SEC Fearless Predictions , Week 5
Posted Sep 22, 2006

Alabama's 2005 season took off after a blowout win over Florida, and now Dallas Baker and the Gators look to return the favor in the SEC Game of the Week.

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 | Week Four

How are the picks so far? SU: 34-4 ... ATS: 19-14-1

SEC Fearless Predictions, Week Five, Part 2
| Get Tickets for These Games

SEC Game of the Week

Alabama (3-1) at Florida (4-0) 3:30 PM EST  Saturday September 30th
Why to Watch: Although this doesn't get the national recognition of Alabama-Auburn or Florida-Georgia, this is a historically nasty SEC rivalry game that Florida won't look past, and Alabama needs. Alabama got its 2005 season rolling with a stunning 31-3 win over Florida on the way to a 9-0 start, and now it'll look to make another statement that it's back in the SEC title race after losing a heartbreaking 24-23 overtime win at Arkansas. However, Florida has pointed to this game for a while as it looks to make amends for last year's debacle and keep its national title hopes alive before the make-or-break showdowns with LSU, Auburn and Georgia over the following three weeks. This has become a balanced, efficient Gator team that still hasn't quite reached its full potential. Alabama gets two weeks off against Duke and Ole Miss after this, so there's a chance to go on a great run if it can pull off the upset win. But with road trips to Tennessee and LSU, and the regular-season ender against Auburn still looming, a loss means any SEC title hopes are realistically shot.
Why Alabama Might Win: John Parker Wilson. No offense to former Alabama starting QB Brodie Croyle, but Wilson has taken the Tide offense to a level it was never at least season with a passing game that's becoming as efficient and effective as any in the SEC. The strong armed sophomore has thrown for over 200 yards in each of his first four games with seven touchdown passes while only giving away one interception. The Tide is fourth in the nation in turnover margin helped by 12 takeaways and an offense that rarely gives the ball away. If Wilson can be the steady leader he was last week in the loss at Arkansas, and the offense can avoid giving Florida easy opportunities, Bama has a real shot at pulling off the upset. However ...
Why Florida Might Win:  .... Alabama hasn't faced a defense like this one. Everyone wants to talk about Florida's spread offense and the points it puts up, but its been the defense under Urban Meyer over the last two years that's carried the team. Even without anything resembling a true cupcake on the schedule, Florida is fourth in the nation in run defense and eighth overall. On offense, Chris Leak has been as efficient as any quarterback in America getting help from DeShawn Wynn and a running game that's grown from a liability to a strength. The Florida team is the complete package with the exception of ...
Who to Watch:  ... placekicking. Florida's Chris Hetland, who connected on 13 of 16 field goal attempts last year, is one of the nation's best kickers, but he's 0-for-2 this year and has missed two extra points partly due to a strained groin. For Alabama, freshman Leigh Tiffin is coming off a nightmare against Arkansas with three missed field goals and a shanked extra point in overtime. Last year's kicking star, Jamie "Money" Christensen, has had problems with a leg injury and is expected to take back the starting role soon, but if things get tight, Bama might have to be more aggressive and go for touchdowns rather than settle for field goals.
What Will Happen: Alabama is better than you think, but so is Florida. The Gators will get up early, but it'll be hit by a few bit Alabama plays that'll keep it close until late.
CFN Prediction
: Florida 24 ... Alabama 13 ... Line: Florida -12
Must See Rating: (5 skip the birth of your first born - 1 Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip) ...

Auburn (4-0) at South Carolina (3-1) 7:30 PM EST ESPN Thursday September 28th
Why to Watch: If you're looking for the dangerous road trap game on the Auburn schedule, this is it. Of course, the season ending war at Alabama is nasty, but the other three games away from Jordan-Hare are this one, a date with Ole Miss in late October, and a 34-0 week two win over Mississippi State. That means several SEC teams are in the strange position of having to be fans of Steve Spurrier. The Gamecocks also shut out Mississippi State winning the season opener 15-0, but they also lost to Georgia making this a must win at the end of a four game homestand. Things ease up in a big way with road trips to Kentucky and Vanderbilt over the next two games, so an upset win would likely mean a 3-1 SEC start with Tennessee and Florida still ahead. If Auburn is a real national title contender, then it wins this in a walk. If South Carolina wants to be a player in the SEC race, it needs to come up with the nationally televised shocker.
Why Auburn Might Win: This should be a huge day for a rested Kenny Irons. The Tiger tailback sat out last week's win over Buffalo to get healthy for the meat of the SEC schedule, and he should be able to rumble at will on a USC run defense that gave up 198 yards to Georgia, 138 to an awful Florida Atlantic team, and 290 to D-IAA Wofford. On the other side of the ball, the defense has been unbelievable allowing just 24 points all year with 14 coming from a Washington State team that's averaging over 36 points per outing on everyone else and three to an LSU juggernaut that averaged 46 points per game in the three non-Auburn outings.
Why South Carolina Might Win: The main weapon South Carolina has to combat the Auburn running game should be sophomore punter Ryan Succop. USC leads the nation in punting with Succop a whopping 45.57 yards per kick and needs to keep the Tigers pinned deep as much as possible. The Gamecock back seven hasn't dealt with anyone who can consistently throw, but it's still been a rock so far against the pass. If USC can win the field position battle and make Auburn go on long marches, this should be closer than expected.
Who to Watch: It's the return of Irons to where he started his career as the Auburn star makes his first trip back to South Carolina. As a freshman, Irons was one of the rising playmakers in the Gamecock offense rushing for 201 yards, but he ended up transferring to Auburn after being relegated to a reserve role in Columbia behind Demetris Summers. The rest is history as Irons is now an All-America back with the potential to be taken in the first round of next year's draft, while suspension and injuries have killed the Gamecock running game over the last few years before Mike Davis and Cory Boyd started to get rolling. Irons ran for over 100 yards in all but two of his final ten games of last year. He ran for 88 yards in the bowl loss to Wisconsin, and he was held to a mere 27 yards by the Gamecocks, although he scored twice. 
What Will Happen: South Carolina will have its moments early and will get the crowd involved, and then Kenny Irons will tear off a huge touchdown run to turn the momentum around. Auburn will run for 200 yards and will control the tempo from the second quarter on.
CFN Prediction
: Auburn 23 ... South Carolina 10 ... Line: Auburn -14
Must See Rating: (5 skip the birth of your first born - 1 Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip) ... 3.5

Tennessee (3-1) at Memphis (1-2) 12:00 PM EST ESPN Saturday September 30th
Why to Watch: With a 20-16 win, last year's Memphis game represented a bit of an oasis in a dying Tennessee season, but the Tigers were without star tailback DeAngelo Williams. Now Williams is playing for the Carolina Panthers and Tennessee is a whole bunch better with a solid 3-1 record coming off a 33-7 thumping of Marshall. With a do-or-die SEC showdown with Georgia next week, the Vols have to avoid looking past a struggling Tiger team that hasn't posted a win over a D-I team yet this season and has the indignity of being the only team to let the Ole Miss offense do anything.
Why Tennessee Might Win: Memphis might be coming off a two-week rest and should be prepared for Tennessee, but it's also dealing with some major internal turmoil. Defensive coordinator Joe Lee Dunn was canned last week after a lousy performance in the 35-20 loss to East Carolina turned out to be the straw the broke the camel's back. Head coach Tommy West has taken over the duties, and he has his work cut out for him against a suddenly explosive Vol attack that should have all day to operate. Memphis is dead last in the nation in tackle for loss and has only generated two sacks in three games.
Why Memphis Might Win: The Tigers might not be getting the running production they were used to when Williams was toting the rock, but they can throw the ball. Martin Hankins threw five interceptions against East Carolina, but he also threw three touchdown passes and has averaged 257 passing yards per game. The Tennessee secondary has been pedestrian, at best, and has had problems with efficient passers. If Hankins can get hot, this might be close.
Who to Watch: After a brilliant 146-yard day against Marshall highlighted by an 89-yard touchdown run, redshirt freshman LaMarcus Coker was named the starting tailback in a crowded backfield. Talent was never an issue, but conditioning was for the lightning fast Coker, he turned into hard worker this off-season and now it's all paying off. Montario Hardesty will still get some work while Arian Foster still looks to get healthy after an ankle injury.
What Will Happen: Tennessee will have few problems in its first road trip of the year. The Memphis defense won't be able to keep up with the speed of the Volunteer offense.
CFN Prediction
: Tennessee 34 ... Memphis 17 ... Line: Tennessee -13
Must See Rating: (5 skip the birth of your first born - 1 Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip) ... 2.5

Mississippi State (1-3) at LSU (3-1) 12:30 PM EST GamePlan Saturday September 30th
Why to Watch: Can the LSU offensive machine be slowed down at home? The attack only cranked out three points at Auburn, but averaged 46-3. points against UL Lafayette, Arizona and Tulane. Meanwhile, the defense has been stellar ranking number one in the nation's in scoring defense and second in total D. That makes for a nearly impossible road date for the struggling MSU team that's coming off its first win over the year beating UAB in overtime. With West Virginia ahead next week, this might not be a pretty two-game stretch for the Bulldogs, while LSU has to try not to look past this game to the showdown with Florida next week.
Why Mississippi State Might Win: The only way MSU has a shot to keep this from being a laugher is if LSU completely melts down and there are some major special teams miscues. The Bulldogs have had major problems in every area this year except returning kicks with Derek Pegues becoming one of the nation's elite punt returners and a solid kickoff returner. LSU's coverage teams haven't been all that tight, and there's been surprisingly little pop from the return game.
Why LSU Might Win: MSU is averaging 238 yards of total offense per game and has only managed ten points in the first three quarters of the first four games. The Tigers should be able to go through the motions and be up big by the end of the first half. There's simply not enough talent on either side of the ball for MSU to deal with the LSU speed and skill, and there's not nearly enough of a passing game to mount a comeback.
Who to Watch:  Does MSU have anyone who can carry the ball? Arnil Stallworth was the starter against UAB, but he got knocked out with an ankle injury and likely won't be able to go this week. Brandon Thornton, the main back going into the season, has also been sidelined with an ankle problem. That means true freshman Anthony Dixon is the lone running back option, but he's a good one. He's 6-1, 229-pound speed back with a 4.5 40 and a bench press of 265 pounds. He ran for 31 touchdowns his senior year at Terry High in Jackson, and he started this year with 227 yards and two touchdowns highlighted by last week's 81-yard day against the Blazers. He'll have to be a workhorse to keep MSU in the game.
What Will Happen: LSU will come up with a sloppy performance that'll have the coaching staff screaming a week before the Florida game, and it'll still be a blowout.
CFN Prediction
: LSU 45 ... Mississippi State 10 ... Line: LSU -32
Must See Rating: (5 skip the birth of your first born - 1 Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip) ... 2.5

SEC Fearless Predictions, Week Five, Part 2
| Get Tickets for These Games