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2010 SEC Fearless Picks - Oct 23, Bama-TN
Alabama RB Trent Richardson
Alabama RB Trent Richardson
Posted Oct 21, 2010

Fearless Predictions for every SEC game, Oct. 23, Part 2

2010 SEC Fearless Predictions

Week 8 ... Oct. 23, Part 2

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

- More College Football Picks (and NFL, too) 

- Oct. 23 (LSU-Auburn)

UAB (2-4) at Mississippi State (5-2) Oct. 23, 7:00 ET, ESPNU

Here’s The Deal … Dan Mullen has something very special going on in Starkville. Fresh off the program’s first win in Gainesville since 1965, Mississippi State is riding the wave of a four-game winning streak that’s about to carry it to the postseason. Heck, the Bulldogs are No. 24 in the initial BCS rankings, a testament to the work being done by the staff in under two years. They get a break in the SEC action before a rugged final stretch that’ll define the height of their ceiling this season. While it didn’t make quite as many national headlines, UAB is coming off a breakthrough win of its own. The Blazers got off the mat following a 1-4 start to surprise UTEP, 21-6, which entered the game 5-1. While not quite a turning point for Neil Callaway’s kids, it could end up keeping them out of the Conference USA basement.
Why UAB Might Win: The Blazers have already taken Tennessee to double-overtime in Knoxville, so they won’t be unnerved by a trip into SEC country. While the offense has provided the spark behind QB Bryan Ellis and top receiver Frantrell Forrest, it’s the defense that led the way over UTEP. UAB was surprisingly stout, holding the Miners to 229 yards and picking off three Trevor Vittatoe passes. DE Bryant Turner and DT Elliott Henigan are capable of getting a push on a Mississippi State offense that’s been up-and-down throughout the year.
Why Mississippi State Might Win: The Bulldogs are a physical team that will blow UAB off the ball. The combination of RB Vick Ballard and QB Chris Relf gives them one of the nation’s better running games, cranking out 211 yards a game. It’s only a matter of time before the Blazers buckle. And if they commit too many resources to the ground game, Relf will find a streaking WR Chad Bumphis on play-action. The defense allows 16 points a game, and just got done holding Florida to seven points in the Swamp. The front seven, highlighted by DE Pernell McPhee and linebackers Chris White and K.J. Wright, will have few problems navigating a soft Blazer front wall.
What To Watch Out For: Ballard has been a revelation for the Bulldog offense, a JUCO recruit worth the risk of signing. At 5-11 and 215 pounds, he fits the personality of a program that prides itself on its toughness and physicality. After splitting time in the early going, he’s grabbed the feature role, carrying the ball 42 times for 351 yards and six touchdowns over the last three games. He should be good for a third 100-yard day in his last four games.
What Will Happen: Against a more talented opponent, Mississippi State would have been ripe the week after slaying Florida. However, even a sluggish start won’t prevent the Bulldogs from winning a fifth consecutive game. They’ll dominate at the point of attack, opening holes for Ballard to exploit and spending much of the night getting in the face of Ellis.
CFN Prediction: Mississippi State 38 … UAB 13 … Line: Mississippi State -19.5
Must See Rating: Due Date – 5 … Tracy Morgan: Black and Blue -1 … 2
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Alabama (6-1) at Tennessee (2-4) Oct. 23, 7:00, ESPN

Here’s The Deal … Is Alabama ready to live up to the respect? The offense has been fine, but it has hardly been the unstoppable juggernaut is was supposed to be coming into the season, and while the defense has been terrific at times, it hasn’t been the dominant brick wall it needs to be for the team to earn the national title-love that the pollsters are heaping. But it’s all still there. It’s all set up to go to Glendale to play for another BCS Championship if the team wins out with LSU and Auburn still to play, while beating Mississippi State and Tennessee will look solid on the ledger. The Vols came closer than anyone last year to ending Bama’s dream season, or at least derailing it, but Terrance Cody blocked a last-second field goal attempt to give the Tide a thrilling 12-10 win. It’ll take something special this time around, though, for the Vols to come that close.

It’s not like Tennessee has been awful. Losing to Oregon isn’t a crime, and losing to Florida is never anything to get into a twist over, but the brain-melt at the end of the LSU loss and the 41-14 blasting from Georgia has sent the season into a spiral, and with a trip to South Carolina up next week before a relatively light and breezy November, there could be talk of an all-timer of a lousy record (or at least since the 1950s) unless the team starts to show more signs of life on offense and is tighter on defense. First year head coach Derek Dooley hasn’t had any luck yet, but a win over Alabama would be a clear marking point for the Tennessee program as it tries to get back among the living.

Why Alabama Might Win: Nine yards. That’s how many Tennessee gained against Georgia, and while the passing game wasn’t awful, throwing for 260 yards, the offense isn’t going to do enough unless the ground attack is able to control the game. While Alabama might have a few issues, and it might not be playing as well as it should be in several areas, the run defense has been terrific with the 146 yards from Duke the most allowed this year. Marcus Lattimore ran for two touchdowns in South Carolina’s win over the Tide, and Arkansas got a rushing score, and that’s been it. The Tide front three doesn’t get into the backfield, but it holds up for anyone wanting to run up the middle and the linebackers are too athletic and too good cleaning up everything on the outside. Defensively, the Vols are last in the SEC in yards allowed and could get picked clean by Greg McElroy and the ultra-efficient passing game. If Georgia’s Aaron Murray can completed 17-of-25 passes for 266 yards and two touchdowns, then Bama should be able to do whatever it wants to.
Why Tennessee Might Win: Tennessee’s biggest weakness, the offensive line, might be a problem trying to establish the ground game, but the inability to protect the passer might not be an issue against a Tide defense that doesn’t get to the quarterback. The Vol passing game will have time to operate, but whether or not it can be effective is another matter. The run defense hasn’t been a rock, allowing 245 yards to Oregon and 219 to LSU, but it’s just decent enough to possibly keep the Tide under control if the team continues to have problems getting Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson going. Ingram was held to 99 yards in last year’s game, and he and the running game have been held in check in recent weeks without too much room to run. The Bama O line isn’t playing up to snuff.
What To Watch Out For: It might be time for the young guy to shine. Tennessee QB Matt Simms hasn’t been the problem, but the coaching staff has to try something to jump-start the attack Simms is a junior, but freshman Tyler Bray is the future, and he could be the present. The 6-6, 210-pounder, who originally signed with San Diego State, is very tall and very thin with a tremendous arm and all the skills to potentially be a great college player. However, he doesn’t have special skills and he isn’t a sure-thing, next-level type like most of the Elite 11 campers are. Against Georgia last week, Simms completed 9-of-13 passes for 179 yards with a touchdown and an interception, but the game was getting ugly. Bray came in and completed 8-of-12 passes for 81 yards, and he could get a longer look.
What Will Happen: Alabama will surgically carve up the Tennessee defense with McElroy having a tremendous game and Ingram and Richardson balancing things out. The Vols won’t have any answers. The running game will get stopped cold, and the passing game won’t pick up the slack. To make matters worse, Bama will come up with one big special teams play to make it a blowout.
CFN Prediction: Alabama 49 … Tennessee 14 … Line: Alabama -16.5
Must See Rating: Due Date – 5 … Tracy Morgan: Black and Blue -1 … 2
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Georgia (3-4) at Kentucky (4-3) Oct. 23, 7:30, ESPN3

Here’s The Deal … Considering South Carolina still has to face Arkansas and Florida, Georgia is still, shockingly, right in the thick of the SEC East title chase. Turning things around after a 1-4 start, the Dawgs erased Tennessee and Vanderbilt by a combined score of 84 to 14 over the last two weeks, and now, with three SEC games remaining, they have a shot. However, all three games are away from Athens and all three are going to be nasty. Georgia has found an offense with Aaron Murray stepping up and becoming the efficient, effective passer everyone was hoping he’d be from the start, the running game has started to help a bit more, and the team is playing with confidence and, apparently, more energy, flying around faster and better than at any time over the first half of the year. But as good as things have been, with Florida up next and Auburn to close things out in SEC play (after a warm-up against Idaho State), there’s still work to be done just to go bowling.

Kentucky is also in the SEC title chase after a scintillating, clutch win over South Carolina. The offense is throwing the ball well, the defense is coming up with the big plays needed, and there are just enough playmakers on both sides of the ball to hang with teams like Auburn. However, this is also a team that can quickly get rolled over as Florida had no problems blowing the Cats away in a 48-14 win, and Ole Miss was able to run amok. Last week, South Carolina had it on cruise control with a 28-10 lead before Marcus Lattimore got hurt and UK QB Mike Hartline went out of his mind. Extremely entertaining, UK rarely disappoints, and with Mississippi State, Charleston Southern, Vanderbilt, and Tennessee to close out, it’s not a stretch to shoot for a 9-3 record with a win this week.

Why Georgia Might Win: All of a sudden, everything is clicking for the Georgia offense. Murray is getting time to throw, and he’ll get all day against the mediocre UK pass rush, and he’s making the most of it completing 32-of-49 passes over the last two games with four touchdown passes and three interceptions. He was stronger than he got credit for during the losing streak, and he has kept the mistakes to a minimum, but now he’s winning and the offense is moving well. Meanwhile, Justin Houston and the Georgia pass rush is coming up with big play after big play. Houston might disappear for long stretches, but he has been good for a sack a game over the last three weeks and has 6.5 on the year. Considering the UK running game might be non-existent with star RB Derrick Locke still hurting with a shoulder injury, Houston and the Dawg outside defenders should be able to pin their ears back and roll into the backfield.
Why Kentucky Might Win: It’s Vanderbilt and Tennessee. Let’s not go booking tickets for Atlanta and the SEC title game yet, Georgia. Kentucky has found a way to bomb away when needed to keep up the pace in most shootouts, and while the defense has given up points and yards in bunches over the last month, the offense has gotten on a roll averaging 33.3 points per game over the last three games. Yes, Georgia will be trying to bring the house with the pass rush from the opening whistle, but the UK offensive line has been terrific so far allowing just six sacks. However, three of them came last week against the Gamecocks. Mike Hartline got thrown around a bit and he came through just fine.
What To Watch Out For: Hartline might not be the SEC’s best quarterback, and many have wanted him benched at times throughout his career, but he has been tremendous so far completing 68% of his passes for 1,791 yards and 13 touchdowns and just three interceptions. Two of the picks came against Florida and the other was against Ole Miss. Both games were losses, but considering Hartline threw seven picks in four games last year before getting hurt, he has tightened his game up considerably. Now he’s a playmaker instead of just a caretaker.
What Will Happen: Expect a very fun, very entertaining back-and-forth game. Kentucky will get the passing game going enough to keep the Georgia defense on its heels, but the Bulldog offense will be balanced and effective with Murray coming up with an efficient and effective game, while Washaun Ealey, who ran for 123 yards and a touchdown last week and ran for 77 in last year’s loss to the Cats, will come up with his second 100-yard day.
CFN Prediction: Georgia 37 … Kentucky 31 … Line: Georgia -3.5
Must See Rating: Due Date – 5 … Tracy Morgan: Black and Blue -1 … 3.5
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- Oct. 23 (LSU-Auburn)