SEC Football Week 3: Preview and Predictions Against the Spread
The 2011 SEC football is off to a wild start.
In the first two weeks, we pretty much had it all: big wins, painful loses, blowouts, goal-line stands, shootouts, onside kicks, and thrilling upsets along the way.
It should be no different in Week 3, as there are several big in-conference matchups and fun out-of-conference battles.
As I do each week, I will preview each SEC game and make a prediction against the spread.
I will also be held accountable for my picks by posting updated results each and every week (my Week 2 picks included below):
Record Straight-Up Week Two: 9-1
Record Straight-Up Season: 20-2
Record Against the Spread Week Two: 4-4
Record Against the Spread Season: 13-7
With my pick of LSU 31 Mississippi State 20 in a previous article and pick of Georgia 55 Coastal Carolina 3 for the only cream puff game of the week, we kick off the rest of the picks for Week 3...
Click through the slideshow to see my preview and prediction for each of this Saturday's games.
Auburn at Clemson
Game Info: September 17, 12 p.m. ET (ABC)
Key for Clemson: Run the ball.
While the first two games were only against Troy and Wofford, Clemson's talented RB Andre Ellington has run for 254 yards. More impressive is his 6.4 yards per carry average. Against an Auburn defense that ranks 118th in the nation in rushing defense, Clemson should run, run and run again on offense.
Key for Auburn: Stop the run.
After allowing 560 rushing yards over the first two weeks of the season, the Tiger defense must find a way to slow down opposing backs. If they don't do a better job this week, it could lead to a road defeat.
Predicted MVP: Auburn RB Michael Dyer
With all the focus on the Auburn rush defense and the Clemson running backs, look for Dyer to once again steal the show and rumble for over 120 yards on Saturday.
Bottom Line: The Clemson home crowd will make an impact, and the home Tigers will run the football effectively on offense.
However, Auburn will be more effective on defense against Clemson, who at times struggled to move the ball against Wofford last week, than they were against No. 16 Mississippi State.
Look for both teams to score plenty of points, but for Auburn to have more overall offense than Clemson and pull off a road victory.
Predicted Score: Auburn 38, Clemson 34 (line: Auburn +3.5)
Ole Miss at Vanderbilt
Game Info: September 17, 12:21 p.m. ET (SEC Network)
Key for Ole Miss: Quarterback play.
The Rebels have used five quarterbacks since last year, and three in the first two games of this season. That is not a recipe for success.
Either Randall Mackey or Zack Stoudt has to find a way to play consistently and lead this offense and this team to a victory.
Key for Vanderbilt: Avoid turning the ball over.
One of the only blemishes in Vanderbilt's big win over Connecticut last week was the fact that the Commodores turned over the ball three times. They can not afford to do that and beat SEC teams.
Predicted MVP: Ole Miss RB Jeff Scott
Look for the freshman to get plenty of touches, and yards, after a break-out game last Saturday.
Bottom Line: New head coach James Franklin and Vanderbilt will be 3-0 if they beat Ole Miss (and they actually have a shot).
Their motivation should be sky high, and the home field should help them a bit, too. However, look for Ole Miss, who is a bit better than they have played so far, to be too much for the Commodores.
Predicted Score: Ole Miss 31, Vanderbilt 21 (line: Ole Miss -2)
Tenneessee at Florida
Game Info: September 17, 3:30 p.m. ET (CBS)
Key for Tennessee: Stop the run.
Florida has been dangerous running the ball and using short screen passes so far this season. The Gators average an impressive 248 rushing yards per game. The Tennessee defensive front seven will need to fly to the ball and make sure tackles to keep Florida in check.
Key for Florida: Stop the pass.
Tennessee has developed a potent passing game with QB Tyler Bray throwing down field to star receivers like Justin Hunter, who has had a ridiculous 16 catches and 302 yards in just two games. For the Gators to win this one, they must disrupt the Vols passing game.
Predicted MVP: Florida RB Chris Rainey
The quick and dynamic Gator running back has over 300 yards of total offense and three touchdowns through the first two games of the season. Look for him to break several big plays again on Saturday.
Bottom Line: Tennessee poses a big challenge to Florida and could pull of the upset with a prolific passing game and capable defense.
However, winning in the Swamp is never easy, and the Gators will be pumped for their first SEC test. Chris Rainey and the Florida running game will be the difference in a tight ballgame.
Predicted Score: Florida 34, Tennessee 26 (line: Florida -9.5)
Navy at South Carolina
Game Info: September 17, 6 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
Key for Navy: Run defense.
Any team that plays South Carolina will have the goal of slowing down Marcus Lattimore (288 rush yards and four touchdowns in two games for South Carolina). If Navy can find any way to limit the Gamecocks rushing yards, they may have a shot at staying in this ballgame.
Key for South Carolina: Pass offense.
Even though they have played two quality opponents, it is still a concern for Steve Spurrier that his team ranks dead last in passing offense in the SEC. This may be the game to work on that and develop some vertical threats to compliment Lattimore's ground efforts.
Predicted MVP: South Carolina WR Alshon Jeffery
Spurrier will work on the passing game, and Jeffery will benefit and have a huge game against Navy.
Bottom Line: Like any service academy team, Navy works hard all game long and will challenge this Gamecocks squad.
However, in the end, Navy doesn't have the weapons that Carolina has, and it will end a somewhat lopsided affair.
Predicted Score: South Carolina 38, Navy 17 (line: South Carolina -16.5)
Louisville at Kentucky
Game Info: September 17, 7 p.m. ET (ESPNU)
Key for Kentucky: QB Morgan Newton
The big and talented quarterback has struggled mightily to start the season. He has completed just 16 passes in two ballgames and has only two touchdown passes compared to four interceptions. He must step up his game to ensure a victory in this rivalry game.
Key for Louisville: Pass protection.
Louisville has allowed seven sacks in just two games to start the season. Against a solid Kentucky defense, the Cardinals need to tighten up in pass protection or it could be a long day.
Predicted MVP: Kentucky LB Danny Trevathan
He will be the best player on the field for either team and should equal or surpass his SEC-leading average of 13 tackles per game.
Bottom Line: To be blunt, neither of these teams is very good.
Louisville lost to a Sun Belt team last Saturday, and Kentucky was pushed hard by a MAC opponent. However, Kentucky has a better defense than Louisville and will rely on that this Saturday. Wildcats win a close one.
Predicted Score: Kentucky 26, Louisville 20 (line: Kentucky -5.5)
Troy at Arkansas
Game Info: September 17, 7:30 p.m. ET
Key for Troy: Passing offense.
Troy's only hope to stay close in this mismatch is to try and keep pace with the prolific Arkansas offense and throw the ball early and often. Their capable quarterback, Corey Robinson, threw for 258 yards and a touchdown against Clemson this season and has a nice arm.
Key for Arkansas: Rush offense.
Everyone knows Arkansas can throw the ball and has all-world receivers. This game gives Arkansas another tuneup game to get a consistent running threat developed and ready for SEC play.
Predicted MVP: Arkansas RB Ronnie Wingo Jr.
Look for Wingo to get more touches, eclipse 100 yards for the first time this season and once again catch a few balls out of the backfield.
Bottom Line: Troy is a decent football team that should battle for the Sun Belt title this season. Arkansas is a very good football team that should battle for the SEC title this season.
The score will reflect those two realities.
Predicted Score: Arkansas 45, Troy 14 (line: Arkansas -22.5)
North Texas at Alabama
Game Info: September 17, 7:30 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Key for North Texas: Rush offense.
North Texas has a solid running back in Lance Dunbar, and he must step up and produce more than he has in the first two games (just 105 rushing yards and a touchdown on the season). Dunbar must find a way to gain tough yards against the top defense in college football if the Mean Green have any shot of covering the spread, much less winning.
Key for Alabama: Rush defense.
Alabama has only allowed 49 yards rushing per game in 2011. If they can bottle up the North Texas offense early, this game could get ugly.
Predicted MVP: Alabama RB Eddie Lacy
Running behind starter Trent Richardson, Lacey has averaged a strong 7.5 yards per carry so far this season. In a blowout, look for Lacey to get plenty of carries, yards and scores.
Bottom Line: Alabama is the No. 2 team in the nation and favored by 46 points in this game.
North Texas is 0-2 and has allowed an average of 44.5 points per game this season.
It won't be close at any point in the ballgame.
Predicted Score: Alabama 48, North Texas 7 (line: Alabama -46)