Here’s your weekly rundown of all the SEC action coming your way in Week Four of the regular season. 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.
Ole Miss at Tulane
12:00pm ET on FSN
Opening Line: UM -15
Current Line: UM -18.5
Storylines: The Rebels will be trying to bounce back from a thrashing at the hands of Texas last week. UM’s shorthanded defense gave up 676 yards to the Longhorns. On offense Bo Wallace finally had a tough day at the office. But Tulane’s not Texas. This is, however, the Green Wave’s first game since safety Devon Walker fractured his spine during a game two weeks ago. Tulane’s emotional state could play a factor in this one.
Keys for Ole Miss: Hugh Freeze’s team needs to win the turnover battle and with Tulane starting a freshman at quarterback, it can. A fast start from the Rebel offense could also cause the Green Wave to hang their heads.
Pick: Ole Miss 34, Tulane 17
Kentucky at Florida
12:21pm ET on SEC Network
Opening Line: UF – 23.5
Current Line: UF -23.5
Storylines: Joker Phillips is struggling to keep his job (unlikely) and will try to do by snapping Florida’s 25-game win streak over the Cats (even more unlikely). Jeff Driskel put on a “where’d that come from?” performance against Tennessee last week. As poor as Kentucky’s run defense has been, expect the Gators to run, run and run some more.
Keys for Florida: Did I mention run, run and run some more? UK has already allowed nine rushing touchdowns on the year and their opponents have been Louisville, Kent State and Western Kentucky. The best hope for UF is to build an early lead and pull the starters in order to avoid injuries.
Keys for Kentucky: The Cats’ best weapon is quarterback Maxwell Smith, but if he has to throw 60 times — as he did in last week’s loss to WKU — the youngsters around him on Randy Sanders’ offense could get him killed. And if he does manage to stay upright, Smith can’t throw four picks. To have any chance whatsoever the Wildcats must force turnovers by the bushel.
Pick: Florida 38, Kentucky 14
Missouri at South Carolina
3:30pm ET on CBS
Opening Line: USC -9
Current Line: USC -10.5
Storylines: Welcome to the big time, Mizzou. This is the first 3:30pm ET game on CBS for one of the SEC’s two new members and it’ll be quite a test for the Tigers. James Franklin and Connor Shaw are both banged up, though both are expected to start. If the backups are forced to play, give the advantage to Carolina because Dylan Thompson would have Marcus Lattimore in his backfield… Corbin Berkstresser would not.
Keys for Missouri: Protect James Franklin. Jarvis Jones and Georgia’s defense had a field day in the final quarter of their blowout win at Mizzou two weeks ago. Now a makeshift MU offensive line will have to fend off Jadeveon Clowney and company. T-R-O-U-B-L-E.
Keys for South Carolina: Beware of turnovers. The Tigers are plus-six on the season and only five teams in the SEC have turned the ball over more than Carolina. Freshman TJ Gurley will take the place of suspended veteran safety DJ Swearinger. Expect Mizzou to try to take advantage. The best way for USC to protect its defense from Gary Pinkel’s hurry-up system? Hand the ball to Lattimore. A lot.
Pick: South Carolina 27, Missouri 14
Florida Atlantic at Alabama
4:00pm ET on Pay-per-view
Opening Line: UA -51
Current Line: UA -49.5
Storylines: Another cupcake game in the SEC. The Tide opened as a 51-point favorite — which Nick Saban can’t like — but an FAU defensive end got lippy and claimed that Bama can be beaten. Not a wise statement, young man.
Keys for Alabama: To quote Russell Crowe in “Gladiator,” “At my signal… unleash Hell.” Bama just needs to make sure everyone stays healthy.
Pick: Alabama 42, Florida Atlantic 6
Rutgers at Arkansas
7:00pm ET on ESPNU
Opening Line: Pick
Current Line: UA -8.5
Storylines: Razorback fans abandoned ship last week as Alabama slaughtered their team 52-0. Couple that with an upset loss to Louisiana-Monroe a week earlier and the attendance might be the real storyline in Fayetteville. Luckily for John L. Smith — the L. stand’s for “Let’s smile!” — Tyler Wilson will be back at quarterback for the Hogs after missing a week-and-a-half with a concussion.
Keys for Arkansas: Build a wall around Wilson and let no Scarlet Knight come near his noggin. Just having Wilson back on the field should refuel the Hogs’ once-potent aerial attack. Running the football would limit the QB’s exposure to hits, too. Most importantly, however, is fixing all that’s broken on the defensive side of the ball. Paul Haynes’ new unit hasn’t gotten much help from the offense the last couple of weeks, but no one expected UA to rank 95th in the nation in total defense after three games.
Pick: Arkansas 35, Rutgers 20
LSU at Auburn
7:00pm ET on ESPN
Opening Line: LSU -18.5
Current Line: LSU -20.5
Storylines: The temperature of Gene Chizik’s seat is one storyline. An overtime win at home over ULM last week didn’t do much to cool things for the fourth-year coach who’s offense and defense both lack playmakers. For LSU, going on the road in the SEC will be a good test for the Tiger D and new quarterback Zach Mettenberger. It’s one thing to crush Washington, Idaho and the like at home. It’s another to go into Jordan-Hare, regardless of how good or bad Auburn might be.
Keys for Auburn: Simple. Chizik’s set of Tigers have to run the football effectively. They have to run the football to take pressure off of quarterback Kiehl Frazier who Chizik admits isn’t read to carry the team just yet. And they have to run the football to take time off the clock, limit LSU’s touches, and protect a defense that has a hard time, you know, actually tackling ballcarriers. And that’s kind of a biggie in football.
Keys for LSU: For Miles’ set of Tigers, their run game should have little trouble with an Auburn defense that ranks #109 out of 124 schools nationally in rush defense. Expect John Chavis to dial up some new looks for Frazier as well. If he thought the Louisiana school from Monroe was tough, wait’ll he sees the bunch from Baton Rouge. About the only way LSU can lose this one is to turn the ball over. That means no interceptions at the opponent’s goal line, Mr. Mettenberger.
Pick: LSU 40, Auburn 10
South Alabama at Mississippi State
7:00pm ET on Pay-per-view
Opening Line: MSU -32.5
Current Line: MSU -34.5
Storylines: More creampuffery. I think if MSU could have scheduled the University of North Carolina at Winston-Marlboro Scott Stricklin would have done it. Last week, the Bulldogs apparently missed their wake-up call and sleepwalked through a 30-24 tighter-than-expected win at Troy. Troy is 4-11 in its last 15 games, by the way.
Keys for Mississippi State: USA likely won’t provide much of a test, but Dan Mullen’s defense nees to show real improvement over last week’s effort. The Dogs allowed 572 yards of offense to Troy and the only thing that saved their tails was the gathering in of four more turnovers. State is plus-11 in turnover margin on the season. Tyler Russell has yet to throw a pick and if that stats holds true tomorrow, MSU will hit 4-0 and remain ranked in the national polls.
Pick: Mississippi State 42, South Alabama 10
South Carolina State at Texas A&M
7:00pm ET on FSN
Opening Line: No Line (FCS Opponent)
Current Line: No Line (FCS Opponent)
Storylines: Yawn. The storyline is that fans of all FBS schools should boycott games against FCS opponents. Who cares?
Keys for Texas A&M: Work on the run game. Johnny Manziel has been a pleasant surprise at quarterback, but it’s time to get Christine Michaels and the rest of the Aggies’ deep running back corps rolling. When A&M faces more SEC competition, they’ll have to run the football better than they have in the middle-of-the-pack start to the season. (TAMU ranks eighth in the SEC in rushing offense after two games.)
Pick: Texas A&M 52, South Carolina State 9
Akron at Tennessee
7:30pm ET on CSS
Opening Line: UT -35
Current Line: UT -33
Storylines: Over/under 70,000 fans in Knoxville? Vol fans invested a lot of energy and hope in last week’s showdown with Florida only to find themselves emotionally bankrupted by game’s end. How much support with UT get in a home game against what’s supposed to be a pastry of a foe? As for the team, at some point Sal Sunseri’s defense will need to start cutting down on the big plays.
Keys for Tennessee: About that whole “big play” thing… switching to a 3-4 defense usually starts with busts in Year One, improves throughout the season, and then looks good by Year Two. But the Volunteers have given up 17 plays of 20 or more yards through three games, more than any other team in the SEC. Akron has a high-flying offense that might break one or two big ones, but UT has to start making gains in the miscommunication/bust area. Also, Tyler Bray needs to be patient and smart in the pocket and not keep throwing balls from his back foot as he did time and again last weekend.
Pick: Tennessee 41, Akron 20
Vanderbilt at Georgia
7:45pm ET on ESPN2
Opening Line: UGA -16
Current Line: UGA -16
Storylines: Oh, come on. This is James Franklin and his mouth going up against Todd Grantham and his antics. Those two coaches haven’t engendered a lot of good will when it comes to their fellow SEC coaches, but that’s not in their job descriptions, either. Expect ESPN2 to give you a glimpse or two or 12 at the end of last year’s game.
Keys for Georgia: We mentioned Tennessee’s need to prevent big plays on defense and the same holds true for UGA. The Dawgs are the only team in the SEC other than the Vols to have allowed eight plays of 30 or more yards from scrimmage. Vandy isn’t exactly a quick strike offense, but no one expected Buffalo or FAU to break off some long gains. They did. When it comes to winning tomorrow, the Dawgs should if they just take care of the football. Mark Richt’s team is minus-one in turnover margin on the season and coughing up the football is a sure way to keep Vanderbilt hanging around.
Keys for Vanderbilt: Last year Franklin said after the Georgia game: “We are not gonna sit back and take stuff from anybody. Anybody. No one. Those days are long gone and they are never coming back.” But after a pair of close-but-no-cigar losses to South Carolina and Northwestern, Vandy’s coach made a change behind center and promptly crushed Presbyterian. To insure that “those days” never come back and that folks stop saying “same old Vandy,” Franklin needs for his team to show some real fight at Sanford Stadium. That will require a ball-control type of offense, no turnovers, and yet another solid outing from his defense (which ranks third in the SEC in total yardage allowed versus FBS opponents). Unfortunately, Georgia’s offense is tops in the league in total offense against FBS foes. Vandy needs to prove that a good defense can beat a good offense.
Pick: Georgia 31, Vanderbilt 13