The SEC football schedule gets more interesting after each week. Last week, we saw Arkansas knock off Georgia in a really exciting game. You can tell that Ryan Mallett’s confidence is at a premium and Georgia just seems to be good enough to keep it close but not good enough to win them as they have fallen in back to back games. This is the first 0-2 conference start for Mark Richt at Georgia. Alabama took Duke to the woodshed rolling in 62 points. Mark Ingram returned to the field and had 151 yards on 9 carries. (Not too shabby.) And finally in the one that none of us picked – Vandy knocked off Ole Miss in Oxford. Jeremiah Masoli is a one man gang at Ole Miss but he doesn’t play defense and clearly Houston Nutt’s problems are just beginning at Ole Miss.
Listen to the SEC Football Breakdown podcast for more in depth analysis and discussion of these games. Here’s a look at week four previews and predictions. (HOME TEAM in ALL CAPS)
Out of Conference Games with SEC teams
OLE MISS (1-2) vs. Fresno State(2-0)
Ole Miss is reeling after a conference opener loss to Vanderbilt and this week’s out of conference game is no slouch. Fresno beat Cincinnati out of the gate and blew away a Utah State team that pushed Oklahoma in the opener. The Rebels have got to make changes in the defense in order to take some of the pressure off of the offense (particularly Jeremiah Masoli) if they hope to rebound from this surprised start. Can Fresno St. match up physically with Ole Miss? You better beleive it. That’s a physical team and I think they’ve got what it takes to get the win. Sorry Rebels fans, but the wheels are off on the Ole Miss car this season. Enjoy finding your new mascot.
Fresno State 27, Ole Miss 21
TENNESSEE (1-2) vs. UAB (1-2)
We all expected the Vols to struggle against “real” teams this year and they have due to a lack of numbers. Are they bad/thin enough to be threatened by UAB? I really don’t think so.Not unless UAB gets to bring their own referees to the game. Tennessee will feed the ball to talented RB Tauren Poole and run through the Blazers like wind through the hills. Too bad they can’t do that to better teams. Not this year.
Tennessee 34, UAB 13
LSU (3-0) vs. West Virginia (3-0)
Looking at this from the outside one might be inclined to just give the edge to LSU. They’ve played better teams than WVU. However, LSU hasn’t looked good in any of it especially on offense. Now WVU may not be a juggernaut but they do have a playmaker in Noel Devine and they’ve used him to beat another SEC team recently. (Call Tommy Tuberville in Lubbock and he’ll tell you how hard that guy is to tackle.) LSU’s defense has to try and contain Noel Devine enough and force more passing where there DBs (Patrick Peterson especially) can make plays. If this is put in the hands of the LSU offense to win, the Mountaineers are going to be victorious. In fact, I think that’s exactly what happens. WVU forces the LSU offense to win it and they fall short.
West Virginia 31, LSU 27
Georgia (1-2) vs. MISSISSIPPI STATE(1-2)
Both of these teams are desperate to notch the first conference win. Georgia actually looks more prepared to get it. They’ve found offense in spite of A.J. Green’s availability; they just need to stick with it. Mississippi State cannot afford to keep the rotating quarterback system going for the year. Mullen needs to put the ball in one guy’s hands and go with it. Switching them in and out creates confusing, destroys rhythm, and produces turnovers. Georgia knows how to come to life on offense and if they do it early in this game, they should win. However, it won’t be easy.
Georgia 20, Mississippi State 14
Kentucky (3-0) vs. FLORIDA (3-0)
Florida’s offense has been anything but scary this season so far though it’s started to come around from the mess it was in the opening game. The defense however is very fast and very tough. They will face a test here against Kentucky. In fact, some experts have said Kentucky could go in and get the upset this week as they play smart football on defense and get the ball in the hands of Derek Locke and Randall Cobb on offense. Florida’s offense is looking for a breakout game and this week will be a good time to have it. The Gators have way too much on defense for Kentucky to completely get over and the Florida offense will find its footing and step over the Wildcats.
Florida 34, Kentucky 17
South Carolina (3-0) vs. AUBURN (3-0)
South Carolina and Steve Spurrier bring the best team he’s fielded in Columbia to the Plains to face an Auburn team that has been as lucky as it has been good this season against early competition. Auburn’s offense – it’s all Cam Newton so far and seems limited by what the coaches are willing to let him do. The Tigers defense is improved but it’s not improved enough to overcome the lack of rhythm or consistency on offense. And that, boys and girls, is going to cost Auburn. South Carolina has a punishing defense and if Auburn stumbles early, it will open the door for their offense. Keeping Stephen Garcia from the defensive line push and opening holes for Marcus Lattimore will be the keys to the game and the Gamecocks are good enough to find daylight in the night Auburn sky.
South Carolina 28, Auburn 23
Alabama(3-0) vs. ARKANSAS (3-0)
Well if any team has played like it wants to challenge Alabama for the SEC West lead it’s Arkansas. There are a number of things we want to examine with this one. It would be hard to pick between McElroy or Mallett for who’s the best quarterback as both play very well in the respective systems. The problem here is Alabama’s offense vs. Arkansas’s defense. While improved, the Hogs haven’t seen anything like this attack this season and the Crimson Tide’s ability to mix the run and pass from various points is going to wear on the opposition. It may be close early but expect Alabama to pull away late and win this one convincingly.
Alabama 31, Arkansas 20
Last week’s record: 6-2 Overall record: 24-4