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SEC Preview Week Five: Rebound Time and East vs. West

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Last week I went 3-4 with my picks. Yeah, not my best outing by far. However, like a team rebounding after a loss, I will regroup, learn from that experience, and press forward into this week’s set of games.

Check out the weekly podcast, SEC Football Breakdown, which is released on Tuesdays. It is also available on iTunes.

More teams play out of conference games this week, giving them time to regroup for the next one-third of the season. The conference games are all East vs. West affairs as teams fight for position.

Miss. State (2-2; 1-2) vs. Alcorn State (3-0; 2-0 SWAC)
The Bulldogs roll into this game after a big win against Georgia. They need not overlook this Alcorn State team; they are a solid competitor out of the SWAC, with a balanced attack on offense. MSU’s defense is not spectacular, but it is good enough when they get the offense rolling. Chris Relf took a big step in development against Georgia.

Alcorn State won’t be a pushover, but Mississippi State should have more than enough to win this one.
Mississippi State 27, Alcorn State 13

Auburn (4-0; 2-0) vs. UL Monroe (1-2; 0-1 Sun Belt)
Auburn has to be hoping for a breather after the first four games they’ve played. That win against SCar was impressive, and a big part of that was the play of quarterback Cam Newton, who currently leads the league in rushing (121.5 yards/game; 485 total yards, 5 TDs). I highly doubt Newton will need to run that often against UL-Monroe, and that should allow Auburn a chance to work more guys in the mix for the offense.

The defensive backs’ play for Auburn has been spotty at best this year. This UL-M team runs a similar system to Ark. State – are there any Sun Belt teams that don’t run the spread? – and they will certainly challenge the Tigers’ defensive backs. Auburn’s best pass defense is pressure from the defensive line creating havoc in the backfield.

This one will probably be a snoozer as Auburn will play conservatively, get the win, and get ready for a long stretch of tests in the SEC.
Auburn 34, UL-Monroe 10

Georgia (1-3; 0-3) vs. Colorado (2-1; 0-0 Big XII)
Georgia … wow. I sit amazed at how below ordinary this team looks and plays. The Bulldogs offense is vanilla and the defense hasn’t totally come around to the 3-4 switch yet. This is a long road trip from Athens, coming off three straight conference losses. The pressure on Richt is very real because of all the off-the-field stuff. Coupled with the on-field performance (or lack thereof), it has many questioning if Richt has lost control of this team.

Georgia faces a tough test to “get well” against a road opponent this weekend. Lucky for them, Colorado still isn’t very good. Oh, they’re not as bad as they were, but the Dan Hawkins experiment is still under review as well. It’d be tempting to pick Georgia to lose this, but in the end they still have better athletes and that should be enough to make the difference.
Georgia 24, Colorado 21

Vanderbilt (1-2; 1-1) vs. Connecticut (2-2; 0-0 Big East)

Starting the season, I really thought Vanderbilt was a one win team and maybe even a zero win team. Well, the ‘Dores have played very well in every game and the win against Ole Miss was impressive. UConn hasn’t been very impressive so far (No Big East team has). Vandy’s best chance is to establish the running game with Warren Norman and give Larry Smith time to throw. UConn is going to attack Vanderbilt with their power run game and try to wear out the defense. Vanderbilt will play with a ton of heart, but that fortitude, will only keep this a close game. UConn will wear them out late and get the win.
Connecticut 23, Vanderbilt 21

Ole Miss (2-2; 0-1) vs. Kentucky (3-1; 0-1)
I’m as surprised as anyone that Ole Miss shellacked Fresno State to the tune of 55 points Saturday night. That was an impressive turnaround. Where they go from here remains to be seen.

Kentucky looked impressive up until last week in the Swamp. Now both teams are looking for that first conference win. Kentucky’s defense struggled against the running QB from Florida last week. Conventional thinking says Jeremiah Masoli will be asked to do a lot on the ground to try and exploit that again this week. However, as good as he is, Masoli doesn’t have the line in front of him.  Trey Burton does.

Last week’s win notwithstanding, the Ole Miss defense hasn’t been very special. Derek Locke ran through Florida’s defense. If given time, Mike Hartline can get the ball to Randall Cobb enough to keep him involved. Home field advantage makes this one close, but Kentucky simply has more playmakers.
Kentucky 31, Ole Miss 24

LSU (4-0; 2-0) vs. Tennessee (2-2; 0-1)
LSU’s offense hasn’t had anything to resemble a passing game so far. If there was ever a week to sort it out, it’s this week against Tennessee, as the Vols gave up 429 yards passing to UAB. Yeah. Let that soak in for a minute. Tennessee needed double overtime to beat a team yearly rumored to be folding the program. Tennessee has struggled to get the running game going in the last two outings and if they want to have any chance, balance is important. Too bad they have to play the best rush defense in the conference this week.

LSU won’t have the night time start they like for this one but it won’t matter. Better players, better coaches (yes, until Dooley proves otherwise, Miles gets ranked higher), and home field advantage are just a few reasons LSU will throttle Tennessee Saturday.
LSU 33, Tennessee 10

Florida (4-0; 1-0) vs. Alabama (4-0; 1-0)
Could this be a preview for the SEC Championship Game? The signs certainly point that way, but there’s still a lot of football to play, including this game. Alabama’s bread and butter is still the running game and that was reasserted last week in the comeback win against Florida (Mark Ingram should be the Heisman frontrunner, by the way. He’s better than he was last year). Florida’s rush defense is only allowing a little over 80 yards a game, though Florida gave up yards to Kentucky’s Derek Locke.

Florida is not what they used to be on offense, but they are still loaded with talent and I expect they will attempt to attack the young secondary of Alabama. However, Alabama’s guys grew up a lot last week and made big plays down the stretch. Florida is not a bad team, but they are not complete either; the offense still has a ways to go. Alabama is a complete team; that defense grew up last week and that’s going to be the difference in the game.
Alabama 24, Florida 21

Last week’s record: 3-4. Overall record: 28-8

 

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