Welcome to SEC Country bold predictions: inclement weather edition.
With Category 4 Hurricane Matthew barreling down the East Coast this weekend, LSU-Florida has been postponed (or cancelled?) and Georgia-South Carolina has been pushed back, meaning only four SEC games will take place Saturday. Three are pretty good matchups; the fourth is Kentucky-Vanderbilt.
Let’s engage in some Friday afternoon football forecasting:
(All kickoff times ET)
LSU at No. 18 Florida: The game will be made up if necessary
Not playing this game in Gainesville was the right call, first and foremost. We live and breathe college football, but it’s important to step back and remember that there are many more important things in this world. Namely, ensuring fan safety, and that emergency personnel aren’t needlessly stretched thin.
Secondly, while it might have made sense for Florida to play in Baton Rouge — as South Carolina did last season during its flooding crisis, I might add — the apparent stubbornness of Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley doesn’t prevent this game from being rescheduled later this season if necessary.
There are two likely options:
- Look at Week 12 (Nov. 19). The Gators play Presbyterian, and LSU hosts South Alabama. Florida’s buyout for getting out of that game contract is around $500,000, according to Foley, while LSU’s buyout would be a much-pricier $1.5 million. Tigers athletic director Joe Alleva wouldn’t want to give up a home game and pay a big sum to do so.
- LSU-Florida gets bumped to the weekend of the SEC championship game (Dec. 3), which in turn moves the conference title game to Dec. 10. This would potentially delay the bowl and College Football Playoff selection process.
Neither option is ideal. Should this game somehow affect either SEC division race, however, commissioner Greg Sankey and the SEC undoubtedly would put huge pressure on LSU and Florida to play. Because if a 6-1 Florida team played in Atlanta over 6-2 Tennessee, the entire league would be unhappy.
“I think we’d have a problem if that game caused an issue with either division champion,” an SEC head coach told SB Nation.
Prediction: Many bad Hurricane Matthew takes will continue to be written.
Auburn at Mississippi State: Upset alert
I’ve pegged the Bulldogs to win on Saturday in my weekly upset pick column. Mississippi State has the benefit of a bye week, its defensive line matches up well against Auburn’s struggling O-line and redshirt sophomore Nick Fitzgerald is a pretty underrated quarterback. How about some post-Dak optimism in Starkville?
Kickoff: Noon, ESPN
Line: Auburn -2.5
Prediction: Mississippi State 28, Auburn 24
No. 9 Tennessee at No. 8 Texas A&M: An SEC team finally contains Derek Barnett
The Vols’ star pass rusher has been an invaluable force the last two weeks in wins over Florida and Georgia: 10 tackles, 5.5 TFLs, 4 sacks and a forced fumble. And as with quarterback Josh Dobbs, the second half is where Barnett has truly shined.
But since hiring offensive line coach Jim Turner this offseason, blocking has been a major area of improvement for Texas A&M. The Aggies have allowed just five sacks in five games, three of which were against South Carolina, Auburn and Arkansas (34 sacks combined among them). NFL-bound left tackle Avery Gennesy has been excellent this season and kept Auburn’s Carl Lawson locked down in Week 3.
The magic will finally run out for Tennessee, and Kevin Sumlin will have his biggest win since the 2012 Alabama game.
Kickoff: 3:30 p.m., CBS
Line: Texas A&M -7
Prediction: Texas A&M 35, Tennessee 27
Vanderbilt at Kentucky: Both coaches lose their jobs, eventually
After Kentucky, these are the remaining games for 2-3 Vanderbilt: at Georgia, Tennessee State, at Auburn, at Missouri, Ole Miss and Tennessee. There’s only one likely win there.
After Vanderbilt: these are the remaining games for 2-3 Kentucky: Mississippi State, at Missouri, Georgia, at Tennessee, Austin Peay and at Louisville. There’s one, maybe two wins there max.
Point being, the coach who loses this game might find himself out the door sooner than the winner, but in the end, Vanderbilt’s Derek Mason and Kentucky’s Mark Stoops are destined to be out the door this offseason. Besides looking listless on offense, the Commodores and Wildcats have been surprisingly beatable on defense, ranking 11th and 14th in the SEC, respectively. That spells nothing but doom for their defensive-minded head coaches.
As for this game, Kentucky has more talent and has played ever-so-slightly better. One team has to win, I guess.
Kickoff: 4 p.m., SEC Network
Line: Kentucky -3
Prediction: Kentucky 21, Vanderbilt 13
No. 1 Alabama at No. 16 Arkansas: The same woes will haunt the Hogs
Razorbacks quarterback Austin Allen played a great game against Texas A&M, but he wound up on his back far too often. The Aggies’ pass rush really got the better of Bret Bielema’s O-line as that game progressed.
Alabama, scarily enough, commands an even deeper brigade of pass rushers, led by Tim Williams, Ryan Anderson and Jonathan Allen. This defense has 17 sacks on the season and is allowing just 68 yards rushing per game. Arkansas, feisty as it played against TCU in a Week 2 win, doesn’t have the firepower to keep up with Lane Kiffin’s offense.
There’s nothing to suggest the big Hogs up front have suddenly figured something out in the past couple of weeks, particularly on the right side, and the Crimson Tide won’t show them any mercy Saturday.
Kickoff: 7 p.m., ESPN
Line: Alabama -14
Prediction: Alabama 34, Arkansas 17
Georgia at South Carolina: The Bulldogs release some pent-up rage
How Georgia plays after last Saturday’s heartbreaker will be a good test of first-year coach Kirby Smart’s motivational skills.
Will Muschamp and his Gamecocks are already 1-3 in the SEC; he knows this is a big Year 1 judgment game, and a win here gives South Carolina a decent shot at a bowl game.
But there’s little doubt that the Bulldogs are a stouter bunch. Running the ball and stopping the run are major weaknesses for the Gamecocks; they rank last and second-to-last among SEC teams in those categories, respectively. Georgia just had its best ground-game performance since Week 1, rushing for 181 yards against Tennessee.
Smart will rally the troops and knock off his old buddy Muschamp on Sunday with some room to spare.
Kickoff: 2:30 p.m. Sunday, SEC Network
Line: Georgia -6.5
Prediction: Georgia 27, South Carolina 14