Thursday, September 15, 2011
SEC predictions: Week 3
By Chris Low
Just like the grind of the SEC separates the contenders from the pretenders on the field, it also separates those who can pick games and those who can't.
We have three league games on tap this week plus an ACC vs. SEC battle over in Death Valley (yes, LSU fans, there is another Death Valley). You know ACC blogger Heather Dinich is all fired up about the Auburn-Clemson tilt. She loves to talk a lot of smack early in the season and spout off about what the ACC's record is against the SEC. It's funny, though, that when the games start counting and the BCS national championship picture starts taking shape in November, she's never around.
I guess she's off chasing Roy Williams and Mike Krzyzewski by then.
Anyway, maybe there will be some separation between fellow SEC blogger Edward Aschoff and myself this week. We're both 19-3 (.864) after two weeks. I was 9-1 last week, and he was 8-2. We both missed Auburn's 41-34 win over Mississippi State, and Edward showed James Franklin and his Vanderbilt football team absolutely no love by picking Connecticut.
Obviously, he's been talking to Dinich and was confused. He thought we were picking basketball games. I've got him straightened out for this week.
Here's how we see it going in Week 3:
No. 3 LSU at No. 25 MISSISSIPPI STATE
Chris Low: The middle of that Mississippi State defense looked vulnerable last week in the loss to Auburn. There’s nothing vulnerable about LSU’s defense, which looks faster and more menacing by the week. The Bulldogs will make a few plays on offense, but the Tigers will make a few more on defense.
LSU 27, Mississippi State 21
Edward Aschoff: The Bulldogs couldn't stop the run to save their lives last week and as a result they lost to Auburn. Thursday night, they face an even tougher challenge against LSU. Having the game at home should help, but the Tigers are clicking on all cylinders and won't be bothered by a few cowbells clanking at inappropriate times.
LSU 28, Mississippi State 17
NORTH TEXAS at No. 2 ALABAMA
Chris Low: The Crimson Tide’s opener against Kent State was a runaway, and that was Nick Saban’s alma mater. This one will be even more of a romp as Alabama gears up for next week’s big showdown with Arkansas.
Alabama 48, North Texas 0.
Edward Aschoff: This is a game where Alabama could really get a good look at both quarterbacks. AJ McCarron appears to be the starter, but coach Nick Saban said this week that he wants to continue to develop Phillip Sims. The offense will also welcome Darius Hanks back to the passing game, so expect a little more offensive production.
Alabama 49, North Texas 3
COASTAL CAROLINA at GEORGIA
Chris Low: Maybe we can get Coastal Carolina coach David Bennett to re-create his dogs and cats speech. Something says it would be a lot more entertaining than this game will be.
Georgia 41, Coastal Carolina 7.
Edward Aschoff: Georgia hasn't won a football game since last November. That has Bulldog Nation angry and uncomfortable. But the losing streak stops this weekend. This is a chance to build some confidence and clean things up on both sides of the ball.
Georgia 48, Coastal Carolina 14
TROY at No. 14 ARKANSAS
Chris Low: Troy’s never a team to fool around with, but Arkansas has too much firepower on offense and too much muscle on defense to slip up at home. The Hogs might also get away with holding out a couple of their starters who are banged up.
Arkansas 42, Troy 14.
Edward Aschoff: The Razorbacks haven't had trouble putting points on the board and they shouldn't this week, either. Maybe we'll see more of Brandon Mitchell to give the quarterback spot some variety. Also, running back Dennis Johnson could return to Arkansas' backfield, adding another weapon to help get this running game going.
Arkansas 48, Troy 10
LOUISVILLE at KENTUCKY
Chris Low: The first team to 20 points wins. Maybe the first team to two touchdowns wins. It hasn’t been pretty for the Wildcats on offense, but they’re winning with defense, which will be enough for them to extend their winning streak in the Governor’s Cup to five straight games.
Kentucky 16, Louisville 10.
Edward Aschoff: The Wildcats' offense has been hard to watch at times, while Louisville is coming off a tough loss to Florida International. But this is a rivalry game, which means both teams will be pulling out new treats and wrinkles. Louisville coach Charlie Strong will be looking for revenge after dropping his first game in the rivalry last year. What better place to do it than Lexington?
Louisville 28, Kentucky 17
NAVY at No. 10 SOUTH CAROLINA
Chris Low: For a guy whose team has already won at Georgia and is ranked No. 10 nationally, the Head Ball Coach doesn’t sound real happy. Maybe that’s because he knows his team is living dangerously. The Gamecocks better not go through the motions against the Midshipmen.
South Carolina 41, Navy 21.
Edward Aschoff: South Carolina's defense has struggled through the first two games and will have its hands full with Navy's triple option. Steve Spurrier made his displeasure with his team known this week, so the Gamecocks won't be feeling tremendously good about themselves. Expect a more complete performance this weekend.
South Carolina 38, Navy 17
OLE MISS at VANDERBILT
Chris Low: Something about this game seems to bring out the best in Vanderbilt and the worst in Ole Miss. The last thing Houston Nutt needs to do is lose to the Commodores for a second straight year. Good thing his defense is playing better.
Ole Miss 20, Vanderbilt 17.
Edward Aschoff: The Commodores are sizzling after their first two games, while Ole Miss is still trying to figure things out on offense. The Rebels have lost two of their past three to Vandy and playing the Commodores' more aggressive defense could cause problems for a struggling offense.
Vanderbilt 24, Ole Miss 17
No. 21 AUBURN at CLEMSON
Chris Low: Welcome to the Lewis Grizzard Bowl, Part II. The SEC’s Tigers rallied from 17 points down to win last year. They better not fall that far behind this year or they can kiss that 17-game winning streak goodbye. There’s something to be said for knowing how to win, and Gene Chizik’s bunch certainly knows how to do that.
Auburn 31, Clemson 28.
Edward Aschoff: I don't know how Auburn does it, but the Tigers keep pulling games out late. Last week, Auburn was less than an inch away from going to overtime, and the week before, the Tigers needed a perfect onside kick to beat Utah State. This one is the first road challenge, but why bet against this young Auburn squad now?
Auburn 34, Clemson 30
TENNESSEE at No. 16 FLORIDA
Chris Low: Both teams have a lot to prove, and both teams hope to use this game as a springboard to bigger and better things this season. The Vols love to throw the ball all over the field and are only going to get better as the season progresses, but the Gators win in the Swamp thanks to big plays from Chris Rainey and a better all-around kicking game.
Florida 34, Tennessee 24.
Edward Aschoff: We still don't know a ton about either one of these teams, but the winner could solidify the No. 2 spot in the SEC East, and maybe even move itself to the top of the division. Can Tyler Bray's arm outlast Florida's defense? Will Charlie Weis open things up against Tennessee's young defense? We'll know more Saturday and with all the questions surrounding both teams, the advantage goes to the home team.
Florida 27, Tennessee 23