Below is a full rundown of this weekend’s SEC action, including television information (all times Eastern), the latest odds from Las Vegas, and our own predictions, prognostications and projections. Have at it…
Kentucky at South Carolina
12:00pm on SEC Network
Why It Matters: Steve Spurrier has made the call to the bullpen. If Connor Shaw can take care of the football better than Stephen Garcia, the Gamecocks still have the roster to win a wide open SEC East. Another reason to watch? To see if Kentucky is going to turn things around… or keep rolling downhill like a snowball headed for Hell. (Hat tip to Merle Haggard.)
What Vegas Says: South Carolina 21 (opened at -18.5)
What We Say: Shaw didn’t exactly work wonders against East Carolina in the Gamecocks’ opener, giving way to Garcia once the Pirates had raced to a 17-0 edge. But if Spurrier pounds Lattimore, USC should win this one. From what we’ve seen so far of Kentucky, the Cats would need an awful lot of help from Carolina to pull this one out on the road.
Prediction: South Carolina 27, Kentucky 10
Mississippi State at UAB
12:00pm on SportSouth
Why It Matters: Dan Mullen and his Bulldogs need to stop skidding and start building some momentum if they’re to make a bowl game this season.
What Vegas Says: Mississippi State by 19 (opened at -16.5)
What We Say: Louisiana Tech took MSU to overtime two weeks ago, so nothing’s a given. But UAB has yet to win a game and even State’s hodge-podge offensive line should be able to open some holes against a Blazer team that’s allowing 228 yards per game on the ground.
Prediction: Mississippi State 31, UAB 10
Florida at LSU
3:30pm on CBS
Why It Matters: Florida is still alive in the SEC East race. LSU is still alive in the national championship race.
What Vegas Says: LSU by 13.5 (opened at -12.5)
What We Say: With John Brantley out of the lineup, Charlie Weis will try to lean as hard as he can on Florida’s ground game. He won’t want his inexperienced quarterback(s) throwing too many passes against a defense that’s recording two-and-a-half sacks per game. Problem is… Florida’s run game was stuffed by Alabama last week and the Tigers are only allowing 60 yards per game on the ground themselves. If LSU avoids turnovers, Les Miles’ team should get the W in Tiger Stadium.
Prediction: LSU 20, Florida 10
Auburn at Arkansas
7:00pm on ESPN
Why It Matters: Before the season, most handicappers tabbed Arkansas to be the darkhorse on the tails of the SEC’s two thoroughbreds, Alabama and LSU. Having already suffered a loss at Alabama, a defeat tomorrow could end the Hogs’ West Division dreams after playing just two conference games. Auburn has a loss, but it was out of conference to unbeaten Clemson. This game isn’t do or die for the Tigers in terms of the conference race, but it will be a heckuva test to see how much Ted Roof’s defense has really improved.
What Vegas Says: Arkansas by 10 (opened at -9)
What We Say: Tyler Wilson should give the Tigers a bit more trouble than Garcia did last week. And this is still an Auburn D that ranks 106th in the nation in total yards allowed (440 yards per game). Arkansas is averaging 39 points per game and against Auburn’s green defense reaching their average is a possibility. But Bobby Petrino’s team is dead last in the SEC in turnover margin (-4). And if the turnover margin helps Auburn hang around tomorrow, look out. The Tigers know how to win close games.
Prediction: Arkansas 38, Auburn 30
Georgia at Tennessee
7:00pm on ESPN2
Why It Matters: The winner will keep its SEC East hopes alive. Mark Richt is going for win #100 and is fighting for his job on a weekly basis. Derek Dooley is looking for his first big win at Tennessee. The game also features two of the SEC’s three best signal-callers (with Arkansas’ Wilson being the other).
What Vegas Says: Georgia by 2 (opened at -1)
What We Say: The Bulldogs have quietly moved into second place in the SEC in total defense. Not so quietly, the Vols have passed their way into second place in the league in total offense. Put simply — the coaching matchup of Jim Chaney versus Todd Grantham should be fun to watch. But Georgia has a clear edge in special teams as Tennessee has had punts blocked in consecutive games. And the Vols have also put the ball on the ground a staggering 14 times through their first four games. Now, they’ve lost just four of those fumbles, but that’s an awfully dangerous way to live.
Prediction: Georgia 28, Tennessee 26
Vanderbilt at Alabama
7:00pm on ESPNU
Why It Matters: If you’re the type who enjoys watching nature videos where pythons crush and devour weaker, smaller creatures… this game’s for you.
What Vegas Says: Alabama by 29 (opened at -28.5)
What We Say: This week, Sports Illustrated suggested that Alabama’s defense might be the best of all-time. Vanderbilt’s offense doesn’t draw such acclaim. It ranks 117th out of 120 FBS offenses nationwide. A defense so good facing an offense so bad? Like a horror movie, things might get so gruesome you just can’t turn away.
Prediction: Alabama 38, Vanderbilt 3