After a weekend jam-packed with high-profile matchups, the SEC gets a bit of a breather in Week 5 as we prepare to flip the calendar to October.
Three undefeated teams remain — Alabama, Texas A&M and Tennessee — and all three play each other within the next four weeks. So enjoy the peace while it lasts, because the race for the conference title could get a whole lot hairier really fast.
Let’s get to some more predicting:
(All kickoff times ET)
Alcorn State at No. 20 Arkansas: Razorbacks don’t cover
Granted, the spread is nearly 50 points. But Alcorn State is 1-2 this season, with a triple-OT loss to Arkansas Pine Bluff and a 43-18 loss to Grambling State on its resume, and there are some intriguing individual talents on the roster. The Braves have 14 sacks this season, which would put them among the top 10 FBS teams nationally if they played at that level, and are led by senior linebacker Darien Anderson (30 tackles, 6.5 sacks). Offensively, redshirt freshman quarterback Noah Johnson has accounted for 610 total yards and 8 touchdowns in just three games, though Lenorris Footman is listed as the starter after missing a game with an ankle injury. The Hogs are coming off a deflating loss against Texas A&M and may have trouble getting especially hyped up for this game. They’ll still win comfortably, but it won’t necessarily be a repeat of the 42-3 Texas State blowout, either.
Kickoff: Noon, SEC Network
Line: Arkansas -49
Prediction: Arkansas 37, Alcorn State 13
No. 23 Florida at Vanderbilt: Another shutout for UF
The Gators will be rightfully angry after blowing their early lead against Tennessee, meaning the Commodores play the part of convenient punching bag. So far, Vanderbilt ranks 102nd in scoring offense (23.8 PPG), 121st in total offense (312.5 YPG), 108th in first downs (17.5 per game) and is just 35.7 percent on third downs. The offensive line is also responsible for allowing 7 sacks this season, and Florida is among the nation’s best with 17 so far. This is a stagnant, one-dimensional offense — tailback Ralph Webb has scored 40 percent of its touchdowns — and the fluky second half on Rocky Top aside, Florida still fields a stout defense, top to bottom.
Kickoff: Noon, SEC Network
Line: Florida -9 1/2
Prediction: Florida 27, Vanderbilt 0
No. 11 Tennessee at No. 25 Georgia: Bulldogs pull the upset
Georgia gets my weekly upset nod not because I feel particularly confident in Kirby Smart’s crew — Nick Chubb’s not playing, the offensive line is a major work in progress, the secondary has been Swiss cheese-like — but because Tennessee doesn’t seem like the sort of team you can trust on a weekly basis. The Vols lucked their way into overtime against Appalachian State, couldn’t put away Ohio, got some fortunate fumbles against Virginia Tech and, of course, only looked great for a half against Florida. Georgia runs the ball better than Florida, Jacob Eason is better than Austin Appleby and the Vols are still without Darrin Kirkland and Cam Sutton. Give me the home team in a close one.
Kickoff: 3:30 p.m., CBS
Line: Tennessee -3.5
Prediction: Georgia 30, Tennessee 28
Louisiana-Monroe at Auburn: Kerryon Johnson sets a career high, JF3 adds 100
With No. 2 tailback Kamryn Pettway dealing with a minor injury this week, sophomore Kerryon Johnson definitely should see upwards of 20 carries. Louisiana-Monroe has the third-worst rushing defense among FBS squads, allowing more than 290 yards per game, and Johnson has proven himself to be a capable, reliable back. His current single-game high is 124 yards, set against Arkansas State against Week 2, but he should be able to top that against a Louisiana-Monroe team that’s even worse. Oklahoma put up 59 points on the Warhawks. Bonus prediction: John Franklin III tacks on 100 total yards. This game would seem to be a perfect chance to give him a few more touches than usual.
Kickoff: 3:30 p.m., SEC Network
Line: Auburn -33
Prediction: Auburn 44, UL-Monroe 9
No. 9 Texas A&M at South Carolina: Trevor Knight wins with his legs … again
This stat is so mind-blowing that it deserves its own paragraph: Texas A&M has the country’s 10th-best rushing offense (269.3 YPG).
The Aggies’ 2016 offense so far has been spearheaded by the likes of Trayveon Williams, Christian Kirk, Josh Reynolds and Keith Ford. But Knight is the glue keeping everything together, and last Saturday’s win against Arkansas reminded us why: he creates. The Hogs allowed Knight to run for 157 yards and 2 touchdowns on just 10 carries, on a night when he only completed 12 of 22 passes. The graduate transfer and his true freshman running back Williams have been a potent combo so far, and South Carolina (198.5 rushing yards allowed per game) is not equipped to stop them this season. Mississippi State quarterback Nick Fitzgerald rushed for 195 yards in his Week 2 tilt with the Gamecocks; now imagine what Knight will do on Saturday. Will Muschamp might have to start “reevaluating” that side of the ball, too.
Kickoff: 4 p.m., SEC Network
Line: Texas A&M -17 1/2
Prediction: Texas A&M 37, South Carolina 13
Kentucky at No. 1 Alabama: 100-yard freshmen
Damien Harris and Bo Scarbrough are both dealing with minor injuries, and it’d be surprising to see either play extensively in this game — if at all. Kentucky’s defense has been certifiably awful in 2016, and there’s no reason to risk re-injuring your top tailbacks against a team of that caliber. Thus, expect Joshua Jacobs and B.J. Emmons to log even more carries after getting their feet wet the first four weeks. Jacobs ran for 97 yards on 11 touches last week, and Emmons has gotten 6-8 handoffs every week except the Ole Miss game. Two of the Crimson Tide’s freshman trio — Emmons, Jacobs and Jalen Hurts — should cross the century mark on the ground on Saturday in another September steamrolling.
Kickoff: 7 p.m., ESPN
Line: Alabama -35 1/2
Prediction: Alabama 42, Kentucky 10
Memphis at No. 16 Ole Miss: Oxford town becomes Pick City
The post-Justin Fuente Tigers have still looked pretty good. They’re 3-0 after beating up on weaker foes in Kansas (43-7) and Bowling Green (77-3), they have another efficient quarterback in Riley Ferguson (67 percent completion, 11 touchdowns) and, most importantly, they have ballhawks. Memphis has picked off 7 passes in three games (tied for 6th in country), returning 2 for touchdowns, and Rebels quarterback Chad Kelly happens to be interception-prone (16 INTs in 17 games for Ole Miss). We’re not saying Memphis pulls the upset, but we’re also not not saying it. Then again, Georgia had 6 interceptions entering last Saturday’s meltdown, so this probably means nothing at all. When Kelly’s on, he’s on.
Kickoff: 7 p.m., ESPN2
Line: Ole Miss -15.5
Prediction: Ole Miss 38, Memphis 21
Missouri at LSU: An emotional Les Miles tribute will take place
An unofficial one, of course. Hopefully with athletic director Joe Alleva scowling in the backdrop. Look, Miles’ dinosaur offense had to go, but his players still loved him — grass-eating habits and all. Les has been a good coach for a long time, and he getting canned in late September is probably not the ending he deserved. So expect the players to honor him in some form before the game, and then do their former coach justice on the field, as well. Drew Lock can beat up on the Eastern Michigans and Delaware States of the world, but don’t expect the same result against a defense that features Arden Key, Tre’Davious White and Jamal Adams. Interim coach Ed Orgeron will have the Bayou Bengals fired up for this one, as only he can, and LSU will win another slugfest in its first game of the post-Miles era.
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m., SEC Network
Line: LSU -13
Prediction: LSU 24, Missouri 17