Why Georgia wins big: Even without Todd Gurley lining up for Georgia, the Bulldogs still have an absolute stud in freshman Nick Chubb. In two games as a starter, Chubb has rushed for 345 yards and three touchdowns. The kid just tosses people around out there and certainly has a little Gurley in him. Florida is starting the Treon Harris era at quarterback, but the offense has been lousy for the better part of the season, while Georgia's defense is on a roll. It'll be tight early, but Georgia pounds away in the second half. Georgia 28, Florida 14 -- Edward Aschoff
How Florida keeps it close: This is Harris' game at quarterback, and he certainly provides more of a spark than Jeff Driskel. If Matt Jones and Kelvin Taylor can run the football and negate some of the pressure from Georgia's talented pass-rushers, Florida could have some success moving the football. If they can even out the time of possession battle, you'll see a much more effective defense from the Gators. Georgia 21, Florida 13 -- Alex Scarborough
Why Kentucky wins: Missouri just can't seem to get it together. Just look at last weekend's game against Vanderbilt. Sure, the Tigers won, but not convincingly. And Kentucky is no Vanderbilt. The Wildcats gave Mississippi State a run for its money and beat South Carolina a few weeks ago. With a true playmaker at quarterback and a better-than-expected defense, Kentucky will give Missouri fits on both sides of the ball and win on the road. Kentucky 30, Missouri 20 -- Alex Scarborough
Why Missouri wins: Ever since a 34-0 beatdown at the hands of Georgia, the Tigers have looked shaky, especially on offense. But things are gradually getting better as quarterback Maty Mauk re-learns how to take care of the ball. This game offers the improving Wildcats a plum opportunity to show they can win conference games. But look for the home team to squeeze out a hard-fought victory. Missouri 26, Kentucky 23 -- Jeff Barlis
Why Ole Miss wins: The Rebels were injected with some playoff hope after the first batch of College Football Playoff rankings were announced. That should energize a team that lost an ugly one at LSU. Bo Wallace has to regroup, and he has to follow what his coaches tell him. The Rebels haven't had a consistent running game all season, but Auburn's pass defense ranks 75th nationally, and that should help Wallace regroup after a bad showing in Baton Rouge. Watching Ole Miss' defense try to tackle Auburn's running game might be the highlight of the day. A late turnover will seal it for the Rebels. Ole Miss 31, Auburn 28 -- Edward Aschoff
Why Auburn wins: Ole Miss' sideline was like a M*A*S*H unit last week against LSU, with multiple key players leaving with injuries. Even if most of those guys play Saturday -- and it looks like they will -- the Rebels aren't going to be at 100 percent against arguably the best offense they'll face all season. If Wallace doesn't play better than he did a week ago, Auburn might win easily. Ole Miss' quarterback is the X factor here, and I suspect he'll fare well against Auburn's mediocre defense at home, but the Tigers have way more firepower at their disposal right now. Auburn 31, Ole Miss 24 -- David Ching
Why Mississippi State wins big: Playing its first game with the No. 1 ranking, Mississippi State came out tight against Kentucky. Dan Mullen even admitted that. Look for the Bulldogs to play more relaxed at home Saturday in front of the familiar sound of cowbells clanging. They’re the No. 1 team in the country, and Dak Prescott, Josh Robinson and the defense will prove it against the Razorbacks. Mississippi State 35, Arkansas 14 -- Greg Ostendorf
How Arkansas keeps it close: It should be a triumphant return to Davis Wade Stadium for the nation's No. 1 team, but things aren't perfect for the Bulldogs. Kentucky's offense exposed some issues with the MSU secondary. While Arkansas doesn't have the same caliber of passing attack, the Hogs do have a stable of talented runners, a veteran quarterback and two good tight ends. Mississippi State 37, Arkansas 26 -- Jeff Barlis
More unanimous picks:
Texas A&M over UL Monroe: The big storyline will be who starts at quarterback for Texas A&M, Kenny Hill or Kyle Allen? Either way, the Aggies should roll against a lesser opponent. Texas A&M 52, UL Monroe 14
South Carolina over Tennessee: Steve Spurrier won’t have to go for it on every fourth down against the Vols, but don’t be surprised if he still has a few tricks left up his sleeve. The Gamecocks have won three of the past four games in this series. South Carolina 35, Tennessee 24
Vanderbilt over Old Dominion: Vandy is looking for its third win of the season, but it won’t come easy against Old Dominion quarterback Taylor Heinicke and his 54 career touchdown passes. Vanderbilt 31, Old Dominion 28
Edward Aschoff: 64-11
Greg Ostendorf: 64-11
Jeff Barlis: 63-12
Chris Low: 63-12
David Ching: 62-13
Alex Scarborough: 61-14
Sam Khan Jr.: 57-18
2. Tennessee offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian echoed Volunteers coach Butch Jones' prediction that senior quarterback Justin Worley will not be available Saturday against South Carolina. Maybe that won't be such a bad outcome. Sophomore Josh Dobbs offered reason to believe he might be the Vols' quarterback of the future with a strong performance off the bench last Saturday against Alabama. But the Crimson Tide had not prepared for the youngster. South Carolina will have the entire week. He might be the X-factor in Saturday's game at Columbia. Or for the superstitious Gamecocks among us, maybe it will be South Carolina's uniforms. South Carolina will wear black jerseys and black pants on Saturday for the first time since losing 24-14 to Florida in 2009.
3. Georgia (6-1, 4-1 SEC) is clearly the favorite to win the SEC East, but Missouri (6-2, 3-1) can still make some noise if the Bulldogs fall into any sort of slump. The Tigers haven't played particularly well lately, but they have only one conference loss as Kentucky (5-3, 2-3) prepares to visit on Saturday. Both teams will be looking to get back on track for the stretch run. Perhaps Mizzou quarterback Maty Mauk found his stride last week against Vanderbilt after several rocky games in a row. Meanwhile, Kentucky needs just one more win to achieve bowl eligibility, but it hasn't won a true road game since the 2010 opener. Not the greatest sign, particularly since its previously productive running game has underperformed lately and coaches are questioning whether they should use fewer backs in the regular rotation.
Around the SEC
" The State asks how South Carolina's disappointing season might impact its 2015 recruiting class.
" Formerly suspended safety Jermaine Whitehead does not appear close to returning to Auburn's starting lineup.
" Derrick Henry is leading an unusually thin group of Alabama running backs this week in practice with an open date ahead.
" LSU is focused on cleaning up its mistakes from last Saturday's Ole Miss game with Alabama ahead next weekend.
" John Kadlec, better known as “Mr. Mizzou” after serving the school as an athlete, coach, administrator and broadcaster, died Wednesday at age 86.
Tweets of the day
Why would Alabama not be "thrilled?" They play No. 1 and No. 3 at home..— Cecil Hurt (@CecilHurt) October 28, 2014
2. As the AJC's Chip Towers said, "Gurley Watch" reached Day 19 on Tuesday and still no update on the Georgia running back's status for Saturday's big game against Florida. The Bulldogs are cautiously optimistic, as Todd Gurley continues to practice. Meanwhile, the Gators' defensive players say they are expecting, preparing and actually hoping to face the Heisman candidate on Saturday. Despite Florida's downward spiral in the past two seasons, the Gators say they're confident. The history of this bitter rivalry suggests the game is usually closely contested. At least one thing that's guaranteed is a good time at the ol' Cocktail Party. It's always cool to see the intermingling of red, black, orange and blue inside and outside the stadium. On Saturday, we'll see it on the field as well. Georgia is the home team, but both teams agreed to wear home jerseys in what should make for a neat visual.
3. Determined to snap its three-game losing streak, Texas A&M underwent a sweeping round of soul-searching during its bye week with a willingness to re-evaluate every position on the team. That includes the quarterback position, where sophomore starter Kenny Hill is now battling with freshman Kyle Allen with a decision to come on Thursday. It's a stunning turn of events for Hill, who started the season with a school-record 511 yards passing in the opener and has thrown for 2,649 yards in eight games. Allen actually went to offensive coordinator Jake Spavital's office to ask if the starting job was really up for grabs. Yes, he was told, this is really happening. The same could be said for the Aggies' tailspin, but at least the bye week came at a perfect time. A&M is still reeling from its last game, a 59-0 loss at Alabama. Saturday's home game against Louisiana-Monroe ought to do wonders in boosting some confidence in Aggieland. Especially for the QB, whoever he is.
Around the SEC
" Mississippi State QB Dak Prescott ditched his walking boot and practiced on Tuesday. He's not sure what all the fuss was about, saying: "I'm sure there's some boots Beyonce or somebody's worn before that people have made a big deal about."
" Ole Miss changed its play-calling terminology after a former intern left in the offseason to join the Auburn staff.
" Michigan native and current Tennessee coach Butch Jones swatted aside speculation that he could be a candidate to be the Wolverines' next coach.
" Vanderbilt quarterback Johnny McCrary will be the "lead dog" against Old Dominion, but coach Derek Mason also hopes Patton Robinette will play after being medically cleared last week from a concussion suffered on Sept. 20.
Tweet of the day
It should be an eight-team playoff. Bama, Georgia, LSU and Tennessee should be in there— Mark Schlabach (@Mark_Schlabach) October 28, 2014
Brandon Spikes, No. 100 in 2006 class
Spikes was a fierce recruiting battle between Florida and Alabama out of Shelby Crest High in North Carolina with Virginia Tech as a third school that received an official visit. While Alabama and Virginia Tech made runs, it was the work of then-Florida assistant and current Marshall head coach Doc Holliday that won Spikes over. Holiday had a long-standing relationship with Spikes dating back to when Holliday was an assistant at NC State before being hired at Florida in 2005. Spikes was part of ESPN’s No. 1 ranked Florida Gators recruiting class that included Tim Tebow, Percy Harvin, Marcus Gilbert and Riley Cooper. Tebow and Harvins were first-round NFL draft selections, Spikes and Gilbert second round and Cooper fifth round.
Spikes was a member of the Florida Gators from 2006-2009, playing on the 2007 and 2009 BCS national title teams under Urban Meyer. He played in 47 games for the Gators, including 39 starts posting 307 career tackles, 31.5 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks and six interceptions. He returned four interceptions for scores. Tallied 131 tackles as a sophomore earning All-SEC and All-American postseason honors. He was a second-round selection in the 2010 NFL draft, and is currently playing in his fifth season in the NFL.
Honorable mention: Emmanuel Acho. Acho was a member of the Texas Longhorns class of 2008 that included Pro-Bowl kicker Justin Tucker and Bills safety Aaron Williams. Acho is the younger brother of Cardinals outside linebacker Sam Acho. Acho, currently on the Eagles active squad, started 26 games for the Longhorns under Mack Brown. He played in the 2010 BCS national title loss to Alabama and the 2009 Fiesta Bowl win over Ohio State.
The College Football Playoff selection committee began deliberations on Monday in Grapevine, Texas. Tonight at 7:30 p.m. ET, Arkansas Athletic Director Jeff Long will unveil to a most curious audience the first-ever CFP rankings.
It's a historic time -- and surely chaotic.
Marc Tracy of the New York Times, in assessing the moment, writes that “historians will most likely date the end of the era of good feelings to 7:31.”
With that in mind, some advice for fans from the Big Ten to the SEC:
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Not a surprise, but as the noise increases around Florida coach Will Muschamp and his job security (or lack thereof), the Gators players are voicing their support for the coach. "I mean, people can really say what they want," Florida senior linebacker Mike Taylor said. "We're the ones who sit in these meeting chairs and listen to him. The people that are saying that are not out there coaching with them, not being coached by him, they're not playing on Saturday." The Gators should have plenty of motivation this week for their rivalry game with Georgia. They're under pressure, too. I remember Vernon Hargreaves III talking at SEC media days about things classmates said to players last year when the Gators were 4-8. Is it likely the Gators turn it around? Probably not, given how good Georgia is. But like their coach, they'll probably operate with a bunker mentality moving forward.
Here's an interesting dynamic before this weekend's showdown between Auburn and Ole Miss: Hugh Freeze expressed some concern over the fact that a former quarterback of his at Arkansas State and intern for him at Ole Miss, Ryan Aplin, is an offensive graduate assistant with Auburn now. In the coaching world, turnover is frequent and a situation like this can be expected to pop up from time to time, but the fact that Aplin spent so much time with Freeze, who gave Aplin his first job in football, suggests he has a deep knowledge of Freeze and the inner-workings of his attack. Everything is on film, so I doubt that it is a make-or-break type of thing, but coaches search for every advantage they can get. Bo Wallace acknowledged that the Rebels have changed terminology since Aplin left, but it's still worth noting.
Around the SEC
- Ole Miss will be without linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche for the remainder of the season after ankle surgery.
- Nick Saban said that Alabama starting left tackle Cam Robinson has a high ankle sprain and will be out "a couple of weeks."
- The love that exists between LSU players and Les Miles has always been strong and it showed after the coach lost his mother on Friday.
- Steve Spurrier and South Carolina had a lot of fourth-down success against Auburn, something Gus Malzahn is familiar with from his high school coaching days.
- Todd Gurley's teammates are awaiting word on his status just like everyone else these days.
- Tennessee coach Butch Jones said there is no final answer on who will be starting at quarterback for the Volunteers on Saturday.
Question to Richt from fan on radio show: "Georgia brought in Will Muschamp as a player. Why don't we send him out as a coach?"— Seth Emerson (@SethEmerson) October 28, 2014
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- As criticism has mounted, Florida coach Will Muschamp says he's taking a "bunker mentality" these days. The fourth-year coach has come under fire from fans in recent weeks, and some of their barbs have hit close to home.
"Well, you've got to get home and explain to your 9-year-old why they're chanting to fire your dad," Muschamp said Monday. "That's not very fun."
The Gators have lost 10 of their past 13 games, including a 42-13 shellacking in their homecoming game against Missouri on Oct. 18 that saw fans chant "Fire Muschamp" in the third quarter before leaving the stadium in droves. Fans also booed starting quarterback Jeff Driskel on several occasions.
"I told the team after the game, I said, 'As a fan, you buy a ticket, they reserve the right to boo. They buy the ticket, they can come boo and chant and holler and scream and start a website and all that stuff,'" Muschamp said. "As a coach or a player, when you come to the University of Florida or a place like this, that's something you've got to accept."
Since the Missouri game there has been widespread speculation that Muschamp will be fired. His players, however, are standing by their coach.
"We can't worry about his future or what we've got going on and how that connects to us," senior linebacker Michael Taylor said Monday. "We're just going to go out there and play. We love playing for him. He's a good coach. He's a great person.
It's a chicken or the egg argument whether the Gators quarterbacks or receivers are more to blame for an offense that has stumbled and bumbled its way near the bottom of the SEC and FBS rankings.
Florida has averaged 135.7 passing yards in its last three games, and the condemnation has mounted for a group of pass-catchers that has just one player with more than 122 yards receiving in six games.
"Nobody can catch it for them," Muschamp said recently. "They've got to catch the ball. We work on JUGS [machines], we work on hand-eye, a lot of that."
Drops are a big part of the problem, but so are tipped balls that end up in opponents' hands.
Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel has thrown 10 interceptions in his last five games, and Muschamp has been adamant in saying "it's not all Jeff Driskel's fault."
Another Gator whom Muschamp resolutely defends is wide receivers coach Chris Leak.
"He can't catch it for them," Muschamp said.
Leak, the Gators' sixth receivers coaches in the last six years, was a graduate assistant before UF's previous WR coach, Joker Phillips, suddenly resigned in June because of possible recruiting violations.
Similarly, graduate assistant Bush Hamdan took over as Florida's receivers coach just weeks before the 2012 season opener when his predecessor, Aubrey Hill, resigned for personal reasons after his name surfaced in connection with recruiting violations at his previous stop with the University of Miami.
Former Florida offensive coordinator Brent Pease, now a wide receivers coach for Washington, recently said the coaching turnover at the wide receiver position is a key element of the Gators' struggles.
"It's hard. There's no consistency," he said. "You've got to feel for the kids, what they're being taught and what their development is."
Sympathy abounds, but answers are harder to find.
Offensive coordinator Kurt Roper, hired a few weeks after Pease was fired in December, feels his receivers might be trying too hard.
"I think right now, they’re like anybody else. They don’t want to let anybody down," he said. "I don’t see it as a lack of concentration for the most part. I see it as trying not to make a mistake, and it maybe leads to that."
Roper has faith in what he and Leak are coaching in practice, the way they simulate game conditions and preach that their receivers treat every play as if they are the primary target.
Pease, a proven receivers coach in his own right who has sent several players to the NFL, thinks the Gators just need some explosive passes to loosen everything up.
"I think the main thing it comes down to is just hitting some big plays, I really do," he said. "That's what changes the momentum of games."
Muschamp, who said before the season that this was his deepest and most talented group of pass-catchers, will rely on that depth and turn to the bench if necessary.
"When guys continue to not be productive," he said, "you've got to go another direction."
There's only one way to go -- up.
Recruiting Pitfall At Florida, Michigan
12:00 PM ET Louisiana-Monroe Texas A&M 3:30 PM ET Florida 11 Georgia 4:00 PM ET Kentucky Missouri 7:00 PM ET 3 Auburn 4 Ole Miss 7:00 PM ET Old Dominion Vanderbilt 7:15 PM ET Arkansas 1 Mississippi State 7:30 PM ET Tennessee South Carolina