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…
Georgia at Ole Miss
12:30pm on SEC Network
Why It Matters: They’re not calling it the Hot Seat Bowl for nothing. The loser will hear about it loud and dirty from his fanbase. Mark Richt can probably save his job with an 8-win season and that’s still a possibility. For that reason Houston Nutt might need this one more than Richt. He finished 4-8 last year losing to Jacksonville State, Vandy and MSU. He’s off to a 1-2 start this season with a blowout loss to Vandy already on the resume. Not good. Plus, Rebel fans are calling for the head of AD Pete Boone. You know how ADs save their own necks? By lopping off the heads of coaches beneath them and hiring flashy names — like Gus Malzahn or Mike Leach. Richt’s seat is hot. Nutt’s is on fire.
What Vegas Says: Georgia by 10 (opened at -10)
What We Say: Vandy’s big win over Ole Miss will either light a heckuva fire underneath the Rebels… or leave them emasculated. We think they’ll show some fight. And Georgia’s O-line grows more banged up by the week. Still, the Dawgs appear to have the better team.
Prediction: Georgia 27-17
Arkansas at Alabama
3:30pm on CBS
Why It Matters: The Razorbacks want to make the SEC West a three-team race. Alabama wants to keep its national title hopes on track. In the mano y mano category, Bobby Petrino still hasn’t knocked off Nick Saban since joining the SEC… though there’s no shame in that.
What Vegas Says: Alabama by 11 (opened at -12.5)
What We Say: Before the season began, we’d have predicted a tight, tight game. But after watching Arkansas’ struggles with Troy last week, Alabama — at home — just seems too tough a target for the Hogs to take down.
Prediction: Alabama 30, Arkansas 21
Florida at Kentucky
7:00pm on ESPN
Why It Matters: The Gators still haven’t put all of the pieces together yet. In fact, 2011 Florida looks to depend on Chris Rainey as much as 2009 Florida depended upon Tim Tebow. And that’s a too much. As for Kentucky, if second-year coach Joker Phillips doesn’t get things headed in the right direction, he could enter his third season having already achieved hot seat status.
What Vegas Says: Florida by 19.5 (opened at -17)
What We Say: Charlie Weis is dynamite scripting the first 20 or so plays for UF. Barring turnovers or a Rainey injury, the Gators will have already put this game away by the time Florida’s finished with those first 20 plays.
Prediction: Florida 38, Kentucky 13
Vanderbilt at South Carolina
7:00pm on ESPN2
Why It Matters: Carolina needs to play up to its hotshot ranking for once. Vanderbilt wants to keep surprising the doubters. Statistically, the Commodores should not be 3-0. And we don’t expect Stephen Garcia to toss five picks as poor Zach Stoudt did last week. But James Franklin’s built a scrappy team and the Dores have played the Cocks tough in four straight contests (including back-to-back wins in 2007 and 2008).
What Vegas Says: South Carolina by 15.5 (opened at -15)
What We Say: Carolina’s been hurt by the pass and that’s just not Vandy’s strong suit. The Dores will need to have a big day on the ground — hoping that USC misses as many tackles as it did against Georgia — and they’ll need some turnovers. Defensively Vandy’s been tough against the run, but Elon, UConn and Ole Miss don’t have Marcus Lattimore.
Prediction: South Carolina 31, Vanderbilt 17
Florida Atlantic at Auburn
7:00pm on FSN
Why It Matters: The Tigers rank 117th out of 120 teams in the nation in total defense. Auburn is allowing 534 yards per game and each opponent has put up more yardage than the one before it. Just wondering where all those Tiger fans who screamed, complained and raged about a lack of respect from the media and pollsters have disappeared to. As Guns N’ Roses once sang, “You don’t talk so loud and you don’t walk so proud anymore.” Auburn will get better. But this is what happens when everyone graduates. A national title one year doesn’t mean bupkes the next.
What Vegas Says: Auburn by 31.5 (opened at -32)
What We Say: If you’re defense is ranked #117, you want to face the worst offense possible. Allow us to introduce FAU — the 120th ranked offense in the nation. Expect Ted Roof’s bunch can start building some confidence.
Prediction: Auburn 45, FAU 10
Louisiana Tech at Mississippi State
7:00pm on ESPNU
Why It Matters: Back-to-back conference losses can throw some pretty chilly water on a parade. Dan Mullen’s team had been climbing steadily since his arrival in Starkville. It wasn’t all going to be easy. Now let’s see how the Bulldogs bounce back from a little adversity.
What Vegas Says: Mississippi State by 19.5 (opened at -18)
What We Say: Many MSU offensive lineman have spent their fall in the infirmary rather than on the field. Louisiana Tech has a pretty good run defense, but they’re one of the nation’s worst against the pass. For that reason, look for Chris Relf to hit some deep passes early and for the Dogs to pound the ball behind their banged up line once they’ve built a comfortable lead.
Prediction: Mississippi State 38, Louisiana Tech 16
LSU at West Virginia
8:00pm on ABC
Why It Matters: If LSU can add a road win at West Virginia to its neutral site win over Oregon, Les Miles’ club will have done some serious BCS resume-building in the season’s first month. The Mountaineer crowd will be nuts as always, perhaps even more so thanks to the SEC’s shunning of WVU earlier this week on the conference realignment front.
What Vegas Says: LSU by 6 (opened at -5)
What We Say: WVU’s Geno Smith is a putting up impressive numbers (1,008 passing yards in three games) in Dana Holgorson’s new spread system, but LSU’s defense is wicked. Wicked fast. Wicked good. (Not to mention wicked smaht.) As long as Jarrett Lee keeps making sharp decisions, the Tigers should keep piling up wins.
Prediction: LSU 28, WVU 17