JW: Another week, another slew of great games, upsets, and at least one game I'd prefer not to talk about. Luckily, this week brings us some more really interesting conference match-ups, as well as our picks for an upset or two. As Vanderbilt celebrates its homecoming against the Bulldogs on national television, I'll be trying to sneak away from a family gathering that I'm required to attend. Luckily, I have an extensive network of informants who will be keeping me updated via text messaging. It's not nearly as fun as watching the Commodores live (or in HD), but it will have to do. But enough about me, let's do some picks! As for this week, let's see what throwaway quote by Mike or myself will be posted and debated in the always entertaining Football Forums! Have at it, folks.
MO: I'd chide you for your lack of school spirit since you're missing the game, but I was at a golf outing last week, so I have nowhere to talk…. That said, this week's slate has a few interesting games, not the least of which is a certain Homecoming game that I can think of. In fact, I'm cutting this intro short so we can get right to them!
Alabama @ Ole Miss
MO: This is a little bit more of an interesting match-up than you might think. As much as I've dug into Ole Miss, they were able to rally their defense last week and shut out Louisiana Tech – then again, Fresno St. held the Bulldogs to just six points the week before, so that should probably be taken with a grain of salt. Alabama held off an upset bid by Houston last week, despite giving up 14 unanswered points in the final quarter. Can the Rebels ride the wave of confidence and provide an upset of their own? Will Alabama let another inferior team hang around until the end of the game? In a word…. No. Especially not as long as Orgeron remains as head coach. I'll take Ole Miss to once again use all of their first half timeouts in the first seven minutes of the game, and the Tide to score early and often and they try to crawl their way back into the Top 25. Tide rolls by 18.
JW: The closeness of the Bama/Houston score shouldn't be all too surprising - we knew Houston could score points, and many (including yours truly) believed it could be a fairly tight game. Alabama still confuses me - I know they want to be a really good team, and their fans think they already are, but they haven't shown me too much yet. Sure, they've had some tough losses, but good teams find ways to overcome those types of close games, and I'm not so sure the Tide has that kind of character yet. Ole Miss should put up a pretty good fight here, as they've managed to put a scare into at least one other good SEC team this year. Alabama certainly is no Florida , but I also don't expect Ole Miss to play as well as they did against the Gators. I see a Crimson Tide victory in Oxford , but not as big a victory as some would like. Bama by 3.
Tennessee @ Mississippi State
JW: I gotta (grudgingly) admit - UT looked pretty good against Georgia . So, now the question is - can UT keep it going as their schedule becomes a little more forgiving? Sure, no SEC schedule is exactly "forgiving," but with Cal and Florida behind them, the Volunteers now get Mississippi State , Bama , South Carolina , and Louisiana Tech, all very winnable games. Mississippi State isn't exactly a cupcake, but they have faded a bit since the win over Auburn back in September. However, if they can get a solid performance from Anthony Dixon, who rattled off 152 rushing yards against UAB last week, they might be able to keep it interesting. Unfortunately for Vandy fans (at least those of us who love to watch UT lose, no matter what), the Vols are going to ride the emotion of last week's solid win and keep the momentum going, as the orange-clad faithful are suddenly realizing that they aren't completely out of the SEC hunt. The cowbells might be loud in Starkville , but the Volunteers come out of the state of Mississippi with a 13 point victory.
MO: Ok, first – nothing looks pretty good in orange. Sorry, can't be done. UAB hung around with Mississippi St. last week, something that has to make Dawg fans a little nervous about this week. I wouldn't be surprised to see Croom get the same fire from his team that he was able to draw out last month against Auburn . It's a shame for Mississippi State that such lightning doesn't strike twice in the same place. Well, not unless you're watching Back to the Future, but Christopher Lloyd will be nowhere near Starkville this week. I'll take Tennessee (grudgingly as well) to win by 10.
Auburn @ Arkansas
MO: This will be Arkansas ' first true test since giving up the game against Kentucky three weeks ago. Since then they've pasted North Texas and Chattanooga by a combined 78 points. While it bodes well for a team's confidence, so does beating a Top 5 team two weeks ago, which Auburn can claim, followed by… yeah. Yeah, we all remember what happened last week. The Tigers are on a serious roll since losing to South Florida and Mississippi State in consecutive weeks, and should be looking at this game as a "revenge" game after being upset by the Razorbacks last season. Especially since Arkansas is favored in this game… despite not having an SEC win this season! I'll take Auburn to win here, though Arkansas could still get its typical impressive production from its ground game. Tigers win by 9.
JW: Auburn 's been kind of bipolar this season (although their only non-"quality" loss is MSU), but they seem to be in their "dominant" personality as of now, as evidenced by the past two weeks. The offense is certainly firing on all cylinders, and the defense is doing an impressive job. The Auburn defense / Arkansas offense matchup should be pretty interesting, here, but I think Auburn's offense (if they can keep their mojo going) can dominate the Razorbacks' defense, and with the solid matchup on the other side, I see Auburn winning this one fairly easily. Arkansas might get some help from the home crowd, but Auburn 's just too good to let this game drop, particularly after their recent performances. Tigers by 7.
South Carolina @ North Carolina
JW: Well, Steve Spurrier is back in the top ten. After taking care of business at home against Kentucky , the Gamecocks must be feeling pretty good. With their only loss against the current number one team in the nation, they definitely deserve it. The defense is clamping down, and Chris Smelley is getting things done on offense. And while it might seem that the Tar Heels are going to be an easy cupcake to steamroll in preparation for a tough finish to their SEC schedule, it might be worth another look. Sure, UNC is 2-4, but they've had some close losses to some good teams, and even managed to beat Miami last week. So, it's worth taking them a little seriously. But then again, the Tar Heels haven't played anyone nearly as good as the Gamecocks this season, so while it won't be a blowout, it should still be a solid South Carolina win. T.J. Yates can't be too pleased about facing the Gamecock defense after what they did to Andre Woodson last week, and the Gamecocks should take this one seriously enough to get a fairly easy win. USC by 10.
MO: I like the Tar Heels' win against Miami team last week, even though the ‘Canes are struggling a bit the season (more on that later). That said, the Gamecocks have been riding a hot streak lately, and I don't see any team in powder blue being able to stop them. I don't think there's any danger of Spurrier looking ahead to next week, as I doubt he'll be over-estimating Vanderbilt. I like the Fightin' Visors to roll all day here, winning by 17.
Georgia Tech @ Miami
MO: You know, as big-name as these teams are, this game doesn't turn out to be all that interesting after all. Miami 's coming off a loss to UNC in which they were outscored 27-0 in the first half, while the Yellow Jackets lost to a suddenly resurgent Maryland squad. Georgia Tech actually hasn't beaten any decent teams this season outside of a home upset against Clemson, and have yet to win a road game (though their two losses have been by a combined seven points). I've got to take Miami here, though I'm still not all that impressed with their performance this season – I just think that Tech's not going to see their first road win until they head up to Duke in few weeks. Canes win by 13.
JW: Georgia Tech might not be performing all too well, but I have to say, Miami certainly hasn't looked all that good, especially after the beating they took against the Tar Heels. I just see more quality opponents in the Yellow Jackets' schedule, and the occasional good win, but I haven't seen the same out of Miami . The Hurricanes have a distinct home-field advantage here, and Tech hasn't played too well on the road, but that's gotta change sometime, right? And why not against a traditional powerhouse that's fell on some hard times? I like the Jackets here, picking up the "upset" victory in a battle between two teams that really wanted to be better this year. Tech by 6.
Missouri @ Oklahoma
JW: At the beginning of the season, I wonder who would've guessed that this game would feature an unbeaten team, and that that team wouldn't be Oklahoma ? Missouri is looking better and better each week, and maybe they do actually deserve to be ranked as highly as they are. And while Oklahoma had a bizarre setback against Colorado , they reasserted themselves over Texas last week, and are hoping to stay in contention in the Big 12. This should be a great game, and while the general feel is that this is a fairly solid Sooner victory, I'm not so convinced. Missouri 's demolition of Nebraska last week has convinced me that these guys can make some noise, and the most impressive part of that win was that the defense clamped down and held the Huskers to only two field goals. If they can keep up their intensity and not revert to the team that gave up 25 points to Ole Miss September 8th, they have a good chance at scoring the upset. Colorado demonstrated that the Sooners aren't invincible, and although this game is being played in Norman , I like Missouri here. Oklahoma 's good, don't get me wrong, but they're beatable, and Missouri will definitely be playing up the "something to prove" angle this week. The Tigers finally find a way to win in the second half of the season, and pull off the 6-point win against Oklahoma .
MO: I'm sorry, I just don't see it. I know that Missouri has done well this season, but Oklahoma has absolutely dominated most of their opponents this season. The game's in Norman, one of the toughest places to play in the country based almost solely on the fact that there's nothing else to do in Norman than watch Sooner Football. Oklahoma 's been held to 27 points only twice this season, and I don't expect this week to be the third. I like the Sooners to break 40 this week, running away with a statement win, beating Mizzou by 21.
LSU @ Kentucky
MO: LSU was able to sneak away last week with a win against Florida in what was one of the better games of week, if not the season. On the flipside, Kentucky is coming off a loss in was might have been the biggest game in Wildcat history as they lost pretty badly to South Carolina, relinquishing their hold on the top spot in the SEC East. Kentucky was held relatively in check last week, scoring only 23 points after averaging over 45 points in their previous five games. The Wildcats are in the middle of a rough stretch, hosting the #1 team in the country between games at South Carolina and next week's clash against Florida . LSU is simply on a roll, having beaten two Top 10 teams already this season, though they have been challenged by ranked SEC opponents. I still like the Tigers in this one, especially if they can recycle the Gamecock defense that was able to hamper Andre Woodson all night. I'll take LSU to so just that, winning by 15.
JW: We finally saw what stops Andre Woodson - a good defense. Sure, the Wildcats have scored a lot of points this season, but once they came up against a big, swarming defense in the Gamecocks, Woodson just seemed taken completely out of his game. He made mistakes left and right, and some of those turnovers were plain ugly. Now the Wildcats get to host an LSU defense that's even scarier than the Gamecocks, and while I can see Woodson and company scoring some points, I also expect a lot of the same problems they had last week with South Carolina this week against LSU. While the Tiger offense hasn't received the same publicity as their defense (and for good reason), I expect them to be able to score plenty against Kentucky, putting this game out of reach by the beginning of the fourth quarter. LSU has finally started to look at least somewhat beatable, but this game should allow them to get back to their old, dominant selves. Bayou Bengals by 13 (and that's only because of a late Kentucky score against the second-stringers).
Georgia @ Vanderbilt
JW: So far, the 'Dores have only looked great against some pretty bad competition. Our two games against SEC-caliber competition haven't exactly been pretty. If this is the season for a bowl game, Vanderbilt has to find a way to go toe-to-toe with the SEC powerhouses. We know it's possible, as evidenced by none other than last year's Georgia upset in Athens . And while Georgia looked very vulnerable during their ugly loss in Knoxville , I'm concerned that the Bulldogs are coming into Nashville more motivated than ever to prove that they're an SEC force to be reckoned with this season. But, let's not forget - Georgia was looking great going into their Tennessee game last season, got pounded by the Vols, and went on to lose to Vanderbilt in the next game. This season it's eerily similar, except that the Bulldogs have a two in the loss column. With the recent history of these two teams, the fact that it's Homecoming and (hopefully) Vanderbilt Stadium will be full of black and gold-clad fans, and the fact that Earl Bennett is likely to set the SEC receptions record lead me to believe that the Commodores can pull this one off and right the ship. But you saw where my heart-based pick got me last week. Georgia 's a good team, and they have all sorts of motivation going into this game. My heart says Vandy, but my mind this week says Georgia . To break the tie, I'm going with the anti-jinx pick. While I clearly don't want this to happen, I see the Dawgs winning by 4.
MO: You know what – I tried actual analysis last week, and it got Vanderbilt nowhere. This week is all heart and premonition. I'll point out what Jay mentioned about Georgia not looking all that great, and I'll add that we'll have a fire under our feet after our poor performance against Auburn . The last time we played that poorly against a team from Alabama , we came back the next week and dominated Ole Miss. While Georgia is better than Ole Miss, I'm not sure that this year's Bulldog team is any better than last year's, and we all remember what happened between the Hedges in 2006. I'm pulling the trigger on the upset just as I did last year, going on heart and faith alone. I like Vanderbilt to rebound in a big way this week, fighting off an early score from Georgia and dominating the second half. It will at long last be a happy Homecoming for Vanderbilt, as the Commodores welcome back Commodore faithful and send Georgia fans wondering just what's happening to their team this season. I'll pick Vandy in the upset, winning by 9.