2010 SEC Fearless Picks - Sept. 18, Part 2

Posted Sep 16, 2010

Fearless Predictions for every SEC game, Sept. 18, Part 2

2010 SEC Fearless Predictions

Week 3 ... Sept. 18, Part 2

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

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- Sept. 18 (Ark. vs. South Carolina)

Clemson (2-0) at Auburn (2-0) Sept. 18, 7:00 ET, ESPN

Here's The Deal … The Coulda-Been-a-Bowden Bowl? Terry and Tommy probably wouldn't approve. Although the two Tigers share historical ties that extend all the way back to the 19th century, they haven't played in a regular season game since 1971. This renewal of acquaintances in East Alabama is going to say a lot about each program's 2010 trajectory. For Clemson, the prelims are over. This is where the season officially begins. After feasting on Presbyterian and North Texas, the Tigers will need to elevate the level of their play as they leave South Carolina for the first time this month. Auburn comes into this game more battle-tested and well-rested, courtesy of last Thursday's gut-check 17-14 defeat of Mississippi State in Starkville. These Tigers are a bit of a wild card in the SEC, sending mixed signals on how close they are to competing in a loaded West Division.
Why Clemson Might Win: Auburn has yet to face an offense with Clemson's run-mix potential, so questions about Ted Roof's defense could linger through the weekend. The Tigers have regrouped quickly from the loss of RB C.J. Spiller, sporting depth and talent in the form of shifty Andre Ellington and bruising Jamie Harper. QB Kyle Parker is a second-year starter with tremendous zip on his throws and the ability to break containment when the pocket collapses. On defense, they've got the linemen, like DT Jarvis Jenkins and DE Da'Quan Bowers, to neutralize Auburn's front wall and the safety tandem of DeAndre McDaniel and Rashard Hall to make plays all over the field.
Why Auburn Might Win: For the Tigers, it's all about team speed. Gus Malzahn wants to put budding QB Cameron Newton and backs Onterio McCalebb and Michael Dyer in a position to exploit an average collection of Clemson linebackers. Plus, the cornerbacks haven't been tested the way they will against receivers Darvin Adams and Terrell Zachery. The Auburn defense sent a message in Starkville, holding Mississippi State to just 246 total yards and 16-of-35 passing. And Clemson lacks the go-to receiver to put a dent in a veteran Auburn secondary that starts three seniors and lockdown junior CB Neiko Thorpe.
What To Watch Out For: One of the revelations thus far on the Auburn defense has been DT Nick Fairley, who's getting a consistent push in his debut as a full-timer. Quicker than you'd expect from a 6-5, 298-pounder, he whipped the Bulldog line last Thursday for five tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, and 1.5 sacks. When he's getting penetration, it becomes that much harder to contain DE Antoine Carter and the linebackers coming off the edge.
What Will Happen: Although the two teams are relatively equal, the situation is not. The home field advantage cannot be overstated, nor can the fact that Auburn has already played in a physical, four-quarter game. The Tigers will survive another battle, riding the continued emergence of Newton and the improved play of the defense. They have more weapons on offense, while Clemson's inability to find a successor to WR Jacoby Ford on the outside is going to catch up to it this weekend. Another big game and another high-profile loss for the Atlantic Coast Conference.
CFN Prediction: Auburn 38 … Clemson 30 … Line: Auburn -7
Must See Rating: Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps – 5 … The Event - 1 … 3
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Akron (0-2) at Kentucky (2-0) Sept. 18, 7:00, ESPN3.com

Here's The Deal … One new head coach is starting out well and the other is floundering. Joker Phillips has done everything he was supposed to with the UK program coming up with the big rivalry win over Louisville to start out the season before getting a blowout of Western Kentucky. Now he gets another layup and a tune-up before moving to the adult table with road games against Florida and Ole Miss to follow. This is when UK has to form its foundation of wins to get to a bowl game, and there can't be any sort of a slip this week against a team playing as poorly as any in America. Akron was hoping to kickoff the Rob Ianello era with a splash, but Syracuse had other ideas in a 29-3 opening day win. That was bad, but an overtime loss to Gardner-Webb was worse. After starting out 0-2 at home, the schedule picks up with four road trips in the next five games and six in the next eight for a team that hasn't generated any sort of offensive production and has been mediocre on defense.
Why Akron Might Win: If ever a team is going to be caught napping, this is it. UK has its first two wins under its belt against regional teams it had to beat. With the showdown against Florida coming up next, the last thing the team wants to do is have any sort of a fight against a miserable Akron squad. The problem is that UK already has lots of little bangs and bruises, and the more it can rest several players, the better. Star RB Derrick Locke has an elbow issue and the defensive backfield has some dinged up players, so the more the backups can get in, the better. The mindset might be to get this game over with as soon as possible; the Wildcats aren't going to be focused.
Why Kentucky Might Win: If you can't throw on Syracuse and Gardner-Webb, you can't throw. Akron's offense has gone nowhere so far through the air with a passing game that can't generate any big plays down the field. The UK secondary is banged up, but it has been excellent so far and isn't going to get torched by a passing game that can't get going. The Zip offensive line has been horrible in pass protection so far, and while the Cats don't have a killer pass rush, there's enough of one to disrupt any semblance of an Akron passing game.
What To Watch Out For: The one concern for UK has been a run defense that gave up 153 yards and a score to Louisville's Bilal Powell and 184 yards and two scores to WKU's Bobby Rainey. The Akron running game worked against GW with Alex Allen and Nate Burney each running for over 100 yards, and it's a must to pound away early on to stay alive. Akron's defense can't stop UK cold, so if Allen and Burney aren't keeping the chains moving and staying on the field, it'll be an ugly blowout.
What Will Happen: The Kentucky passing attack has been efficient and effective, the offense has been balanced, and the team isn't making a slew of mistakes. Akron isn't doing much of anything right, and as long as the Wildcats try, this won't be competitive for too long.
CFN Prediction: Kentucky 41 … Akron 13 … Line: Kentucky -24.5
Must See Rating: Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps – 5 … The Event - 1 … 1.5
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Mississippi State (1-1) at LSU (2-0) Sept. 18, 7:00, ESPNU

Here's The Deal … 1999. It has been ten years since Mississippi State was able to get past LSU, and even then it was a 17-16 win over a miserable Tiger team that finished 3-8. There are several lopsided LSU lopsided rivalries, and this is among the worst with LSU winning 17 of the last 18 games. The Bulldogs battled hard last year in a 30-26 loss, and this year's team has a great chance to finally reverse the ugly trend.

Under second year head coach Dan Mullen, the Bulldogs are looking like they're on the verge of big things with a little more time and seasoning. The offense is finding some playmakers, the defense has been excellent so far, and the potential is there to be more than just a weekly layup for the rest of the SEC. While they haven't won in Baton Rouge since 1991, this is their best chance with just enough talent on both sides of the ball to give the inconsistent Tigers a great fight.

LSU looked like a world-beater for about 40 minutes against a depleted North Carolina team, and even though things got ugly late, a win is a win is a win. There were no problems last week against Vanderbilt, but there are just enough problems with the passing game and just enough mistakes to give MSU a solid shot to pull off the upset. Unlike previous years, LSU can't just show up and win.

Why Mississippi State Might Win: LSU can't throw. It could be argued that LSU has the most talented receiving corps in America, but the passing game isn't clicking. The line is giving Jordan Jefferson time, but the production isn't there as the Tigers are last among SEC teams in passing and 90th in the nation in efficiency. MSU was able to keep Auburn's Cam Newton from doing much of anything through the air, allowing just 136 yards and two scores with an interception, and it's likely going to force LSU to stay one dimensional with the ground game. Defensively, MSU has to come up with takeaways and the team has to be +2 in turnover margin, at least. LSU has given it away six times in two games while MSU has kept the major mistakes to a minimum.
Why LSU Might Win: LSU's defense has become the LSU defense again when it comes to getting into the backfield. The MSU offensive line is fine, but it's about to be under siege against a defensive front that has been fantastic so far at hitting the quarterback and blowing up plays in the backfield. LSU came up with four sacks and 11 tackles for loss against North Carolina and followed it up with six sacks and ten tackles for loss against Vanderbilt, and it should be more of the same this week. The MSU offense might be better, but it's not good enough to overcome a heavy pass rush and it's not sharp enough to make the quick decisions and plays to make the Tigers pay.
What To Watch Out For: There's nothing flashy about Stevan Ridley's game. The LSU junior did a decent job against UNC with 81 yards on 19 carries, and he dominated Vanderbilt with 159 yards and a score on just 17 carries. The bigger story is that he's getting room to move. The offensive line was a stunning disappointment last year, and even though it's rebuilt this year, it has been far better over two games. For MSU, the quarterbacks have to be more Memphis and less Auburn. Against the Tigers (the bad, Conference USA version), Chris Relf and Tyler Russell combined to complete 20-of-25 passes for 372 yards and five touchdowns with a pick. Against the Tigers (the good, SEC version), the quarterbacks completed just 16-of-35 passes for 129 yards with no touchdowns and a pick.
What Will Happen: LSU will keep on winning, even though it won't play like everyone wants it to. The pass rush will blow up the MSU passing game, while the offensive line will methodically and effectively get the running game going just enough to carry the way to the win. It might not be aesthetically pleasing, but the Tigers will be 3-0.
CFN Prediction: LSU 23 … Mississippi State 13 … Line: LSU -8
Must See Rating: Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps – 5 … The Event - 1 … 3
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Furman (1-0) at South Carolina (2-0) Sept. 18, 7:00, ESPN3.com

Here's The Deal … These are heady times for South Carolina. For just the second time since 2001, the Gamecocks have started the season 2-0, but unlike past seasons, this year's team has the look of something truly special to go along with a year when the SEC East is looking extremely mediocre. After a strong 17-6 win over Georgia to kick off SEC play, the Gamecocks get a week off to get the backups involved before dealing with at Auburn and Alabama. Furman isn't the program it was a few years past when it was a regular in the FCS playoffs and was a lower-level powerhouse. While the Paladins looked strong with a 45-15 win over Colgate to start the season and the offense is dangerous, the defense isn't anything special. This is the team's only game this year against an FBS team.
Why Furman Might Win: The offense is dangerous enough to be annoying. The ground game, led by UCLA transfer Chris Forcier, rolled up 377 yards against Colgate and should be strong throughout the FCS season. Facing Citadel and Wofford is different than dealing with South Carolina, but the skill players are in place to keep the game interesting into the second half. The Gamecocks aren't necessarily going to be focused in a sandwich game, and they haven't obliterated FCS teams in the past limping past South Carolina State last week and beating Wofford 23-13 in 2008.
Why South Carolina Might Win: The ground game should be able to control the game early enough so the passing game doesn't have to take any chances whatsoever. After an awful 2009, the Paladins aren't going to be night-and-day better up front and they aren't going to hold up against a Gamecock offensive front that's still trying to improve. It has only been two games, but the blocking has been better than past seasons and the line showed off a bit of an attitude against Georgia. The pass protection still stinks allowing seven sacks in two games, so this is going to be more than just a scrimmage; the line is going to keep working and jelling.
What To Watch Out For: Now that star tight end Weslye Saunders has been suspended for the entire season, the offense has to keep looking for more playmakers in the passing game. RB Marcus Lattimore is the star of the attack and Alshon Jeffery is a legitimate No. 1 receiver, but no one else has stepped up. Tori Gurley is the team's second-leading receiver, but his five catches for a mere 26 yards and no other wideout has more than two catches. This is what games against Furman are for. It's time to see who among the twos can play.
What Will Happen: It's not going to be a 75-0 blowout, but South Carolina will go through the motions and end up winning easily after a rough start. The goal will be to limit the number of shots Lattimore has to take while trying to improve the pass protection and the timing of the passing game. Furman will put up some points, but the defense will give them up in bunches.
CFN Prediction: South Carolina 38 … Furman 14 … Line: No Line
Must See Rating: Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps – 5 … The Event - 1 … 1
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