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SEC Game Previews – 10/5/12

Here’s your weekly rundown of all the SEC action on tap for Week Six of the regular season.  And what a weekend this looks to be!  As always, you’ll find everything from TV listings to the betting lines to our own predictions.

Enjoy the games, be safe, and best of luck to your favorite school this weekend.

Here goes…


Arkansas at Auburn

12:00pm ET on ESPN2

Opening Line:  AU -10.5

Current Line:  AU -8.5

Storylines:  Auburn (-8) and Arkansas (-13) rank 13th and 14th in the SEC in turnover margin.  They are 12th (Auburn) and 14th (Arkansas) in total defense.  But Arkansas is 6th in the league in total offense while Auburn is dead last.  Advantage Hogs, right?  If the team hadn’t pretty much quit, yes.  But it appears they have pretty much quit.

Keys for Arkansas:  Uh, don’t quit.  If the Razorbacks take care of the football for once — and that’d be a big, big improvement — they should be able to move the ball on Auburn.  Also, with Keihl Frazier running AU’s offense, the Hogs might actually force a pick or two.  In this team’s current state, a good break is a must.  If something good happens early, they’ll make this close.  If something bad happens early, expect them to shut things down.

Keys for Auburn:  Arkansas’ pass defense has been horrible, but now’s not the time to let Frazier start winging the ball all over the place.  Tenarius Wright will miss the game for the Hogs so their D-line will take a hit.  Scot Loeffler should try to do what Auburn does best — and we use that term loosely — and that’s run the football.  Protect the ball and run it and Auburn should have enough to get past Arkansas at Jordan-Hare.

Pick:  Auburn 30, Arkansas 24


Mississippi State at Kentucky

12:21pm ET on SEC Network

Opening Line:  MSU -14.5

Current Line:  MSU -10

Storylines:  The Bulldogs are returning to Lexington for the second year in a row thanks to SEC expansion.  Maybe they can stop by Keeneland while they’re in town.  Dan Mullen will be trying to lead State to a 5-0 start for the first time since way back in 1999.  For Kentucky, injuries and losses are mounting.  The Wildcats will look to end a three-game slide (Western Kentucky, Florida and South Carolina), but they’ll have to do it with a pair of freshmen quarterbacks.  Not good.

Keys for Mississippi State:  Take the fight to Kentucky from the opening whistle.  South Carolina dozed through their first half against the Cats last week, but still had enough talent to push UK aside in the second stanza.  The jury’s still out on MSU after a pair of so-so showings against Troy (a 30-24 win) and South Alabama (a 30-10 win in which QB Tyler Russell played poorly).  We’re not so sure they can afford to fall 10 points down at halftime as Carolina did.  Expect State to try and get LaDarius Perkins rolling early against the SEC’s #13 rush defense.

Keys for Kentucky:  UK had built its offense around QB Maxwell Smith, but now an ankle injury has sidelined him and put a serious damper on the Cats’ fast-paced, short-passing attack.  Jalen Whitlow and Patrick Towles will be splitting the snaps tomorrow and the freshmen will be throwing against a team that’s picked off nine passes through four games.  In fact, State leads the nation in turnover margin (+13).  All that would suggest a heavy dose of running from the Wildcats, but to date their ground game hasn’t been effective.  Again… not good.

Pick:  Mississippi State 34, Kentucky 16


LSU at Florida

3:30pm ET on CBS

Opening Line:  LSU -2.5

Current Line:  LSU -2.5

Storylines:  Yes, it’s a Top 10 clash between #4 LSU and #10 Florida, but questions remain unanswered for both squads.  Is Florida really ready to run with the best programs in the nation again after losing 11 games combined the last two years?  Is the real LSU team closer to last year’s squad, the unit we saw in its first three games, or the bunch of Tigers who showed up against Auburn and Towson the last two weekends?

Keys for LSU:  In a hostile environment, Step One will be not beating themselves.  The Tigers turn the ball over too much and they commit too many penalties.  They missed an opportunity to clean some of that up last week against tiny Towson.  Will that burn them in the Swamp?  Florida’s defense will be close to full strength so QB Zach Mettenberger will need to be smart… even if that means just throwing the ball away when a play doesn’t develop.  But let’s be honest, LSU is still a rush-first team.  If they can get their tailbacks moving, they should leave Gainesville with a win.

Keys for Florida:  This is a young Gator team.  As noted above, it’s been a couple years since Florida played in a game with Top 10 and conference championship ramifications.  Do the Gators know how to win a knock-down, drag-out brawl like this one figures to be?  QB Jeff Driskel has emerged as a potential star, but RB Mike Gillislee is the main man to watch in this one.  Like LSU, Florida is a run-first squad.  If the Gator offensive line can’t open holes — or protect Driskel — from the Tigers’ meaty D-line, they’ll have a very, very hard time springing the upset.

Pick:  LSU 20, Florida 17


Texas A&M at Ole Miss

7:00pm ET on ESPNU

Opening Line:  A&M -8.5

Current Line:  A&M -12.5

Storylines:  Fresh off its first SEC win ever, A&M heads to Oxford for a football game that could turn into a track meet.  Kevin Sumlin’s up-tempo team is averaging 76 snaps per game through four games.  Hugh Freeze’s no-huddle scheme is averaging 71 plays through five contests.  While Ole Miss’ defense has been the better of the two against FBS teams they’ll have the tougher task tomorrow because…

Keys for Texas A&M:  The Aggies have “Johnny Football” and they don’t turn the ball over.  If there’s been a surprise star in the SEC this year it’s A&M QB Johnny Manziel.  No, he hasn’t faced the toughest competition to date, but the kid’s shown enough ability to make you think he’ll have some success even when he does.  For A&M, the key will be to protect Manziel.  The Rebels are fourth in the conference in sacks while A&M is third-best in terms of sacks allowed.  If Manziel does his thing and if the Aggies — who’ve turned the ball over just once on the season — hold on to the pigskin, they’ll put up more pinball-type points than the Rebels.

Keys for Ole Miss:  The coaches haven’t announced whether Bo Wallace — who started the season oh so hot — or backup Barry Brunetti will get the start at quarterback for the Rebels tomorrow.  Here’s betting they’ll go with Wallace.  Freeze and crew might not be happy with his ball security, but Wallace ranks #9 in the SEC in total offense.  Whether he takes care of the football or not, UM will need its best weapons on the field to trade scores with Texas A&M and Wallace is Mississippi’s best weapon.  Starting him and protecting him will be key.  A&M is #2 in the SEC in sacks with 17.  Ole Miss is dead last in sacks allowed with 16.

Pick:  Texas A&M 41, Ole Miss 27


Georgia at South Carolina

7:00pm ET on ESPN

Opening Line:  USC -2.5

Current Line:  USC -1

Storylines:  ESPN’s “College GameDay” will be in Columbia (East) and the Cockaboose Railroad will be rocking (one of my favorite spots in the SEC, by the way).  Georgia will be looking to avoid a third consecutive loss to Carolina which would be a first in their long series.  UGA comes in ranked #5 and USC #6.  And if you needed more than that — depending on how real Florida is — this one might be the de facto SEC East Division Championship Game because the winner will effectively have a two-game lead on the loser.

Keys for Georgia:  Shore up the defense.  The return of S Bacarri Rambo and LB Alec Ogletree was supposed to cut down on the big plays last week, but the Dawgs had to hang on for dear life against Tennessee in a 51-44 shootout.  UGA has allowed 20 plays of 20 or more yards, 13 of 30 or more and seven of 40 or more.  Those numbers all rank near the bottom of the SEC.  Making matters worse, UGA allowed the Vols to run for 197 yards against them last weekend.  Not a good sign when your next foe features RB Marcus Lattimore and mobile QB Connor Shaw.  Todd Grantham’s defense will need to put together its best performance of the year tomorrow.

Keys for South Carolina:  Run the ball and stop the run.  How old-timey does that sound?  QB Aaron Murray is at his best when the play-action passing game is working and with freshmen RBs Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall breaking off long runs, Murray’s play-action has worked often.  But Carolina boasts the league’s second best rush defense allowing just 77 yards per game on the ground.  So the first key is stopping Georgia’s run game when the Dawgs’ high-octane offense is on the field.  The second key is keeping said high-octane off the field as much as possible.  If Lattimore and Shaw can run the football and control the clock, well, you know the old saying: Good defense beats good offense.

Pick:  South Carolina 24, Georgia 21


Vanderbilt at Missouri

7:00pm ET on FSN

Opening Line:  MU -6.5

Current Line:  MU -7

Storylines:  Missouri got a much-needed win at UCF last weekend but the Tigers remain in a bit of a funk.  Yesterday they suspended WR Dorial Green-Beckham for a scrape with the law (just one week after he caught his first touchdown pass of the season).  What impact will his suspension have on the team’s psyche?  Meanwhile, Vanderbilt is another team at a crossroads.  Lose and they could swoon.  Win and they could begin to salvage their season.  Might as well call this the Robert Johnson Bowl. 

Keys for Vanderbilt:  Be good in the red zone and on punt coverage.  Did you know that QB Jordan Rodgers ranks #6 in the SEC passing yards per game?  Probably not because the rest of his stats aren’t gaudy.  On the year he has just two touchdown passes.  And scoring TDs has been a big issue for the Commodores who have just four in 15 red zone trips.  Only Arkansas is worse in the SEC.  If/when the Commodores get their chances tomorrow, they have to convert them.  The Dores had better be ready on special teams, too, as they’ll face the SEC’s top punt returner in Marcus Murphy.  The sophomore running back is averaging more than 20 yards per return and has taken three punts back to the house already, including in last week’s win at UCF.

Keys for Missouri:  Lean on the running backs and keep building QB James Franklin’s confidence.  Mizzou is #12 in the SEC in rushing while Vandy comes in at #11 in the league in run defense.  Last week, the Tigers finally got just enough ground game in the fourth quarter to eek by UCF.  This week, they’ll need more production from start to finish.  One reason Mizzou’s ground attack has sputtered is the bum shoulder on Franklin.  The dual-threat quarterback had offseason shoulder surgery, but wound up running with the football 20 times against Georgia.  Bad idea.  The next week he famously refused a painkiller shot and sat out against Arizona State.  Since returning to the lineup his carries have dropped to 15 against South Carolina and all the way down to nine last week.  Franklin said his sore shoulder has impacted his confidence level throwing the football.  That has to change and he did look better against UCF.  But the Dores’ pass defense is #3 in the SEC.  Which brings us back to a more consistent performance from RB Kendial Lawrence and the makeshift O-line in front of him.

Pick:  Missouri 21, Vanderbilt 13



 This is going to be a FUN weekend in the SEC. I have Florida over LSU by 10, Georgia over USC by 4, but exactly the same score for A&M over Ole Miss. (but then again, I'm at just under .650 for the SEC season so far (and just getting killed by the spread).


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