2010 SEC Fearless Picks - Nov 13 MSU-Bama

Posted Nov 10, 2010

Fearless Predictions for every SEC game, Nov. 13, Part 2

2010 SEC Fearless Predictions

Week 11 ... Nov. 13, Part 2

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

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- Nov. 13 (South Carolina-Florida)

UTEP (6-4) at Arkansas (7-2) Nov. 13, 7:00 ET, ESPNU

Here's The Deal … Somewhat pushed to the background lately by other SEC teams, like Auburn, LSU, and Alabama, Arkansas is demanding a bigger spotlight. While out of the West Division race because of losses to the Tigers and Tide, the Razorbacks have rallied for three straight wins, capped by an impressive 41-20 rout of South Carolina in Columbia last Saturday night. Up to No. 15 in the latest BCS rankings, the Hogs are eyeing a 10-win season and a New Year's Day bowl game as goals. UTEP is bowl is bowl-eligible for the first time since 2005 … and just in time. With two tough road games left, the Miners doubled up SMU a week ago, 28-14, but need one more win to be assured of getting a postseason bid.
Why UTEP Might Win: One of the biggest surprises in El Paso this season has been the play of the Miner defense. Though not blessed with stars, the unit has been stingy, ranking No. 2 in Conference USA pass efficiency defense and scoring D. It'll give up yards, but tends to swarm in the red zone with sure-tacklers, like linebackers Isaiah Carter and Jamie Irving, and defensive backs Travaun Nixon, Wiston Jeune, and DeShawn Grayson. This is a classic look-ahead game for Arkansas, which has South Carolina in the rear view mirror and Mississippi State and LSU waiting in the on-deck circle.
Why Arkansas Might Win: Sure, UTEP has overachieved on defense, but how much will it matter in Fayetteville, especially since it's struggling to create pocket pressure? QB Ryan Mallett is the leader of one of the nation's better offenses, an attack that's averaging 482 yards and 35 points a game. Not only will Mallett be a major chore, but sophomore Knile Davis is blossoming into one of the league's best young backs. Since getting a promotion five games ago, he's rushed for more than 500 yards and eight touchdowns. The Hogs have consistently gotten to the quarterback with the likes DE Jake Bequette and LB Jerry Franklin, a major concern for gimpy Miner QB Trevor Vittatoe.
What To Watch Out For: Now that top receiver Greg Childs is done for the year with an injury, Mallett needs to develop new favorite targets before the resumption of SEC play. TE D.J. Williams and receivers Joe Adams and Jarius Wright are all outstanding veteran options, but sophomore WR Cobi Hamilton is forcing his way into the rotation. The 6-3, 209-pound speedster caught a career-high seven passes for 111 yards and a score versus a talented Gamecock secondary.
What Will Happen: Don't be alarmed if Arkansas doesn't play with the same execution and precision it had at South Carolina. That's bound to happen when a middling Conference USA team visits in November. It might take a quarter or so for the Hogs to regain their focus, but when they do, they'll knock the UTEP defense down a size. Davis will remain potent on the ground, scoring two more times, Mallett will spread the ball around to receiving corps that still remains deep and dangerous.
CFN Prediction: Arkansas 41 … UTEP 17 … Line: Arkansas -28.5
Must See Rating: The Best That Never Was: The Marcus Dupree Story – 5 … Conan -1 … X
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ULM (4-5) at LSU (8-1) Nov. 13, 7:00, GamePlan

Here's The Deal … Well look who decided to join the national title chase. LSU has turned its good season into something great with a nice win over Alabama, and now it gets a week off playing ULM before closing out the regular season at Ole Miss and at Arkansas. The dream is that the Tigers go into this game knowing what happens in the Georgia-Auburn game, because if Cam Newton and the boys lose, then it's Game On for the SEC title, and more, needing to win out while hoping Bama wins the Iron Bowl. For now, it's a break from gut-wrenching SEC season that has seen game after game go down to the wire, and with six games total this year be decided by seven points or fewer. ULM famously stunned Alabama 21-14 late in the 2007 season, but it would take something extraordinary for this year's team to pull off the mega-shocker. The Warhawks were good enough to stun Troy to make the Sun Belt race interesting, and then it came back with a loss to FIU in two overtimes. With home wins over North Texas and Louisiana-Lafayette to close, ULM could end up 6-6 with a shot at an at-large bowl bid, but first, giving the Tigers a battle would be nice.
Why ULM Might Win: The passing game is strong and the defensive front is active. Kolton Browning is one of the Sun Belt's best all-around playmakers, leading the team in rushing while ranking third in the conference in total offense. He needs to test the LSU secondary all over the field, and while that's easier said than done against a group as fast and athletic as it is, he's just good enough to come up with a big game if LSU is a bit sleepy after celebrating the Alabama win. The Warhawk defensive line gets to the quarterback, and the last thing the Tiger passing game needs is to be under any sort of pressure.
Why LSU Might Win: ULM lost to Arkansas and Auburn by a combined score of 83 to 10. While Browning might be a bomber and a playmaker, the offense is the second-worst in the Sun Belt averaging just 350 yards per game and getting absolutely nothing from the ground game. The ULM offensive line is miserable at keeping Browning clean, and LSU will be able to get into the backfield whenever it wants to. The lines aren't nearly good enough to hold up if the Tigers decide to play, and the overall Warhawk firepower isn't there to catch up if the O gets down early.
What To Watch Out For: LSU hasn't been able to throw the ball a lick this year other than its two monster wins. Jordan Jefferson completed 7-of-12 passes for 100 yards against Florida, helped by the rotation of Jarrett Lee, and completed 10-of-13 passes for 141 yards and a score in a flawless performance last week against Alabama. This is one of those games when he needs to take advantage of the live reps in a sure win and see if he can find more of a groove and even more of a rapport with his receivers. Everything should be clicking by this point in the year, but it's not, and it's okay to keep firing to see if he can get more confidence in his passing.
What Will Happen: LSU will need about a half to wake up. The outcome will never be in doubt, but it'll take a little more effort than Tiger fans might like until the defense comes up with three second-half turnovers.
CFN Prediction: LSU 37 … ULM 10 … Line: LSU -32.5
Must See Rating: The Best That Never Was: The Marcus Dupree Story – 5 … Conan -1 … 2
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Mississippi State (7-2) at Alabama (7-2) Nov. 13, 7:15, ESPN2

Here's The Deal … Mississippi State has had its moments against Alabama in recent years, winning back-to-back games in 2006 and 2007, and then the Tide got really, really good, and things changed winning the last two matchups by a combined score of 63 to 10. But this year's MSU team is different, and if it can somehow come up with a win, the shot at a prime New Year's Day bowl game will be there for the taking.

Dan Mullen's team has won six straight games and has showdowns against Arkansas and Ole Miss ahead, but first the team has to try to get past the tragic loss of defensive end Nick Bell, who died following a battle with a rare disease. Just like that, the Bulldogs have to try to regroup for one of its biggest games of the year. The running game is working well, the defense is coming through, and the team is finding ways to win tight game after tight game, with the last three victories, including a 10-7 win at Florida, coming by a touchdown or less.

Alabama is still in the SEC title hunt, but it needs a ton of help. For now, the team has to focus on finding its running game again, refocusing the defense after last week's tough loss to LSU, and to keep on improving with a shot at a BCS game still possible. First, the Tide has to get through this week before it gets a nice tune-up against Georgia State just to keep everyone sharp for the Iron Bowl. There are still a lot of big things to achieve this season by winning out, but it would be nice if the defending national champions could put together a complete game.

Why Mississippi State Might Win: The defense is playing at an extremely high level. The secondary has had a few problems, but the run defense has been stellar so far and it the only one to keep Auburn from going nuts. Auburn managed a mere 190 rushing yards, 117 below its average, against the aggressive Bulldog defensive front, and Alabama isn't likely to have much more success. The Tide line hasn't been bad, but it hasn't been special in any way and it hasn't been consistent enough against the better defensive fronts. MSU has been terrific at making plays behind the line and stopping ground games before they get started, and it has been even better at not breaking despite allowing plenty of passing yards. Only LSU, Houston, and UAB scored more than 17 points on the MSU D, and the Bulldogs won two of those games. This won't be a shootout.
Why Alabama Might Win: Greg McElroy should be able to throw for well over 250 yards. Houston threw for 356 yards, and Kentucky, UAB, and Georgia were all able to move the ball through the air. Alabama always wants to establish the ground game, even though it's been sputtering by its own high standards, but lost in the disappointment of the two-loss season has been the emergence of the passing attack as a bigger force. If the Tide line gives McElroy enough time, the passing lane should be there against MSU corners who'll give up the midrange plays. The senior quarterback continues to be terrific, throwing for 200 yards or more in each of his last four games with six touchdown passes and just one interception in his last five games. If he's on early, and the back seven has to lay off the line even a little bit, the Bama backs should be able to crank out a few big runs. MSU is disciplined and won't make many mistakes, if any, but the Tide needs to keep going with a balanced attack anyway.
What To Watch Out For: This is the Julio Jones everyone was hoping for. A supreme talent tagged as an NFL first round draft pick out of high school, he's still fighting through injuries and hasn't exploded as a scorer, but he has been unstoppable over the last two games with 12 catches for 221 yards against Tennessee and in a highly anticipated matchup with Patrick Peterson and the LSU defensive backs, he caught ten balls for 89 yards and a score last week. 6-2, 180-pound MSU sophomore Johnathan Banks has to be accounted for by Jones, McElroy, and the Tide passing game after picking off two passes in the last three games.
What Will Happen: The Alabama offense will methodically work through the game with a nice mix, but there won't be much explosion and the running game will have to keep pounding even when it's pounding into a brick wall. The Tide D will be solid enough against the run early on, and Chris Relf and the passing attack won't be able to pick up the slack.
CFN Prediction: Alabama 24 … Mississippi State 13 … Line: Alabama -13.5
Must See Rating: The Best That Never Was: The Marcus Dupree Story – 5 … Conan -1 … 4
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- Nov. 13 (South Carolina-Florida)