better. I look for Tennessee to be able to score some points against this Kentucky defense. It doesn't matter if it's through the air or on the ground. The Kentucky offense is much improved and will challenge the Tennessee defense. I look for this be a close game until the second half with Tennessee getting a comfortable lead late. 38-17 Vols

Ole Miss vs. Auburn

Man, did Ole Miss cost me last week, I really thought that they would lose to A&M. I'm back on the Rebel bandwagon this week as they face the Auburn Tigers. Ole Miss will love watching themselves on that giant video board. 45-23 Ole Miss

South Carolina vs. Texas A&M

One of the reasons that Steve Spurrier retired was he wouldn't get hammered in games like this. So I truly expect South Carolina to get hammered. 35-6 Aggies

Georgia vs. Florida

Game of the week in the SEC, if you are a Tennessee fan you are torn in your allegiances in regards to Tennessee's bowl placement. I really believe that if Florida wins, Tennessee will get a better bowl because they will go to the SEC Championship and likely get a top bowl bid. Although if Georgia wins, Tennessee still has a small chance at the SEC Championship Game, which would be crazy considering this season. I really like Georgia this week. I think they can do just enough to win this game. 28-24 Bulldogs

UT-Martin vs. Arkansas

Razorbacks 54-9

Vanderbilt vs. Houston

Vandy taking its talents to the Lone Star State, but they have a huge task to slow down Houston. I expect the Dores to keep it close for the first half, but the defense will be on the field too long and get tired, so Houston will score some second half points to make it look worse than it was. 33-10 Houston.

CORY GUNKEL'S PICKS (55-16)

Tennessee vs. Kentucky

There are a few things in life that just always happen. The last scoop of ice cream always seems like the best. The driving of everyone else on the road just never seems as good as yours. And Tennessee never looks to be in a position to lose to Kentucky on the gridiron. Sure it's happened, one time to be exact since 1985, but the Vols always expect to come away with a victory over their SEC East rivals, and this season is no different. UK has perhaps one of the worst defenses in the SEC, exacerbated by bad secondary play that relinquishes 232 yards in the air per game as the No. 76 passing defense in the country. If ever there was a game for Josh Dobbs to showcase his versatile skill set, it's this one, with Kentucky coming off a matchup against Mississippi State last week in which quarterback Dak Prescott accounted for six total touchdowns in a blowout win. The Wildcats offense is quite average as well despite solid running back play from Boom Williams and a quarterback in Patrick Towles who can sling the ball around when he's on. The Vols' secondary will have to contain the Wildcats passing attack that has been admirable this season, but it should have the pieces in place to do that with Justin Martin finally getting the starting nod at corner. It's going to be cold and rainy, a Kentucky staple, but Tennessee should come out of Lexington unscathed as it looks to run the table to end the season. The Vols go up 24-10 before UK scores a garbage-time touchdown to cut the bleeding. Tennessee 24, Kentucky 17

Ole Miss vs. Auburn

This game was supposed to be one of the most explosive in the country heading into 2015, but Auburn's freefall since the beginning of the year makes it a noon kick and one of the least intriguing on the SEC schedule. Laquon Treadwell told the media this week the Tigers would "feel his pain" as he returns to face the team he was facing last year when he infamously broke his leg and fumbled at the goal line. MegaQuon might have 200 yards receiving. If I was Auburn, I would be scared. Ole Miss 48, Auburn 20

South Carolina vs. Texas A&M

Texas A&M hopes to rebound after an embarrassing loss to Ole Miss in Oxford last week. Kevin Sumlin's offense was stifled for what seems like the first time ever. Luckily, South Carolina's defense is the equivalent of melting cheese. If ever there was a game to get back on track, this is it. Texas A&M 41, South Carolina 17

Georgia vs. Florida

The World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party is known for getting weird, so despite Florida's decided defensive advantage, UGA's defense sits at No. 25 total in the country and looks to make things interesting in Jacksonville. Florida could essentially lock up the East title with a 'W', and you know the Dawgs want nothing but to spoil the party for another week. In the end, the Gators' D will be just too much. Florida 28, Georgia 24

UT-Martin vs. Arkansas

Bret Bielema can relax for this one ... he hopes. Arkansas 51, UT-Martin 10

Vanderbilt vs. Houston

This one really interests me. Tom Herman's offense is putting up video game numbers this season averaging 561 yards a game and seven yards per play. Vanderbilt, on the other hand, has one of the best statistical defenses in the country. The Commodores are giving up just 316 yards per game and held a vaunted Western Kentucky offense to just 14 points. Vandy has a chance at its best win of the season, but the Cougars are simply too explosive. Houston 24, Vanderbilt 21


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