Each week in the SEC offers trends and predictions from a variety of voices. Some are worth keeping, and 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: Luke Del Rio’s return will cause Jim McElwain to break into a happy dance.
Beware of thinking this: The Gators will make quick work of Missouri.
Analysis: Oh, joyous day, Florida. The extra time off, thanks to the postponement of the LSU game last Saturday because of Hurricane Matthew, was a plus for Del Rio as he recovered from a knee injury sustained against North Texas on Sept. 17. The Gators offense can use him after the unit struggled to produce in the second half against Tennessee on Sept. 24 and throughout most of an ugly victory over Vanderbilt on Oct. 1. Still, expect Del Rio to be sluggish at the outset. Florida should overpower Missouri by the end, though.
Bank on it: The short week to prepare for Vanderbilt won’t make a lick of difference.
Beware of thinking this: Jacob Eason will look as bad as he did against South Carolina.
Analysis: If you’re going to have a short week, then it helps to have the Commodores waiting as a pushover on the other side. Eason and the Bulldogs looked as terrible as you can appear in a winning effort when topping the Gamecocks on Sunday. Don’t expect similar problems against a Vanderbilt team that should make itself comfortable at the bottom of the SEC East.
Bank on it: The Wildcats are crossing each toe and finger that Stephen Johnson’s wrist injury isn’t a big deal.
Beware of thinking this: Kentucky’s running game will do enough to shoulder the burden after the bye.
Analysis: The Wildcats’ quarterback situation is a mess. Former starter Drew Barker has been shelved since early in a victory over New Mexico State on Sept. 17. Now there’s word of Johnson’s wrist issue, which the quarterback said dates back to a loss to Florida on Sept. 10. For Kentucky, it’s a good thing the bye lands on this weekend or Mark Stoops might have had to line up behind center himself. Running back Boom Williams needs to do more, but he had just 9 carries in each of Kentucky’s past two games.
Bank on it: The Tigers need Drew Lock to leap over tall buildings and be faster than a speeding bullet.
Beware of thinking this: Lock will do enough to outshine Del Rio.
Analysis: Lock had a nice little run before smacking into a stone wall in Baton Rouge on Oct. 1. He threw for at least 400 yards twice and totaled no fewer than 376 yards passing in a three-game stretch from Sept. 10-24. But LSU held him to 167 yards through the air with 1 interception. It’s obvious that the Tigers can go only as far as Lock will lead them. He won’t do enough to lift Missouri to a victory at The Swamp.
Bank on it: The Gamecocks are back to being who we thought they would be.
Beware of thinking this: There’s more than two victories left for them the rest of the way.
Analysis: Where’s the offense? Where’s the competence on that side of the ball? South Carolina has scored more than 14 points just once this season, and the Gamecocks looked terrible in a loss to Georgia on Sunday. South Carolina coaches likely have spent the bye week trying to figure out a way to jolt life into the cold carcass of its offensive attack. But it’s hard to see the pathetic unit producing enough to deliver more than two wins the rest of the way. We’ll be kind and say South Carolina beats Massachusetts on Oct. 22 and Western Carolina on Nov. 19.
Bank on it: The Volunteers can’t beat Alabama at Neyland Stadium while running on fumes from the past three weeks.
Beware of thinking this: Tennessee is capable of being blown out.
Analysis: It will be fascinating to see how the Vols respond to their first loss last Saturday against Texas A&M. Tennessee can’t afford to show fatigue against a Crimson Tide squad that will cruise if the Volunteers limp through this game. But the Vols have shown remarkable resilience this fall, so it’s crazy to assume anyone can curb-stomp them no matter the deficit Tennessee faces early. Still, it’s hard to see the Volunteers rallying enough after an exhausting three-week stretch to top the Tide.
Bank on it: Derek Mason should feel nervous about how this season has unfolded.
Beware of thinking this: The Commodores are capable of making a pivot quickly.
Analysis: Vandy is Vandy, but is there a more disappointing team in the SEC East? South Carolina was expected to be the division’s doormat, but the Commodores have earned that title with flying colors. Vanderbilt looks a long way from contention. That’s a problem for Mason, who had hoped to show progress in his third year in Nashville.
Bank on it: The Crimson Tide will tiptoe out of Neyland Stadium after a slug-it-out, drag-’em-down affair.
Beware of thinking this: Alabama’s offense won’t apply pressure when it matters most late.
Analysis: Tennessee is involved, so expect a fair amount of voodoo magic to go the Vols’ way in Knoxville. But the Crimson Tide will find a way to overcome their charmed opponent to earn a tough road victory. Alabama’s offense has clicked the past two games with Jalen Hurts throwing for a combined 515 yards and 4 TDs. The Crimson Tide will rely on Hurts to hurt Tennessee late.
Bank on it: The Razorbacks won’t have much left in the tank for Ole Miss.
Beware of thinking this: Arkansas’ defense will contain Chad Kelly.
Analysis: Woof, Hogs. Many expected the Razorbacks to put up a larger fight against Alabama last Saturday. Instead, Arkansas was steamrolled at home in a game that showed the Hogs aren’t ready for prime time. Life doesn’t become a walk through a rose garden against Ole Miss this week. Kelly should shred a defense that struggled against Alabama.
Bank on it: Gus Malzahn will find a few footballs and spike them on his critics’ faces during the bye.
Beware of thinking this: The Tigers won’t surprise more people in the season’s second half.
Analysis: Has anyone done more for their coaching stock than Malzahn the past three weeks? His trousers were hot, hot, hot going into that game against LSU on Sept. 24. But three consecutive victories for Auburn has quieted the cackles from his critics. The Tigers look primed for a strong finish. Perhaps Malzahn can enjoy the good times this weekend while savoring that sweet silence.
Bank on it: The Tigers are thriving during their reincarnation under Ed Orgeron.
Beware of thinking this: LSU doesn’t need Leonard Fournette to do special things down the stretch.
Analysis: Orgeron is doing Orgeron things, showing the Tigers that there is light after Les Miles. LSU will drag out the purple/cupcake jerseys Saturday against Southern Miss, which means the Tigers anticipate a tame game at Tiger Stadium. But we’ll learn a bunch about LSU 2.0 starting next week, when the Tigers host Ole Miss on Oct. 22. Fournette must be active then.
Bank on it: The Bulldogs’ strange season will continue with a loss to BYU.
Beware of thinking this: Playing this game on a Friday night way out west makes any sense at all.
Analysis: The wise guy who thought trekking out to Provo, Utah, in mid-October — on a Friday night! — should be reassigned to the South Pole. What a weird game for Mississippi State, which already had a strange road contest against Massachusetts on Sept. 24 at Gillette Stadium. But the Bulldogs are a mess, so it’s best for the SEC that they can be “showcased” during a time when most people are five or six Moscow Mules into their night out. That’s the only way to make watching Mississippi State tolerable.
Bank on it: Kelly will torch an Arkansas defense that was exposed against Alabama.
Beware of thinking this: The Rebels shouldn’t ask themselves, “What if?” after the early stumbles this season.
Analysis: Ole Miss should sharpen its steak knives after watching Alabama slice through Arkansas’ defense last Saturday. Kelly will be rested following the bye week, and the Razorbacks should question themselves after a questionable effort against the Crimson Tide. It’s wild to think the Rebels haven’t scored fewer than 34 points in a game this season. They could look back on this as an almost-famous year.
Bank on it: The Aggies are scary good.
Beware of thinking this: Texas A&M won’t spend the bye dreaming about what beating Alabama would mean for the program.
Analysis: Go ahead and picture the Aggies winning the SEC West. It’s no stretch. Beating Tennessee at home was impressive in so many ways. Texas A&M has proven it has the right balance of finesse and physical strength to top anyone in the conference, including Alabama on Oct. 22. Kevin Sumlin has done a masterful coaching job this season.