2010 SEC Fearless Picks - Oct. 2
Florida WR Deonte Thompson
Florida WR Deonte Thompson
Posted Sep 29, 2010

60-2. That's the combined record of Florida and Alabama (not including games against each other) since the end of 2007, and now the two superpowers square off in the game of the year. Do Deonte Thompson and the Gators have enough to shock the Tide? Check out the Fearless Predictions for every SEC game.

2010 SEC Fearless Predictions

Week 5 ... Oct. 2 Games

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

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- Sept. 25 | Sept. 18 | Sept. 11 | Sept. 4

- Oct. 2, Part 2 (Tennessee at LSU) 

CFN SEC Predictions: SU:32-3   ATS: 14-18


Florida (4-0) at Alabama (4-0) Oct. 2 8:00 pm, CBS

Here's The Deal … Uhhhh, hello? Over here. Kind of a big game happening. This isn't Vanderbilt vs. Kentucky, yet it's being treated nationally like it's just another really good SEC showdown. GameDay is going to Oregon (the game being on CBS had a wee bit to do with that), Texas vs. Oklahoma is still a happening, and the opening of the Big Ten season is generating some big headlines. Whatever.

This is Florida vs. Alabama. For all intents and purposes, these two played for the national championship in the last two SEC Championship showdowns, and they appear destined for a threematch (sorry about that) no matter what happens this week. How dominant have they been? Remembering that they play in the almighty SEC, not counting when the two conference title games, they have combined to go 60-2 since the end of the 2007 season. Alabama hasn't lost a regular season game since November 24th of 2007, and Florida has won 33 of its last 37 games by double digits. While this is a special showdown and it should go a long way to determining the national title pecking order over the next few months, each is carrying some baggage.

Alabama is coming off a tough win at Arkansas, and while any SEC road win is worth being praised, the No. 1 team in the land showed a few chinks in the armor. QB Greg McElroy wasn't totally sharp, the secondary had a few missed assignments and gave up too many yards, and it took some big plays late to pull out the win. Meanwhile, Florida is just starting to look like Florida again after sputtering a bit offensively over the first three games. This might not be the smoothest Gator team, but it's young, fast, and talented.

As is these are two of the best teams in America and they're both worthy of playing for the BCS Championship, but they're still just scratching the surface. Florida is going to be night-and-day better once all the young stars figure out what they're doing, while Alabama's defense is going to go from great to jaw-dropping with a little more experience. So enjoy Part One of what might be an epic two-game series this season. It's still the biggest game of the weekend, and possibly the regular season.

Why Florida Might Win: "Nobody believes in us." It's a tired and worn cliché that gets thrown out way too often, but it also tends to work on young, talented college football players looking for something to focus on. In the 2009 SEC Championship, the weight of the world, and the burden of college football history, was on the Gators' shoulders while Alabama was the loose, confident, and fired up team. From the head coach on down, Florida was really, really tight, and it showed as the Tide was more physical, faster, and far sharper. This year, it's all on Alabama to not only win, but do it convincingly. A nine-point underdog, yeah, no one believes in the Gators. Ohio State was sent home from the 2007 BCS Championship with a 41-14 loss the last time Florida was considered overmatched.

The key for the Gators will be to be very, very, very patient. Alabama doesn't bring much of a pass rush, and the Gator line doesn't give up sacks in bunches, so the hope has to be to keep the game moving along, stay close, and hope to come up with the one big home run and the two big turnovers needed to change the game. Florida has lived on the big play all year long with someone, usually Jeff Demps, bailing the struggling offense out of the doldrums with a big dash. Alabama, despite the two key Greg McElroy interceptions against Arkansas, doesn't give the ball away, but Florida's defense has been phenomenal at forcing mistakes with 12 interceptions and two forced fumbles in the first four games. Florida has to be +2 in turnover margin and it needs to win all the little battles, like special teams. The Alabama return game has been mediocre so far, while the Gators have been terrific at coming up with great field position. However …
Why Alabama Might Win: … the Florida offense doesn't quite know what to do with the ball. This could be an extremely frustrating day if the Gators are going three-and-out, three-and-out, three-and-out, while waiting for a breakdown so one of its speedsters can take off. Florida can't win this game straight and it's going to need to be ultra-creative, while Alabama can simply line up and punch the Gators in the mouth. There isn't any one thing the Florida offense can rely on right now on a consistent basis, while Alabama can always fall back on (or start with) Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson against a young Gator front seven that hasn't faced anyone who's nearly as tough or as physical as the Tide front five. If Kentucky's Derrick Locke could run for 103 yards, Ingram and Richardson should go ballistic.

Alabama has everything working offensively right now with a ground game averaging 245 yards per game and the passing attack averaging 267. Efficient through the air and tough and explosive on the ground, the Tide can do it all. The potential is there to come back if down, or grind out the clock with a big lead. On the other side, Florida might be balanced, but it's at a much less efficient clip averaging 170 yards on the ground and 186 through the air. The Gators might be able to hit the home run, but they have yet to prove they can keep up in any sort of a shootout.
What To Watch Out For: Is Florida really going to go with a five man defensive front? Looking to stack up against the run and keep Ingram and the Bama ground game from controlling the clock, the Gators might go heavy, or at least mess around with the formation a bit, to force Greg McElroy to be the star. The senior was fantastic in last year's SEC title game, completing 12-of-18 passes for 239 yards and a score, and he's smart enough and efficient enough to keep the mistakes to a minimum, unlike last week against Arkansas, and hit on the big plays to his devastating receiving corps. For the Gators, the hope is to get Jeff Demps back and productive after suffering a foot injury, but he'll likely be limited at best. Needing to come up with playmakers, the coaching staff put one of its most dynamic options, quarterback Trey Burton, in a do-it-all role. The 6-3, 214 pounder let it rip in practices this offseason and showed the potential to become another Gator great under center, but against Kentucky he was used as a runner, scoring five touchdowns on all five of his carries, and as a receiver catching five passes for 37 yards and a score. At the very least, the Tide defense is going to have to prepare for him.
What Will Happen: Alabama spent an entire year stewing and preparing for the chance at a rematch with the Gators, and it showed in last year's stunning 32-13 blowout. Florida has too many new players in key spots to have the revenge thing going its way, but Urban Meyer and the coaching staff has a lot to prove and will use every trick and will pull out every stop to erase what happened on December 5th. Florida might not be playing all that well, at least compared to the last few seasons, but it's still Florida, there are still plenty of athletes, and there's still more than enough talent to win. However, the inexperience and the offensive ineffectiveness will shine through in the second half, while Bama will be flex its muscle over its final two crushing drives to come away with a second straight hard-fought, gut-check win.
CFN Prediction: Alabama 24 … Florida 16 … 5Dimes.com Line: Alabama -9
Must See Rating: Katy Perry on Sesame Street - 5 … Eastbound & Down - 1 … 5
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Vanderbilt (1-2) at Connecticut (2-2) Oct. 2, 12:00 ET, ESPN3.com

Here's The Deal … It took a halftime tirade and a change at quarterback from Randy Edsall for Connecticut to finally shake Buffalo and roll to a 45-21 victory. It came just in the nick of time, too, for a Husky team that was in danger of falling to 1-3 following ugly losses at Michigan and Temple. If it can use that second half as a rallying point, there's still more than enough time to turn this season into a positive one in East Hartford. Vanderbilt is coming out of its only bye week of the year on a high note, courtesy of its 28-14 upset at Ole Miss that snapped a 10-game losing streak in SEC play. While it's going to be an uphill climb for Robbie Caldwell in his first season on the job, the coach's upbeat, positive attitude has started to resonate with his commodores.
Why Vanderbilt Might Win: Historically, when the Commodores can run the ball, their odds of winning spike dramatically. So far, so good. Sacks aside, they're averaging well over five yards a carry, getting steady output from Warren Norman and Zac Stacy. On defense, the Casey Hayward-led secondary is capable of short-circuiting Connecticut's recent prosperity through the air. Vanderbilt has gone almost nine consecutive quarters without yielding a touchdown pass, and won't have much trouble containing the inconsistent Husky receivers. Against solid competition, Vandy is only allowing 21 points a game.
Why Connecticut Might Win: The new Husky backfield provided a spark that the offense was desperately seeking. Behind the passing of Cody Endres and running of Robbie Frey, Connecticut exploded for 31 points. Endres is now a lock to be behind center, and at worst, Frey will be the backup to Jordan Todman if he's able to return from an arm injury. The Huskies can be ornery on defense, especially when it's able to press up linebackers Lawrence Wilson and Sio Moore to stop the run. Vanderbilt QB Larry Smith has thrown just one touchdown pass this fall, as the leader of one of the nation's weakest passing attacks.
What To Watch Out For: Endres was terrific coming out of the bullpen, but how does he handle the starting role? It's a completely different assignment, with greater pressure and expectations. He'll also face a much tougher challenge against a Vanderbilt defensive backfield that's already shut out a pair of SEC quarterbacks, Jeremiah Masoli and Jordan Jefferson.
What Will Happen: Crisp execution, especially on offense, will come at a premium at Rentschler Field. Neither team will get the attacks rolling, making for a tight defensive struggle that hinges on the play of special teams. In other words, the kickers, Vandy's Ryan Fowler and Connecticut's Dave Teggart, will take center stage. The new attitude that Endres brings to the huddle will also help, sparking the Huskies to a hard-fought and pivotal second straight victory.
CFN Prediction: Connecticut 23 … Vanderbilt 16 … 5Dimes.com Line: Connecticut -7.5
Must See Rating: Katy Perry on Sesame Street - 5 … Eastbound & Down - 1 … 2
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ULM (1-2) at Auburn (4-0) Oct. 2, 12:00, ESPNU

Here's The Deal … Auburn can be forgiven if it needs a week to relax a bit. After a physical war with Clemson and a gut-wrenching win over South Carolina, the Tigers have had an interesting first month of the season; and an extremely successful one. 4-0 overall and 2-0 in conference play, they've been good, but they're not without their problems. With Kentucky up next before make-or-break dates against Arkansas and LSU, this is a letdown game of sorts, even though it should be used as a chance to work on some key things like the passing game and being more disruptive on defense. ULM will be simply trying to survive with an offense that doesn't have any firepower to keep up with the Tigers, and a defense that's struggling to come up with key stops. After squeaking by Southeastern Louisiana in a one-point thriller, this game is about getting the paycheck, and getting a little more experience, before hosing Florida Atlantic.
Why ULM Might Win: Kolton Browning and the passing game haven't been all that bad. Much of the production has come in comeback mode against Arkansas and in a shootout with Arkansas State, but there's just enough pop to put up yards on an Auburn secondary that's giving up 244 yards per game. More than anything else, there's the interest factor. Getting up for this game will be next to impossible for Auburn, and while it can put on its helmet and beat the Warhawks, this will be enough of a go-through-the-motions performance to keep the score from being a brutal blowout.
Why Auburn Might Win: To keep it simple, Auburn obliterated Arkansas State 52-26 in a game that wasn't even that close, and ASU beat ULM 34-20. The Warhawk defensive front isn't awful at getting to the quarterback, but it doesn't make nearly enough plays behind the line and it doesn't do enough at the point of attack. If you don't stop Cam Newton and the Tiger backfield before they get on the move and have a chance to find the hole and cut through it, you're going to get hammered on. Everything has to be perfect for ULM to make this a game, but it's not nearly stingy enough to win the turnover battle by a large margin.
What To Watch Out For: Auburn senior PK Wes Byrum has had a fantastic career with several clutch kicks in his three years. Coming off a fantastic year nailing 15-of-16 field goals, he was considered a major strength coming into this season. However, he missed attempts from 52 (slightly out of his range) and 23 yards away last week against South Carolina, and he missed a 37 yarder against Mississippi State. There's no cause for concern, he's still expected to have a great year, but considering the last three games have been so tight, it would be a terrific sign if he has a big game against ULM. On the flip side, the Warhawks have tried just one field goal attempt this year. They missed.
What Will Happen: Auburn will put the game away in the first three drives before coasting the rest of the way. The team is a bit banged up, and the faster Newton and running backs Michael Dyer and Onterio McCalebb can get off the field, the better.
CFN Prediction: Auburn 41 … ULM 10 … 5Dimes.com Line: Auburn -34.5
Must See Rating: Katy Perry on Sesame Street - 5 … Eastbound & Down - 1 … 1.5
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Kentucky (3-1) at Ole Miss (2-2) Oct. 2, 12:00, ESPN3.com

Here's The Deal … There are games that mid-level SEC teams must win to be in the bowl picture, much less try to find a decent spot in the pecking order. This is one of those games for both teams. Kentucky got the Joker Phillips era off to a nice 3-0 start and was looking to make a statement against a struggling Florida. Instead the Gators and Trey Burton went nutso in a 48-14 stomping that put the Cats right back into the place. With three home games in a row coming up against Auburn, South Carolina, and Georgia, and with five home dates in the next six, the chance is there for the Cats to go on a terrific run with its first win in Oxford since 1978. The Rebels have had a weird first month, gagging away the opener against Jacksonville State and inexplicably losing to Vanderbilt at home by two touchdowns, before obliterating a not-that-bad Fresno State team 55-38. Did the team turn a corner? It had better with road trips to Alabama and Arkansas coming after a week off.
Why Kentucky Might Win: The Ole Miss defense hasn't received its wake-up call yet this year, and things aren't getting any better after the loss of star pass rusher Kentrell Lockett to a torn ACL. In the first three games, the Rebels allowed four touchdown passes to both Jacksonville State and Fresno State, while giving up 227 rushing yards and three scores to Vanderbilt. UK might have had a problem against Florida's lightning fast D last week, but RB Derrick Locke still ran for 103 yards. The passing game has been ultra-efficient and very effective all season long, and the Cats should be able to pick and choose how the want to move the ball.
Why Ole Miss Might Win: Jeremiah Masoli. Last week, Florida used the very mobile and very talented Trey Burton in a variety of ways, and the UK linebackers didn't have a prayer. The true freshman scored on all five of his carries, and now it'll be up to Masoli to use his mobility to become the same sort of a playmaker against a good, but not great Wildcat defense. Masoli ran for 104 yards against Vanderbilt and got the passing game going against Fresno State completing 8-of-12 throws with two touchdown passes and an interception. The UK run defense has been a tad soft, allowing 100-yard rushing days from WKU's Bobby Rainey and Louisville's Bilal Powell, and Masoli and Brandon Bolden should run wild. Bolden was fantastic against Fresno State running 19 times for 228 yards and two scores.
What To Watch Out For: With or without Lockett, Ole Miss will still have one of the nation's best pass rushing front fours. So what has the secondary done with all the help? Zippo. Ole Miss is the SEC's only team without an interception in the first four games, and in fact, it's the league's only team without three picks. UK QB Mike Hartline wasn't great against Florida, throwing his first two picks of the year, but he also threw for 242 yards and a score. Throwing for over 200 yards in each of the first four games, he's providing a nice balance to Locke and the ground attack. As long as he's not on his back, he should riddle the beleaguered Rebel secondary.
What Will Happen: Kentucky will rebound, but Ole Miss will have its moments with Masoli and Bolden combining for 250 rushing yards. The balance of the Cat offense, helped by a big second half from Hartline, will pull out the tight and road win.
CFN Prediction: Kentucky 35 … Ole Miss 31 … 5Dimes.com Line: Ole Miss -2.5
Must See Rating: Katy Perry on Sesame Street - 5 … Eastbound & Down - 1 … 3
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Oct. 2, Part 2 (Tennessee at LSU)