We’re not supposed to call Florida-Georgia the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party anymore, but there doesn’t seem to be a great alternative. Neither Jim McElwain nor Kirby Smart had any ideas this week, and if the students had their way, they’d undoubtedly return to the original title.
If “Florida-Georgia Game” is the best we can do, that’s sad. But not as sad as the Gators are supposed to be this weekend. They’re 14.5-point underdogs against their hated rivals, and are headed for an ugly 3-4 record if they can’t pull off the upset.
Along with Hans Heiserer, I broke down the big game and the rest of the Week 9 schedule on Bud Light’s Predictions Among Friends, which you can view here. This post is an in-depth look at this coming weekend.
No. 3 Georgia vs. Florida
Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET (CBS)
It’s not fair; Georgia really didn’t need an extra week to figure out the Florida offense. The Dawgs probably could have developed a successful game plan on one day’s rest. Gators quarterback Feleipe Franks hasn’t shown any signs of progression this season, and the Gators (182.3 passing yards per game, 100th in FBS) are still hurting in the big-plays department without Antonio Callaway.
The Dawgs are undefeated. If they win in Jacksonville, they’re more than likely headed to Atlanta in December. Their running game is elite. Their defense is excellent. Their true freshman quarterback plays as cool as a senior. Florida may have won three in a row against Georgia, but it’s overmatched this Saturday. The pick: Georgia.
Mississippi State at Texas A&M
Saturday, 7:15 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Mississippi State has been great against teams with similar talent and awful against superior opponents. The question is: Which category does Texas A&M fall into?
Last year, the Aggies were No. 4 in the country when they gave up a 74-yard touchdown on the first play and lost 35-28 in Starkville. Bulldogs quarterback Nick Fitzgerald accounted for 391 yards in the upset victory, and he’s having another excellent year in 2017.
This is also the time of year when Kevin Sumlin’s teams begin to fold. But there seems to be something different about this version. True freshman Kellen Mond has done a serviceable job at quarterback, while the offense’s featured stars — Trayveon Williams and Christian Kirk — are looking great. But the real change has been A&M’s defense, which stymied Alabama (relatively) in a 27-19 loss on Oct. 7 and shut down an admittedly hapless Florida offense in the Swamp two Saturdays ago.
The Aggies will get on the board first, and the Bulldogs won’t be able to keep pace against a tough defensive front. Sumlin’s team stays alive in the SEC West race. The pick: Texas A&M.
Vanderbilt at South Carolina
Saturday, 4 p.m. ET (SEC Network)
This is setting up to be a low-scoring contest. Each team’s strength (South Carolina’s defense vs. Vanderbilt’s offense) balances out, while their ugly halves don’t figure to give up much ground, either.
These squads played an awful game to open the 2016 season (South Carolina won 13-10). Some things have changed since then — most notably, Jake Bentley and Kyle Shurmur are leading the offenses — but there’s still not a lot to love about either side. South Carolina’s offensive ceiling is still disappointingly low. Vanderbilt’s defense has been surprisingly hopeless. Both just had an extra week off to figure out how to fix those problems.
I think Vandy is going to have better luck doing so. Shurmur and running back Ralph Webb will lead a trio of touchdown drives, and that’s all the ‘Dores will need in Columbia. The pick: Vanderbilt.
Tennessee at Kentucky
Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET (SEC Network)
More than anything else this season, the fact that Tennessee is a 5-point underdog against Kentucky is indicative of how far the Vols have fallen. And not some great, exciting Kentucky team, either; but one that was just round-housed by 38 points at Mississippi State.
Even if Big Blue fans are already turning their calendars to basketball season, Tennessee is definitely going to lose Saturday. Boy, is it going to lose! The Volunteers’ star running back just got busted for alleged misdemeanor drug possession, the new quarterback can’t find the end zone and the fan base is ready to impeach the coach. Great Kentucky team or not, the Vols can’t buy a “W” right now. The pick: Kentucky.
Arkansas at Ole Miss
Saturday, Noon ET (SEC Network)
No Shea Patterson means the Rebels are going to be borderline unwatchable. Combine that sad bunch with Bret Bielema’s football team, and you’ve got a noon SEC Network game that only a conference commissioner could love.
Bielema thinks Austin Allen might be able to play, but viewers will probably be stuck watching a pair of backup quarterbacks do battle against bad defenses. Jordan Ta’amu and Cole Kelley have thrown a combined 97 passes in their collegiate careers. Arkansas’ rushing tandem of Devwah Whaley and David Williams will provide enough offense to give the Hogs what might be their final SEC win of the season. The pick: Arkansas.
Missouri at Connecticut
Saturday, 6:30 p.m. ET (CBS Sports Network)
Drew Lock is in the zone, so to speak, and that should continue against a UConn defense that allowed at least 38 points in four consecutive games (including 70 to Memphis) at one point this season.
The difference between Connecticut and Idaho is that the Huskies can punch back. Bryant Shirreffs just passed for 372 yards in a 20-14 win against Tulsa, and the offense has hit the 20-point mark in every game but one. Expect a thriller in Storrs. The pick: Missouri.
How do you see the games playing out this weekend? Let us know in the comments section below.