SEC Predictions, Week 7: Can Texas A&M pull off an upset at Florida?
Last September, Auburn-LSU served as an elimination game for coaches Gus Malzahn and Les Miles. One year later, it’s obvious which man won. Malzahn is coaching the No. 10 team in the country, while the fired Miles will be in attendance as a halftime guest. That game at Tiger Stadium leads our list of SEC predictions for Week 7.
Along with Hans Heiserer, I broke down Auburn-LSU and six others on Bud Light’s Predictions Among Friends, which you can view here. This post is an in-depth look at this coming weekend.
No. 10 Auburn at LSU
Saturday at 3:30 p.m. ET (CBS)
It’s funny how much we waffle on Gus Malzahn and Auburn. If the Tigers would’ve lost to LSU last season — which, for a couple minutes at least, they did — then Malzahn might be working somewhere else right now. But he escaped that game and led his team to the Sugar Bowl, using a powerful running game and a solid defense to outlast a relatively weak set of SEC runners-up for the coveted consolation spot in New Orleans.
In 2017, the defense is strong again, and running back Kerryon Johnson has scored 10 touchdowns in the past three games. The extra ingredient in 2017 is quarterback Jarrett Stidham, a Baylor transfer who is currently leading the conference in completion percentage and passer rating.
His efficiency has been unquestionable. But the Tigers’ ugly 14-6 loss to Clemson showed that Auburn still has to prove itself against elite competition. Malzahn is 0-7 in his past seven games vs. top-10 opponents, having not defeated such a team since 2014.
As far as this week is concerned, LSU does not qualify as a great team. The (home) Tigers might not even be a good team. But they’re likely capable of keeping the score low and forcing their favored opponents to earn a hard-fought victory. Expect Auburn to grind it out, but don’t be surprised if LSU gets a little vengeance with Miles in attendance. The pick: Auburn.
Arkansas at No. 1 Alabama
Saturday at 7:15 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Let’s not waste too much time here. Arkansas is a mess. The Hogs were thoroughly outplayed by South Carolina last weekend, and hobbled quarterback Austin Allen looks like a shell of his former self. Bret Bielema’s buyout is $15 million, and that might not be enough to keep him from getting canned.
Meanwhile, the Saban Train is rolling for what feels like the 37th season in a row. Alabama was not seriously threatened at Texas A&M last Saturday, and Saban still felt it necessary to rant at the media. This has all the makings of a total knockout. ‘Bama will be focused, intent on “redeeming itself.” The Crimson Tide showed no mercy in Fayetteville last season, and won’t be changing that policy in Tuscaloosa. The pick: Alabama.
Texas A&M at Florida
Saturday at 7 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
Perhaps you had a competitive sibling who enjoyed taunting you by saying, “Look what I can do!”
That’s pretty much how this Saturday is setting up in The Swamp. Florida’s passing offense is lost right now. Luke Del Rio is done, and redshirt freshman Feleipe Franks has been stuck in “game manager” mode all season.
Enter Texas A&M, which boasts a freshman quarterback — Kellen Mond — who appears to be improving by the week. He not only survived against No. 1 Alabama last Saturday, but produced a couple Manziel-esque moments that have Aggies fans optimistic again.
Mond is the key to an offense that features excellent skill players and shows much more promise than Florida’s run-centric approach. It won’t be a blowout, but it will probably be painful for Gators fans to watch (again). The pick: Texas A&M.
South Carolina at Tennessee
Saturday at Noon ET (ESPN)
Hope springs eternal, especially when you’ve got a 4-star backup quarterback waiting in the wings. Tennessee fans needed a reason to come out to Neyland Stadium this weekend, and they got a big one, as redshirt freshman Jarrett Guarantano is expected to make his first career start.
Regular starter Quinten Dormady has been the least effective full-time guy in the conference, so the move makes sense. But Guarantano won’t have an easy time passing on the Gamecocks. South Carolina has allowed just 21 points per game during a 4-2 start, and the defense took three turnovers to the house last week.
But I see Tennessee much as I saw LSU last week, a talented team backed into a corner. The Vols should do enough to put Rocky Top in good spirits again. The pick: Tennessee.
Missouri at No. 4 Georgia
Saturday at 7:30 p.m. ET (SEC Network)
The bye week apparently did wonders for Missouri’s offense. Quarterback Drew Lock led a suddenly-exciting attack to 34 points at Kentucky after a dismal stretch to open FBS play. And the Tigers have played Georgia tough in Athens over their first two SEC meetings, earning a score differential of plus-12.
But there’s no fixing this Mizzou defense. Georgia is going to run all over the Tigers.
If the ‘Dawgs were not allowed to call a single passing play, they would still win this game handily. Barry Odom is just hoping his squad can keep this one from getting too embarrassing. The pick: Georgia.
Vanderbilt at Ole Miss
Saturday at 3:30 p.m. ET (SEC Network)
Kyle Shurmur and Shea Patterson are both talented quarterbacks, but neither one has been able to lift his team up against superior opponents. Shurmur and the Vandy offense tanked against Alabama a few weeks ago, and Patterson’s Rebels followed with a borderline worse performance against the Tide. These teams are now a combined 0-6 over their past six games.
Thankfully, they have each other. Somebody has to win Saturday, and the smart bet is on the side with a better defense and running game. Patterson may put up a bunch of yards through the air, but that won’t be enough to snap Mississippi’s skid. The pick: Vanderbilt.
BYU at Mississippi State
Saturday at Noon ET (SEC Network)
Mississippi State has not won in nearly a month, but the Bulldogs are still favored over BYU. Why? Well, BYU is really, really, really bad. The Cougars have lost their past five games by a combined 110 points. They’ve scored more than 13 points just one time in that span (a 40-24 loss to Utah State).
Expect Nick Fitzgerald and the Bulldogs offense to get back to their freewheelin’ ways in a rout. The pick: Mississippi State.
How do you see the games playing out this weekend? Let us know in the comments section below.