SEC Fearless Predictions , Week 4, Part 2
Posted Sep 15, 2006

SEC Week Four Fearless Predictions and Previews ... Part 2

East  Florida | Georgia | Kentucky | South Carolina | Tennessee | Vanderbilt 
West Alabama | Arkansas | Auburn | LSU | Ole Miss | Miss State
- Part SEC Predictions: Week One | Week Two | Week Three

How are the picks so far? SU: 26-2 ... ATS: 11-13-1

SEC Fearless Predictions, Week Four

Mississippi State (0-3) at UAB (1-2), 7:00 EST, Saturday, September 23
Why to watch: Both the Bulldogs and the Blazers will be looking to rebound from tough losses, however, the circumstances are completely different.  UAB was supposed to lose.  Mississippi State wasn’t.  The Blazers kept their finger in the dike for a while against Georgia before springing leaks on defense and special teams in a 34-0 loss.  The Bulldogs, on the other hand, scored their first 29 points of the season Saturday night, yet somehow found a way to lose to lowly Tulane.  The defense, which was the lone bright spot the first two weeks, gave up too many long plays and four touchdown passes to Lester Ricard.  Sylvester Croom got a vote of confidence from MSU president Robert Foglesong after the loss, but the growing discontent surrounding the program has become palpable.
Why Mississippi State might win: Doing his best Marques Hagans impression, quarterback-turned-wideout-turned-quarterback Omarr Conner gave the offense an immediate and much-needed spark in Saturday’s loss.  After replacing an ineffective Tray Rutland in the second quarter, he threw for 241 yards, ran for 71 more and led the Bulldogs to their most points in all but one of the last 12 games.  UAB is banged up at the skill positions and doesn’t have a strong-armed quarterback to go deep on the Mississippi State corners the way Ricard did in Starkville.
UAB might win: The Blazers are strong along both lines, particularly on defense, where ends Larry McSwain and Jermaine McElveen will school a Bulldog line that’s already allowed 10 sacks.  The UAB D has allowed just seven touchdowns to Oklahoma, East Carolina and Georgia, offenses that are far more diverse and accomplished than the one visiting Saturday.
Who to watch: Conner gives hope to a program pining for silver linings.  He was magnificent running the offense last week, considering how little time he had to prepare for the switch back behind center.  We saw last year how Maurice Avery selflessly ignited the Memphis offense with his play making ability.  Now that he knows he’s the starter, Conner has a chance to do the same thing for Mississippi State over the next two months.
What will happen: The first SEC team to ever visit UAB will leave Birmingham with a loss, but it’s going to be a closer-than-expected defensive struggle.
CFN Prediction: UAB 21 … Mississippi State 19
 ... Line: UAB -10
Must See Rating: (5 skip the birth of your first born - 1 The Janice Dickenson Modeling Agency) ...

Tennessee State (2-1) at Vanderbilt (0-3)  7 pm EST Saturday, Sept. 23
Why to watch: There might not be a better 0-3 team in the nation than Vanderbilt. The Commodores have don nothing on offense, have struggled on defense, and have made mistake after mistake, but they're also battled Alabama and Arkansas over the last two weeks losing by five points combined, and they also pushed Michigan in a better-than-the-score 27-7 loss. Now's the chance to go on a run Tennessee State this week and Temple to follow before going to Ole Miss. TSU is coming off a 31-30 overtime win over Jackson state for a good 2-1 start. This is its only game against a D-I team this year.
Why Tennessee State might win: The Tiger defense might not be big or all that stout, but it's active. Senior lineman Jonathan Edwards has done a decent job of getting into the backfield leading a group that should provide a little bit of pressure. The Vanderbilt offense is hardly a well-oiled machine.
Why Vanderbilt might win: After dealing with the Michigan, Alabama and Arkansas running games, Tennessee State is going to look like it's going at half speed. The Tigers have a balanced offense, but need to win by throwing the ball. That should be a problem against a Vandy secondary that's been relatively decent, and should shine against mediocre competition.
Who to watch: It's taking a while for Chris Nickson to get his passing in tune. The sophomore is only completing 51% of his throws with three interceptions against Alabama proving to be a killer. However, he's proving to be a dangerous runner leading the team with 136 yards helped by a 74-yard, two-touchdown day last week against Arkansas. He has to use this game to get in better touch with a receiving corps that's having problems hanging on to passes.
What will happen: Vandy will get its first win over the year, but it won't be a blowout.
CFN Prediction
Vanderbilt 35 ... Tennessee State 17 ... Line: No Line
Must See Rating:
(5 skip the birth of your first born - 1 The Janice Dickenson Modeling Agency) ...

Florida Atlantic (0-3) at South Carolina (2-1) 7 pm EST GamePlan Saturday, Sept. 23
Why to watch: Either South Carolina is still trying to find its way through the first part of the season as its inexperienced defense and shaky offense gets some experience, or this team just isn't all that good. It's probably a little of both. If USC is going to turn a corner and start playing like a real, live, SEC player, it needs to throttle a Florida Atlantic team that's in a dead-heat with Temple to be the nation's worst team. The Owls are on the fourth of a five game road streak to open up the season, and it needs to find something to hang its hat on before diving into Sun Belt play at UL Monroe. The Gamecocks have patch up the leaks in a big, big hurry with Auburn up next week. 
Why Florida Atlantic might win: You don't come this close to losing to Wofford if you don't have major problems. South Carolina escaped the embarrassment with a 27-20 win last week after its run defense got ripped apart for 290 yards by the funky Terrier wingbone attack. This is still a Gamecock team trying to figure out who's starting in several spots after making wholesale changes last week, especially on the offensive line. Florida Atlantic has to take advantage of every opportunity and it must play sharp. South Carolina is hardly going to be at its best.
Why South Carolina might win: Florida Atlantic is awful. The offense can't move the ball and the defense is dead-last in the nation in scoring getting outgunned 147 to 14 in the first three games. Getting whacked around by Clemson is acceptable, getting pummeled by Kansas State and Oklahoma State isn't. The biggest problem is with an offensive line that's getting nothing going for the running game and can't protect the quarterback with 12 sacks allowed so far. For all the team's problems, the South Carolina defense has been able to generate pressure.
Who to watch: And the South Carolina quarterback is ... still up in the air. Steve Spurrier is looking for someone to grow into a steady playmaker for the offense, so he'll try out two quarterbacks to see who gets hotter. Syvelle Newton moved from receiver back to his former quarterback spot last week and completed an efficient 12 of 18 passes for 196 yards with an interception, but his real worth is as a runner. Former starter Blake Mitchell is back in the mix after being suspended for his involvement in a bar fight and will rotate with Newton.
What will happen: South Carolina will still have problems finding its groove, but it'll still win in a walk.
CFN Prediction
: South Carolina 40 ... Florida Atlantic 7
... Line: South Carolina -30
Must See Rating:
(5 skip the birth of your first born - 1 The Janice Dickenson Modeling Agency) ... 1.5 

Kentucky (2-1) at Florida (3-0) 7:45 pm EST ESPN Saturday, Sept. 23
Why to watch: Florida is coming off a huge, potentially season-defining 21-20 win at Tennessee to take the lead dog role in the SEC East race and to stay in the mix for the national title. Of course, that means the red-hot Gators are going to kick off a three-game homestand against poor, old Kentucky and enjoy a nice, easy scrimmage, right? Maybe not. Very quietly, Kentucky overcame the season opening pounding at Louisville to blow out Texas State and Ole Miss to get back on track for a likely bowl bid. This is an explosive Wildcat team that's far more equipped to pull off the big upset than last year when it got its doors blown off by a 49-point Gator run in a 49-28 loss. Yes, this team is good enough to shock the SEC world.
Why Kentucky might win: Talk about your letdowns, Florida might suffer a mega one after the Tennessee battle and with Alabama up net. Florida's defense has been stunningly average at coming up with sacks. It's getting into the backfield and generating pressure, but it's not closing the deal nearly often enough. UK QB Andre Woodson has proven to be a good big play bomber with three touchdown passes in each of his first three games with only one interception. In other words, Florida doesn't have as big an advantage at quarterback as you might think. 
Why Florida might win: Yes, Florida has a real, live, functional running game for the first time in a long time. No, it's not coming just from the spread offense, although backup QB Tim Tebow has been tremendously effective in a part-time role. DeShawn Wynn pounded out 104 yards against Tennessee and is finally starting to look like the runner the coaching staff was hoping he'd become. The UK run defense can get shoved around up front. Wynn and Tebow should be able to get into the linebacking corps, and occasionally into the secondary, way too often for the Wildcats to get the Gator offense off the field. Obviously, the more effective the running game, the better Chris Leak will be going up top.
Who to watch: To pull this off, Kentucky needs all its weapons. Unfortunately, it's star RB Rafael Little, who's averaging over 23 yards per punt return and has 169 rushing yards so far, is questionable with a knee injury. If he's not able to go, or if he's less than 100%, it'll take a slew of players to replace him. Game-breaking WR Keenan Burton will likely have to show off some of his explosiveness as a punt returner, while Alfonso Smith and Tony Dixon would have to carry the rushing load. Both can flat-out fly and could stun the Gators if they get the ball in the open field.
What will happen: Florida proved against Tennessee that it deserves to be in the national title discussion and will go on an impressive second-half run to put away a tough UK team that'll hit a few home runs of its own.
CFN Prediction
: Florida 41 .. Kentucky 20
 ... Line: Florida -23.5
Must See Rating:
(5 skip the birth of your first born - 1 The Janice Dickenson Modeling Agency) ... 3

Tulane (1-1) at LSU (2-1), 8:00 EST, Saturday, September 23
Why to watch: Going back to 1982, LSU has won 14 straight in this interstate series.  Pocketing No. 15 is going to be a hair tougher than it appeared to be before last weekend.  While the Tigers were engaging in their annual slugfest with Auburn, Tulane was scripting one of Saturday’s biggest surprises, a 35-29 road upset of Mississippi State that was more lopsided than the score indicated.  The Green Wave got 298 yards and four touchdown passes from Lester Ricard and 170 yards rushing from Matt Forte, withstanding a late Bulldog rally for the win.  If last week was an indication the light is going back on for the underachieving Ricard, Tulane will surprise the rest of Conference USA.  Like Tennessee in the SEC East, LSU had a chance to win late, but fell a few yards short, and is going to need help to get back to the SEC title game.
Tulane might win
: The Green Wave did last week what South Carolina and Auburn couldn’t earlier in the month—put a dent in the Mississippi State defense.  Sidney Rice and Kenny Irons struggled against the Bulldogs, but Ricard, Forte and the Tulane receivers flourished in a harbinger that the offense has found its rhythm. If LSU is down after the loss to Auburn, Tulane’s attack could make some noise. However …
Why LSU might win: You can forget the letdown theory.  LSU has won its last five post-Auburn games by an average score of 44-13, including the last two by a combined score of 107-3.  Tulane was real good on offense last week, but the Tiger defense is performing on a completely different planet.  LSU has allowed 13 points all year, fueled by the nation’s top-ranked pass efficiency defense.    
Who to watch: In two games, the 118th ranked Tulane defense has had problems with big quarterbacks that can escape pressure when the pocket collapses.  That’s an open invite for JaMarcus Russell to resume the fast start he was enjoying before last week’s brawl with Auburn. What will happen: It’s back to reality for an improving, but out manned Tulane team that’s finally about to end its 14-game, year-long road trip.
CFN Prediction: LSU 49 … Tulane 10 ... Line: LSU -36.5
Must See Rating: (5 skip the birth of your first born - 1 The Janice Dickenson Modeling Agency) ...

SEC Fearless Predictions, Week Four