2010 SEC Fearless Picks - (Ole Miss-Bama)
Mississippi State QB Chis Relf
Mississippi State QB Chis Relf
Posted Oct 14, 2010

Fearless Predictions for every SEC game, Oct. 16, Part 2

2010 SEC Fearless Predictions

Week 7 ... Oct. 16, Part 2

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

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- Oct. 16 (Arkansas-Auburn) 

Mississippi State (4-2) at Florida (4-2) Oct. 16, 7:00, ESPNU

Here's The Deal … It's all about perception. Mississippi State is 4-2 and on a three game winning streak. While being 1-2 in conference play isn't a plus, this has been a strong start for the Bulldogs and there's a chance to go on a nice run with home games at UAB and Kentucky to follow before getting two weeks off to prepare for Alabama. Florida is 4-2 and 2-2 in SEC play, but it's panic siren time after getting obliterated by the same Alabama team that struggled with Arkansas and lost to South Carolina, and then lost at home to LSU. The SEC East is still there for the taking with both of the losses coming to the West and with the South Carolina game at home in mid-November, but there's little margin for error now. The national title might be gone, but winning the East again and going to the SEC title game would still make for a successful season as long as it's a stepping-stone to bigger and better things next year. The last time Florida lost three straight games in one year? 1999, but that was against Florida State (who won the national title), Alabama in the SEC title game, and to a 10-2 Michigan State team in the Citrus Bowl. The last time the Gators lost three straight regular season games was 1988. Losing to Bama and LSU is one thing, but losing to MSU would be a total disaster for a team with such an inconsistent offense, several off-the-field issues, and a defense that buckled in each of the last few weeks.

An MSU win would be the program's biggest since beating UCF in the 2007 Liberty Bowl, and it would be the biggest of the Dan Mullen era. The former Florida offensive coordinator did a good job against his old team last year in a 29-19 loss, but a moral victory won't cut it this time around.

Why Mississippi State Might Win: The Florida offense has been lousy, and it's getting worse with star RB Jeff Demps banged up, top WR Deonte Thompson hurting with a concussion, and the attack is averaging a mere 324 yards per game. The Bulldog offense isn't a juggernaut, but at least it's moving the ball on a regular basis while Florida has had to get creative to invent ways to try to get the chains moving. Helped by the quarterbacks, the MSU running game has been consistent and productive, while the Florida defense, as tough as it has been at times up front, has had problems against mobile quarterbacks allowing USF's B.J. Daniels to tear off 107 yards and LSU's Jordan Jefferson to run for 42 yards and two scores. MSU QB Chris Relf ran for 109 yards against Georgia and 96 against Houston, while RB Vick Ballard is red hot with 119 yards and three touchdowns against Alcorn State, followed up by 134 yards and three touchdowns against Houston.
Why Florida Might Win: The MSU offense has been terrific over the last two weeks against Alcorn State and Houston, and it opened the season strong against Memphis, scoring a total of 145 points in those three games and averaging 558 yards, but in SEC play the Bulldogs are averaging just 276 yards per outing and scoring a total of 44 points. 4-0 when gaining 270 yards or more, and 0-2 when under the mark, Florida's defense has something to shoot for. The defensive front has to be more active than it has been over the last few weeks and has to stop the MSU ground game before it gets started. While LSU's anemic passing game worked against the Gator secondary, there won't be too much of a concern about a Bulldog air show that rocked Memphis and Alcorn State and stunk against everyone else. MSU has thrown nine touchdown passes on the year with five against Memphis, two Alcorn State, and two against Georgia.
What To Watch Out For: Alright, John Brantley, it's time to show why you're supposed to be good. The much-heralded replacement for Tim Tebow has a better arm, more NFL tools, and tremendous upside, but he doesn't have a slew of weapons to work with and he isn't getting a lot of help. However, he hasn't made the players around him better. He hasn't always been sharp and he isn't making all the throws he needs to, but the biggest problem has been a total lack of production with just one touchdown pass and four interceptions in SEC play. Solid against Kentucky, he struggled against Alabama and LSU when the ground game wasn't there to help carry the attack. Now is when he has to make the team his while coming up with a performance that shows he's ready to be the leader to build around for 2012 while also turning this season into something special, and if he struggles against MSU, then the call might get louder to try different options.
What Will Happen: This won't exactly be as bad as Florida's win over Kentucky, but it won't be close. The Gator defense will make a statement after two bad outings and will keep the MSU offense under wraps, while shutting down Ballard, while one big special teams play will make up for yet another mediocre day from the offense.
CFN Prediction: Florida 31 … Mississippi State 16 … Line: Florida -7
Must See Rating: Jackass 3D – 5 … The Promise: The Making of Darkness on the Edge of Town -1 … 3
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McNeese State (2-3) at LSU (6-0) Oct. 16, 7:00, ESPN3

Here's The Deal … And finally, a game that LSU and Les Miles won't have to worry about managing the clock in the final few minutes. The Tigers can be forgiven to taking on a cupcake in the heart of the SEC season with non-conference games against North Carolina and West Virginia already played, and they need it after two stress-filled wins over Tennessee and Florida and with Auburn up next before getting two weeks off before facing Alabama. This is a time to rest up, get the backups some work, and more than anything else, it's a time to get some live reps on things that need working on … LIKE THE PASSING GAME. LSU is national title-good on defense, special teams, and in the running game, but with one of the nation's worst passing attacks, the Achilles heel is open and exposed. McNeese State isn't an awful FCS team, and it's 1-1 in the Southland Conference, but it got whacked by Missouri 50-6 in its lone game against an FBS team and is simply showing up to take a paycheck.
Why McNeese State Might Win: The Cowboys' biggest weakness might not be exposed if LSU still struggles with it passing game. MSU is getting bombed on for 257 yards per game through the air, and Missouri's quarterbacks combined to complete 32-of-39 passes for 245 yards and a touchdown. The MSU run defense is decent stat-wise, but that's mostly because everyone likes to bomb away. QB Jacob Bower is a former Tulsa starting quarterback who has struggled a bit too much, but he has seen good teams before and isn't going to freak out by playing the Tigers.
Why LSU Might Win: As if LSU had any concerns that this will be close in any way, MSU will be happy to make this a blowout. The Cowboys give the ball away in bunches with 18 turnovers in the first five games with three or more in every game but the win over Northwestern State, and even then there were two fumbles. There's no offense whatsoever to worry about, so LSU really and truly can work on whatever it wants to (seriously … THE PASSING GAME … ) without any fear of getting a scare. More than anything else, the Tiger defensive front shouldn't have any problems getting into the backfield against a porous MSU offensive front.
What To Watch Out For: All kidding aside, LSU, you're paying for this game; use it. Jarrett Lee is the team's best passer, but the season will get better, faster if Jordan Jefferson can get his passing groove back. He hasn't always been awful, with five 200-yard passing games last year while throwing 17 touchdown passes with seven interceptions. With just two touchdown passes, and both against North Carolina, and seven picks, he has been awful. However, he has run well with 100 yards against Tennessee and 231 on the year with four scores. Putting in Lee when needed is fine, but this has to be when Jefferson gains a little bit of confidence and improves his timing.
What Will Happen: LSU will do what it needs to in the first quarter to secure the win, and then it's scrimmage time. The backups will take over in the second half, but not before the Tigers air it out a bit just to see if it can. If MSU gets 150 yards of total offense, it'll be a miracle.
CFN Prediction: LSU 45 … McNeese State 0 … Line: No Line
Must See Rating: Jackass 3D – 5 … The Promise: The Making of Darkness on the Edge of Town -1 … 1
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Ole Miss (3-2) at Alabama (5-1) Oct. 16, 9:00, ESPN2

Here's The Deal … This comes late in the day and might be a bit of an afterthought on a key day around the college football map, but it could provide some of the biggest storylines. With six straight losses in the series, and no wins away from Oxford since 1988, Ole Miss has struggled against Alabama, but this might be a great chance to catch the defending national champion when it's down. While the Rebels stunningly lost to Vanderbilt at home by two touchdowns, they turned things around with wins over Fresno State and Kentucky before getting two weeks off to prepare for define the season and suddenly put them deep in the mix for the SEC West title with nasty dates against Arkansas and Auburn to follow. For the Tide, it's time to show everyone that last week's gaffe at South Carolina was nothing more than a fluke. The Arkansas win was a bit shaky, but the blowout of Florida cemented the spot on top of the polls before going to Columbia. The national title is still there for the taking by winning out, but there are still tough tests at LSU and against Auburn to deal with. For now, focusing on getting one win, right now, this week, is all Nick Saban is trying to get his team to work on. That shouldn't be a problem. If this really is a team worthy of winning the whole ball of wax again, it needs to come out and play like it after struggling to stop Stephen Garcia and the USC passing game, while not running the ball a lick in crunch time. Meanwhile, Ole Miss can show that the flakiness of the first half of the season was nothing more than being a team in transition and that things have jelled.
Why Ole Miss Might Win: All of a sudden, the offense appears to have it. Brandon Bolden and the running game are working, and now the passing attack has come around. It took a few weeks to get used to Jeremiah Masoli running the show, and while Ole Miss lost the one game when he ran wild, dropping the game to Vanderbilt when he tore off 104 yards and a score, his passing has been excellent. He threw for 281 yards against Tulane, but he threw two key picks against Vandy before finding his groove completing 17-of29 passes over the last two weeks with five touchdown passes. Overall the Alabama defense has been strong, and while it has at least one pick in every game and took three away from Ryan Mallett, it gave up 357 yards to the Hog star and a 17-of-20 day to South Carolina's Stephen Garcia. If Masoli is on, and he's used to playing in big games and against fast teams, he could singlehandedly keep the Tide defense on its heels. Defensively, not having to deal with Bama star WR Julio Jones, who's out with a broken hand, is a huge bonus.
Why Alabama Might Win: The Ole Miss defense has been great at getting into the backfield and has been decent, stat-wise, against the run, but it's a mirage. When you give up 227 rushing yards and three scores to Vanderbilt, there are problems. Over the last two weeks, Fresno State bombed away for 390 passing yards and four scores, and Kentucky's Mike Hartline was fantastic with 300 yards and two scores. The Tide passing attack might not have Jones in the mix, but Greg McElroy has been terrific and is proving to be more than just a guy who hands it off and gets out of the way. Lost in the South Carolina game was how he was nearly perfect throwing for 315 yards and two touchdowns on 27-of-34 passes, with a couple of misses coming late. Now teams have to worry even more about the Tide passing game, but being Alabama, it's all about the ground game that's way overdue to be dominant again. This should be the game it happens, but …
What To Watch Out For: What happened to the alleged greatest running back tandem in college football? Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson were able to flatten Duke, and Richardson did his part against San Jose State, and the 227 rushing yards as a team were nice against Arkansas, but ever since halftime of the Florida game when the Tide took its foot off the gas, the running game has stopped working. Ingram was held to just 41 yards on 11 carries against South Carolina, while Richardson ran just six times for 23 yards. With Jones out, the offense has to turn the machine back on and get pounding away on a run defense that has yet to be truly tested. Ingram ran for 172 yards and a touchdown and Richardson added 40 yards in last year's win over the Rebels, and they need to do more of the same to get the national title run back on track.
What Will Happen: Alabama will be Alabama again. There has been a suggestion that the loss could've been the best thing that could've happened to the Tide, since it came early on and could serve as a wake-up call for a big second half of the year that leads to a second straight BCS Championship appearance. It starts now as it'll be Ingram, Richardson, and Ingram, Ingram, Ingram as the Tide pounds away for 250 rushing yards and never lets the Rebels get into the game.
CFN Prediction: Alabama 41 … Ole Miss 14 … Line: Alabama -20.5
Must See Rating: Jackass 3D – 5 … The Promise: The Making of Darkness on the Edge of Town -1 … 3
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- Oct. 16 (Arkansas-Auburn)