A good week for SEC football as we have several interesting games on the slate. Some will answer important question, or determine the pecking order or just renewal of old rivalries.
The past couple of weeks I have been less than spectacular in my predictions. In my wrap-up, I suggested that I might be better of to enlist the aid of my 12-year old son, Wade, in choosing my winners and losers. So I have decided to take my own advice. It is a win-win for me: if his picks are great I have a truly gifted son. If they are all bad, well, I have someone to share the blame with!
Now for the picks.... As always, these are in the order of the kickoff times.
AUBURN at WEST VIRGINIA: The Tigers are taking their we-don't-have-a-clue-or-a-coach-that-does spread to visit the Mountaineers on Thursday night and I am afraid it is not going to be a pleasant journey. The barely breathing AU offense is going to be facing the #15 ranked scoring defense in the nation. Considering that the Tigers already have trouble scoring against anyone, facing a decent defense will be a real challenge. While Pat White is still listed as "questionable" for the game, I think he will be in there. Even so, Noel Devine seemed to hit his stride last week as he racked-up 188-yards rushing. Tthe Auburn defense has spent entirely too much time on the field this season and it is beginning to take its toll on what has been a solid unit. I think WVU wins what might be a close one at home. (Wade concurs - says that White will be playing for payback for not being recruited by Auburn or Alabama)
KENTUCKY at FLORIDA: The Gators had a week off to savor their thrashing of LSU and now they are all rested up and ready to go Wildcat hunting. Kentucky visits the Swamp and there should be a fired-up Gator crowd there to welcome them. Even though UK has been playing some solid football this season, I just don't seem them having enough weapons on either side fo the ball to tame the Gators. (Wade says Florida will kill them - a young man of few words)
DUKE at VANDERBILT: Vandy came up short against Georgia last week, but gave the Dawgs all they could handle. This week the Blue Devils come to the Music City and I think that they will leave singing the blues. Duke was generous last week allowing Miami to gain an average of 5.3-yards per rush. This has got to be glad news to the run-happy Dores and there will be dancing on Music Row. (Wade goes with Vandy as well - but he has always liked the Dores)
GEORGIA at LSU: Georgia caught a break this week with CBS electing to make this their 2:30 game instead of the night game as scheduled. That means only a slightly less rowdy crowd at Tiger Stadium. This is a very important game for both teams as neither can afford another conference loss and hope to remain contenders. Some of the matchups to look for:
Georgia's offense line remains the biggest weakness that they have. Even so, Moreno cranked it up last week and ran all over a pretty good Vandy defense. However, LSU's defensive front is a bit better than the Dores, so it might be tough sledding this week. Moreno's ability to generate an effective rushing game will go a long way to keeping the pressure off of Stafford and allowing the Dawgs to work their play action game. Considering LSU's less-than-stellar defensive secondary, Stafford and Company could really light them up.
On the other hand, LSU made some changes in their offense last week to get the running attack in gear. By moving Scott to fullback and bringing in the speed back Williams in for the change of pace, the tandem rushed for 164-yards against the stingy SC last week. Georgia's defense has shown a weakness in stopping the run and if both of the backs can get going, it won't matter whether it is Lee or Hatch is handing the ball to them.
Ultimately, I think that the LSU defensive front may be too much for the patchwork Georgia O-line and Stafford may spend most of the night running for his life. And the Scott/Williams duo will overpower the Dawgs defense. So I am going to call this one for the Tigers. (Wade disagrees - he thinks that Moreno is going to put on a show)
MIDDLE TENNESSEE STATE at MISSISSIPPI STATE: However bad MSU has been this season I think they will take it to the Blue Raiders. It won't be pretty though watching two 2 and 5 teams slug it out (if anyone is actually watching). (Wade likes the Dogs in this one)
OLE MISS at ARKANSAS: This week the snake-bit Hogs get to host the pissed-off Rebels. Ole Miss had their chances at Bama last week but couldn't pull off another big upset. They have to be smarting from the one that got away. Meanwhile, Arkansas once again found away to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. The short of it is that I don't think the Hogs are going to fare much better this week against the Rebels and they are the next ones to carve up the Hawgs. (Wade says the Hogs don't stand a chance)
ALABAMA at TENNESSEE: This should be an interesting game from the aspect of which Alabama team shows up. So far this season, Bama has been great on the road. Rest assured the Vol-nation will be in full force for this game and Fulmer must be looking at this game as a potential job saver. Tennessee's offense has been, well, offensive. Now they are looking to the true freshman QB Stephens is going to face the what may be the best defense he will see this year. I am sure that Saban will dial up some special schemes to try to confuse the young QB and bring the pressure every chance he can. Adrian Foster has been a non-factor in games so far this year so this should allow the Bama D-line (even minus Mt. Cody) to tee-off and really bring the hard rush. And with Stephens completing less than 50% this year, the secondary should also get some chances.
On the offensive side, JP Wilson will have to be careful with ball security as the Vols have a ball-hawk CB in Eric Berry, the SEC's all-time leader in interception return yardage. Overall, the Vols defense has not played badly giving up only 7 TDs in 7 games. However, the ugly offense continues to put them in bad positions and against a team like Bama that could be fatal.
I think the Tide runs, runs and runs some more and grinds up the Vols. (Wade is a bit more optimistic - he says Bama is headed for an undefeated season and the NC and therefore this another "W")
Now for the non-SEC games.
Once again, I will weigh in on three different matchups that are outside of the SEC (Amazingly, there are actually games that are played outside of the South!). The Next Best Three this week are...
USC at ARIZONA: Even though USC has run thru their last two opponents like a dose of Milk of Magnesia, they may have a tougher test against the Wildcats. Arizona looked good in blowing up what was then a ranked Cal team, but this is also the same team that lost to New Mexico and Stanford. I think this will be more of a test of USC's defense rather than offense as Tuitama will air it out. Even so, I think the Trojans will be too much for the Wildcats and continue on their quest to bedevil the BCS. (Wade says USC beat them like a drum)
OKLAHOMA STATE at TEXAS: This is a big game for both teams and could be the deciding game for the Big12 South. A win by OSU would give them an instant shot of legitimacy in the national scene. A win by the Horns means that they have only one more real hurdle (Texas Tech) from wrapping up the South title. OSU struggled with Mizzou, and they are going to face a much more complete offense in Texas and McCoy (IMO a much better QB than Daniel). In addition, the Texas is D is going to be much more formidable than anything that the Cowboys have faced before. I don't see this one as being that close, but in the offense-happy Big 12, games can change in just seconds. I think the roles get reversed and the Cowboys get branded by the Horns. (Wade likes the Horns to win this also)
PENN STATE at OHIO STATE: This is THE big game in the Big 10 this year. This game represents redemption for the Buckeyes in the form of beating a top 5 team. For PSU, this game is to prove that they are a real contender and to exorcise a few demons: they have lost 10 straight on the road to top 25 opponents - including two to OSU.
Both of these teams have been playing great defense this season - PSU is 8th in the nation while OSU is 10th. So the big factor here is who can move the ball. OSU went wild on Michigan State last week and wailed on them with 216-yards rushing, with Wells leading the way with 140-yards. Pryor also looked more comfortable running the offense and played with confidence.
However, PSU has also been lighting up the scoreboards. After letting the Wolverines put up 17 points, they turned around and beat them like a rented mule. Clark looked sharp and Royster looked like the real deal with 174-yards rushing.
But the real strength of this Penn State team has been the old-school defense that they are playing now. While Pryor and Wells continue to play better, I just don't think that they are quite ready for this PSU defense. Jo Pa has this team playing like it is on a mission and a win against OSU would give them a clear shot to the Big 10 crown. I expect this to be a hard hitting game with a lot of emotion, but in the end the Nittany Lions escape the Horseshoe with a "W". (Wade likes OSU in this one, saying the Pryor and Wells will be too much for the PSU defense)
So there it is. Your turn to tell me how wrong I am. But remember the rule of no cheap smack without something to back it up. Bring some facts. Bring some substance to your position. SEC fans are supposed to be the most knowledgeable fans in country so lets show it.
To all fans, of all teams: Enjoy the weekend. I wish your teams good luck. And let's all show some class and sportsmanship.