SEC preview and predictions – Week 3
By Jess Nicholas
Sept. 14, 2009
Last week’s record: 5-1 (83.3%)
Season record: 16-2 (88.9%)
Prior to the season, the Predictions Dept. correctly called the UCLA-Tennessee game, then regrettably changed its outlook after getting fooled by Tennessee’s offensive explosion in Week 1 against a woeful Western Kentucky team. Always go with your first reaction, right? This week, the first reaction says Tennessee gets slaughtered by Florida down in Gainesville. Here’s what’s going on around the SEC in Week 3.
TENNESSEE at FLORIDA
Anyone who dislikes the Tennessee program will be pulled up to a television this week, waiting for this game. New Tennessee head coach Lane Kiffin spent the offseason running his mouth. Perhaps it was a strategy to attract media attention to a flagging program, or maybe Kiffin just doesn’t know any better. Regardless, it had the effect of drawing the focus of Florida and its already-hyper-focused head coach, Urban Meyer, and given the respective starts of these two schools, the real question here is how much Florida’s margin of victory is going to be. Bettors should be cautious not to underestimate Tennessee’s defense, however, and for that reason, don’t expect any 90-point outbursts on the part of the Gators. But Tennessee likely won’t be in this game for long, and don’t expect Meyer to call off the dogs if the Gators get up by a comfortable margin.
NORTH TEXAS at ALABAMA
See our extended preview!
GEORGIA at ARKANSAS
No one knows right now how good either of these teams is. Arkansas overwhelmed a bad Missouri State team in its opener and was off last week. Georgia lost to an Oklahoma State team that subsequently lost to Houston, then found itself locked in an unlikely offensive struggle with a ho-hum South Carolina team last week. Assuming the Georgia offense is coming around, the Bulldog defense ought to be able to hold its own against the Razorbacks. The Arkansas defense isn’t highly thought of, so if Joe Cox is even competent at quarterback, the Bulldogs ought to at least out-athlete the Hogs. But it figures to be close.
LOUISVILLE at KENTUCKY
The Wildcats’ opener couldn’t have gone much better than it did. Kentucky beat Miami-Ohio 42-0 and quarterback Mike Hartline looked solid at the same time. Meanwhile, Louisville was busy beating Division-IAA Indiana State by the ho-hum score of 30-10 and not exactly rolling up the offensive numbers in the process. This has been a screwy series as of late, and is probably the hardest game on the Week 2 slate to pick. This is a statement game for Louisville and head coach Steve Kragthorpe in particular. Louisville has more talent overall but Kentucky looked better in the opener. This one should be fun to watch. (Editor’s note: Yes, we did run this preview a week ahead of schedule. You are not experiencing déjà vu.)
FLORIDA ATLANTIC at SOUTH CAROLINA
The Gamecocks need to rebound from a heartbreaker against Georgia and not fall victim to a small-school opponent, as many teams have this year. Florida Atlantic was off last week after getting drubbed by Nebraska in its opener. Until more is known about the South Carolina offense, any game is going to be difficult. South Carolina’s offense needs to resemble the Georgia loss and not the North Carolina State win for Gamecock fans to feel comfortable about the future. Luckily, Florida Atlantic ranks near the bottom in both rushing and passing defense.
South Carolina 31
Florida Atlantic 14
MISSISSIPPI STATE at VANDERBILT
This game will tell a lot about how good Auburn really is. Mississippi State waddled through half its opener against Jackson State, then stayed with Auburn for a half before imploding after halftime. Vanderbilt has looked well-coached in its first two games and was simply overwhelmed by superior talent against LSU. The Commodores have looked better on offense than expected, even though their passing game continues to struggle. That should be helped by a game against the Bulldogs, who have a young defense that looked quite shaky against Auburn. Many observers feel Mississippi State is the worst team in the SEC this year; a loss to Vanderbilt would effectively prove it.
Mississippi St. 17
WEST VIRGINIA at AUBURN
Keeping in mind that the Predictions Dept. originally called the UCLA win over Tennessee correctly in the preseason and then changed course the week before the game, we’ll skip making the same mistake here. Although West Virginia head coach Bill Stewart has been roundly criticized for – well, for not being Rich Rodriguez, the Mountaineers played well offensively in their first two games and this is their chance to prove they aren’t going to fade away in the post-Rodriguez era. The concern for West Virginia is turnovers – WVA is among the nation’s worst in turnover margin after two weeks – but the offense is more balanced than in the past and Auburn’s offense is still feeling out its new steps. This one could be the game of the week.
West Virginia 29
LOUISIANA-LAFAYETTE at LOUISIANA STATE
LSU gets a break after beating an improving Washington team in the opener and a scrappy Vanderbilt team in Week 2. Louisiana-Lafayette, however, is coming off an upset win over Kansas State, so LSU best not get too overconfident. Barring some kind of cosmic occurrence, though, the Bayou Bengals will win big.
SOUTHEASTERN LOUISIANA at MISSISSIPPI
Before Ole Miss completely goes to sleep on this one, be aware that SE Louisiana scored 41 and 69 points, respectively, in its first two games and is among the nation’s leaders in passing offense. Does that mean an upset is in the making? Not unless Ole Miss can’t find the keys to the locker room, but stranger things have already happened this year (see the ACC’s struggles against the entirety of Division-IAA).
Ole Miss 56
SE Louisiana 21