MO: The Mike and Jay's patented "Pick Vandy to lose to ensure a Commodore victory" strategy has worked for two straight weeks now. I was actually nearly spot-on last week – if we'd had one more injured QB, the Commodores might have indeed needed to go into the stands to find a signal caller. Thankfully, though, that didn't happen, and Vanderbilt is once again on the tenuous precipice of bowl eligibility. In fact, we were a Georgia-game fumble away from clinching bowl eligibility before Tennessee, Georgia, AND Florida. But I'm not here to digress about past games, we're here to mockingly pick this week's games! Let's get to it!
JW: Yeah, you were almost spot-on...scarily so. Maybe we should stick to just picking scores instead of prognosticating what might actually happen in the game. "But Jay," you say, "isn't that what picking the scores is all about?" Maybe it is in some more, shall we say, legitimate columns, but you don't come here for legitimacy, do you? You come here for the snarkiness, the mocking of all things non-SEC, and to see which of us can come across as a bigger buffoon! I certainly hope we don't disappoint. Now, onto the picks!
Troy @ Georgia
JW: Ah, the mid-season lull. A few SEC teams are taking a break from the grueling conference schedule to welcome some cupcakes to town to hopefully give their starters a rest for a quarter or so to prepare for more challenging games as the season enters its home stretch. Georgia's riding high after their miracle victory over Vanderbilt and convincing win over Florida, and doesn't look to have much trouble this week with a Troy team, even though these two teams have equal records (and Troy is actually perfect in-conference). But then again, being 6-2 in the Sun Belt isn't nearly the same as being 6-2 and ranked in the SEC. Troy could give Georgia a game - after all, they put up 31 against Florida - but we all know that this is going to be a relatively easy Bulldog victory, in their first game in Athens since September 29th. In that game, they dominated an overmatched Ole Miss squad 45-17. I think we'll see much of the same, but with Troy keeping it a bit closer than the Rebels were able to do. Georgia by 20.
MO: Who would've picked Georgia atop the SEC this late in the season? They did need that win at Vandy to get there, but still – congrats to them, as well as to the scheduler who put this game this late in the season. It works out well for Georgia – Troy can still be considered a slightly legitimate contender, what with the good showings they've had against BCS teams, including a win over a (5-3) Oklahoma St. team. This game will be closer than most think, especially if Troy can score early at get the Dawg crowd out of the game. They won't though, so that'll be that. Georgia by 14.
Northwestern St. @ Ole Miss
MO: It's very difficult to write about Ole Miss this year, for the simple fact that we can't just print the same miserable stats week after week, can we? Last week's 17-3 loss to Auburn doesn't look all that bad on paper – after all, Ole Miss only had two wins and Auburn is a ranked team. Then you notice that Auburn had 420 yards compared to Ole Miss' 193, and suddenly it just looks like business as usual for Coach O. Northwestern St., one of the many directional Louisiana schools that SEC teams seem to take joy in stomping, hasn't had much to cheer for this season. So far this season, they've lost to Texas Tech 75-7 and were shut out 58-0 by Nicholls St. (Nicholls St.!!). So, as much as I'd love to pick an out-of-the-blue upset here, I think even Ole Miss can handle these guys, just as long as Coach O doesn't call all of his timeouts in the first five minutes of the half or anything…. Rebels by 24.
JW: Northwestern State is in Louisiana? Interesting. Honestly, I probably say that every year about this time, as some SEC school is likely to be beating up on them sometime during the season. For once, Ole Miss has an extremely favorable matchup, and they might not even waste it. Mike's shown you the stats - neither team is particularly good, but Ole Miss is still better, and it will show on the field. The Rebels might not have a very good coach, might not compete well in the SEC, might be completely inept at offense and defense, but even they can win a home game against a I-AA team with a losing record in the Southland Conference. Rebs by 30.
Tennessee Tech @ Auburn
JW: Come on, there are much more interesting games than this one. Do I really have to analyze it? Auburn is coming off a nice defensive effort over Ole Miss and is clawing its way back to relevance after the LSU heartbreak. Tennessee Tech is 4-5, or 2-4 in the Ohio Valley Conference. Auburn has wins over Florida, Vanderbilt, and Arkansas. Tech is on a four-game losing streak, that includes a beatdown at the hands of Jacksonville State. Do I need to go on? Tigers by 30.
MO: You don't, and I won't either. Tigers by 23.
Louisiana-Lafayette @ Tennessee
MO: In the last of the SEC stomps this week, Tennessee welcomes perennial sacrificial lamb Louisiana-Lafayette to Knoxville. Here's a fun fact – did you know that "Lafayette" is actually French for "The Fayette"? That was brought to you by the fact that there is so little interesting information about this game that I needed to write the previous sentence (and this one, too) to give this paragraph respectable length. The Ragin' Cajuns have given up at least 28 points in every game they've played this season, and their only win has come against a North Texas team that Arkansas recently waxed 66-7. Much as I'm loathe to say it, Tennessee gets their sixth win of the season, avoiding the embarrassment of being knocked from bowl contention by Vanderbilt for the second time in three years. Tennessee continues its scramble for national respect, winning by 35.
JW: Speaking of Cajuns, there's this great trendy, somewhat upscale cajun-style restaurant in Washington, DC called Acadiana. I highly recommend it, if you're looking for some quality Cajun food and don't mind paying a little extra for it. Sure, it's not "true" Cajun in that you'd be out of place in jeans and a t-shirt during lunchtime, but the food has a nice kick to it, and the apple/cream cheese/jalapeno spread that they provide with the rolls is to die for. If you ever find yourself near the Convention Center in DC, swing by Acadiana. Tell 'em Jay sent you. So, now that you have a nice French lesson from Mike and a restaurant pick from Jay, I'll take a moment to tell you that Tennessee will dominate Louisiana-Lafayette. There really isn't any doubt, now that they're kind of rolling after taking South Carolina in overtime thanks to the best false start call an offense could hope for. Tennessee will become bowl eligible with this win, but in my fantasy world will be shut out after going 6-6 and being left out because teams like Vanderbilt had a much better resume. Volunteers by 40.
South Carolina @ Arkansas
JW: So, can Vanderbilt officially take credit for derailing South Carolina's "magical" season? Spurrier and company aren't looking so hot now that they've dropped two straight, and are now 0-2 against the state of Tennessee. They're now of course looking to regain their composure (and cling to their ranking) as they head into Fayetteville for a matchup with the Hogs. The Gamecocks still have a chance to win the SEC East, but it certainly isn't looking as likely, especially with Darren McFadden facing their defense. Unless the defense undergoes a complete transformation this week, McFadden should have a solid game. Sure, he hasn't been running as well as he has in the past, but a defense that ranks 10th in the conference against the run should be good for what ails him. And, really, if McFadden is off his game, Felix Jones is more than happy to pick up the slack. But with Blake Mitchell back behind center, can the Gamecocks muster some offense against an Arkansas defense that held Ole Miss and Auburn to under 10 points? Somehow I doubt it. South Carolina's fall from grace will continue this week, as a mediocre Arkansas team will match up well against them at home and come away with the 10-point victory.
MO: Watching Steve Spurrier beat down Tennessee is one of my guilty pleasures of the fall – I hate that I won't be enjoying that this season. I just don't see them losing to Arkansas this week, especially since the last time the Hogs played a decent team, they lost to Auburn by a whopping score of 9-7. I like the Gamecocks to bounce back this week, if only because you have to believe the Ol' Ball Coach has something cooked up to keep Jones and McFadden from letting things get too out of hand. I'll be contrary and take South Carolina to win by 6.
Arizona St. @ Oregon
MO: Start the West Coast Hype Machine! Last week's big Pac-10 matchup (USC @ Oregon) promised to be an offensive clinic, when in reality, it was just plain offensive, with Oregon winning a 24-17 snoozer that was over by the start of the fourth quarter. This week's promise of high-quality Pac-10 football once again rests in Eugene, as the Ducks welcome the unbeaten Sun Devils. We discussed Oregon last week (over-rated offense who looked average at best against USC last week), so let's look at ASU. Yes, they've scored a lot of points this season, but just as with Oregon last week, you can count the number of quality opponents they've faced on Def Leppard drummer Rick Allen's left hand. The toughest team they've faced was Cal, who didn't record a win in the entire month of October, leaving the Sun Devils with no good wins on which to hang their collective hat. The sad part? Oregon's only loss of the season came to those same California Bear. Oy. I'll take Oregon to win, but would strongly think about taking the under if I were a betting man here. Ducks by 6.
JW: Mike might not have been excited about the Oregon/USC game, but I have to say, I was (after casually checking the final score...seriously, did you expect me to watch it?), since I actually successfully picked the outcome of that one. Now, getting to this awe-inspiring Pac-10 game...As much as I'd like to try to top Mike's superb Def Leppard reference, I just don't think I can. Sure, you can't do better than going unbeaten, but seriously, who have the Devils beaten? Ooh, a 3-point win over 3-5 Wazzu! Sure, we're all allowed our close losses to inferior teams, but I still just don't see much to get excited about in ASU's schedule. Whoever wins this game is on track to sneak into the BCS title game where, hopefully, they will proceed to get waxed by whatever SEC team makes it. I'm gonna go with what worked for me last time and say that Oregon's still the better team, and that combined with the fact that this is being played in Eugene adds up to a Ducks victory. Oregon by 10.
LSU @ Alabama
JW: You've probably read/heard enough about this guy named Nick Saban and how he has some sort of connection to LSU and Alabama, so this game is of particular importance to him and both teams, so I won't bore you with the details. Suffice to say this is a big game, regardless of who is coaching, and it ought to be plenty entertaining. Both teams sport a 4-1 record in the SEC West, but while Alabama is only seriously considering a run at the SEC championship (well, at least their most realistic fans are), LSU is still looking at the possibility of a national title (with the SEC championship being a means to get there). Both teams are coming off bye weeks after impressive victories over conference rivals. Sure, Alabama's handling of Tennessee was much easier than LSU's squeaker against Auburn, but a win's a win, and I'm sure both teams used their bye weeks well. If this game was being played on the bayou, I don't think the Tide would stand a chance. But since it's in Bryant-Denny Stadium, things are a little different. Unfortunately for Alabama, however, I just don't see the home-field advantage being enough this week. Bama still has a ways to go to be a powerhouse once again. Sure, they only have two losses, but one of those was to Florida State, and they beat Houston and Ole Miss by a combined nine points. All three of those teams LSU would have dominated start to finish. Both teams have plenty of motivation (even outside of the whole coach issue) for this one, but when both teams are motivated like this, I have to side with the more talented team. This year, that team is easily LSU. It'll be a dogfight, but I think in the end, the Tigers come out on top. LSU by 6.
MO: They're calling it the Saban Bowl, but here's what it is – the best game of the weekend. These are the types of games that college football is all about. And…. That's it! Mike and Jay have successfully completed the media exhaustion of every cliche for this game! Seriously, though, this should be a really good game – both teams are rested and on a bit of roll. The winner of the game takes control of the SEC West (if that pesky Auburn team doesn't sneak into the picture anyhow), so we already know there's a lot at stake here. I don't like this as a very high-scoring, and like Jay, I think going with the more talented team is the better way to go here. I'll take the Tigers here, pulling away with a late score to win by 11.
Vanderbilt @ Florida
MO: Two weeks after beating Steve Spurrier for the first time ever, the Commodores venture into the place where he had tormented them for years – the Swamp. I will say this – while my heart of football hearts will always rest in Dudley Field, the Swamp is truly an awesome sports environment. If you ever get the chance see a game in Gainesville (even if it's not a Commodore victory), do it. Just hope that you don't have to sit through a 71-point shaming that two certain College Picks writers had to sit through a few years back. Vanderbilt has had impressive defensive showings recently, though part of it is the fact that teams refuse to run against them. In their three losses, the Commodores have averaged giving up 209 rushing yards, but South Carolina tried to throw against the Commodores 43 times and lost by two scores. You would think that going up against a team with a great quarterback would play right into the Commodores' hands (as it should against Kentucky). Here's the problem – Tim Tebow can run. It's not even the running part that's his strength. His strength is his… strength. It usually takes two or three defensive players to bring him down whenever he wants to run the ball, which in Urban Meyer's offense is early and often. Last week, Jay and I had to stretch and play around to paint a scenario where Vanderbilt loses – it won't be that hard this week. I'm not saying that Vandy doesn't have a shot – I think they've got a great shot, especially if they can get an early lead and force Florida to keep it off the ground. I just don't see Tebow letting Florida fall behind at any point in this game. I'll take Florida here, even though Vanderbilt keeps it close and gains a little more respect in the process. Gators by 5.
JW: In this ridiculously crazy season, anything can happen. In fact, a friend of mine just relayed a quote from another sports reporter who listed a scenario where the SEC East would have a 6-way tie for the championship, with all six teams at 4-4. Sure, that's crazy enough, but after reading how it would play out, I'm not convinced that that result isn't out of the question. The SEC is strong, and the SEC East is simply beating up on itself this year, with every single team in the division showing some serious talent. Florida is reeling, having lost three of their last four, and Vanderbilt is looking to build on their big win over South Carolina. Some might say the game against Miami (OH) was a step in the wrong direction, but I say a win's a win, and this team will be ready to take on the Gators. With a few admittedly notable exceptions, the 'Dores always play Florida close, and I don't expect this game to be any different. However, while I see Vanderbilt having a strong end to the season, it's hard for my mind to honestly pick a Vanderbilt win here. Florida's still a really good team, and despite their recent stumbles, they can still score a serious amount of points. While the Vanderbilt defense should step up and slow down Tebow and company some, it won't be enough, as I just don't expect the Vanderbilt offense to get away much, even against a Florida defense that hasn't exactly stopped many teams. It will be a valiant effort by the Commodores and certainly a loss to build on while starting up a brutal and crucial stretch to the season, but ultimately it will be a loss. Sigh. Florida by 3.