Another wild week of SEC football kicks off Thursday night as Auburn travels up to Morgantown to take on the Mountaineers of West Virginia.
Alabama goes to Neyland to take on Tennessee in the “Third Saturday in October” rivalry game, and Georgia makes its way down to Baton Rouge for a tussle with the defending champion LSU Tigers.
Wow, what another great week this is going to be. But before, I get to all of that, let’s recap last week’s action.
Week Eight Recap
My record for picking the SEC games this season was 26-5 going into last week.
Wins from Bama, UGA, Kentucky, and Tennessee gave me four wins for the week, while a Carolina loss brought my weekly record to 4-1 and 30-6 for the season.
Taking the week off was a good break for the Auburn Tigers following back-to-back losses. However, as supposed by many, the time off gave way for a couple of distractions.
In Tommy Tuberville’s weekly press conference, he denounced rumors that he had indeed suffered a stroke the previous week. What?!
Who even thought he had a stroke? I had not heard anything of this until the press conference, nor had most of the college football world.
Why would he even have to address something like this?
Tuberville went on to declare that he planned on staying with the Auburn program for at least 10 more seasons. Good! I am sure that relieves the pressure from the Auburn nation on questions surrounding the program at this point.
One more side note worth mentioning during the off week is the fact that one of Auburn’s best athletes, junior LB Trey Blackmon, will unfortunately miss the remainder of the season after sustaining a cracked bone in his right wrist.
The Gators perhaps had what seemed to be the longest bye week ever following the crushing victory over LSU. Two weeks to prepare, from this dangerous Gator team that has already tasted the agony of defeat this season, doesn’t look good for any team. Watch out UK!
Mississippi State vs. Tennessee
Granted, it was the Mississippi State Bulldogs whom the Volunteers defeated last Saturday to give them their first SEC win of the season, but the Vols seemed pretty impressive as their backs were pushed up against the wall.
State seemed unimpressive as usual, reverting to its usual ways.
My game prediction was UT winning 13-12, when in fact they won 34-3.
Arkansas vs. Kentucky
Kentucky had to fight for this one. After opening the season a perfect 4-0, the ‘Cats lost two straight, and for most of the game it appeared they might drop their third straight.
However, they determined Saturday not to make it three in a row as they took the lead with just over two minutes left to play.
Arkansas deserves some recognition. They beat Auburn in the previous week and were one point away from erasing some early season miseries.
My game prediction was Kentucky 30 and Arkansas 17, when the final was actually 21-20 in favor of UK.
Vanderbilt vs. UGA
Everyone’s Cinderella this season, Vanderbilt, has finally witnessed the clock strike midnight. Wow, doesn’t this seem oh so eerily similar to what happened with their brothers on the hard court last winter?
Well, don’t you give up yet, Mr. Commodore, there is till much to play for in this long season. Three SEC games await, and winning two of the three is well within your reach.
As for UGA, you managed to win, and that’s about it. Not to take away from the victory by any means, but this wasn’t supposed to be a flashy game. Vandy was stiff and you managed to control the game enough to pull it out. Now, you have bigger fish to fry this weekend as you travel to Cajun country.
My game prediction was UGA winning 31-14, when they won by the score of 24-14. Why? Why couldn’t you just score one more TD to help make me look like a genius, Mr. Dawg?
LSU vs. USC
I had this game on the radar, expecting Spurrier to work his magic, and it all seemed to be going my way...well, until the second half started, that is.
Carolina had some gutsy, perhaps even lucky play calling in the first half to give them an impressive seven-point lead at half. But all that changed as the Tigers scored 14 unanswered to win the second half and the game.
LSU, you really had me fooled there for a minute. I thought Florida had put you down and USC was finishing you off. But you showed grit and determination. Congratulations on a great victory on the road Saturday night.
My game prediction was USC 27 and LSU 23. However, Miles and Co. won 24-17, thus giving me my only loss for the week.
Game of the Week: Ole Miss vs. Alabama
Ole Miss came to Tuscaloosa looking to upset the Tide. Being the first team to take a lead on Alabama and being the first to score on them in the first quarter were two things in their favor in this endeavor.
Yet it all went south as Bama scored the next 24 points.
Then the Rebels came storming back, starting with a fake field goal in the third quarter. They scored the next 17 points before falling to the Tide 24-20.
Ole Miss did have a drive going late in the fourth before an incomplete pass ended their chances.
At the same time, it left the Tide faithful scratching their heads for a third straight game, wondering what happened at halftime and why the Crimson Tide stumbled to the finish.
My game prediction was 31-13 in favor of the Tide. What seemed to be a blowout in the first half turned into a nail-biter as the actual score was 24-20, with Bama hanging on to win.
My key thoughts for Week Eight were:
1) Can Bama continue its streak of not allowing a first quarter point this season? Answer: no.
2) Can LSU come out with any intensity following the brutal loss to Florida? Answer: yes.
3) Can anyone stomach the State-UT game? Answer: unknown. Anybody here watch the game?
4) Can Auburn manage to embarrass themselves again even in the bye week? Answer: almost a no, but yes during TT’s press conference Monday.
Okay, on to Week Nine...
Week Nine Outlook
This is the only team with the week off. After opening the season with eight straight games, this team deserves a week off.
Their record is 5-3 (2-3). Their coach is probably looking to hit the greens this weekend for a change.
Mississippi State 2-5 (1-3) vs. Middle Tennessee State 2-5 (1-3)
Quite frankly, I just don’t watch nor keep up with the Blue Raiders, unless of course they are playing any team of interest, as was the case with their season opener when they played Troy. They lost that matchup but managed to surprise the Maryland Terrapins the following week, 24-14.
MTSU is familiar with SEC football, having played several SEC teams in the past, and having already played one this season, Kentucky, where they lost by six points.
Outside of that, I just don’t know much about them. So to sit here and speculate would be an injustice.
State has been up and down this season. After pulling off an upset over Vanderbilt two weeks ago, they managed to get crushed by Tennessee this past weekend.
The question on everyone’s mind, at least for those who follow either of these programs, is which team will show up to play this weekend.
State has struggled horribly on the road this season. Luckily for them this game is at home.
This could actually present a good matchup. Just look at the records above. So, I’m taking a shot in the dark here with my...
Game Prediction: MSU 21, MTSU 20
Vanderbilt 5-2 (3-2) vs. Duke 3-3 (1-3)
Indeed, the Geeks shall inherit the turf, particularly this weekend.
David Cutcliffe, head coach of the Blue Devils, is no stranger to the ways of the SEC, having played for the legendary Paul “Bear” Bryant at Alabama and having coached at Tennessee and Ole Miss.
So far this year the Devils have impressive wins over Navy and Virginia, but have sustained crushing defeats at the hands of Georgia Tech and Miami.
Vanderbilt was on top of the world just three short weeks ago, following the College GameDay appearance on campus and the upset of Auburn. Now the ‘Dores have been brought back down to reality following back-to-back losses to Mississippi State and Georgia.
This week will present a real challenge to see if Vanderbilt can bounce back and finish the season on a strong note. The question is whether they have enough left after so many emotional highs to start this season have drained them.
What do I think? I think that the Geeks may need to stick to the roundball, but a good ole gridiron matchup will be not be bad.
Game Prediction: Vandy 24, Duke 14
Ole Miss 3-4 (1-3) vs. Arkansas 3-3 (1-3)
The Rebels poured it all out onto the field last week. They fought their way back into the Bama game, and with the help of a great fake field goal call in the third, they captured all momentum and had a chance to win in the end.
This is not a bad team by any stretch. They beat a very good Florida team and have gone toe-to-toe with every team they have played this season. They very well could be undefeated. That being said, this team is perhaps the most dangerous in the league, flying under the radar but possessing the ability to beat anyone.
Having experienced an up and down season, this is their week to win again, but will they do it?
Well, this is Nutt’s chance to show the Arkansas faithful what they are missing with him gone. He will pour his heart into this game.
The Hogs have three very close wins this season, a respectable loss, and three losses I wouldn’t wish upon many teams.
It is obvious that anything they can get this year will be a plus as Petrino tries to rebuild and keep respect until he has time to put his plan in place.
Petrino beat the team that almost hired him to be the head coach some seven years ago. That sent a strong message, and I think he prepared well for that game. That’s definitely a plus there.
Can he beat the team that now has the coach whom he replaced? I think he understands how all these scenarios work, but I just don’t think he has enough to beat them yet, not even at home. I just don’t see him having many more “pluses” this weekend, nor do I see many for the remainder of the season.
Game Prediction: Ole Miss 34, Arkansas 17
Auburn 3-3 (1-3) vs. West Virginia 4-2 (2-0)
The Tigers have struggled this season, to say the least. Having lost Trey Blackmon for the season during the off week just adds insult to injury, so to speak, considering that the defense is basically their only stronghold left.
Now the Tigers must go on the road to play in a very hostile environment Thursday night. As any fan can tell you, they have not fared well in night games this season. Nor have they fared well with ESPN on the scene.
On a positive note, Auburn has had nearly two weeks to prepare and get things ready.
Can they stop the landslide? Can they find someone to take the reins at the QB spot? Can they run out of Morgantown having stopped the bleeding and halted a three-game skid?
Well, that all depends on...
West Virginia, after dropping two non-conference games early on this season, is back on track to win the Big East and make a run for a BCS spot.
Pat White is back. However, a question of concern is, will he pick right back up where he left off? That will be a key factor in this game, I believe.
I think even more important for the Mountaineers is controlling mistakes and taking advantage of Auburn’s mistakes. That may sound like a no-brainer there, but I think the team that controls the turnover battle and takes advantage of the other team’s mistake will come out on top.
Home field is always a plus, and that makes the difference in this game.
Game Prediction: West Virginia 27, Auburn 17
Kentucky 5-2 (1-2) vs. Florida 5-1 (3-1)
The Wildcats finally put an end to their losing woes last weekend by coming from behind to beat Arkansas by one point. They will have a much more difficult task this weekend as they take on the mighty Gators of Florida.
I think their pass game is their strength. If they can execute early with the short stuff underneath, it might just open up the longer passes. If they falter and fail to get off to a good start, it could be a long day for the ‘Cats.
On the defensive side of the ball, they have to be able to at least slow down Tebow. Stopping him may be an impossible task, but making others make plays is what will give them a chance.
The Gators have had a long layoff to think about the win over LSU and prep for this one. Perhaps the layoff may have been too long.
What do you do in two weeks following such a huge win? How do you keep the players focused? How do you bring them back down to earth?
These are some tough questions to tackle, and everyone knows about the hangover effect. But what do you do with a hangover and a bye? Wow, you might just go insane thinking about all of that.
Well, I can guess that Urban has them ready and spent plenty of time working on the mistakes that have popped up so far this season.
It might be closer than expected, but not close enough for an upset.
Game Prediction: UF 35, UK 21
Alabama 7-0 (4-0) vs. Tennessee 3-4 (1-3): “Third Saturday in October”
Alabama puts its perfect record on the line this Saturday night. They had better get used to it—now everyone is gunning for them.
The pressure is definitely on them to show up and perform. So far this season they have played great on the road. Will it continue in Knoxville?
The question surrounding them is their second half woes. They start every game on such a high note. They dominate the first two quarters, but seem to leave it in the locker room. That will come back to bite them, hard, if they don’t fix this soon.
To dispel some of this, Saban allowed some insight as to why this has been the recurring factor in their closer than wanted wins after dominating the first half of games this year.
According to an interview with Saban following last week’s win over Ole Miss, Bama was getting away from the initial game plan at the half, resorting to more conservative play, thus hurting them and getting them out of a rhythm.
What I took from that was that halftime changes were being made, adjustments if you will, when really no adjustments were needed, thus killing the momentum of the offense and giving teams a chance to get back in it.
The defense will be without its great anchor Terrence Cody for this game, as well as the next. That will factor in, no doubt. Will it be enough to make a difference?
Tennessee has been in every game this season, except for the Florida game. They are starting to make a little noise following a great win over Mississippi State last week. Will that gained momentum continue this week?
Fulmer and the Vols have their backs against the wall here, almost like a wounded animal. That could be very dangerous for any team they face, especially for Alabama in a rivalry game that Fulmer is so very familiar with.
I think he brings his best this week, but will it be enough to upset the Tide? Many people think so. They think this is the week for the Tide to fall.
Well, with the adjustments made by both teams in respect to their ailments, I think...
Game Prediction: Bama 37, UT 17
Game of the Week: UGA 6-1 (3-1) vs. LSU 6-1 (3-1)
The Dawgs have turned things around since the first half of the Bama game. I think anyone who has followed them would agree. In fact, I have heard that statement made several times in the past couple of weeks.
Georgia is a well-balanced team. When clicking on all cylinders they can be as lethal as any in the country.
If Richt can have them ready, I think they will show up and show out. He has lost too many big games that have decided the fate of his Georgia teams. With it all on the line he has to win to keep pace with Florida.
LSU managed to surprise me last week, coming back with intensity on the road after getting crushed by Florida the week earlier.
That being said, I have learned one thing: Don’t count Miles out of any game, ever. He apparently has a way with swaying and motivating his teams to play and overcome adverse situations.
On the road, down, and about to be two back in the SEC West, the Tigers did what they had to do to win it, much like last season’s championship run. It’s never really fancy, just getting the W’s on the board. I think any true fan will take that any day. I know Justin Goar would agree with me on that one.
What I don’t think he will agree with me on is the fact that I feel I must count Miles out of this one, after learning not to count him out.
Game Prediction: UGA 23, LSU 20