It’s mid-season and time for teams to start making preparations for the stretch run towards bowl game berths and maybe even more. This week is all in-conference games.
Florida (4-2, 2-2) @ Auburn (4-2, 2-1)
This is by far the most interesting game of the SEC schedule. Both teams come into this game severely impacted by injuries. For Florida, the loss of its top two quarterbacks all but sealed their fate against LSU last week and it’s still up in the air as to who will be behind center for this game. Starter John Brantley is out so the Gators need Jeff Driskel to be healthy enough to go. Otherwise, that offense is incredibly limited even with all the playmakers in the backfield and on the outside.
Auburn’s QB situation is a complete mess. Barrett Trotter has poise but hasn’t been able to hit the broad side of the barn the last few weeks, and true freshman Kiehl Frazier is hardly ready for primetime. Couple that with injuries to the Tigers’ top two receivers and it makes for an incredibly one-sided and predictable offense with the running game. Which team’s defense can make the most out of its opportunities? I’m going to go with Auburn. That defense isn’t good but it has improved to at least be able to do some things right as long as the offense can produce. Their weakness is against a strong passing game, and Florida without Brantley doesn’t have much of one.
Florida’s defensive front has been pushed around a lot by two power running teams and I expect Auburn will try and be successful doing the same thing this week. Call it a hunch but something tells me Auburn is going to put together enough on offense to pull off this win at home against the Gators.
Pick: Auburn 24, Florida 21
South Carolina (5-1, 3-1) @ Mississippi State (3-3, 0-3)
South Carolina had a bit of a resurgence last week with QB Conner Shaw taking the reigns of an offense that had mostly sputtered the first half of the season. While it was an impressive performance, expectations need to be tempered a bit as Kentucky’s excuse for a defense is hardly a test.
This week is similar for the Gamecocks, as they travel to take on the increasingly disappointing Bulldogs of Mississippi State. MSU rode a wave of hype from last year into this season and was the darling pick among many SEC prognosticators. Well, that stock has plummeted and what’s left is a steaming pile of failure. The Bulldogs offense, while impressive on the ground, is way too inconsistent even against a rather suspect South Carolina team. This is one of a couple of games that could go either way but I’ll take Marcus Lattimore and Steve Spurrier to lead the Gamecocks to victory.
Pick: South Carolina 24, Mississippi State 16
LSU (6-0, 3-0) @ Tennessee (3-2, 0-2)
Tennessee is already beat up and now has to face the rabid attack of the LSU defense. You can expect bruises on top of bruises for the Volunteers. Also, Tennessee has no way of stopping LSU’s power rushing attack and will give up plenty of yards on the ground to the Tigers running back by committee approach. Tyler Bray has talent but not nearly enough to lead the Vols to a win here.
Pick: LSU 34, Tennessee 10
Alabama (6-0, 3-0) @ Ole Miss (2-3, 0-2)
Alabama’s redemption tour continues with a stop at The Grove. There will be more action there than on the field as Alabama will coast to another snoozer win as it prepares for a couple of big rivalry games right around the corner. Ole Miss has nothing on offense to counter Alabama’s deep, ferocious defense, and the Rebels defense will look like Swiss cheese for Trent Richardson and company to run through Saturday.
Pick: Alabama 31, Ole Miss 3
Georgia (4-2, 3-1) @ Vanderbilt (3-2, 1-2)
Vanderbilt is a team that puts up a good fight but a good fight for it is still getting beat by better, deeper teams in the conference (see South Carolina and Alabama for examples of this). Georgia isn’t special. It still plays soft, but their defense is plenty to keep Vandy in check all day. Georgia’s offense needs to use this as a good practice to work out any remaining kinks if it hopes to make it to the top of the East by running the table for the rest of the year. It gets another step closer this week.
Pick: Georgia 27, Vanderbilt 13