SEC Football: Picks for Every Week 8 Game
Jake Roth-US PRESSWIRE
It seems like just yesterday that we were talking about preseason prognostications, but here we are in the second half of the college football season with many questions unanswered.
The biggest question in the SEC is which team is the front-runner in the battle for the East?
That may be answered this weekend, when the No. 2 Florida Gators host No. 7 South Carolina in a game that the Gamecocks really need to maintain any shot at winning the division title.
Out west, No. 6 LSU will visit No. 18 Texas A&M in a wildly intriguing matchup between Aggie quarterback Johnny Manziel and the high-octane A&M offense vs. the ultra-athletic and fast LSU defense.
How will Week 8 play out? My picks are in this slideshow.
2012 Record: 52-12 (25-30 ATS)
All lines courtesy: VegasInsider.com
LSU (-3.5) at Texas A&M
LSU DE Sam Montgomery
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
Saturday, Oct. 20 at noon ET
When No. 18 Texas A&M hosts No. 6 LSU, it will be be strength vs. strength. That is, the speed of LSU's front seven vs. the dynamic playmaking ability of Aggie freshman sensation quarterback Johnny Manziel.
Something's gotta give.
The key to this game will be for Tiger defensive ends Barkevious Mingo and Sam Montgomery to contain Manziel, keep him from escaping the pocket on designed runs and scrambles and let the linebackers clean up.
That's easier said than done.
On the other side of the ball, LSU's offensive line—which looked functional for the first time all season last week vs. South Carolina—will have its hands full against A&M's front seven, which features SEC sack leader Damontre Moore (8.5).
Florida's defense is fast and physical just like the Tigers, and the Gators held Manziel in check in A&M's season opener. LSU will do the same, but don't be surprised to see the Aggies score some points and make LSU sweat.
This one will come down to the final five minutes.
Score Prediction: LSU 27 - Texas A&M 21
Auburn at Vanderbilt (-7)
Auburn RB Tre Mason
Chuck Cook-US PRESSWIRE
Saturday, Oct. 20 at 12:21 p.m. ET
Is this the weekend that Auburn gets on the right track and dents the win column for the first time in SEC play this season?
Maybe, but offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler will have to call a better and more creative game.
Specifically, he's going to have to get running back Tre Mason the ball more.
Mason rushed 18 times for 82 yards and two touchdowns last week against Ole Miss, but only five of his carries came in the second half.
It's not a coincidence that Auburn's offense managed just 60 yards of total offense in the final 30 minutes of the game.
For Vanderbilt, it's essentially the same game plan. Behind running back Zac Stacy, 86 yards and one score, Vanderbilt stayed in the game late vs. Florida last week.
One of Auburn's primary weaknesses is tackling, and a strong performance by Stacy will exploit that.
Score Prediction: Vanderbilt 20 - Auburn 14
South Carolina at Florida (-3.5)
Florida RB Mike Gillislee
Sam Greenwood/Getty Images
Saturday, Oct. 20 at 3:30 p.m. ET
The biggest game of the day features No. 2 Florida hosting No. 7 South Carolina in a game that has massive implications in the race for the SEC East title.
All of the focus this week is on star Gamecock running back Marcus Lattimore, who is questionable for the game with a hip injury (via ESPN). Lattimore has 584 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns this season, and is squarely in the mix for the Heisman Trophy.
If he can't go, that puts a ton of pressure on quarterback Connor Shaw and backup running back Kenny Miles. Can they handle the responsibility?
Miles looked good in limited action last season, rushing for 138 yards and a touchdown in South Carolina's final two games of last season in place of Lattimore.
What Lattimore's absence could do is exploit the fact that the Gamecocks have failed to develop a deep threat in place of Alshon Jeffery, and trying to find one against the Gators isn't the easiest thing to do.
The Gators just need to keep doing what they're doing. Mike Gillislee has emerged as an absolute stud at running back, leading all SEC running backs with 102.5 yards per game.
This one will be an ugly, old-fashioned slug-fest with the home team prevailing.
Score Prediction: Florida 24 - South Carolina 14
Georgia (-27.5) at Kentucky
Georgia RB Todd Gurley
Daniel Shirey-US PRESSWIRE
Saturday, Oct. 20 at 7 p.m. ET
Any indication that Kentucky planned on being competitive for the rest of the season went out the window last weekend in a 49-7 loss to Arkansas.
Georgia is the next in line to get right against the Wildcats.
The last time we saw Mark Richt's crew, they were getting taken behind the woodshed in a 35-7 loss to South Carolina two weeks ago. With that as a motivator and two weeks to prepare for the Wildcats, the Bulldogs should have no problem with Kentucky whether linebacker Jarvis Jones plays or not.
Running backs Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall will have big days and the Bulldogs will get momentum back on their side before heading to Jacksonville, Fla. next week for the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party.
Can you say blowout?
Score Prediction: Georgia 49 - Kentucky 14
Middle Tennessee State at Mississippi State (-19.5)
Mississippi State QB Tyler Russell
Butch Dill/Getty Images
Saturday, Oct. 20 at 7 p.m. ET
No. 12 Mississippi State will look to move to 7-0 vs. the Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders this weekend, after last weekend's big win over Tennessee in Starkville.
MTSU leading rusher Benny Cunningham will miss the rest of the season with a knee injury, according to CollegeFootballTalk.com, which certainly puts a damper on the Blue Raiders' upset chances.
Bulldog quarterback Tyler Russell has emerged as a wildly effective passer, due in large part to running back LaDarius Perkins, who's averaging 100 rushing yards per game.
Mississippi State will keep the momentum going with a big win over Middle Tennessee State and will head to Tuscaloosa 7-0 and ranked in the top 15.
Score Prediction: Mississippi State 35 - Middle Tennessee State 13
Alabama (-20.5) at Tennessee
Alabama QB AJ McCarron
Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Saturday, Oct. 20 at 7 p.m. ET
All of the talk this week swirled around the status of A.J. McCarron's right knee, which he injured in the second half of Alabama's win over Missouri last week.
According to AL.com, McCarron is fine and will be ready to go vs. Tennessee.
That's good news for Alabama, because if there's any spot on the roster that they can't sustain injuries, its at the quarterback position.
Tennessee ranks 11th in the SEC in rushing defense, having given up 178.83 yards per game, which has to grab the attention of Alabama running backs Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon.
The Vols can sling the ball around the field with quarterback Tyler Bray and wide receivers Justin Hunter and Cordarrelle Patterson, but that doesn't matter if they can't run the ball. Leading rusher Rajion Neal (500 yards, five TDs) is doubtful with an ankle injury and Marlin Lane, who ranks second among running backs on the Vols with 185 rushing yards, is nursing a quad injury.
If you're one-dimensional in the SEC, often times, you get beat.
That will happen this weekend to the Vols.
Score Prediction: Alabama 42 - Tennessee 14