SEC Fearless Predictions, Sept. 13
South Carolina CB Captain Munnerlyn
South Carolina CB Captain Munnerlyn
Posted Aug 6, 2008

Previews and Predictions for the Week 3 SEC Games.

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

- SEC Fearless Predictions Aug. 30 | Sept. 6

How are the picks so far? SU: 16-5 ... ATS: 6-10

- SEC Fearless Predictions, Week Three, Part 2

SEC Game of the Week

Georgia (2-0) at South Carolina (1-1), 3:30 EST CBS
Why to watch: A funny thing happened on the way to what was supposed to be national-spotlight game for the SEC East: Vanderbilt. The Commodores stunned South Carolina 34-17 last Thursday night causing a panic among Steve Spurrier and the Gamecock coaching staff and bringing about a few big changes for the offense (more on this in a moment). Now, South Carolina has to come up with a win over the loaded Bulldogs or suffer an 0-2 SEC start with road games to Ole Miss and Kentucky up next on the conference slate. Georgia responded well after being demoted from first to second in the polls by demolishing Central Michigan 56-17. This begins a brutal four-game stretch with a trip to Arizona State next week followed up by home games against Alabama and Tennessee, but for now, getting revenge on South Carolina for last year’s 16-12 Gamecock win between the hedges is enough to focus on. The two defenses are terrific, the two coaching staffs are top-shelf, and the showdown is almost always competitive. Five of the last seen games between the two have been decided by six points or fewer.
Why Georgia might win: South Carolina’s quarterbacks can’t stop giving the ball away. Four interceptions against NC State didn’t matter in a 34-0 win, but the two picks thrown against Vanderbilt last week proved to be costly. It’s not all the fault of the quarterbacks; they’re not getting any time to work. The USC offensive line has been horrendous in pass protection and should give up at least four sacks this week.
Why South Carolina might win: The South Carolina secondary has been terrific so far, ranking first in the nation in passing yards allowed giving up just 139 along with one touchdown. QB Matthew Stafford has been terrific, but it’s not like he has been tested in the first two games.  Georgia has to play a real, live defense for the first time all season. There’s been little pressure in the backfield with Georgia Southern and Central Michigan having to spend most of their time worrying about Knowshon Moreno and the Bulldog running game. After the Vanderbilt fiasco, the South Carolina D will be frothing at the mouth.
Who to watch: And the South Carolina quarterback this week will be … both of them. Chris Smelley will get the start after completing all five of his passes against NC State with two touchdowns, and 23-of-39 passes for 233 yards and two touchdowns with two interceptions against the Commodores, but he’ll split time with Tommy Beecher. Beecher started against NC State, but he threw four interceptions and was generally ineffective. Hot on their heels is Stephen Garcia, arguably the most talented of the three options, but he’s just starting to get out of the doghouse after a slew of off-season trouble.
What will happen: It’s not going to be an offensive showcase. The two defenses will make this a fun, interesting battle for a full sixty minutes, but Georgia has far more offensive talent to go along with just enough of a pass rush to make the Gamecock quarterbacks screw up. There’s no making up for the loss of Kenny McKinley, arguably the SEC’s best receiver and South Carolina’s best playmaker. He’s out with a hamstring injury, and it’ll force the USC quarterbacks to press a bit too much. That’s not a plus.
CFN Prediction: Georgia 20 … South Carolina 13 ... Line: Georgia -7.5
Must See Rating: (5 Hole in the Wall - 1 First Blood) … 4
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 Saturday, September 13

UAB (0-2) at Tennessee (0-1), 12:30 EST, ESPN Gameplan
Why to watch: Tennessee has had two long weeks to dwell on its gut-wrenching opening day loss to UCLA. It couldn’t have been easy for the players, coaches, or fans. Still, the Volunteers know that there’s plenty to play for, such as an SEC title, even if a perfect season is off the table. They remember that last year’s squad also opened with a demoralizing loss in California, yet went on to win the East Division and nearly knocked off LSU in Atlanta. UAB has battled in both of its games, a trademark under Neil Callaway, but has fallen short in bids to beat Tulsa and Florida Atlantic. The Blazers are making progress on offense, but until they can make more stops and develop some depth, moral victories will be a common occurrence.
Why UAB might win: All of a sudden, the Blazer offense has become potent, amassing more than 400 yards in each of the first two games. Dual-threat QB Joe Webb has forced opposing defenses to respect his legs as well as his arm. He leads the team in rushing and has done an effective job as a passer, especially when he’s locked in on rangy WR Frantrell Forrest. When Tennessee needed to make stops in the opener, it allowed a vanilla UCLA offense with a journeyman quarterback to score two critical fourth quarter touchdowns.
Why Tennessee might win: The Blazers have allowed 94 points in two games and are ranked 117th nationally in total defense, numbers that won’t improve in Knoxville this weekend. With the talented Volunteer offensive line paving the way, UT will move the ball at will on the overmatched UAB defense, especially on the ground. With enough touches, this is one of those games that both Arian Foster and Montario Hardesty are capable of going over 100 yards on the ground.
Who to watch: If Tennessee is going to regroup and get back in the SEC title hunt, it’s incumbent upon QB Jonathan Crompton to play much better than he did in the opener. He played like a rookie, completing less than 50% of his passes and too often sailing the ball above the receiver’s head. Like the rest of the team, he needs to use this week’s visit from UAB to get right before back-to-back killer games with Florida and Auburn.
What will happen: Forget about any chance of Tennessee getting caught napping in a sandwich game between UCLA and Florida. The Vols will be focused on putting UAB away as quickly as possible, dominating along both lines and getting multiple turnovers from the defense
CFN Prediction: Tennessee 48 … UAB 13 ... Line: Tennessee -30
Must See Rating: (5 Hole in the Wall - 1 First Blood) … 1.5
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Auburn (2-0) at Mississippi State (1-1), 7:00 EST ESPN2
Why to watch: Auburn had won six in a row against Mississippi State by a score 208 to 55, and then came last year. The Bulldogs were put on the map under head coach Sylvester Croom with a stunning 19-14 win at Auburn, and after a rough start to this season, another upset could be a must to get to a second straight bowl game. MSU started out the season with a 22-14 loss to Louisiana Tech before beating SE Louisiana 34-10, and with road dates at Georgia Tech, LSU and Tennessee over the next four games (there’s a home date against Vanderbilt mixed in), this might not be a good stretch if the offense continues to sputter. Auburn has been fantastic. The offense has done just enough to get by in wins over UL Monroe and Southern Miss, while the defense has been dominant. The Tigers get LSU and Tennessee at home over the next two weeks, so while this might be a revenge game, the temptation might be there to look ahead.
Why Auburn might win: Southern Miss ran for 427 yards and five touchdowns in its season-opening blowout win over UL Lafayette. Auburn held Damion Fletcher and the Golden Eagles to 37 yards on 27 carries. The Mississippi State passing game has cranked out some yards, but it also gave up three interceptions in the loss to Louisiana Tech. The Bulldogs have to run to win, and that’s not going to happen against a Tiger defensive front that’s in midseason form. That means the MSU passing game will have to be efficient and effective, and it’s not likely to be either
Why Mississippi State might win: The Mississippi State formula is simple. Run the ball, get stellar defense, force turnovers, win the game. MSU was able to run relatively well in last season’s game, getting 103 yards from Anthony Dixon, but the key was the turnover margin. Auburn threw three interceptions and lost two fumbles, and MSU turned it over just once. Last week, Southern Miss was able to stay alive last week because of four Auburn turnovers. The Tigers are still trying to get their new offense up to speed, and there will be chances for takeaways. MSU has to take advantage.
Who to watch: Mississippi State LB Jamar Chaney was a terror last season. The team’s best run defender came up with eight tackles and a tackle for loss against Auburn, and he would’ve been a key player to sniff out the Auburn spread attack. Now he’s gone for the year with a broken leg suffered in the season opener against Louisiana Tech. It’ll be up to redshirt freshman Jamie Jones to play like a veteran in the middle. He made just one tackle last week.
What will happen: Auburn will keep the Mississippi State running game to under 100 yards and will force at least three turnovers. The Tiger offense won’t be sharp, but it’ll come with the key drives it needs to keep the Bulldogs at arm’s length.
CFN Prediction: Auburn 23 … Mississippi State 6 ... Line: Auburn -10.5
Must See Rating: (5 Hole in the Wall - 1 First Blood) … 3.5
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Rice (2-0) at Vanderbilt (2-0), 7:00 ET
Why to watch: An off-the-radar game for most college fans, Rice-Vanderbilt has the ingredients to be one of the sneaky good match ups of Week 3. Known better for their academic prowess than their athletic achievements, this is the first time since 1956 that both institutions have started 2-0 in the same year. Whichever program gets to 3-0 will be labeled one of the feel-good stories of the first quarter of the season. In front of a national TV audience, Vandy stunned South Carolina for a second straight year, rallying in the second half for its first home win over a ranked opponent in 16 years. Rice was even more dramatic in its second victory, using a Chris Jammer 69-yard interception with 11 seconds left to topple Memphis, 42-35.
Why Rice might win: Even a step up in class isn’t going to slow down an Owl offense that’s scored 96 points in the first two games and boasts one of the most prolific pitch-and-catch combos in NCAA history. Chase Clement to Jarett Dillard has been virtually unstoppable the last two years, but it’s not the only arrow in Rice’s quiver. When Dillard isn’t open, Clement can also turn to the versatile James Casey, who’s second in Conference USA in receptions and will be used in a multitude of different ways.
Why Vanderbilt might win: Rice can’t stop anyone. The defense is horrible and subject to getting shoved around by a green, yet physical, Commodore offensive line. Vanderbilt does not have one of the most prolific offenses in the SEC, but it could look that way Saturday night. QB Chris Nickson is a veteran with good improvisational skills and RB Jared Hawkins is a 205-pound battering ram the size of most of the Rice linebackers.
Who to watch: Vandy CB D.J. Moore is one of the best players in the country that few outside the SEC have seen play. He’s a dynamite special teams performer with next level cover skills, making the match up with Dillard worthy of a spotlight every time the two go head-to-head.
What will happen: The finesse of Rice works well against Conference USA opponents, but not a physical SEC team that’s playing better than expected on defense. The Owls will deliver a big play or two in the passing game before wearing out in the second half to the Vandy power running game and pass rush.
CFN Prediction: Vanderbilt 35 … Rice 23 ... Line: Vanderbilt -7
Must See Rating: (5 Hole in the Wall - 1 First Blood) … 2.5
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- SEC Fearless Predictions, Week Three, Part 2