Not sure if you all noticed or not but the SEC West was well represented in the BCS Standings, with three teams in the Top 10. It’s showdown week in the SEC West, while the SEC East teams try to pull away from one another.
So here’s a look at this week’s games.
Last week: 3-3. Overall: 40-16
(Home team listed first. All ranking #’s refer to BCS rank.)
#24 Mississippi State vs. UAB
Dan Mullen’s Bulldogs are a real surprise at 5-2, especially with the win over Florida. (No matter what the Gators’ problems are, MSU beating them is impressive.) They get a tune-up this week against Conference USA opponent UAB, a team that pushed Tennessee to the brink a few weeks ago. MSU is not the kind of team UAB can push around. I suspect the Bulldogs to run early and often, keep it vanilla, and notch a win before heading back to conference play.
Mississippi State 27, UAB 7
Vanderbilt vs. #21 South Carolina
Vanderbilt’s two wins are two more than many thought they’d get this year, and the Commodores have played well in most of their games. South Carolina’s hangover from beating Alabama caught up to them in Lexington, Kentucky, last week and now the Gamecocks need every win they can garner. Because the East division of the SEC is incredibly down this year, South Carolina is still in first place. They won’t be if they drop another conference game, however. Vanderbilt is no pushover but they don’t really have enough to hold off South Carolina for an entire game. It should be close early but expect South Carolina to pull away late and get the win.
South Carolina 28, Vanderbilt 13
Kentucky vs. Georgia
Georgia feels better after stopping the bleeding and getting a couple of wins, but the flaws are still present. The defense isn’t great; Tennessee and Vanderbilt just don’t have playmakers. The offense has grown under Aaron Murray and A.J. Green but they are far from dominant. Kentucky is a team that has found its footing and has established playmakers in Derek Locke, Randall Cobb, and Mike Hartline on offense. If Kentucky can withstand the early onslaught, they have the tools and make-up to put together a solid comeback. The biggest key to the game is pressure. The team that can put pressure in the backfield will get the win. I’ll give Kentucky the edge with this at home, but it’ll be close.
Kentucky 24, Georgia 21
#23 Arkansas vs. Ole Miss
This is simple. Ole Miss’s best chance is for Arkansas to still be thinking about last week’s game against Auburn. Otherwise, in spite of the defensive issues the Razorbacks have, Arkansas has plenty of advantages over the Rebel Black Bears. Bobby Petrino is not going to let his team wilt, so you can throw that out the window. Will Ryan Mallett play or will backup Tyler Wilson play? It doesn’t really matter because Ole Miss will not be able to stop the passing attack. Some will say the feet of Jeremiah Masoli will give Arkansas problems the way Cam Newton did last week. Jeremiah Masoli is no Cam Newton and Ole Miss is no Auburn. The Hogs get well and win big Saturday.
Arkansas 34, Ole Miss 13
Tennessee vs. #8 Alabama
Alabama’s offense is in a dark tunnel and the only way out is a week off to get well and fix problems. The defense, while talented, is young and trying to play through injuries in their own right. These aren’t excuses; they are explanations for the Crimson Tide’s rather dismal play the last two weeks. Alabama was hurting the same way this time last year and Tennessee was one blocked field goal away from pulling off a huge upset.
Tennessee is a scrappy team. (Forget the Georgia game, as Tennessee was emotionally spent following the LSU loss.) The Volunteers would like nothing more than to notch a “signature win” in Derek Dooley’s first season at Rocky Top against arch rival Alabama, but they don’t really have the horses to do it.
It will be close for the entire game for the above-mentioned reasons, but, in the end, talent wins over desire.
Alabama 13, Tennessee 10
#4 Auburn vs. #6 LSU
There will be mounds and mounds of hyperbole about this one leading to its afternoon kickoff. LSU’s stellar defense vs. Cam Newton and Auburn’s seemingly unstoppable offense. LSU’s paltry offense vs. Auburn’s donut defense (you know, the one with the big hole in it). Les Miles’ chicanery vs. Gene Chizik’s stoic confidence. The storylines are endless.
Here are two keys to the game. First is LSU’s ability to force Cameron Newton to beat them with his arm. Arkansas tried that last week and Newton shredded them in a key fourth quarter. The difference this week is that LSU’s defensive backs are far above what Arkansas had on the field. Second, LSU must be patient with the run game and get enough out of the passing attack to back Auburn’s defense up to open run lanes for Stephen Ridley and company. That means ball control, which is something Auburn hasn’t done a ton of but has allowed other teams to control. It catches up to them this week.
Expect a close, hard-fought game, but LSU will walk out of this one undefeated, yet weary from the test.
LSU 21, Auburn 20