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SEC Fearless Predictions, Sept. 15

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Aug 28, 2007


Previews and Predictions for the Week 3 SEC Games.


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

SEC Fearless Predictions Sept. 1Sept. 8 | Sept. 22 | Sept. 29 
Oct. 6Oct. 13 | Oct. 20Oct. 27 | Nov. 3Nov. 10 | Nov. 17Nov. 24Dec. 1 

SEC Fearless Predictions, Week Three, Part 2

SEC Game of the Week

Tennessee (1-1) at Florida (2-0)  3:30 PM CBS
Why to Watch:
 While this might not decide the SEC East title, it'll go a long way to shaping the pecking order, and it'll go a very, very long way into possibly determining the immediate futures of the two power programs. Florida is the defending national champion. Of course, you knew that already, but the college football world appears to be ready to push the Gators aside and jump all over USC, Oklahoma, or LSU as the heir to the throne. Meanwhile, all the Gators have done is crank out 108 points in two tune up games, while showing off the same speed and explosion it had last year. Of course, playing Western Kentucky and Troy isn't going to earn much in the way of respect, and strangely enough, beating Tennessee might not do it either. The Vol fans ready to move on from the Phil Fulmer era are looking for any ammo possible to usher in a new era, and a third straight loss to Florida, a 1-2 start, and yet another year without a BCS bowl bid might just do it. This Tennessee's last big stand. Oh sure, it could lose to Florida, get hot, and still pull off the East title with a little bit of help, but that's not the point for a program that's expected to be playing for national titles. If nothing else, the Vols should provide a heck of a battle in a series that's produced nothing but close games and high drama over the last three years.
Why Tennessee Might Win: It's not like the Florida defense has been pushed over the first two weeks. That's sort of why it's vital to schedule cupcakes early on, so all the young players can get their feet wet and figure out what they're doing, but it's a whole new animal when dealing with a team like Tennessee in the SEC opener. The Volunteer offensive line has done a good job so far of protecting Erik Ainge, and the senior has come through with a strong start to the year considering he's breaking in a new starting receiving corps. Florida, with all its speed and athleticism, has been merely average at getting into the backfield and generating consistent pressure. If Ainge is getting time, he'll pick apart the green Florida defensive backfield.
Why Florida Might Win: Tennessee's defense has decided to take the first few games off. Granted, Cal has one of the nation's most explosive offenses, but Southern Miss was also able to throw effectively. The Vols are currently dead last among SEC teams in scoring defense and have struggled way too much against the pass. Tim Tebow has been almost perfect in his first two games, playing like a seasoned veteran in near perfect command of the offense. As long as he's not making any big mistakes, the Florida offense should have few problems going on long, sustained marches.
Who to Watch: Florida can ill afford to lose veterans and leaders for a big game like this, and it lost a key player when Andre Caldwell sprained his MCL against Troy. Sophomore Riley Cooper, who led the team with four catches for 122 yards and two touchdowns in the win over Western Carolina, will step in and the passing game likely won't miss a beat. Easing the loss of Caldwell for the UF passing game is the loss of Tennessee starting CB Antonio Gaines for the season with a torn ACL. His loss means Tebow will do everything possible to throw at freshman Eric Berry, who started off the year at strong safety. One of the team's top prospects, he has NFL written all over him, but he'll be tested early and often.
What Will Happen: While it seems wrong to call this Tim Tebow's coming out party, it might be the game that officially signals that this is his team. Florida's young defense will give up a few big plays, but it'll win more than its share of battles, while the Gator offense will continue to hum. This will be the game that exposes the current talent gap between the two programs.
CFN Prediction: Florida 31 ... Tennessee 20
... Line: Florida -8
Must See Rating: (5 Britney at the VMAs - 1 Big Shots) ... 5

SEC Saturday, Sept. 15

Mississippi State (1-1) at Auburn (1-1) 12:30 PM GamePlan
Why to Watch:
 After Auburn suffered a 26-23 overtime loss to South Florida, coming on the heels of a rough 23-13 win over Kansas State, there's a full-blown panic attack kicking in on The Plains. The offense has been lethargic, the defense has been fine, but nothing special, and the team doesn't appear to be remotely close to being an SEC champion. The ship can quickly be turned around with an easy win over Mississippi State, but that'll be easier said than done against a feisty defense and a decent running game. Auburn has owned the series in recent years winning six in a row by a combined score of 208 to 55. 
Why Mississippi State Might Win: The Auburn offensive line was supposed to be a sore spot coming into the season, and it hasn't disappointed. The pass protection has been mediocre at best, and was eaten alive by George Selvie and the USF defensive front. Much of the focus has been on how QB Brandon Cox has struggled, but he simply hasn't had any time. If MSU can take advantage of the problems and get a steady stream of pressure into the backfield, the Tiger offense will sputter and cough yet again. 
Why Auburn Might Win: Mississippi State hasn't seen a turnover it didn't like to give up. QB Michael Henig couldn't stop throwing it to LSU defensive backs, doing it six times, while the Bulldogs lead the nation with nine giveaways (tied with Oregon State). Auburn hasn't been great at forcing turnovers in the first two games, but if the defensive pressure can force Henig to hurry his passes just a little bit, the interceptions will be there for the taking.
Who to Watch: Auburn DE Quentin Groves could've turned pro early and made a lot of money, but he chose to come back for his senior year and now is on the verge of making gobs and gobs of money. Along with being third on the team in tackles, he's been a holy terror as a pass rusher highlighted by two sacks against Kansas State that effectively put the game away. He didn't get a sack against South Florida, but he sure made his presence felt with ten quarterback hurries and three tackles for loss. If he's wreaking havoc in the MSU backfield, expect at least three Henig interceptions.
What Will Happen: Auburn pitched a shutout in the last two games against the Bulldogs, and while that won't happen this time around, the D will come up with several turnovers to overcome another shaky offensive performance.
CFN Prediction: Auburn 20 ... Mississippi State 13
... Line: Auburn -13
Must See Rating: (5 Britney at the VMAs - 1 Big Shots) ... 3

Western Carolina (0-2) at Georgia (1-1)
1:00 PM GamePlan
Why to Watch:
 If you're really fired up to see the Georgia backups and how the overall Bulldog depth is, then this is the game for you. Western Carolina followed up a 52-6 loss to Alabama with a 45-21 hiccup against Eastern Kentucky. For Georgia, what was initially considered a tune up game before going to Alabama has become a hangover outing after a rough 16-12 loss to South Carolina. This is going to be an inconsistent Bulldog team for a while, and it could use this light scrimmage to get the offensive line more live reps and work on the passing game..
Why Western Carolina Might Win: Is Steve Spurrier suddenly coaching the Catamounts? The only possible chance WCU has of keeping this closer than 40 points is it the veteran offensive line can crank out a few long drives. The running game has been non-existent over the first two weeks, but the passing game, in comeback mode, hasn't been bad. WCU has to hope Georgia isn't trying.
Why Georgia Might Win: WCU hasn't been able to do anything against the run so far. Alabama cranked out 313 yards and six touchdowns, while EKU barreled for 326 yards and five scores. If Georgia's offensive line ever wanted to get into a lather, this will be the game as it should be able to pound away as much as it wants to. Making matters worse is a turnover problem. WCU has given it away six times and doesn't have a takeaway.
Who to Watch: With injuries being a problem for the Georgia running back corps, particularly Kregg Lumpkin, it's been up to redshirt freshman Knowshon Moreno to carry the load over the first two games. After a workmanlike 70-yard day against Oklahoma State, he ripped off 104 yards on 14 carries against South Carolina, and was the only offensive player who was doing much of anything. Until everyone gets 100% healthy, he'll be the focal point of the attack, while Thomas Brown, who's back in the mix, will continue to ease his way into more work.
What Will Happen: Georgia will feel much better about itself after about a quarter.
CFN Prediction: Georgia 48 ... Western Carolina 0
... Line: No Line
Must See Rating: (5 Britney at the VMAs - 1 Big Shots) ... 1

Arkansas (1-0) at Alabama (2-0)
6:45 PM ESPN
Why to Watch:
With Auburn appearing to be mediocre, and Ole Miss and Mississippi State being Ole Miss and Mississippi State, it's not a stretch to call this a one game SEC West playoff to see who can be the main challenger to the LSU. Oh sure, beating Vanderbilt in the SEC opener was a nice appetizer for Nick Saban, but now the real work begins as his Bama team faces Arkansas and Georgia before a two-game conference break against Florida State and Houston. For Arkansas, a skeptical nation that never really bought into the SEC West champions last year needs more convincing. Oh sure, the running game is great, and the defense certainly did its part against Troy, but if the team is a real, live SEC title contender, it has to find a way to win a game like this. With four straight home games coming up before facing Ole Miss and FIU, it's not crazy to think that a win here could spark an 8-0 start before facing South Carolina.
Why Arkansas Might Win: Oh sure, Alabama's run defense has been a brick wall so far, but Arkansas isn't Western Carolina or Vanderbilt when it comes to running the ball. This isn't a ball control Hog offense; this is an attack that strikes from everywhere on the field. While being a home run hitting running team might seem strange, it's more than a little scary for an Alabama team that hasn't been able to bust out all the weapons quite yet. The big plays in the passing game haven't been there, which has been a bit mystifying considering the receiving corps was considered the strength coming into the year. Arkansas knows it can mount a quick comeback any time it hands the ball off to Darren McFadden or Felix Jones, but the Tide has yet to show the pop needed when threatened.
Why Alabama Might Win: Yeah, yeah, yeah, every team has the same gameplan against the Arkansas offense, and no one is able to do much about it. This year's Alabama defense might be a little bit different. The Arkansas running game might be out of this world, but the one dimensional attack will stay that way with top receiver Marcus Monk still out after undergoing two minor knee surgeries. A defensive coach like Saban feasts off of teams that aren't balanced, and he'll be able to put everyone and their sisters up on the line until one of the Arkansas receivers shows he can make a play, and QB Casey Dick can show he can beat a top defense.
Who to Watch: The big concern for Alabama coming into the year was the running game, and that's been the team's biggest strength so far. That could quickly change now that top Arkansas defensive end, Marcus Harrison, is back in the fold after being suspended for the season opener. While he might not have his game legs quite yet, his return makes an already nasty Hog defensive front something potentially special.
What Will Happen: You want to see a crowd in a lather? Bama's SEC home opener under Saban should be a wild scene, but Arkansas is used to playing in front of crazed fans. Dick will try more downfield passes than normal to try and loosen things up, but Bama will have none of it. The defense will do just enough to keep McFadden and Jones from going crazy, while the Tide will finally show off a little bit of offensive balance. Expect a big-time fight to the finish in what should be one of the day's most entertaining games.
CFN Prediction: Alabama 24 ... Arkansas 20
... Line: Alabama -4
Must See Rating: (5 Britney at the VMAs - 1 Big Shots) ... 4


SEC Fearless Predictions, Week Three, Part 2

    



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