SEC preview and predictions – Week 2
By Jess Nicholas Editor-in-Chief
Sept. 8, 2009

Last week’s record: 11-1 (91.7%)
Season record: 11-1 (91.7%)

The Prediction Dept. had a nice opening week, marred only by a misfire in the Alabama-Virginia Tech game – giving us a red mark on our record that we’ll always be happy to take. This week, only a complete meltdown would cause us to lose the Alabama game again, given that the Crimson Tide’s opponent is Florida International. Elsewhere around the conference, Georgia tries to rebound against South Carolina, while Tennessee and Kentucky have stern out-of-conference tests ahead.

Troy’s opener against a flagging Bowling Green program didn’t go as planned. The Trojans looked quite average in their first game, even by Sun Belt standards. That won’t work against Florida. Florida predictably ate Charleston Southern for breakfast Saturday, and Troy would have to improve by 1000 percent just to make this game respectable. The Gators could probably sit their entire starting units and still win this game by two scores.
Florida 52
Troy 14

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Neither team displayed much of an offense in Week 1, but the difference is that South Carolina is undefeated and Georgia fans are now up in arms about their quarterback, their offensive philosophy and perhaps their head coach as well. South Carolina’s defense is stout but not terribly deep, so Steve Spurrier’s offense has to get off the mat quickly and start producing. Georgia, meanwhile, apparently has lost tackle Trinton Sturdivant to another knee injury, and quarterback Joe Cox looked very average against Oklahoma State. Couple Cox’s performance with a fairly ordinary running attack and Georgia could be in some trouble. Look for a low-scoring affair, but South Carolina has yet to show any competency whatsoever on offense and until the Gamecocks do, they won’t be picked to win many games.
Georgia 20
South Carolina 10

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.
Louisville 24
Kentucky 21

UCLA opened against recently woeful San Diego State and put up a nice, if not dominating win, 33-14. But Tennessee came out firing on all cylinders in its opener against Western Kentucky and shut down the Hilltoppers, 63-7. Maybe we’ve been fooled, but the progress Tennessee has made on offense makes this the first game of the year where we’ll break from a preseason prediction (we had UCLA beating Tennessee in our preseason previews) and call this one for the Volunteers. If Tennessee does follow through and win this game, it will probably assure the Vols of a postseason trip given the rest of their schedule.
Tennessee 30

Vanderbilt had a great opening effort against Western Carolina, looking good on offense and defense both and helping new quarterback Larry Smith get comfortable at the controls of the Commodore attack. LSU, meanwhile, looked completely average in an uninspiring performance at Washington. While it’s almost beyond the scope of human reason to consider the possibility of Vandy upsetting LSU on the road, stranger things have happened, and could happen, particularly if LSU’s defense doesn’t wake up. But people who are ascribing too much credence to Vanderbilt’s success Saturday are making a mistake. Western Carolina has not been a strong team of late and Week 1 always seems to produce a lot of false positives. Look for LSU to find another gear now that its SEC schedule has started.
LSU 30
Vanderbilt 14

A year ago, these two teams played to a final score of 3-2 that was profoundly fitting for both schools. By the dawn of the new year, neither team would be coached by the men who watched over the 2008 debacle. The score this year doesn’t figure to be anywhere near as low, as both Mississippi State and Auburn looked competent on offense in their respective openings. Unfortunately, those opening games came against lower-division Jackson State and favorite SEC whipping boy Louisiana Tech, respectively. Although it’s hard to call either of these teams “good” right now, Auburn should have the advantage in this one based solely on a raw talent advantage and the fact the Tigers were already familiar with their offense thanks to the 2008 dalliance with the spread. Look for Mississippi State to have a few bumps in the road yet.
Auburn 20
Mississippi St. 13

IDLE: Arkansas, Ole Miss