SEC Weekend Primer
By Jeremy Hillman
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Four conference games are on tap in the SEC this week.
As the first hints of cool autumn air rush through the south, week four of the SEC football season is upon us. Teams will continue their battle to reach the top of the conference or avoid the bottom.
Big games in Columbia and Auburn, and interesting tests for Georgia and Arkansas highlight this week’s action. If the past few weeks are any indication, it should be another fun day of Southeastern Conference football.
Last season, I finished the season 81-14 picking SEC games straight up and finished 49-36 in games I picked against the spread. I will keep track of how I fare in 2012 and post results each week:
Week 3 Straight Up Picks: 10-1
Week 3 Against The Spread: 8-3
Total Season Straight Up Picks: 28-5
Total Season Against The Spread: 16-13
Now, here is a look at my preview and predictions for week four of the SEC football season:
Kentucky at Florida (Noon, SEC Network)
Predicted Game MVP: Florida QB Jeff Driskel
The matchup: Kentucky is coming off one of the worst losses for its program in quite some time; an overtime heartbreaker against lowly Western Kentucky. The poor start to the season has likely ended coach Joker Phillip’s run in Lexington, and has the Wildcat program in a rut. On the flip side, Florida is riding high with a 3-0 record, including quality road wins over Texas A&M and Tennessee. Look for the good times to continue for the Gators and the bad times to lurch on for the Wildcats. Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel will run and pass for over 300 yards combined and the Gator front seven will force Kentucky quarterback Max Smith into hurried passes and poor decisions. Gators win big at home.
Predicted Score: Florida 39 Kentucky 14 (line: Florida -24)
Ole Miss at Tulane (Noon)
Predicted Game MVP: Ole Miss WR Donte Moncrief
The matchup: Tulane is 0-2 on the season, coming off a lopsided loss at Tulsa. Ole Miss is also coming off a lopsided loss, to Texas, but is 2-1 on the year. The Tulane offense is poor and the defense isn’t much better. Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace should be able to move the ball consistently against the Green Wave and find SEC-leading receiver Donte Moncrief early and often. Look for Ole Miss to pull away early in this game and never let it get close.
Predicted Score: Ole Miss 33 Tulane 13 (line: Ole Miss -18)
Missouri at South Carolina (3:30, CBS)
Predicted Game MVP: South Carolina RB Marcus Lattimore
The matchup: Last weekend, Missouri earned a big win over Arizona State at home and gained some confidence that could have been somewhat lost after being beaten soundly by Georgia in week two of the season. They now must travel on the road for their first away SEC game and face a good South Carolina squad. The Gamecocks have some questions at quarterback, both with injury and skill sets. However, the South Carolina run game and defense are top notch. Look for Missouri to stay close in this game early behind a decent passing game. However, in the long run Gamecock running back Marcus Lattimore will have a huge day and the South Carolina defense won’t allow Mizzou to keep up on the scoreboard.
Predicted Score: South Carolina 31 Missouri 19 (line: South Carolina -10)
Florida Atlantic at Alabama (5:00)
Predicted Game MVP: Alabama RB TJ Yeldon
The matchup: This Alabama team is scary good right now. The Tide has outscored its opponents 131-14 over the first three games, including shutting out their last two opponents. That is one of many reasons that Bama is favored by 50 points in this ballgame. Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron will have another solid day with no turnovers and will be busy handing the ball off to running backs Eddie Lacy and TJ Yeldon. Florida Atlantic has very little defense and will likely be gouged by the Tide backs. However, the Owls put up 20 points last weekend against a good Georgia defense and should avoid getting shutout in this game. Tide wins big, but barely misses covering this huge spread.
Predicted Score: Alabama 55 FAU 6 (line: Alabama -49.5)
LSU at Auburn (7:00, ESPN)
Predicted Game MVP: LSU RB Kenny Hilliard
The matchup: LSU probably isn’t as good as most people think and Auburn probably isn’t as bad as most people think. This rivalry game has a history of crazy events, close battles and surprises. Could this Saturday be another chapter in the story? Unlikely, based on Auburn’s struggles to tackle on defense and inept passing attack on offense. LSU will give the ball to dynamic running back Kenny Hilliard over and over, allowing him to exploit an average Auburn linebacking group and rack up first downs. On defense, LSU will use its monster defensive line to pressure young Auburn quarterback Kiehl Frazier and try and cause him to make mistakes. Auburn’s only chance in this one is to win the turnover battle with smart play from Frazier (LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger has been known to throw picks) and make some big plays on special teams (Auburn blocked two kicks versus La-Monroe and returned a kickoff for a score against Mississippi State). Do those things and it could be a close contest. However, if they fail to do those two things, LSU is the better team and will win pulling away.
Predicted Score: LSU 35 Auburn 17 (line: LSU -20.5)
Rutgers at Arkansas (7:00, ESPNU)
Predicted Game MVP: Arkansas RB Knile Davis
Bottom Line: This one is tricky to predict. After Arkansas coach John L. Smith’s strange press conference this week, you begin to wonder about the psyche of the football team. Have they given up? Sure looked like they gave up against Alabama last week. They get star quarterback Tyler Wilson back from injury in this game, and Razorback fans hope his leadership and skill will rally this team for a much needed win. Rutgers is coming off a road victory against a good USF team and is hungry to beat an SEC opponent. Scarlet Knight running backs Jamison and Huggins have combined for over 440 yards and three rushing touchdowns in just three games to start the season, and will be a challenge for this porous Arkansas defense. However, I look for Arkansas to play with intensity, rally around the return of Wilson, and win a close battle with Rutgers.
Predicted Score: Arkansas 28 Rutgers 20 (line: Arkansas -7)
Akron at Tennessee (7:30)
Predicted Game MVP: Tennessee WR Justin Hunter
Bottom Line: Akron, now coached by Terry Bowden, is a bad football team. UCF beat Akron 56-14 earlier this season. Tennessee will be able to name its score. I expect a huge game from the Tennessee passing game, including QB Tyler Bray and WR Justin Hunter, and a steady performance by the Volunteer’s defense. Rocky Top wins big, bouncing back from the disappointing loss to Florida at home last weekend.
Predicted Score: Tennessee 49 Akron 10 (line: Tennessee -34)
Vanderbilt at Georgia (7:45, ESPN2)
Predicted Game MVP: Georgia QB Aaron Murray
Bottom Line: Vanderbilt has been one of the bigger disappointments of the season so far in the SEC. Failing to put away South Carolina in week one when they had them on the ropes, and then losing an ugly game at Northwestern in week two. Georgia, on the other hand, has had a strong start to the year and looks like they could coast to an 11 or 12 win regular season. The Commodores will have some success running the ball with RB Zac Stacey, but the passing game will be shut down by a strong and athletic Bulldog defense. On offense, Georgia will pound the ball at Vanderbilt with RB Todd Gurley and open up the passing game with QB Aaron Murray getting the ball to sure-handed WR Michael Bennett. Vandy will put up a fight early and fade late.
Predicted Score: Georgia 31 Vanderbilt 13 (line: Georgia -16)
Cream Puff Game:
Texas A&M 55 South Carolina St 3
Mississippi State 45 South Alabama 7