SEC Football: Picks for Every Week 9 Game
Here we are in the final week of October, and SEC games just took on a whole new meaning.
No. 11 Mississippi State will travel to Tuscaloosa to take on No. 1 Alabama in a battle of unbeaten teams. The Bulldogs are still in search of respect, while the Crimson Tide looks like a machine that shows no signs of letting up.
Meanwhile, down in Jacksonville, the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party will take on new meaning this year as the SEC East championship will likely be decided by the winner. There is an outside shot that South Carolina can slide into the Georgia Dome, but for all intents and purposes, the Georgia vs. Florida game is the de facto SEC East Championship Game.
Which SEC teams get wins in Week 9? I make my picks in this slideshow.
2012 Record: 58-12 (30-31 ATS)
All lines courtesy of VegasInsider.com
Kentucky at Missouri (-13.5)
Saturday, Oct. 27 at Noon ET
It looks like Missouri quarterback Corbin Berkstresser will start for the Tigers this week in place of James Franklin, who is likely to miss his second straight game with a strained knee ligament, according to the Associated Press (via ESPN).
Berkstresser only completed 12 of 29 passes in Missouri's 42-10 loss to Alabama two weeks ago, but did lead the Tigers to a 24-20 win over Arizona State in September.
With that being said, this is Kentucky, a team that's arguably the worst team in the SEC.
There is good news for Kentucky, though. Head coach Joker Phillips told Kentucky.com that freshman Patrick Towles has been practicing this week and could split time with Jalen Whitlow.
However, that won't be enough to topple the Tigers in Columbia. Kentucky's defense is giving up 427.3 yards per game and will allow the Missouri offense to get on track no matter who's taking the snaps.
Score Prediction: Missouri 27 - Kentucky 17
Tennessee at South Carolina (-14)
Saturday, Oct. 27 at Noon ET
Both of these teams are stumbling into this matchup in need of a big win.
Tennessee has lost three straight, including last week's 44-13 shellacking at the hands of Alabama, while South Carolina has lost two straight and is on the tail end of a brutal stretch that has seen the Gamecocks travel to LSU and Florida in consecutive weeks.
One team is going to turn things around this week, and it's going to be South Carolina.
The Gamecocks will be beat up after back-to-back games against two fast and physical teams, but Tennessee is ripe for the picking after the Vols packed it in early against the Tide last week.
Connor Shaw is expected to get the start at quarterback after he was benched last week vs. the Gators. Head coach Steve Spurrier loves to play musical quarterbacks, but he knows that Shaw is the key to get the Gamecocks to a good bowl game. Against a secondary like Tennessee's, expect Shaw to have a big day.
South Carolina will down Tennessee and the coaching rumors in Knoxville will kick into overdrive...or whatever is one step further.
Score Prediction: South Carolina 31 - Tennessee 14
Ole Miss at Arkansas (-6)
Saturday, Oct. 27 at 12:21 p.m. ET
Don't look now, but Arkansas has won two straight games. At 3-4, this team is squarely back in the mix for a bowl game. How many of you thought that was possible a few weeks ago?
Is Arkansas' recent success an indication that the Razorbacks are back, or is the winning streak a direct result of games against Auburn and Kentucky—two of the worst teams in the SEC?
We'll find out on Saturday against a good Ole Miss team.
Quarterback Tyler Wilson has thrown for more than 370 yards in three of the last four games, including 372 yards and five touchdowns in Kentucky's rain-shortened win two weeks ago over Kentucky.
He may have to repeat the feat this week, because Ole Miss can move the football and defense is more of a myth to Arkansas than it is reality.
Running back Jeff Scott and quarterback Bo Wallace have proven over the first half of the season that they are the perfect fit for that Hugh Freeze offense.
Can you say shootout?
Score Prediction: Arkansas 45 - Ole Miss 42
Florida (-6.5) vs. Georgia (in Jacksonville, Fla.)
Saturday, Oct. 27 at 3:30 p.m. ET
The World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party between Florida and Georgia takes on a unique flavor this weekend, when No. 2 Florida will take on No. 10 Georgia in Jacksonville, Fla.
Unless Florida loses to Georgia and Missouri, South Carolina wins out and Georgia loses to either Ole Miss or Auburn, the cocktail party will determine the SEC East champion.
This will be fun.
Florida comes in riding high on the heels of a stifling defense and the SEC's third-best rushing offense, but still loaded with questions after it has been unable to get the passing game going. With that being said, Jeff Driskel hasn't been great this season because he hasn't been asked to be.
Georgia only has one loss, but the Bulldogs don't have a lot of momentum after struggling with Kentucky in the game following their 35-7 road loss to South Carolina.
The Bulldogs will get linebacker Jarvis Jones back, but lose defensive lineman Abry Jones, who had ankle surgery this weekend.
Florida will continue its national championship push with a win over Georgia, and will get its passing offense going in the process.
Score Prediction: Florida 24 - Georgia 14
UMass at Vanderbilt (-32.5)
Saturday, Oct. 27 at 7 p.m. ET
Maybe a second straight bowl game isn't out of the question for Vanderbilt after all.
James Franklin's team finds itself at 3-4 after its 17-13 win over Auburn last weekend, and a visit from UMass should keep the Commodores hot as they head into November, when their schedule eases up a bit.
Zac Stacy set the Vanderbilt career rushing record last week when he rushed for 169 yards against Auburn, and that record is sure to grow this weekend vs. the Minutemen.
Can Vanderbilt make a bowl game? Games against Kentucky, Ole Miss, Tennessee and Wake Forest down the stretch certainly doesn't eliminate the possibility.
Score Prediction: Vanderbilt 35 - UMass 13
Texas A&M (-15) at Auburn
Saturday, Oct. 27 at 7 p.m. ET
Auburn's offense is going to have to turn around soon, right?
Well, judging from the performance of Scot Loeffler's offense during Auburn's first two months, maybe not.
The Tigers currently rank 122nd out of 124 Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) teams in total offense.
Just how bad is it in Auburn?
The current Auburn offense is significantly worse than Tony Franklin's in 2008 and Hugh Nall's in 2003, according to Justin Lee of TheWarEagleReader.com, two of Auburn's worse offenses in recent memory.
Auburn's defense has been better, but Johnny Manziel and that high-flying Texas A&M offense is going to move the football, which means that the Tigers are going to have to outscore the Aggies.
Is that even possible?
Texas A&M will get a big road win and Auburn's season of tumult will continue.
Score Prediction: Texas A&M 31 - Auburn 17
Mississippi State at Alabama (-24)
Saturday, Oct. 27 at 8:30 p.m. ET
Talk about two teams that are mirror images of each other.
Alabama and Mississippi State have both stayed undefeated this season by beating inferior competition, forcing turnovers, running the football and getting remarkably efficient play from quarterbacks A.J. McCarron and Tyler Russell, respectively.
Something's gotta give, and it's going to be Mississippi State's offense.
The Bulldogs are largely unknown, but running back LaDarius Perkins has established himself as a legitimate SEC running back this season, quietly leading the conference with 103.43 yards per game.
However, this is Alabama, not South Alabama or Troy.
Mississippi State will need to play its best game of the season against Alabama, but even that might not be enough. The Bulldogs will have to force Alabama into mistakes, and McCarron simply doesn't make mistakes.
Tide running backs Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon will play keep away from the Mississippi State defense, and Alabama will pull away in the fourth quarter.
Score Prediction: Alabama 42 - Mississippi State14