2010 SEC Fearless Picks - Oct 30, UK-MSU
Mississippi State RB Vick Ballard
Mississippi State RB Vick Ballard
Posted Oct 28, 2010

Fearless Predictions for every SEC game, Oct. 30, Part 2

2010 SEC Fearless Predictions

Week 9 ... Oct. 30, Part 2

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

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- Oct. 30 (Florida vs. Georgia)

Vanderbilt (2-5) at Arkansas (5-2) Oct. 30, 7:00, ESPN3

Here's The Deal … This is only the fifth meeting between the two since Arkansas joined the SEC, and this one has the potential to be the ugliest of the group. If Arkansas gets its offense going early, then find something else to do because the Commodores don't have any prayer of mounting a comeback. However, Vandy has just enough of a running game to keep this interesting for a while, and if the Hogs aren't focused and they're looking ahead to South Carolina, this might be interesting. The SEC title dreams might be realistically gone, but Arkansas can get to a strong bowl game with some key wins down the stretch with South Carolina, Mississippi State, and LSU still to face. Vandy, as crazy as this season has been, is still technically alive in the SEC East race, but it just wants to get another win after losing three of the last four games since beating Ole Miss a month ago. With Florida up next, it would be nice to get something positive this week.
Why Vanderbilt Might Win: The running game has to control the clock and the defensive line has to get to Ryan Mallett all game long. The pass rush is just good enough to provide steady pressure, even if the sacks aren't likely to come in bunches, but just being able to hang around in the backfield might be just enough to throw the timing of the Hog attack off a bit. The Vandy pass defense hasn't been awful and it could win its share of battles if the Arkansas receiving corps isn't 100%. Offensively, Larry Smith and Warren Norman have to combine for close to 200 yards on an Arkansas defense that couldn't handle Auburn's running game (but who can?) and got pounded on a bit by Ole Miss and Alabama.
Why Arkansas Might Win: The Commodore offense simply isn't there to keep up any sort of pace. Arkansas is No. 2 in the nation behind Hawaii in passing yards throwing for 352 yards per game, while Vandy averaged a mere 160 passing yards per outing and is 101st in the nation in passing efficiency. The bigger issue for the Commodores should be the offensive line that'll get blown past by an Arkansas defensive front that leads the nation in tackles for loss and is second in sacks. Vandy can't overcome any negative plays, and there should be several. If the Commodore offense has to throw at all, it's not going to be pretty.
What To Watch Out For: Will Mallett have any targets to throw to? Greg Childs suffered an ankle injury against Ole Miss after catching four passes for 45 yards and a score, and he's limited, while Joe Adams is also banged up with an ankle problem after catching two passes for 49 yards. That means even more of the workload might fall on D.J. Williams, who hasn't had the All-America season expected, but he's been solid catching a steady 28 passes for 334 yards. He has yet to score and has just one touchdown grab in his last 18 outings. He's way overdue.
What Will Happen: Vanderbilt will score early and might even be up for about 20 minutes, and then the lightning strikes will come. Mallett will overcome a shaky start to rip through the Commodore defense in a big second quarter and there won't be many answers. South Carolina's Stephen Garcia threw for 355 yards last week against the Commodore secondary, and Mallett should do the same. The Vandy running game won't work nearly well enough to pick up the slack.
CFN Prediction: Arkansas 38 … Vanderbilt 16 … Line: Vanderbilt -20.5
Must See Rating: NBA Opening Night – 5 … Teen Mom -1 … 2
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Kentucky (4-4) at Mississippi State (6-2) Oct. 30, 7:00, ESPNU

Here's The Deal … Kentucky is going to go to a bowl game. With Charleston Southern and Vanderbilt coming up next, and the free space against Tennessee to close, UK is going to win at least two of its final three games, but it would be nice to take a big step closer this week and to stop an ugly slide. If the Wildcats didn't come up with the tremendous fourth quarter, last-second comeback, or, to put it another way, if South Carolina doesn't totally gag after losing Marcus Lattimore, they would've been winless in SEC play right now. With the indignity of being the only team to get completely blown away by Florida, and with double-digit losses to Ole Miss and Georgia, this has been a fight for a team that has enough experience to be more than a doormat. On the other side is Mississippi State, who's already bowl eligible after slinking by UAB last week and is now going for gravy. On a five-game winning streak including victories over Georgia and Florida, the Bulldogs are jockeying for post-season positioning while trying to move up the SEC West standings. The finishing kick is tough going to Alabama and Ole Miss and getting Arkansas at home, so getting a seventh win now would be a plus to ease the pressure of a rough November.
Why Kentucky Might Win: Kentucky can throw if it needs to and Mississippi State can't. The UK pass defense has been solid allowing just 177 yards per game through the air, and MSU's anemic passing game isn't going to push that envelope. LB Danny Trevathan and the UK defensive front isn't great at getting into the backfield, and it hasn't always been a brick wall against the run, but it did a relatively decent job against everyone but Auburn (no shame there). Yeah, the D allows lots of touchdown runs, giving up 22 so far, but while MSU should be able to run for close to 200 yards, it's probably not going to go ballistic enough to overcome the UK passing game. The Wildcats wouldn't mind making this a shootout and could do a decent job against the mediocre Bulldog secondary. So far this year, Kentucky is 4-0 when it allows 28 points or fewer, and it's 0-3 when allowing more. But …
Why Mississippi State Might Win: … the Bulldogs averaged 28.6 points per game. The MSU defense has been terrific. It might give up a few too many passing yards, and it might not always be great at getting to the quarterback, but it has only allowed more than 20 points three times, winning two of them, and it held Auburn to 17 points and just 190 rushing yards. Meanwhile, UK has allowed 28 points or more in every game but two, the season opener against Louisville and the easy win over Akron. The Kentucky offense has been good, but it's not so potent that it's going to buck a year-long trend. The Cats might like this to be a bit of a firefight, and it's not going to be. MSU is too good at cranking out long drives, connecting on 48% of third down chances, while the Wildcats have been mediocre on third down defense.
What To Watch Out For: Both teams get their star runners back. MSU junior Vick Ballard missed last week with an ankle injury, and he was out just when he started heating up. The JUCO transfer ran for 119 yards and three scores against Alcorn State and 134 yards and three touchdowns against Houston, and with 11 rushing touchdowns on the year, including one receiving score, he has been a weapon. UK gets Derrick Locke back after he missed a few games with a shoulder injury, and while he's not the scorer that Ballard is, he's one of the nation's best all-around playmakers rushing for 100 yards in his first four games and catching 24 passes for 225 yards.
What Will Happen: The Kentucky offense will give the MSU secondary a tough day, but it won't be enough. The Mississippi State running game will control the clock and the ball, and Kentucky will by -3 in turnovers and won't be able to come back late. It'll be a fantastic game that'll come down to the wire, and MSU will hold on.
CFN Prediction: Mississippi State 28 … Kentucky 23 … Line: Mississippi State -6.5
Must See Rating: NBA Opening Night – 5 … Teen Mom -1 … 3
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- Oct. 30 (Florida vs. Georgia)