College Football 2011: Picking the SEC's Winners Week-to-Week

Colby Lanham@Colby1226Correspondent IMay 30, 2011

College Football 2011: Picking the SEC's Winners Week-to-Week

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    ATHENS, GA - NOVEMBER 27:  Head coach Mark Richt and Hairy, mascot of the Georgia Bulldogs, celebrate their 42-34 win over the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at Sanford Stadium on November 27, 2010 in Athens, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    While the 2011 college football season may be three to four months away, the time is upon the players and coaches to begin anew and rebuild. The SEC will especially face one of the biggest challenges of all, losing key playmakers such as Cam Newton and A.J. Green to the NFL. Despite this, the SEC remains one of the most favored and talented conferences in all of college football.

    Both sides of the SEC are wide open this year. In the East, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida will be the triple threats to contend with, and South Carolina is an early favorite to win the East. In the West, there are significant power struggles between Auburn, Arkansas and LSU, with none having any early edges or advantages at this point. 

    The 2011 season will certainly be an interesting one, as Florida and Georgia aren't the teams they used to be, and the West is loaded with a three-way battle for the crown. Here are my week-to-week predictions for the 2011 SEC college football season.

Sept. 10: South Carolina Edges Georgia, Mississippi State Upsets

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    ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 04:  Head coach Steve Spurrier of the South Carolina Gamecocks looks on against the Auburn Tigers during the 2010 SEC Championship at Georgia Dome on December 4, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    South Carolina @ UGA

    A classic early season rivalry, South Carolina took advantage of an A.J. Green-less team and upset Georgia 17-6 in Columbia last season. Now they have the chance to do it again with no Green or Kris Durham, and no established, clear-cut No. 1 receiver at the moment.

    Despite who starts at quarterback for the Gamecocks, whether it's Steven Garcia or Connor Shaw, South Carolina has the chance to beat Georgia in its own stadium, as long as they stop the running game.

    Winner: South Carolina by a touchdown.

    Mississippi State @ Auburn

    Auburn has to once again rebuild and hope they get their quarterback battle resolved in fall camp. Nick Fairley will be sorely missed in the front seven as the primary anchor of the entire defensive line, not to mention the loss of Cam Newton, the engine to Gus Malzahn's spread offense.

    Don't be surprised if Auburn is upset in their own stadium to start out the season. Mississippi State is an up-and-coming team who will be hungry to start the season on a high note.

    Winner: Mississippi State pulls off the upset.

Sept. 17: LSU Beats the Trap, Vandy Wins One and Muschamp Gets First SEC Win

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    ARLINGTON, TX - JANUARY 07:  Head coach Les Miles of the Louisiana State University Tigers reacts to a field goal during the game against the Texas A&M Aggies during the AT&T Cotton Bowl at Cowboys Stadium on January 7, 2011 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo b
    Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    Mississippi State @ LSU 

    When you're in a division with both Arkansas and Auburn—and with Auburn undefeated and Arkansas in second place—it's hard to get back to the National Championship.

    LSU stays home to face MSU, who despite being near the bottom, is a very competitive team that could cause LSU some problems. They will early on, but the Tigers manages to make it out of this trap game with a W.

    Winner: LSU by 10 points.

    Ole Miss @ Vanderbilt

    These are two teams that, quite frankly, have been in need of glory for quite some time now.

    After a humiliating loss to Jacksonville State last season, Ole Miss has been in need of a big defensive overhaul.Vanderbilt is in the same mold, but has a better defense to work with. This game won't attract too much attention from anyone other than Rebel and Commodore fans, but Vanderbilt gets a conference win due to the porous Ole Miss defense.

    Winner: Vanderbilt by 10.

    Tennessee @ Florida

    After having a shot to get in the first few non-conference confidence boosters, new head coach Will Muschamp will get his first SEC shot at home when the Gators host the Tennessee Volunteers in the Swamp.

    Both these teams have certainly lost the edge they used to have, but they maintain strong histories and foundations to build upon. Expect this game to be competitive all the way through to the end, but Florida scraps by with a late field goal.

    Winner: Florida by three.

Sept. 24: Georgia, Florida and South Carolina Roll; Alabama/Arkansas a Must-See

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    NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 04:  Head coach Bobby Petrino of the Arkansas Razorbacks reacts in the first half against the Ohio State Buckeyes during the Allstate Sugar Bowl at the Louisiana Superdome on January 4, 2011 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by
    Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    Ole Miss @ UGA

    Georgia may be missing Green, but they have more than enough to deal with a dismal Ole Miss defense.

    Winner: UGA by 14 points or more.

    Florida @ Kentucky

    Brian Hartline is a good QB for the Wildcats, but Muschamp has Florida off and running to win by double-digits in this matchup.

    Winner: Florida by 14 points.

    Vanderbilt @ South Carolina

    South Carolina has had Vanderbilt's number for a while now.

    Don't expect that to change, especially with Alshon Jeffery and Marcus Lattimore available. Expect instead a big game from these guys, and South Carolina looks like they may be on their way back to Atlanta once again.

    Winner: South Carolina by 14 points.

    Arkansas @ Alabama

    The biggest SEC game of the week will likely be between these two top-tier West rivals.

    Both must break-in new QBs and find a way to replace their big-time playmakers in Julio Jones and Ryan Mallett. The offenses are productive, but this one will be decided by defense. If it comes down to that, Alabama holds an edge here, as Arkansas has had too inconsistent a defense the last few years.

    Winner: Alabama by seven.

Oct. 1: Big Tests for Florida/South Carolina, LSU Rolls and MSU Upsets—Again

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    TUSCALOOSA, AL - OCTOBER 02:  DeMarcus Milliner #28 of the Alabama Crimson Tide is flagged for pass interference on this missed touchdown reception to Carl Moore #9 of the Florida Gators at Bryant-Denny Stadium on October 2, 2010 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Alabama @ Florida

    A big-time matchup between two big-time teams, the Crimson Tide will see if they have what it takes to survive in the Swamp.

    Playing in one of the hardest places to play in college football, it will certainly be a game of emotion, and could help to propel Muschamp's head coaching career at Florida if he's able to get one over Alabama's Nick Saban. Unfortunately for Will, Saban's too good for him here,—even in the Swamp—and the Crimson Tide overtake the Gators in this matchup.

    Winner: Alabama by seven.

    Auburn @ South Carolina

    South Carolina is certainly tired of Auburn overtaking them, especially twice in one season after barely losing to them, then getting hammered by them in the SEC Championship game.

    This time though there's no Cam Newton under center/shotgun. This could be the Gamecocks' chance to finally beat them. And they manage to actually come away with the win.

    Winner: South Carolina by seven.

    LSU @ Kentucky

    LSU is a talented team, and while Kentucky is relentless, they are still devoid of playmakers and leaders with the loss of Randall Cobb.

    LSU wins, but Kentucky shows them more to keep their foot on the accelerator.

    Winner: LSU by 14.

    Mississippi State @ UGA:

    Here is an interesting matchup. MSU continues their relentless, persistent play all season, and it pays off here with an upset of the Bulldogs in Athens.

    At this point, it's still unclear as to what the UGA defense really wants to do and what playmakers will emerge to assist UGA quarterback Aaron Murray.

    Winner: MSU by three.

Oct. 8: Big East/West Implications with South Carolina/Kentucky, Arkansas/Auburn

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    AUBURN, AL - NOVEMBER 13:  Head coach Gene Chizik of the Auburn Tigers against the Georgia Bulldogs at Jordan-Hare Stadium on November 13, 2010 in Auburn, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Arkansas @ Auburn

    An SEC West clash with the winner likely vying for one of the top two spots in the SEC West race, Arkansas shows they still have plenty of offense without Ryan Mallett around, and Petrino begins to comes into contention with LSU for the top spot in the SEC West.

    Winner: Arkansas by 10.

    Florida @ LSU

    This is one of the biggest SEC games of the week, which has the opportunity to make the nighttime slot as the prime time game. A big determining factor for these two teams, but LSU comes away with a win, and Les Miles is in the thick of the SEC West race.

    Winner: LSU by 10.

    Vanderbilt @ Alabama

     Expect a slower game, as Alabama should have Vanderbilt under wraps by the beginning of the fourth quarter.

    Winner: Alabama by 21.

    UGA @ Tennessee

    One of the smaller games, but a very important one for the SEC East, expect a very competitive game, but UGA pulls away late in the fourth quarter.

    Winner: UGA by eight.

    Kentucky @ South Carolina

    Another pivotal SEC East matchup; Kentucky keeps it interesting early and manages once again to somehow give South Carolina a big "L."

    Winner: Kentucky by seven.

Oct. 15: Alabama/UGA Take Care of Business, LSU/South Carolina Face Traps

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    COLUMBIA, SC - OCTOBER 30:  Tyler Bray #8 of the Tennessee Volunteers huddles with his team against the South Carolina Gamecocks during their game at Williams-Brice Stadium on October 30, 2010 in Columbia, South Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty I
    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    Alabama @ Ole Miss

    Unless Ole Miss can show some sort of defense, Alabama will simply cruise to a win and enjoy their time in Mississippi.

    Winner: Alabama by 28.

    Florida @ Auburn

    There's no telling what will happen when these orange units meet on the field of battle in Death Valley. This may come down to another defensive struggle in which Muschamp's defensive prowess becomes a big asset for the Gators.

    Winner: Florida by seven.

    LSU @ Tennessee

    This is the perfect definition of a trap game for the Tigers, especially for an away game. Tennessee will  certainly bring a better game than expected, but Miles won't let his team be brought down when the West could be his to take.

    Winner: LSU by 10.

    South Carolina @ Mississippi State

    Another trap game, South Carolina will be facing a much-improve MSU team than the one they faced a couple seasons ago.

    If MSU shows something offensively and has an answer for Alshon Jeffery and containing Lattimore, they can get to the Gamecocks through their persistence and the home crowd ringing their cowbells.

    Winner: MSU by eight.

    UGA @ Vanderbilt

    On a depleted team that lacks notable players to makes plays, Vanderbilt will be hard-pressed to beat a more depleted UGA, even at home.

    Winner: UGA by 17.

Oct. 22: How the West Was Won

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    AUBURN, AL - OCTOBER 23:  Quarterback Jordan Jefferson #9 of the LSU Tigers breaks a tackle by Neiko Thorpe #15 of the Auburn Tigers at Jordan-Hare Stadium on October 23, 2010 in Auburn, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Tennessee @ Alabama

     By now Alabama's quarterback has gotten comfortable and does enough in Saban's offense to win. Having Trent Richardson as a running back certainly helps too, but there are still questions about the passing game though.

    Winner: Alabama by 14.

    Arkansas @ Ole Miss

     Like others having to break-in new QBs, Arkansas' is settled down and tries to get an easy win, which they do. Ole Miss needs playmakers on defense and a new defensive coordinator.

    Winner: Arkansas by 21.

    Auburn @ LSU 

    The game of the night is a classic SEC West clash.

    LSU is closer to maintaining dominance, and Auburn is just trying to win to stay in the top three. But here, Les Miles capitalizes on the amount of talent lost by the other SEC West teams.

    Winner: LSU by 10.

    Mississippi State @ Kentucky

     A nice competitive game between two SEC teams that are lower on the food chain, but Kentucky is lower than MSU by this point in the season.

    Winner: MSU by eight.

Oct. 29: UGA Sneaks One by in Jacksonville, USC Rolls, but East Struggles

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    JACKSONVILLE, FL - OCTOBER 30:  Orson Charle #7 of the Georgia Bulldogs attempts to catch a pass against Ronald Powell #7 of the Florida Gators during the game at EverBank Field on October 30, 2010 in Jacksonville, Florida.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty
    Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

    Arkansas @ Vanderbilt

    Another team low on the food chain, Vanderbilt has no chance for a big upset. The Razorbacks easily get a win.

    Winner: Arkansas by 17.

    Ole Miss @ Auburn

     Did Ole Miss get a defense yet? If not, Auburn wins by double-digits.

    Winner: Auburn by 17.

    Mississippi State @ Kentucky

     A pretty competitive game for two of the lower teams in the SEC, but MSU is the favorite here and not without plenty of reason.

    Winner: MSU by eight.

    UGA @ Florida

     A classic SEC East battle, these are always games that always come down to the wire. Here, the Bulldogs are able to overcome a fourth quarter lead to pull past Florida in Jacksonville.

    Winner: UGA by four.

    South Carolina @ Tennessee

    South Carolina had their way with the Volunteers' defense last season, and Marcus Lattimore and Alshon Jeffery ran wild. This time should be no different.

    Winner: South Carolina by 14.

    Vanderbilt @ Arkansas

    Vanderbilt is making little progress, and Arkansas stays in the thick of the SEC West race.

    Winner: Arkansas by 17.

Nov. 5: That Old Familiar Feeling

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    BATON ROUGE, LA - NOVEMBER 06:  Drake Nevis #92 of the Louisiana State University Tigers in action during the game against the Alabama Crimson Tide  at Tiger Stadium on November 6, 2010 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
    Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    LSU @ Alabama

    In what looks to be a highly competitive game, this could go either way. But give the edge to LSU for a late field goal and a defensive stop to keep their status as the top team in the West.

    Winner: LSU by three.

    Ole Miss @ Kentucky

    Two lower-tier SEC teams, Ole Miss continues to show everyone how bad their defense is.

    Winner: Kentucky by eight.

    South Carolina @ Arkansas

    The Gamecocks will surely be set to derail the Razorbacks after the pummeling they received last season.

    But it can't happen. It won't be a pummeling, but Arkansas wins by at least two touchdowns.

    Winner: Arkansas by 14.

    Vanderbilt @ Florida

     With a team like Vanderbilt in the Swamp, it's tough to play when there's a smaller crowd there like it will be.

    Winner: Florida by 10.

Nov. 12: Florida/South Carolina Will Determine East Winner, Kentucky Edges Vandy

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    GAINESVILLE, FL - NOVEMBER 13:  Marcus Lattimore #21 of the South Carolina Gamecocks rushes during a game against the Florida Gators at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on November 13, 2010 in Gainesville, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    Alabama @ Mississippi State

    MSU may be an up-and-coming team, but they're still in transition, and Alabama's defense becomes too much to handle.

    Winner: Alabama by 10.

    Auburn @ UGA

    Auburn stole the show with their comeback in OT last season, keeping their undefeated season alive. Now UGA avenges that loss and stays in the race for the SEC East.

    Winner: UGA by eight.

    Florida @ South Carolina

    This matchup determined the winner of the East last season and could do the same this year. Columbia will be going crazy, but the Gators establish themselves in the fourth quarter, unless they stop Jeffery through the air.

    Winner: Florida by three.

    Tennessee @ Arkansas

    Competitive at first, but the Arkansas offense proves too much for the Volunteer defense to handle at this point.

    Winner: Arkansas by 10.

    Kentucky @ Vanderbilt

    Classic rivalry between these two teams. Brian Hartline of Kentucky proves to be the difference-maker here.

    Winner: Kentucky by eight.

Nov. 19: Mississippi State Plays Spoiler, UGA Tries to Escape the Trap

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    ORLANDO, FL - JANUARY 01:  Alabama Crimson Tide Head Coach Nick Saban stands on the sideline during the Capitol One Bowl against the Michigan State Spartans at the Florida Citrus Bowl on January 1, 2011 in Orlando, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty I
    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    Mississippi State @ Arkansas

     Arkansas better be careful with a trap game like this for them late in the season. I think MSU puts up a great fight to upset Arkansas on their own turf.

    Winner: MSU by three.

    LSU @ Ole Miss

    Bad defense equals an easy win for the Tigers.

    Winner: LSU by 21.

    UGA @ Kentucky

    An SEC East trap game for the Bulldogs, who must stay grounded to win this game.

    Winner: UGA by 10.

    Tennessee @ Vanderbilt 

    A battle of the teams in Tennessee, a battle the Volunteers win easily.

    Winner: Tennessee by 17.

Nov. 26: Alabama Avenges 2010 Iron Bowl, LSU Outlasts Arkansas

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    BATON ROUGE, LA - NOVEMBER 28:  Head Coach Les Miles of the LSU Tigers, center, celebrates after defeating the Arkansa Razorbacks 33-30 in overtime at Tiger Stadium on November 28, 2009 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
    Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    Alabama @ Auburn

     The Crimson Tide and the Tigers will clash in a very heated, historical rivalry. It will be a closer game than people think, but Alabama's defense proves superior in the end.

    Winner: Alabama by seven.

    Arkansas @ LSU

    Another heated rivalry, the Razorbacks and the Tigers will feature some well-powered offenses. On this day though, LSU outshines even Bobby Petrino's offense.

    Winner: LSU by three.

    Mississippi State @ Ole Miss

    It's always tough to go to your rival's own field and win, but MSU gets it done, and Ole Miss' season ends right there.

    Winner: MSU by 10.

    Kentucky @ Tennessee

     With both teams so devoid of playmakers, it will come down to the play of the quarterbacks; Tennessee has a slight advantage here.

    Winner: Tennessee by seven.