Each week in the SEC offers trends and predictions from a variety of voices. Some are worth keeping. Others are destined for the dumpster.
Since we always look out for you at SEC Country, we’ve served up a few takes to help you cut through the noise. Here are things about each program you should feel comfortable about, as well as thoughts to avoid.
Bank on it: The Gators are loving life atop the SEC East.
Beware of thinking this: Florida should become comfortable in its position as the division’s best.
Analysis: Take that, Tennessee! The Volunteers bucked the Gators boogie man on Sept. 24, only to lose two of their next three games. Now Florida settles into its bye as the SEC East’s top dog with a 3-1 mark in conference play, one game ahead of Tennessee and Kentucky. Still, it’s hard to see the Gators going unbeaten the rest of the fall. Road games against Arkansas on Nov. 5 and LSU on Nov. 19 will be tough tasks. Rest up, Florida.
Bank on it: The bye couldn’t have arrived at a better time for the Bulldogs.
Beware of thinking this: Kirby Smart’s swoon is over.
Analysis: That buzzing sound you hear? That’s Georgia’s season and Smart’s stock taking a nose dive. The Bulldogs have lost three of their past four games, none worse than an embarrassing defeat to Vanderbilt at home last Saturday. The bye will serve as a balm after the recent burns. But Georgia has a remaining schedule of Florida, Kentucky, Auburn, Louisiana-Lafayette and Georgia Tech after returning from the break. It’s hard to see the Bulldogs winning two more games at this rate.
Bank on it: Mark Stoops should employ better screeners during his call-in show.
Beware of thinking this: The Wildcats aren’t flat-out better than miserable Mississippi State.
Analysis: Who’s taking calls for Stoops these days? On Monday, someone phoned in to ask Stoops if Bulldogs coach Dan Mullen could come to Kentucky if Mississippi State makes a change. What a dropkick to the ego. What’s bizarre about the whole situation is Kentucky has gained a few breaths in recent weeks. After a disastrous 0-2 start, the Wildcats have won three of their past four games. Things are looking up for Kentucky, while Mississippi State has the same upward trajectory as an elephant in a tar pit. Stoops should have reason to smile after another victory Saturday.
Bank on it: Drew Lock will have a chance to redeem himself after being swamped in Gainesville.
Beware of thinking this: The Tigers won’t continue their demolition of garbage opponents.
Analysis: Lock needs to make mincemeat of Middle Tennessee’s defense in the worst way. He went 4-of-18 passing for 39 yards with 2 interceptions in a blowout loss to Florida last Saturday. Anything is possible, but it’s hard not to see coach Barry Odom going back to Lock to give the young player a chance to redeem himself. The Tigers terrorized two other cupcake foes this season — Eastern Michigan and Delaware State — so expect the Blue Raiders to meet a similar fate.
Bank on it: The Gamecocks can’t afford to make light of Massachusetts.
Beware of thinking this: South Carolina will beat the mighty Minutemen.
Analysis: Is there a better 1-6 team in the country? OK, we kid, but it’s not bonkers to pick UMass to beat South Carolina. The Gamecocks’ offense is a tire fire. Plus, the Minutemen played Florida and Mississippi State tough earlier this season. Sometimes that limb looks inviting, and we’re stepping onto the edge of it with this pick.
Bank on it: The Volunteers will lick their wounds and wonder, “What’s next?” during their bye.
Beware of thinking this: There won’t be a bunch of scoreboard watching for Butch Jones’ bunch the rest of the way.
Analysis: Who knows where Tennessee goes from here? The Vols’ bandwagon was larger than a pair of Neyland Stadiums before Alabama torched Tennessee last Saturday. Now after two consecutive losses, the Volunteers need a reset in a hurry. The good news is that Tennessee is past the toughest stretch of its schedule. Kentucky might be the Vols’ toughest game left, and that says a mouthful. Get comfortable with this sentence, Tennessee fans: “I love the Vols and whichever team plays Florida.”
Bank on it: More than a few people remembered the Commodores have a football program this past week.
Beware of thinking this: Zach Cunningham is anything short of a stud.
Analysis: Wow, go crazy for the Commodores! Vanderbilt earned the largest victory of the Derek Mason era Saturday by toppling Georgia. And Cunningham earned national accolades after totaling 19 tackles in his Tasmanian devil treatment of the Bulldogs offense. Expect the Vandy volume to increase after the Commodores push aside Tennessee State in short order Saturday.
Bank on it: The Crimson Tide might as well hoist the SEC trophy Saturday night.
Beware of thinking this: Alabama isn’t in for a true slobberknocker against Texas A&M.
Analysis: Memo to SEC commission Greg Sankey: Let’s save everyone a few hours and crown the league champion this weekend. The true conference title game will go down in Tuscaloosa in what should be an amazing matchup between unbeaten teams. The Aggies have lived up to their hype, and the Crimson Tide have exceeded most preseason visions for them — especially on offense. Alabama’s victory won’t come easily — no matter what Las Vegas tells you. Still, the Crimson Tide should make plans for the College Football Playoff soon.
Bank on it: Bret Bielema would be a Hall of Fame coach if he faced Hugh Freeze each week.
Beware of thinking this: Austin Allen isn’t capable of outdueling Auburn.
Analysis: Arkansas has become a no-Freeze zone under Bielema the past three seasons. Some left the Razorbacks for dead last week after a no-pulse effort against Alabama on Oct. 8. But give the Hogs credit for showing there was a whole lot of hot air blown their way before they rocked the Rebels for the third consecutive season. The Tigers should rack up points on Arkansas’ defense this week, just as Ole Miss did when tangling with the Razorbacks. But the Hogs have proven they can win a drag race.
Bank on it: The Gus Bus will hit a Bielema-sized pothole.
Beware of thinking this: The Tigers won’t light up the scoreboard against Arkansas’ defense.
Analysis: Is Auburn back? We’ll find out soon. The Tigers have won three consecutive games after that rough 1-2 start. The Gus Bus is gassed up following a bye week, and a win here would be a large psychological victory for Auburn at home. But don’t bet your bathroom tissue on this one, Tigers fans. Arkansas will be a bit better by the end.
Bank on it: Ed Orgeron will earn an emotional victory Saturday.
Beware of thinking this: Leonard Fournette will be a huge factor in his return.
Analysis: Saturday marks the start of a crucial five-game stretch for LSU 2.0 under Orgeron. A win Saturday over Ole Miss would mean a bunch for Orgeron on a number of levels. It’s a safe guess that he wants to stick it to his former employer while showing his current one that he deserves to be the Tigers’ next coach. Sweet satisfaction is coming your way, Coach O. Just don’t expect magic from Fournette, who’s making his way back from an ankle injury.
Bank on it: The Bulldogs don’t look capable of finishing better than 3-9.
Beware of thinking this: Mullen has silver bullets tucked in his socks.
Analysis: It must be miserable to be Mullen these days. Mississippi State is 2-4, and it’s coming off a lousy loss to BYU last Friday. The Bulldogs are as bland as that cup of yogurt that has been in the back of your refrigerator for the past month. Kentucky should add to the pain Saturday. Samford on Oct. 29 looks like Mississippi State’s only gimme left.
Bank on it: The Rebels’ momentum has screeched to a halt.
Beware of thinking this: Freeze won’t face hard questions soon.
Analysis: So much for the Rebels asserting themselves as the SEC West’s best team outside the Alabama-Texas A&M power struggle. The horrible loss to Arkansas last Saturday was especially bad after the Razorbacks were roasted over an open flame against Alabama the week before. Now LSU should be motivated to deliver Orgeron a meaningful victory over his former squad. The coals below the Rebels’ feet have grown hot, hot, hot.
Bank on it: Aggies officials should petition to allow their football program to take the SEC East champion’s place in the conference title game.
Beware of thinking this: Texas A&M won’t make Alabama fans antsy at least a few times Saturday afternoon.
Analysis: Someone should make Alabama-Texas A&M II happen on Dec. 3. Of course, we’re not delusional enough to believe a rematch is possible at the Georgia Dome, but it’s fun to dream. The Aggies will hold steady against the Crimson Tide on Saturday, but Alabama is too good to lose at home. Texas A&M will finish as the SEC’s second-best team this season.