2010 SEC Fearless Predictions - Sept. 11
South Carolina QB Stephen Garcia
South Carolina QB Stephen Garcia
Posted Sep 8, 2010

Alabama and Florida might still be the stars of the SEC, but after great starts to the season, Georgia and South Carolina showed they plan to be in the race for the title. Can Stephen Garcia and the Gamecocks pull it off? Check out the Fearless Predictions for every Week Two SEC game.

2010 SEC Fearless Predictions

Week 2 ... Sept. 11 Games

East | Florida | Georgia | Kentucky | South Carolina | Tennessee | Vanderbilt 
West Alabama | Arkansas | Auburn | LSU | Ole Miss | Miss State

- More College Football Picks (and NFL, too) 

- Sept. 11, Part 2 
- Sept 4 Fearless Predictions

CFN SEC Predictions: SU:11-1   ATS: 4-5


Georgia (1-0) at South Carolina (1-0) Sept. 11, 12:00, ESPN2 and ESPN3

Here's The Deal … The SEC East is there for the taking. Florida is ultra-talented and will turn things around in a hurry after a shaky opener against Miami University, but at the very least this looks like a Gator team that'll be flaky enough to blow at least one game it shouldn't and it has to go to Alabama. Tennessee is still rebuilding, and Kentucky and Vanderbilt aren't going to be factors in the East race. While it's a big stretch at this point to think that this showdown between the Bulldogs and Gamecocks will end up deciding the division, it'll go a long way to shaping the season. At the very least, these two should play a tremendous game with five of the last six matchups decided by a touchdown or less, and four of the last six decided by four points or fewer, and at the very least, the two teams are better than they were last year.

South Carolina obliterated Southern Miss on opening night with everything clicking right away. Stephen Garcia looked like the quarterback the program has been looking for in the Steve Spurrier era, freshman running back Marcus Lattimore appears to be the real deal, and the defense has the athletes and playmakers to be solid. However, Georgia might be the one of the best teams in college football, even if America doesn't want to realize it yet. As long as the quarterback play is solid, and if WR A.J. Green is playing, everything is in place to with SEC East and potentially do even more. An impressive performance in Columbia might finally wake everyone up, while a South Carolina win might signal the official start to the special season long-suffering Gamecock fans have been waiting for.

Why Georgia Might Win: This might be the best USC team yet under Steve Spurrier, but it still can't block anyone. The offensive front did a nice job for the running game against Southern Miss, but it also got its quarterback hit way too often. Granted, the mobility and the toughness of Garcia led to several shots, but Georgia's new 3-4 defensive front has the skill and the athleticism to be camped out in the Gamecock backfield. Takeaways were a big problem last year for the Georgia defense, but it came up with three picks against Louisiana-Lafayette last week. If the Dawgs are +2 in turnover margin against South Carolina, they'll win.
Why South Carolina Might Win: Does Georgia have a passing game? The offense was almost perfectly balanced last week with 184 yards on the ground and 194 in the air, but QB Aaron Murray is still very, very green and is still untested and the A.J. Green situation has been an issue. In the SEC, if almost everything else is equal, the team with the better quarterback playing at home almost always wins. Garcia is a playmaker and the tough leader who has been through the SEC wars and the games like this, while Murray might be more of a caretaker who's being asked to not screw things up. In a pinch, Garcia will make the plays that Murray can't.
What To Watch Out For: The two programs are stuck in NCAA limbo as various suspensions and lots of uncertainty wreaked havoc over the first weeks of the year. Green was held out of the Louisiana-Lafayette game  and will miss the next three games after getting selling one of his jerseys, but RB Washaun Ealy and WR Tavarres King are back after being suspended for the opener for off the field issues. South Carolina has had even more drama with top corner Chris Culliver and key offensive tackle Jarriel King both out in the opener and star tight end Weslye Saunders out indefinitely. The two teams are still extremely talented even if they're not complete, but there has been a ton of preparation needing to be done assuming that not everyone will be in place.
What Will Happen: It'll be yet another close, tough battle, but unlike the sloppy games the two have played over the last two years, this will be a well-played game between two emerging teams. The Georgia defensive front will be the difference with just enough plays in the backfield to slow down the Gamecock offense. Murray will be fine, but the running game will carry him.
CFN Prediction: Georgia 31 … South Carolina 27 … Line: South Carolina -2.5
Must See Rating: Boardwalk Empire – 5 … Going the Distance - 1 … 4.5
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Auburn (1-0) at Mississippi State (1-0) Sept. 9, 7:30, ESPN and ESPN3.com

Here's The Deal … No one's predicting Auburn or Mississippi State to mount any sort of a challenge for the SEC West title in a year when Alabama is still the No. 1 ranked team in the country, LSU looks strong, and Arkansas is so explosive, but each team is on the upswing. The Tigers might have question marks on defense, but the offense was explosive and exciting in last week's blowout win over Arkansas State. Cam Newton is the SEC's newest star with size, speed, and a big-time arm, but Mississippi State has a fantastic-looking quarterback of its own in Tyler Russell and a 49-7 blasting of Memphis on the résumé. This should be a wildly entertaining shootout, and while there's a lot of football to be played, it could turn out to be an elimination game in the SEC West race. Auburn has won eight of the last nine in the series with a 19-14 victory in 2007 the lone blemish, but the Bulldogs can't give away home SEC games and needs this win with at trip to LSU and a date with Georgia up next. Auburn has some interesting showdowns with Clemson and South Carolina to follow, but both games are at home.
Why Auburn Might Win: Does MSU have the pass rush to slow down Newton and all the Auburn weapons? With the upgrade at quarterback, all the pieces are in place for the Tiger attack to be special every week. The receiving corps might not be the best in the SEC, but Darvin Adams and do-it-all playmaker Mario Fannin have to be accounted for on every play, and the backfield tandem of Onterio McCalebb and budding superstar Michael Dyer form a deadly 1-2 rushing punch when Newton isn't taking off. It might be looking too much into one blowout win over a Sun Belt team, but it's all there for the Tiger O, and while MSU has improved, it doesn't have the overall talent to keep up if the Tiger D steps up its play. However, …
Why Mississippi State Might Win: … it's not an assumption that Auburn will suddenly start playing defense. Head coach Gene Chizik is a defensive-minded coach, and coordinator Ted Roof is an aggressive, talented coach who always presses the action, but the Tigers have yet to allow fewer than 20 points since the 2009 opening day win over Louisiana Tech and have allowed 30 or more points in seven of the last 12 games. MSU came up with 24 in last season's loss to the Tigers on the road, and this year's offense is far better with a more dangerous receiving corps that could rip through a secondary that has been blown apart going back to last year. Arkansas State isn't exactly Houston when it comes to the passing game, but it was able to come up with 323 yards with its quarterbacks combining to completed 33-of-49 passes.
What To Watch Out For: Enjoy the moment, MSU fans, because this might be fleeting. You have a quarterback who leads the nation in passing efficiency. Russell, a redshirt freshman, completed 13-of-16 passes for 256 yards and four touchdowns against Memphis, showing just a glimmer of the immense promise that has Bulldog fans buzzing. However, MSU will stick with a two quarterback system with Chris Relf, a more mobile junior, splitting time after completing 7-of-9 passes for 116 yards and a score with an interception. On the other side, Newton was the SEC Player of the Week after completing 9-of-14 passes for 186 yards and three touchdowns, and running 15 times for 177 yards and two touchdowns, in the win over ASU. The Florida transfer took control of the job this offseason, and now the sky is the limit on what he can do with the weapons around him.
What Will Happen: This could be the most fun shootout of the SEC weekend, but you'll probably be able to say that about every Auburn game. This will be a back-and-forth war with lots of players doing lots of big things, but the Auburn running game will take control in the second half. Russell will look like a redshirt freshman during a key stretch to provide just enough of an opening to give the Tigers the advantage.
CFN Prediction: Auburn 38 … Mississippi State 30 … Line: Auburn -2
Must See Rating: Boardwalk Empire – 5 … Going the Distance - 1 … 3
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South Florida (1-0) at Florida (1-0) Sept. 11, 12:00 ET, ESPN Gameplan

Here's The Deal … Florida and South Florida meet for the first time, with very different objectives. The Gators will be looking to elevate from a hideous opening day victory over Miami (OH) that raised unexpected questions about their ability to contend for an SEC and national title. After reaching a low point on offense in the Urban Meyer era and creating a season's worth of follies, Florida will be under the microscope to correct its problems before they turn into a trend. For the Bulls, this is another high-profile opportunity to steal some of the spotlight and the patronage away from the Big 3 in the Sunshine State. A year ago, they split with Florida State and Miami, stunning the ‘Noles and bowing to the ‘Canes. Although clearly playing with house money, this is a huge opportunity for first-year head coach Skip Holtz, who has a grand design for his program in the future.
Why South Florida Might Win: If Florida can only manufacture 212 total yards on the RedHawks, things don't bode well against the speed and quickness of the Bull defense. Sure, it's a rebuilt group, but there are gifted athletes at each level, with something to prove versus a coach who didn't recruit them. If the Gator line hasn't corrected its problems, South Florida linemen Terrell McClain, Craig Marshall, and David Bedford have the moves to make them pay for it. QB B.J. Daniels was sharp in his debut, accounting for three scores without a turnover and spreading the ball around. He's the kind of dual-threat that'll give any defense fits.
Why Florida Might Win: The Gators aren't just any defense. Daniels is a rising star, but he can't carry the team on his back, and his skill position talent is mediocre. The South Florida receivers versus the Florida defensive backs, which includes CB Janoris Jenkins and safeties Will Hill and Ahmad Black is a mismatch that favors the home team. The Gators will cut off passing lanes for Daniels, forcing him to try to fit the ball into tight windows. It was a rough start for QB John Brantley in his debut as Tim Tebow's successor. Naturally, it wasn't all his fault. He'll start getting back on track at the expense of a Bull secondary that's lost a lot to the NFL the last two years.
What To Watch Out For: A simple solution to Florida's offensive issues is to get the ball in the hands of RB Jeff Demps more frequently. One of the fastest players in America, he only got 12 touches, but showcased his explosiveness with a 72-yard burst that broke the game open in the fourth quarter. Figure him to be in space a little more often this weekend, allowing him to turn on the jets and explode into daylight.
What Will Happen: It's inconceivable that a Meyer-coached team can be so bad for two weeks in-a-row. Plus, G Carl Johnson returns from a suspension, T Xavier Nixon could be back from a knee injury, and many of the line's problems can be addressed with practice. Florida will be tighter on offense, even if it doesn't resemble the height of the Tebow era. The defense will take care of the rest, quieting one-trick South Florida and ruling the turnover battle.
CFN Prediction: Florida 34 … South Florida 16 … Line: Florida -15.5
Must See Rating: Boardwalk Empire – 5 … Going the Distance - 1 … 3
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Penn State (1-0) at Alabama (1-0) Sept. 4, 7:00, ESPN

Here's The Deal … Alabama is looking to make its first big statement as the reigning nation champion, while Penn State is looking to go from being an interesting dark horse in the Big Ten race to a real, live contender for the BCS Championship. But this game goes beyond the two superpowers, who used to play on a regular basis but haven't squared off since 1990.

With the Big Ten about to get bigger and better with Nebraska joining next year, there's a chance the conference makes a charge at the SEC's run as college football's top league if it can pull off some big wins. The perception is that the Big Ten has been the SEC's punching bag, and while some have held their own, like Wisconsin and Michigan, Penn State has done much of the heavy lifting going 5-2 against the big league since joining the Big Ten, with the 2010 win over LSU in the Capital One Bowl the last victory.

Alabama has lost its last two games against Big Ten teams, with the last victory coming over Michigan in the 1997 Outback Bowl, but the program is in a far different, far better place now than it has been in the last few decades. Nick Saban has created a monster with more talent, more skill, and more potential for staying power than any time since Bear Bryant was ripping through college football in the 1970s. The nation's No. 1 team showed against San Jose State that it can lose its top player on defense and Heisman winner on offense and still be dominant. Against Penn State, Bama gets a chance to flex its muscle to show how good it really is.

For those old enough to remember, these two played one of the greatest games in college football history, the 1979 Sugar Bowl, with Alabama winning 14-7 to claim the national title. Legendary announcer Keith Jackson called it the best game he ever called, but these two would play other important games, too. In 1982, the Nittany Lions got rocked 42-21 in Birmingham in the lone speed bump on the way to winning the national title, and now they hope to come away from Alabama with a chance to launch another run to a championship.

After this, Penn State gets two weeks off facing Kent State and Temple at home before opening up the Big Ten season at Iowa, but if JoePa's club is good enough to win in Alabama, it's good enough to put up more than just a fight in Iowa City. For the Tide, this is just the start of a brutal run that'll make it earn its No. 1 ranking. Going to Duke shouldn't be a problem, but at Arkansas, Florida, and at South Carolina is no way to ease into the first half of the year.

Why Penn State Might Win: The defensive line is good enough to hold up against the Crimson Tide running game. The Bama line is terrific and will once again be among the best in the nation, but the Penn State defensive front could be the best it faces all season long. The front four didn't exactly turn it loose against Youngstown State, but the pressure should be there from Jack Crawford and Ollie Ogbu on the outside to press Greg McElroy into hurrying his throws a bit more than usual. The Nittany Lion secondary doesn't have a signature star, but it's a very good, very sound group that won't give up many big plays, if any, and has the speed and athleticism to match up with Julio Jones and the rest of the great Tide targets (even if there were a few issues against Youngstown State). In other words, the Tide offense might have a hard time finding something that consistently works.
Why Alabama Might Win: The Nittany Lion offensive firepower just isn't there for a game like this. The offensive front is fine, but it's not a killer and it isn't going to beat up the Tide front, even with Dareus out of the picture. Freshman QB Robert Bolden is about to go from first grade to graduate school in the span of a week, and he's going to have to make quick decisions and plenty of smart plays without making any big mistakes while under constant pressure. That'll be tough to do against a defense with so much speed and athleticism, and if the deep ball isn't there early, it'll be tee off time against Evan Royster and the ground game. Considering the different looks the Bama defensive front will throw at Bolden, if Penn State gets down by more than one score, it might be over.
What To Watch Out For: Is now the time that Julio Jones will go from being a big-time prospect to a special player? With Ingram out, the Bama offense has to rely more on its veteran quarterback and NFL receiving corps to open things up a little bit, and while Trent Richardson and the ground game can certainly produce, the more Jones can do, the better. Marquis Maze and Darius Hanks can all explode for the big play, but it's Jones who has the No. 1 pro target ability to make a great offense totally unstoppable. He caught six passes for 93 yards and a highlight reel touchdown that'll be played over and over all season long, and he'll be a featured part of the offense early on to test a Nittany Lion secondary that got tagged for an 80-yard touchdown pass by Youngstown State in the first quarter last week.
What Will Happen: Bolden will be in for a tough day. The true freshman has a world of upside and plenty of talent, and he showed a little of it completing 20-of-29 passes for 239 yards and two touchdowns with a pick against YSU. Penn State will try to establish the ground game early on, but with no luck, and while the defense will do its part in the first half to keep things close, two key second half turnovers will lead to two Alabama touchdowns and an impressive looking finish. The game will be closer than the final score will indicate.
CFN Prediction: Alabama 27 … Penn State 10 … Line: Alabama -11
Must See Rating: Boardwalk Empire – 5 … Going the Distance - 1 … 5
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LSU (1-0) at Vanderbilt (0-1) Sept. 11, 7:00, ESPNU

Here's The Deal … This was not exactly where either team wanted to be coming into the second game of the year. Yeah, LSU is 1-0 and came away with the win against North Carolina, but it was a very, very rough performance with T.J. Yates and the Tar Heels having one final shot to win a game they should've lost by double digits. All the concerns about LSU before the season are still there, and then some, but the team still got a win against a tough opponent in the opener. If there are problems this week, though, then the panic sirens will go off before facing Mississippi State, West Virginia, Tennessee, and at Florida over the next month. Vanderbilt played well against Northwestern and had its chances to win, but a tactical error chasing a two-point deficit early proved costly late, and the result was a 23-21 loss in a game the team had to win to have any real hope of going bowling. With trips to Ole Miss and UConn up next, and the Commodores can't afford to lose more home dates.
Why LSU Might Win: The Vanderbilt secondary made Northwestern QB Dan Persa look like Dan Marino. Persa is a good talent, but Northwestern was able to come up with a few too many big plays and was able to come up with a decent day on the ground despite the lack of a good back. LSU's offense was clicking early on against North Carolina, and with one of the most athletic and most talented receiving corps in the country, there should be plenty of home runs and lots of deep passes. As long as QB Jordan Jefferson gets time, he should be able to produce. However …
Why Vanderbilt Might Win: … the Commodore pass rush was great last week and it could be a factor against the Tigers. Northwestern has a solid offensive line, but Vandy ended up making three sacks and 11 tackles for loss as it was able to be just aggressive enough to screw things up. The LSU O line held up well against the Tar Heels, but that was against the B team with the star D linemen suspended. Offensively, Vandy showed a shocking sign of life compared to last year with some nice deep plays in the passing game and enough of a ground game to get by. The defense will always be dangerous, but there's a chance the offense might not be such a liability this year.
What To Watch Out For: The only chance Vanderbilt has of pulling this off is if Larry Smith goes nuts. The playmaking junior had what seemed like a breakout game to beat Boston College in the 2008 Music City Bowl, but he struggled with his consistency last year and wasn't accurate completing fewer than half his passes with seven interceptions and four scores. Against Northwestern, he was more decisive and more of a playmaker completing 19-of-33 passes for 240 yards and a touchdown with an interception, and he ran 14 times for 48 yards.
What Will Happen: Vanderbilt has beaten LSU once since 1957, and that's not going to change now. The worst thing that could happen to the Commodores was a rough game for LSU last week, and now all indications are that Les Miles and his crew are fully focused and looking to rebound in a big way. LSU won't take its foot off the gas this week with the offense showing balance and explosion, and the defense spending most of the day in the Vandy backfield.
CFN Prediction: LSU 38 … Vanderbilt 12 … Line: LSU -10
Must See Rating: Boardwalk Empire – 5 … Going the Distance - 1 … 2
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Sept. 11, Part 2