2010 SEC Fearless Picks - Sept. 25
Alabama QB Greg McElroy
Alabama QB Greg McElroy
Posted Sep 21, 2010

Is Arkansas ready to make a step up into the big-time? It'll get its chance against Bama and the nation's most efficient passer, Greg McElroy, while South Carolina faces Auburn in a huge statement game and Kentucky tries to pull off a shocker against Florida. Check out the Week 4 SEC Fearless Predictions.

2010 SEC Fearless Predictions

Week 4 ... Sept. 25 Games

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

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SEC Fearless Predictions
- Sept. 18 | Sept. 11 | Sept. 4

- Sept. 25, Part 2 (South Carolina at Auburn) 

CFN SEC Predictions: SU:25-3   ATS: 13-12


Alabama (3-0) at Arkansas (3-0) Sept. 25, 3:30, CBS

Here's The Deal … If Arkansas is ready to turn the corner, really ready to turn the corner, this is the game it needs to have. After a strong performance in a last-second win at Georgia, the Hog love is flowing for a team with a high-octane offense, a solid defense, and the type of quarterback who makes NFL scouts get warm and fuzzy feelings inside. Bobby Petrino's team has been building towards this game and this moment, and after losing three straight in the series and getting destroyed in the last two against the Tide, a win would vault Arkansas to the front row in the national title chase. However, a win doesn't assure an SEC West title with road trips to Auburn and South Carolina ahead, but the LSU game is at home, and if the Hogs are good enough to beat Alabama, they're good enough to beat anyone left on the slate.

Alabama is the unquestioned No. 1 team in the nation, but it's time to show why. Beating Penn State doesn't mean as much right now that it would've over the last few years, and beating San Jose State and Duke is beating San Jose State and Duke. Beating Arkansas at Arkansas would be special, and doing it impressively, would mean that any and all rebuilding is over. Everything is humming on offense with Mark Ingram back to add even more pop to a balanced attack that wasn't exactly in need of a boost, while the defense has been every bit as fast and as stifling as it was last year. As crazy as this might sound, this could be the easiest date on the schedule for a while with Florida up next and three road games in the following four. How tough are things going to be for the Tide? After playing the Gators, the next five opponents get an extra week off to prepare for the national champs.

Why Alabama Might Win: The pass defense is working. Of all the areas on defense that needed retooling and reloading, the secondary was among the biggest concerns. The talent was undeniable, but how quickly could all the superstar recruits turn into primetime performers? Penn State has a nice receiving corps and David Cutcliffe's Duke attack can wing it around the yards, but the Tide secondary has still been tremendous allowing just one touchdown pass with five interceptions. Even though teams have had to bomb away to try to keep up the pace, Bama has only allowed 362 passing yards on the season with the first three teams combining to complete a mere 41-of-92 throws. Ryan Mallett might get 362 yards in this game, but the Tide will win more than its share of battles.
Why Arkansas Might Win: The offensive line is playing well. Mallett is doing a great job of getting the ball out of his hands in a hurry, and he's starting to answer his pro scout critics who suggest that he can't make accurate throws on the move, but he's also getting a ton of help from the front five. Georgia's Justin Houston was a non-factor until one big play on a late Hog drive, and for the most part, the Bulldog pass rush was totally neutralized. As good as Alabama might be, the pass rush has been non-existent so far with a mere two sacks in the first three games and only nine tackles for loss. That's not to say the defensive front seven doesn't have the skill to get into the backfield, but it hasn't needed to sell out in any way so far and it hasn't had to provide much pressure to succeed. However, considering this is a D that's still getting its feet wet in several spots, it has to prove it can get to Mallett. If the big bomber isn't in a hurry, and he gets an extra second to find his second receiver, Arkansas will move the ball.
What To Watch Out For: All the attention will be paid to the matchup of Heisman candidates with Mallett and Ingram on display, and rightly so, but the key might be Alabama QB Greg McElroy. The nation's leader in passing efficiency had his best game of the 2009 season against the Hogs, throwing for 291 yards with three scores. However, he's not going to outbomb his counterpart.

Mallett answered some questions last week about his inability to win on the road and his struggles late in tight games by engineering a brilliant win, and he has been nothing short of spectacular so far throwing three touchdown passes in each of the first three outings with 301 yards against Tennessee Tech, 400 against ULM, and 380 against Georgia. Since coming to Arkansas, he has thrown for 200 yards or more in every game but one; last year's 35-7 loss to Bama. He completed 12-of-35 passes for 160 yards with a touchdown and an interception, and if he can make amends, his NFL draft stock will shoot up from first rounder to possibly No. 1 overall.

Also looking for a good game after what happened last year is Ingram, who was held to just 50 yards on 17 carries. He looked fresh, fast, and really, really good in his season debut against Duke, and now he can make a big push for a second straight Heisman if he can dominate with the world watching.
What Will Happen: Mallett will get his yards and Bama will be pushed, but the Tide offense will flex its muscle. The track is expected to be a bit sloppy with rain in the forecast, and Ingram will take advantage. McElroy will be brilliant and Ingram will crank out 100 yards in what will be a fantastic all-around offensive performance. In a game of ebbs and flows, the Tide will appear to be comfortably ahead in the second half before Mallett bombs the Hogs back into it to make it interesting. And then Ingram will drop the hammer with a time-killing final drive to seal the tough win.
CFN Prediction: Alabama 27 … Arkansas 23 … 5Dimes.com Line: Alabama -7.5
Must See Rating: The Social Network – 5 … $#*! My Dad Says - 1 … 5
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UAB (1-2) at Tennessee (1-2) Sept. 25, 12:20 ET

Here's The Deal … A visit from UAB will be a welcome sight for a Tennessee program that's been dropped by top 10 opponents, Oregon and Florida, the last two weekends. Although it was common knowledge that this was going to be a rebuilding year in Knoxville, falling below .500 in September for the fourth straight year isn't any easier to digest. The Vols will use this week to make adjustments on both sides of the ball before beginning an October schedule that's as wicked as any in the country. The Blazers actually have a little bounce in their step for a change. Hard-luck losers the first two weeks, they flipped the script on Troy last Saturday, rallying from a 13-point deficit to win on a last-second heave from 44 yards out. If UAB is ever going to mount an SEC head on the wall, this might be the time to do it.
Why UAB Might Win: The pitcher on that game-winning toss in Birmingham was Bryan Ellis, who brought a spark to the offense once he came in. He threw for 360 yards and three scores, maximizing the athletic ability of Frantrell Forrest and true freshman Jackie Williams. He'll get his first career start under center this week, but will occasionally give way to running threat David Isabelle in an attempt to put the young Volunteer D on its heels. Tennessee is also having problems protecting QB Matt Simms, an opening UAB linemen Bryant Turner and Elliott Henigan are going to take.
Why Tennessee Might Win: Derek Dooley needs to get his offense back on the rails. This is an ideal spot to do it. Facing one of Conference USA's softest defenses, the Volunteers will be able to restore Simms' confidence and get some valuable reps for an inexperienced offensive line. With more room to operate, it'll be a productive afternoon for RB Tauren Poole, who went for more than 100 yards in each of his first two games. On the outside, WR Denarius Moore should be good for at least one or two hook-ups behind a Blazer secondary that has no lockdown corners.
What To Watch Out For: Can someone in Orange get to the passer on a consistent basis? Gerald Williams is actually off to a decent start, but he has just two of the Vols' three sacks through three games. For a program with such a rich tradition on defense, it's hard to imagine Tennessee struggling so badly to mount a pass rush. If the flame doesn't get lit this Saturday, it's going to be a very long October at Neyland Stadium.
What Will Happen: This is a good opportunity for Tennessee to hit the reboot button, get back to .500, and start rebuilding the confidence of the younger Vols. The team showed a lot of fight a week ago, so attitude won't be a problem. Poole will lead the charge on offense now that he's not absorbing contact at the line of scrimmage, busting loose for 125 yards and two touchdowns.
CFN Prediction: Tennessee 38 … UAB 13 … Line: Tennessee -14.5
Must See Rating: The Social Network – 5 … $#*! My Dad Says - 1 … 2
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Kentucky (3-0) at Florida (3-0) Sept. 25, 7:00, ESPNU

Here's The Deal … November 15th, 1986. Kentucky beat Florida 10-3 in the midst of a mediocre year. 23 games later, the Wildcats haven't been able to repeat the feat and have been beaten down about as badly as a team can be blasted over the last few seasons dropping the last two meetings by a combined score of 104 to 12. This year represents a real, honest shot of pulling off the second win in the series since 1970 and the first in Gainesville since 1956. First year head coach Joker Phillips has the Cats playing well with a 3-0 start and dominant victories over Western Kentucky and Akron. The offense is humming, the defense has been solid, and there make up is there to win if Florida plays like it has over the first three weeks. The Gators have won each of their first three games by double digits, but the offense has been awful, the defense above-average, and the consistency isn't there. With a trip to Alabama coming up next week, Florida can't be looking ahead in any way, and it won't be considering the current struggles. This might not be the prettiest game of the day, but it has the potential to be a tight battle throughout.
Why Kentucky Might Win: The Gator offense doesn't work. Florida likes to run the spread, but it's not doing it with John Brantley under center. The snaps have been an issue, and the passing game has been a bigger problem averaging just 151 yards per game. The Gators have become way too reliant on the big play and the turnover, but Kentucky has yet to give the ball away yet this season and has been very, very careful to not screw up. The offensive line is playing better than it has in several years, while the offense has achieved an almost perfect balance averaging 242 rushing yards and 255 passing yards per game.
Why Florida Might Win: The Wildcat defensive front might end up being pounded on. The Cats are doing a solid job of making plays in the backfield, and they can get to the quarterback, but they'll also give up yards on the ground. Florida is having problems generating long, sustained drives, but the offensive line is good enough to wear down the UK front with a power running game if the coaching staff commits to it. If the Gators try to go Wisconsin, in time, the big play will be there from Jeff Demps. However, the offense must be patient, and that hasn't exactly been easy so far. The passing game is just missing, but after three games there's a chance that the light is about to go on. There's too much talent for the Gators to be this bad.
What To Watch Out For: Lost in the rough start to the Florida season has been an All-America level September from Ahmad Black. The senior safety has been all over the field with a team-leading 24 tackles with three interceptions. While he was just okay against Tennessee, he has established himself as the star playmaker for the defensive back seven and worthy of being accounted for on every play. Also playing at a high level is Derrick Locke, one of the nation's most underappreciated all-around backs. The Kentucky senior has hit the 100-yard mark in each of the first three games, after running for 100 three times all of last year, and he has five touchdowns with at least one in each game. The passing game is doing enough to take the heat off, but he'll still be a marked man by the Gator D.
What Will Happen: Kentucky will give Florida all it can handle. The Gator defense is playing at an extremely high level, but it's not going to come up with the key turnovers needed to help the moribund offense. The Cats are going to stay alive well into the second half, and then Jeff Demps will be Jeff Demps. He'll be bottled up for most of the game, and then the one moment will come when he gets the hole needed for the home run to change the game around. Florida will win, but there will still be more questions than answers.
CFN Prediction: Florida 30 … Kentucky 17 … 5Dimes.com Line: Florida -14
Must See Rating: The Social Network – 5 … $#*! My Dad Says - 1 … 4
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Georgia (1-2) at Mississippi State (1-2) Sept. 25, 7:00, ESPN3.com

Here's The Deal … The panic sirens are out and blaring. A Georgia team that has the talent to play with anyone in the country, and was a sleeper pick to win the SEC title before the season began, is 1-2 for the first time since 1996. The Dawgs went 5-6 that year, and the last 1-3 start came in 1993, another 5-6 campaign. Everyone likes head coach Mark Richt, but if he loses this one, with Florida and Auburn still to deal with in conference play, it'll be win or else time the rest of the way. For Mississippi State, this is a winnable game the program has to have. After a tough loss to Auburn and a clunker at LSU, the Bulldogs need to come back with a solid, consistent offensive effort to get any hope of a bowl game back on track. With Alcorn State and Houston up next, this is the last conference date until October 16th at Florida.
Why Georgia Might Win: Mississippi State can't score. The offense is having a hard time moving the ball on a regular basis and it's having an even harder time not giving the ball away. After rocking Memphis for five touchdown passes in the season opener, the Bulldogs haven't thrown a touchdown pass in either of the last two games while turning the ball over seven times including five picks against LSU. Georgia might be struggling, but at least it's hanging on to the ball with one turnover in each of the first three games. Defensively, after getting run over by South Carolina and bombed on by Arkansas, Mississippi State will be a welcome respite. MSU doesn't do any one thing well on offense, and the Georgia pass rush that was M.I.A. against the Hogs should show up this week.
Why Mississippi State Might Win: It's not like the Georgia offense is lighting up the scoreboard like a Christmas tree. The offense desperately, desperately misses A.J. Green, and while Kris Durham showed up with a nice second half performance against Arkansas, there isn't any one playmaker the MSU defense needs to worry about. Georgia is running for a mere 128 yards per game behind an offensive line that's struggling and underachieving. MSU has a pedestrian pass rush, but the run defense has been solid so far.
What To Watch Out For: Aaron Murray, this is your chance. Coming into the season, Georgia's one big, screaming question mark was at quarterback. Murray won the job in a war of attrition, and the general thought was that the talent was there and would blossom through with a little bit of time. Not having Green to rely on has been a killer, and he has been under constant pressure, but excuses aren't working for a team that should be pushing for the SEC East title, and isn't. If Murray stinks it up early, there might be some temptation to give true freshman Hutson Mason a shot. MSU's quarterback situation isn't exactly clear with Chris Relf trying to come back from a blow to the head suffered against LSU. He's expected to be fine, but the bulk of the offense could fall on Tyler Russell, a tremendous talent who just needs more time and seasoning. The redshirt freshman was awful against LSU, throwing for 81 yards and three picks, and he has yet to prove he can handle a decent defense.
What Will Happen: Justin Houston, Justin Houston, Justin Houston. The Georgia hybrid defender was neutralized by Arkansas, as was the pass rush, but he'll come back roaring this week disrupting everything the MSU offense wants to do. The Georgia offense isn't going to go crazy, but it'll capitalize on a few key turnovers and the defense will take care of the rest.
CFN Prediction: Georgia 23 … Mississippi State 14 … 5Dimes.com Line: Mississippi State -1
Must See Rating: The Social Network – 5 … $#*! My Dad Says - 1 … 3
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- Sept. 25, Part 2 (South Carolina at Auburn)