Picking SEC Winners, Losers

The weather's getting cooler but InsideTennessee.com analysts Jeffery Stewart and Randy Moore are just beginning to warm up.

They didn't anticipate Maryland's upset of Florida State last weekend -- who did? -- but their intuitive powers were clicking in the other games of note. Randy went 9-1, improving his season record to 64-26. Jeffery went 8-2, boosting his mark to 67-23.

Can our resident experts continue their fabulous forecasting this week? Only time will tell. Here's a look at their picks:

Jeffery's picks:

MISSISSIPPI STATE AT ALABAMA: After dropping nine conference games in a row, suddenly the Bully Dogs are the scourge of the SEC East with back-to-back victories over East Division foes Florida and Kentucky. Both of those contests were played in Starkville where home field has its advantages. Besides, the Crimson Tide is much improved too and it's had a week off to rest after a tough loss to Tennessee in Knoxville. The Bulldogs one-dimensional offense plays into Bama's hands. Alabama 24, Mississippi State 10.

ARKANSAS AT SOUTH CAROLINA: This series between the SEC's expansion programs is gaining steam as a heated rivalry. There are pathos aplenty in this pigskin passion play. Of course, Lou Holtz had a highly successful stint in Fayetteville (1977-83) during which Houston Nutt was squeezed out of the starting signal caller's job and transferred to Texas A&M. He later returned as an assistant but hard feelings have persisted between the two, a situation that was further exasperated when Holtz refused to shake hands after a 48-14 road defeat in 1999, thinking the Hogs had run up the score. The favorite has won nine of the last ten in this series and the Gamecocks are three-point favorites at home. However, S.C. has scored a combined 14 points in the last three meetings between these teams which is enough to make me believe the Razorbacks have a pretty good gauge on Lou's offensive tendencies. UA has also had a week off to recover from an assortment of injuries incurred in a rugged run against Alabama, Florida, Auburn and Georgia. I'll take the Hogs in a mild upset. Arkansas 20, South Carolina 16.

FLORIDA AT VANDERBILT: FireZook.com has gone the way of BashBush.com, but only the Zooker is a lame duck. He was also widely regarded as lame coach but that's the consequences of following a coaching legend and Spurrier's visor didn't' fit all sizes. Zook was a more energetic recruiter than Steve D. Wonder and he's not a bad motivator. That should be enough to assure a victory over Vanderbilt. Florida 27, Vanderbilt 14.

GEORGIA AT KENTUCKY: The Bulldogs tune up for next week's big battle at Auburn against a Kentucky club that is going nowhere fast, and has rarely played well against Georgia. You also have to wonder how much effort the Wildcats will make to pull out of their tailspin. Georgia 41, Kentucky 17.

NOTRE DAME AT TENNESSEE: The Fighting Irish received an open date before Tennessee by moving its BYU game to Sept. 4 to accommodate ESPN. It might pay dividends as Ty's Troops get two weeks to rest and scheme while the Vols are playing their eighth straight game without a break. Still this is an important game for UT due to its national visibility and the prominence of Notre Dame's program. The home crowd should be rocking with UT playing only its second home game since the Oct. 2 contest vs. Auburn. I expect the Vols to respond with a spirited performance and post a solid victory. Tennessee 31, Notre Dame 20.

OKLAHOMA STATE AT TEXAS: Talk about the need to Cowboy-up, Oklahoma State travels to No. 7 Texas a week after taking No. 2 Oklahoma to the limit. The Longhorns are back in Austin after road victories at Texas Tech and Colorado and should get a big lift from a large home crowd. Conversely, you've got to figure the Cowboys tough loss to the Sooners will take its toll sooner rather than later. Texas 37, Oklahoma State 23.

PURDUE AT IOWA: The Boilermakers appear to have gone into the tank, suffering three straight Big Ten Conference defeats. Last week at Northwestern, Heisman Trophy candidate QB Kyle Orton was pulled and didn't reenter with the game on the line in the closing minutes. Has Joe Tiller lost control of his team, or is he just gaining control of it? In either case, it won't make the difference against the Hawkeyes in Iowa City. Iowa 33. Purdue 24.

OKLAHOMA AT TEXAS A&M: Another demanding Big 12 road test for the Sooners and an outstanding chance for Dennis Franchione to put his brand on the Aggies' football program. Oklahoma beat A&M 77-0 last year in Norman so the Aggies will be out for blood and they have a better defense than Oklahoma State. That should be enough to keep the count close, especially if OU takes this contest lightly in lieu of last season's rout. An upset is not beyond reason, but it would be an ambitious step for a team that's still learning how to win. Oklahoma 26, Texas A&M 17.

MARYLAND AT VIRGINIA: Picking the ACC is a little like picking the fastest checkout line at the supermarket — no matter which one you choose you're destined to lose. Example: I picked the Terps to beat Clemson and they lost. The next week I picked the Terps to lose to Florida State and they won. Maryland doesn't play particularly well at Virginia, losing 31-23 in 2000 and 48-13 in 2002. The Cavaliers had a week off and should be geared up to avenge last season's 27-17 defeat to Maryland. Virginia 24, Maryland 13.

GEORGIA TECH AT N.C. STATE: A couple of coastal clubs trying to overcome disappointing campaigns. The Yellowjackets have won four of the last five games in this series but also have a history of struggling in November. The home-standing Wolfpack needs a win and head coach Chuck Amato has a good record in such situations. N.C. State 27, Georgia Tech 21.

Randy's picks:

MISSISSIPPI STATE AT ALABAMA: Since QB Omarr Conner returned from injury the Bulldogs have won two games in a row (vs. Florida and Kentucky) and probably cost two coaches their jobs (Ron Zook and Rich Brooks). Think Mike Shula has noticed? Bama 20, Miss. State 10.

ARKANSAS AT SOUTH CAROLINA: These are probably the two most unpredictable teams in the entire SEC, so anything can happen. Still, the Cocks can qualify for a bowl bid if they win. That, plus the home field advantage, gives them a slight edge. Carolina 20, Arkansas 14.

FLORIDA AT VANDERBILT: If the Commodores are EVER to beat Florida, this is the year. The Gators are an underachieving team. They're on the road. They're playing out the string under a lame-duck coach. Still, I can't bring myself to pick Vandy. Florida 31, Vanderbilt 17.

GEORGIA AT KENTUCKY: Georgia's GOT to be looking ahead to next weekend's game with Auburn, so this game might be a little closer than the relative strengths of the two teams would suggest. Even so, the Big Blue is just BAAAAAAAADDDDDD! Georgia 24, Kentucky 7.

NOTRE DAME AT TENNESSEE: Are the Vols already celebrating an apparent SEC East title? If so, they could be in for a rough afternoon. Still, Notre Dame relies on Big Ten-style power football, and the Big Orange routinely outquicks Big Ten teams. Tennessee 27, Notre Dame 14.

OKLAHOMA STATE AT TEXAS: The 19th-ranked Cowboys could be a little down after their near-miss last weekend against No. 2 Oklahoma. Still, Texas is overrated at No. 7, and I think the Longhorns will find a way to lose. Oklahoma State 24, Texas 20.

PURDUE AT IOWA: After a terrific start, the Boilermakers have lost three in a row. The Hawkeyes have a No. 20 national ranking and the home field advantage. So, unless QB Kyle Orton returns to early-season form, Purdue's tumble will continue. Iowa 27, Purdue 17.

OKLAHOMA AT TEXAS A&M: Fresh from a scare at Oklahoma State, the second-ranked Sooners should be totally focused against Dennis Franchione's No. 22 Aggies. Aren't you glad you don't have to tackle Adrian Peterson for a living? Oklahoma 31, Texas A&M 14.

MARYLAND AT VIRGINIA: Coming off their huge upset of Florida State, will the Terps be fired up or flat? Playing AT Virginia, will it even matter? Virginia 20, Maryland 13.

GEORGIA TECH AT N.C. STATE: Maybe the ACC should change its name to the ATT... Absolutely Topsy-Turvy. With FSU and Miami losing last weekend, the league seems to have no rhyme or reason to it these days. Still, the home field matters. N.C. State 24, Georgia Tech 14.


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