It’s still early in the 2011 SEC football season but five of the games this week feature teams playing against higher quality opponents than they did in week one, while some of the conference is still in tune-up games.
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Mississippi State @ Auburn
The key match-up in this one is the Mississippi State offensive front vs. the Auburn defensive front. MSU pushed little ole Memphis all over the field with the power run as did Utah State to Auburn. If the Tigers hope to have any chance in this game, they have to limit or at least contain the Bulldogs rushing attack to some extent. Auburn’s offense is incredibly potent when it has the ball and I’m not sold MSU’s defense is all that special. Gene Chizik’s teams have shown remarkable ability to improve after poor performances and this one being at home gives the Tigers the slightest of edges. This should be a really competitive game right down to the wire.
Auburn 28, Mississippi State 24
South Carolina @ Georgia
Georgia was totally overrated coming into this season, as it is playing as many new and unproven players as it will have to. South Carolina is almost exactly what it was last year—a team that ultimately overpowers you with the offensive weapons it has or one that will fold under pressure. The question is, can the Georgia defense rebound enough to open that window for the offense to do its magic? The Gamecocks defense isn’t very special and I have a feeling that Mark Richt’s bunch knows their whole season could be a wash if it doesn’t pull this one out of the bag. Desperation and a home field advantage point to a win for the Bulldogs, but it won’t come easy.
Georgia 27, South Carolina 26
Alabama @ Penn State
Alabama’s defense completely mashed Penn State last year and the defense is on pace to be the same huge mountain to climb again this year. It has two things that negate some of the firepower Penn State carries—size and speed. Alabama’s offense can ill afford to turn the ball over the way it did against Kent State though. Four interceptions to the Nittany Lions is the recipe for disaster in Happy Valley and you can believe the PSU defense will be angling to create those opportunities. In the end, Alabama’s defense should be too much for Penn State to overcome.
Alabama 24, Penn State 16
Cincinnati @ Tennessee
Tennessee is a young team that is continuing to improve under second-year coach Derek Dooley and is led by quarterback Tyler Bray. Cincinnati is a quality opponent in the Big East and will give the Vols a bit of a test, but it is one it can certainly pass.
UT 31, Cincy 21
Connecticut @ Vanderbilt
James Franklin’s Vanderbilt team plays with fire and purpose and that will aid it in being that traditional fly in the ointment to teams that mostly outmatch it in other ways. Connecticut will be tested more than it may expect but still has the better athletes on the field, and that gives it enough edge to win.
The Rest of the Week Two SEC Schedule
Central Michigan @ Kentucky
Kentucky played horrible on offense last week but Joker Phillips has not forgotten how to coach that side of the ball. The Wildcats have a lot to improve upon before the grueling SEC schedule starts and this week should show signs of that improvement.
Kentucky 28, Central Michigan 17
UAB @ Florida
It should be against the law for Florida to play teams like UAB. At least it should have to play Florida in Legion Field in Birmingham, AL, and the Gators’ first team defense should have to provide parking security. That would be more of a challenge.
Florida 45, UAB 9
New Mexico @ Arkansas
Arkansas’ offense looks just as potent as advertised. It gets another tune up game to work out any kinks in the second team this week.
Arkansas 46, New Mexico 16
Northwestern State @ LSU
LSU gets a much easier draw than last week. The Tigers could play the entire second and third teams and still win big.
LSU 44, NWS 6
Southern Illinois @ Ole Miss
Ole Miss isn’t as bad as they were last year but it has to learn how to finish a game. Southern Illinois is a good opponent but Ole Miss should have enough speed to create opportunities needed for the win. If it doesn’t, the flashing light you see in Oxford, Mississippi, will be the Houston Nutt career dissipation light. It just went into overdrive.
OM 20, SI 14