2010 SEC Fearless Picks - Oct. 9 (LSU-Fla)
Florida QB John Brantley
Florida QB John Brantley
Posted Oct 7, 2010

Fearless Predictions for every SEC game, October 9, Part 2

2010 SEC Fearless Predictions

Week 6 ... Oct. 9, Part 2

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

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SEC Fearless Predictions
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- Oct. 9 (Bama-South Carolina) 

LSU (5-0) at Florida (4-1) Oct. 9, 7:30, ESPN

Here's The Deal … It might not seem like it after Florida got erased by Alabama last week and LSU needed a wacky miracle to get by Tennessee, but these two teams are still deep in the thick of the national title chase. Florida is a near-lock to play in the BCS Championship if it can win out, and despite the inconsistencies and all the frustrations on offense, it still is better than every team left on a very doable remaining slate. Sure, going to Florida State isn't going to be a cakewalk, and hosting South Carolina will be a fight, but this battle against LSU might be the only thing standing in the way of the Gators' third straight trip to the SEC title game. The Tigers still have plenty of work to do after a rough start, but 5-0 is 5-0. While this actually is a damn strong football team, passing game problems and all, it has yet to make its imprint on a national scale because of things like the debacle at the end of last week and the meltdown in the second half in the near-miss against a depleted North Carolina. The defense is rocking at LSU standards again, the running game is back, and everything is in place except for the passing attack. It's going to take a tight, smart effort to pull off the win on in Gainesville, and with road trips to Auburn and Arkansas, along with the Alabama showdown, still to face, there isn't much margin for error if Tigers really do believe they can play for the whole ball of wax.

Considering the superpower status of the two programs, they haven't exactly come up with the most scintillating series over the years. There was the extremely creepy post-Tim Tebow concussion game last year, and the 51-21 Florida ugliness of 2008, as part of a stretch of nine double-digit blowouts in the last 12 games. Florida has won three of the last four, and if it can make it four out of five, the Alabama loss won't seem like such a big deal. If the Tigers can pull this off, the Tennessee win will go down as just another tough day in the SEC. It's statement time, and it's time that at least one of these teams plays like the season is almost half over. It's time to get sharper, it's time to play better, and it's time for these ultra-talented teams to take their games to another level.

Why LSU Might Win: The defense. Lost in all the madness and all the discussion about the ineptitude of the Tiger passing game has been a defensive performance at a national title level. The line is getting into the backfield, the pass defense isn't giving up a thing deep (after deciding to stop playing late against North Carolina), and the key stops are coming time and again. How great has the defense been? After allowing 412 passing yards to the T.J. Yates and the Tar Heels, LSU hasn't allowed more than 121 yards through the air against anyone else and picked off Mississippi State five times. The D has only given up more than 100 yards (MSU) in one game this year and has allowed just three scores on the ground. The Florida offense is trying to find something that works, and this isn't going to be the week to do it against the swarm on the other side.
Why Florida Might Win: Turnovers. Florida needs the breaks to go its way, and LSU just might provide them. The Tigers have turned the ball over 13 times this year, and while the Florida offense has had its share of problems, the defense has almost always picked up the slack. Florida is ninth in the nation in pass efficiency defense, and while it'll allow teams to dink and dunk, almost nothing is happening down the field. Considering LSU's passing game, even when Jarrett Lee is in, is among the worst in America, all the Gators have to do is load up against the run, hope to get a few early scores, and then let the secondary clean up the mess. LSU is 116th in the nation in passing efficiency.
What To Watch Out For: All the focus will be on the quarterbacks after John Brantley got bounced around by Bama and was questionable throughout the week, and with the timeshare in the Tiger backfield with Jarrett Lee throwing it and Jordan Jefferson running, but in what should be a tight defensive battle, it could come down to which team gets the bigger play from its star return man. Patrick Peterson is being game-planned for, and the LSU junior is still coming up with big plays averaging ten yards per crack on punt returns against Tennessee. On the other side, Jeff Demps is still struggling through a foot injury, but if he's right, he's one of the nation's top kickoff returners averaging 32.5 yards per shot. He's also the team's leading rusher, while Peterson is the nation's best defensive back.
What Will Happen: It's not going to be bombs away time. Neither team has its quarterback situation settled and both teams play good enough defense to keep this in the teens. Florida PK Caleb Sturgis missed the Alabama game with a lingering back problem, and this might come down to field goals late. The Florida defense will do just enough against Stevan Ridley and the LSU running game to get by, but it'll be yet another interesting (or ugly, depending on your idea of college football beauty) battle. A missed kick by the Gators will keep the door open, but LSU won't be able to get through. This will be Jefferson's offense by the end of the game, as Lee will do nothing to move the chains, and the final drive will stall deep in Florida territory.
CFN Prediction: Florida 17 … LSU 13 … Line: LSU -7
Must See Rating: Britney on Glee -5 … Life As We Know It - 1 … 5
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Auburn (5-0) at Kentucky (3-2) Oct. 9, 7:30, ESPN2

Here's The Deal … It was one of the SEC's most lopsided rivalries. Kentucky had been flattened 15 times in a row with the last win over Auburn coming in 1966, and then came last season's 21-14 stunner on the Plains to take a great Tiger season and turn it upside down. Auburn had lost to Arkansas the week before, but UK was the sure-thing, rebound game that turned out to be anything but. The stakes are even higher this year as the unbeaten Tigers not only have the record, but they have the schedule to be deep in the SEC title chase, which means they're in the national title hunt, and they have an emerging superstar in quarterback Cam Newton, who'd be the story of the 2010 season so far if it wasn't for that guy with the shoelace problem up in Ann Arbor. With home games against Arkansas and LSU up next, and with South Carolina and Mississippi State in the rearview mirror, this is a dangerous road test for Gene Chizik's club to see if the shaky defense can handle the Wildcat veterans, and if the offense can get working away from home after scoring 17 points in the lone road trip (Mississippi State). Kentucky isn't bad, but two straight tough road losses to Florida and Ole Miss killed the early season buzz. With this game kicking off a three-game home run, if the Cats want to make a move and get back into the SEC fun, it has to happen now.
Why Auburn Might Win: A funny thing happens when you start playing better teams; things don't work quite as well. Kentucky's ground game dominated over the first three games with 200 yards or more against Louisville, Western Kentucky, and Akron, with 11 rushing scores, and then came the date with Florida: 99 yards. Ole Miss: 124 yards. Auburn's pass defense has been picked apart a bit too much, but the run defense has been terrific holding South Carolina's Marcus Lattimore to just 33 yards while allowing just 92.8 yards per game. Offensively, Auburn leads the nation in passing efficiency, with a home-run hitting attack balancing out the phenomenal rushing game, and UK doesn't have the defense to stop everything the Tiger O can do.
Why Kentucky Might Win: UK has the weapons to keep up. Derrick Locke is running as well as any back in the SEC, Randall Cobb and Chris Matthews provide a nice 1-2 receiving punch, and Mike Hartline is coming up with a nice season moving the chains well and spreading the ball around. The Cats can't stop the Tigers on a regular basis, the linebacking corps just isn't good enough, but the offense has to get creative, be balanced, and put points on the board drive after drive after drive. The Florida game was a flop, but that was the one big clunker for an attack that's averaging 453.6 yards and 36.4 points per game. The offensive line has been a key, coming up with a great start to the season, and with the relatively immobile Hartline needing time to operate, he'll get it even though the Tigers have a nice pass rush.
What To Watch Out For: Danny Travathan, you're up. The UK linebacking corps isn't great, but the junior is a guided missile of a hitter who needs to be special and keep Newton and the Tiger ground game from tearing off big runs in chunks. Extremely fast and always around the ball, he came up with his best game of 2009 against Auburn with ten tackles, nine solo stops, and he's coming off his best game of the year making 15 tackles against Ole Miss. If he's not making at least ten tackles, the Cat defense will be in huge trouble.
What Will Happen: Kentucky will do its part to keep up the fight, but Auburn will be too good on the ground as the game goes on. Newton will be Newton getting his 100 rushing yards, but he'll also throw a few key interceptions to keep the Cats in the game. Just when it seems like UK is about to come up with something special, Auburn will go on a long, brutal drive finishing up with a backbreaking fourth quarter score to put the game away.
CFN Prediction: Auburn 38 … Kentucky 30 … Line: Auburn -6
Must See Rating: Britney on Glee -5 … Life As We Know It - 1 … 3
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Mississippi State (3-2) at Houston (3-1) Oct. 9, 8:00 ET

Here's The Deal … A break in the action couldn't have come at a better time for Houston, which is still adjusting to the losses of top quarterbacks Case Keenum and Cotton Turner for the season. Redshirt-candidate-turned-starter Terrance Broadway got mixed reviews in his debut two weeks ago. While the Cougars did pull away from Tulane in a 42-23 win, the rookie was predictably spotty as a passer, going 19-of-28 for 174 yards and a pick. A visit from an SEC team is a great test before Conference USA play resumes. Mississippi State is playing well in Dan Mullen's second season on the sidelines, winning back-to-back games after tough conference losses to Auburn and LSU. Halfway to bowl eligibility for just the second time in the past decade, the Bulldogs still have trips to Gainesville and Tuscaloosa, so there's precious little margin for error to qualify for the postseason.
Why Mississippi State Might Win: The Bulldogs are playing sound defense and running the ball, two reasons that Houston ought to be very concerned. On the ground, they'll give an undersized Cougar D different looks, including the power of Vick Ballard and the explosiveness of LaDarius Perkins. Think UCLA, which abused this run defense for 266 yards and four touchdowns a few weeks back. Houston's true freshman QB Terrance Broadway, who was erratic in his first start, must contend with a Mississippi State defense allowing just 16 points a game. DE Pernell McPhee is a next-level pass rusher and K.J. Wright and Chris White are the cornerstones of the best linebacker corps he'll see all year.
Why Houston Might Win: No, Broadway isn't Keenum, but that doesn't mean he won't be able to generate points. In his debut as the starter, he engineered five touchdown drives, getting his feet wet and getting plenty of help from RB Bryce Beall and a deep ensemble of pass-catchers. Having had an extra week to prepare, he should have a much better handle on the offense and his role within it. If the Cougars start to roll and put up points, Mississippi State is not constructed to compete in this type of a fast-paced game. In their three SEC games, the Bulldogs were picked off seven times and failed to throw for more than 150 yards in any one game.
What To Watch Out For: Has Bulldog QB Chris Relf begun to turn the corner in his development? While ball security remains an issue for the junior, he did play well in the last two games with Georgia and Alcorn State, going 20-of-29 for 357 yards, four touchdowns, and no interceptions. He also hurt the Dawgs with 109 yards on the ground. If Relf can turn his recent success into a trend, Mississippi State becomes a very dangerous team in the second half of the year.
What Will Happen: Neither team is the same as it was a year ago, when Houston beat Mississippi State in Starkville. The Bulldogs are better and the Cougars are just not as dangerous without Keenum. Mississippi State will avenge that loss, controlling the line of scrimmage for the backs and forcing Broadway into costly mistakes. Relf will take advantage of the opportunities Houston gives him, particularly on play-action passes to Chad Bumphis.
CFN Prediction:Mississippi State 31 … Houston 21 … Line: Mississippi State -5
Must See Rating: Britney on Glee -5 … Life As We Know It - 1 … 3
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- Oct. 9 (Bama-South Carolina)