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SEC Fearless Predictions, Oct. 13, Part 2

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Oct 10, 2007


Previews and Predictions for the Week 7 SEC Games, Part 2


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. 15Sept. 22 | Sept. 29 
Oct. 6Oct. 20Oct. 27 | Nov. 3Nov. 10 | Nov. 17Nov. 24Dec. 1 

How are the picks so far? SU: 43-8 ... ATS: 28-14-1

SEC Fearless Predictions, Week 7, Part 1

SEC Saturday, Oct. 13

South Carolina (5-1) at North Carolina (2-4)   3:30 PM ET ABC
Why to watch: In a strange midseason non-conference matchup between two teams that haven't faced each other since 1991 (a 21-17 North Carolina win), each is coming in on a positive note. The Tar Heels won their first D-I (fine, FCS) game of the year with a stunning 33-27 win over Miami, while the Gamecocks have won two straight to be 3-1 in SEC play. While South Carolina hasn't consistent, it gets something to work right in every game to get the win. In a 38-23 win over Kentucky, it was the defense that came through with several big plays and two fumble returns for scores. Against Mississippi State, it was the passing game. Against Georgia, it was the bend-but-not-break D. North Carolina finally got the offense working, at least for a half, against Miami, and with only two home games left, and only one home date in a four-game stretch after this, a win here is a must.
Why South Carolina might win: The first half against Miami wasn't the norm for the Tar Heel offense. It showed off a little bit of speed and explosion, but the attack doesn't have enough of a running game to establish anything from the start, while the passing game doesn't get enough deep balls to loosen things up. UNC is efficient throwing the ball, but against the nation's number one pass defense, it's not going to be able to stretch the defense and keep things moving. The Tar Heel offensive line isn't going to be able to get much of a push against the USC defensive front.
Why North Carolina might win: It's not like the Gamecock offense is cranking out yards in bunches. It's starting to run the ball better, and Chris Smelley is growing into a improved passer, but everything feeds off the defense. The Tar Heels have to limit the turnovers, which isn't a given, and let the special teams shine, thanks to Terrence Brown and the punting game. Brown is averaging 43 yards per kick, while the team is 19th in the nation in net punting. Winning the field position battle is a must.
Who to watch: If nothing else, North Carolina freshman T.J. Yates is getting his early experience against the best. He threw three touchdown passes in each of his first three games, and hasn't thrown one over the last three, but he's had to face South Florida, Virginia Tech, and Miami. As if that wasn't a tough enough trip of defense, now he gets South Carolina, and while he's not going to throw for 300 yards, he can't throw an interception and has to hit at least one early deep throw. Until he does, USC will load up against the short to midrange passes he's thrown so far.
What will happen: It'll be typical South Carolina football. It won't be a thing of beauty, but the defense will keep the UNC offense under wraps, while the offense will run the ball well in an efficient win.
CFN Prediction: South Carolina 31 ... North Carolina 20 ... Line: South Carolina -6.5
Must See Rating: (5 Hideki Matsui's "collection" - 1 The Heartbreak Kid) ... 2.5

Georgia (4-2) at Vanderbilt (3-2)    6:00 PM ET ESPN2
Why to watch: Georgia had won 11 in a row over Vanderbilt, and then came last year's 24-22 last second loss, coming on the heels of a bizarre collapse against Tennessee, as part of a rough midseason stretch. Now the Dawgs are trying to pick up the pieces after getting their doors blown off by the Vols yet again, and at 2-2 in SEC play, has to be perfect the rest of the way to have any dream of playing for the SEC title. Meanwhile, Vanderbilt wasn't even close at Auburn last week in a 35-7 loss. So far, the offense has gone into the tank against the two good teams, and been solid against the three bad ones. Georgia is a good team, and it needs to establish that fact again before getting two weeks off to prepare for Florida. In SEC play, Vandy gets all the East teams the rest of the way, controlling its own destiny in the race. While this won't be an East title winning season, it can get very interesting with a win this week.
Why Georgia might win: Punting. The Georgia linebackers should be able to keep QB Chris Nickson from running too much, and the Vandy passing game won't be efficient against a secondary that gives up the occasional big play but doesn't get picked on, but the real difference in a game with two inconsistent offenses is field position. The Commodores are only averaging 30.57 yards per kick, while Georgia's punting game is tenth in the nation averaging 38.82 yards per return. While that might not seem like that big a deal, throw in Georgia's tremendous punt return game into the mix, and the Dawgs should have much shorter fields to work with.
Why Vanderbilt might win: Granted, part of the problem was a step up in competition, but the Georgia offense struggled mightily in the two road games against Alabama and Tennessee. As talented as the Dawgs are, this is still a young team that's going to go through its ups and downs. Vanderbilt's defense has been strong enough to force one of the down moments, led by a pass defense that's allowing a mere 159 yards per game. Georgia should be able to run a bit on the Commodore front seven, but don't expect a huge afternoon from Matthew Stafford and the receiving corps.
Who to watch: Vanderbilt sophomore CB D.J. Moore is coming up with an all-star season. While not all that huge, he's grown into one of the team's surest tackles, making a team-leading 33 solo stops, while coming up with three interceptions including one for a touchdown against Eastern Michigan. He's also a top-level kickoff returner, averaging 28 yards per attempt. For Georgia's passing game to be successful, Stafford will have to know where Moore is at all times.
What will happen: The two defenses will dominate throughout, but Georgia will get a bit more out of the ground game and will get one big kick or punt return to swing the momentum its way. It'll take a while, but the Dawgs will grab hold of things sometime in the second half, and will seal it with a big interception.
CFN Prediction: Georgia 23 ... Vanderbilt 13 ... Line: Georgia -7
Must See Rating: (5 Hideki Matsui's "collection" - 1 The Heartbreak Kid) ... 2.5

Auburn (4-2) at Arkansas (3-2)   7:45 PM ET ESPN
Why to watch: On October 6th of last year, Auburn was flying high, ranked second in one poll, third in another, and looking to get past an unheralded Arkansas team before the big showdown with Florida. On October 7th, Darren McFadden and Felix Jones combined for 259 rushing yards, while Auburn gained just 212 yards of total offense, as the Hogs won 27-10 to effectively seal up the SEC West and put McFadden in New York as a Heisman finalist. This year, Arkansas is looking for survival after an 0-2 SEC start and with three league road trips left to play, including a date at LSU. The Tigers overcame an ugly loss to Mississippi State to win two straight SEC games and become a player again in the race. With LSU up next, it might be tempting to look past the struggling Hogs, but the Tigers are well away of the recent history.
Why Auburn might win: Throughout the year, the offense has been up and down like a yo-yo, not putting together the same positive performance two games in a row. That's the offense; not the defense. The D has been tremendous throughout, especially against the pass, while the run defense has yet to allow more than 175 yards. While this group got ripped apart by the big play last season against the Hogs, it's not giving up much of anything so far this year, and like everyone else, will bring everyone up and force Casey Dick to make plays through the air. The speedy Tiger linebackers have the athleticism to stay with McFadden and Jones, but ...
Why Arkansas might win: ... the vaunted Auburn defense is banged up. The biggest loss is All-America defensive end Quentin Groves, who's struggling with a few dislocated toes, but he's mostly a key for the pass rush. In this game, the linebackers are the key, and Merrill Johnson has a bum shoulder and Tray Blackmon might be out with an ankle problem. Throw in the possible absence of safety Aairon Savage with a knee injury, and all of a sudden, the Tigers might be vulnerable. Defensively, Arkansas has been fantastic against the pass, not allowing anyone other than Kentucky's Andre Woodson to consistently get on track. Even so ...
Who to watch: ... it'll have its handful with Brandon Cox. After a benching, a mini-demotion, and a 4-of-10, 42-yard, two interception performance against Mississippi State, he's been among the nation's hottest quarterbacks, completing 71% of his passes for 527 yards and two touchdowns with an interception. More importantly over this three-game stretch, he's 3-0 with a win over Florida. He's simply making the throws that are there for the taking, has stopped pressing so much, and has kept the chains moving. Arkansas is fourth in the nation in pass efficiency defense, so this should be one of his biggest tests of the season.
What will happen: The Auburn defense, decent play from Cox, and an improved running game will overcome two long home runs from the Arkansas running game. This will be the game that Casey Dick costs the Hogs.
CFN Prediction: Auburn 26 ... Arkansas 20 .. Line: Arkansas -3
Must See Rating: (5 Hideki Matsui's "collection" - 1 The Heartbreak Kid) ... 3.5

SEC Fearless Predictions, Week 7, Part 1