SEC Fearless Predictions, Sept. 27
John Parker Wilson & Matthew Stafford
John Parker Wilson & Matthew Stafford
Posted Sep 24, 2008

All of a sudden, the Alabama - Georgia game goes from an interesting SEC battle to one of the season definers. Is Alabama ready to be in the national title hunt? Can Georgia handle the challenge in the big game of the weekend? Check out the Previews and Predictions for the Week 5 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 | Sept. 13 | Sept. 20

How are the picks so far? SU: 29-7 ... ATS: 13-15

- SEC Fearless Predictions, Week Five, Part 2

SEC Game of the Week

Alabama (4-0) at Georgia (4-0), 7:45 EST, ESPN
Why to watch: Before the season started, this was seen as an interesting interdivision showdown and a potential measuring stick game for each. How fast has Alabama rebuilt under Nick Saban? This game was supposed to be the test. Coming off road games against South Carolina and Arizona State, was Georgia going to look ahead to Tennessee? That was before the year, and now everything has changed. Tennessee hardly appears to be a factor to worry too much about for next week, and Alabama, starting off with its thumping of Clemson, looks like a program whose time might be now. It might be a bit presumptuous to think this could be part one, with part two coming in the SEC title game, but it doesn’t seem all that crazy a notion as it might have seemed a few weeks ago. Of course, Georgia was supposed to be at a lofty level at this point in the year, and while the 14-7 win over South Carolina was a bit shaky, and last week’s 27-10 win over Arizona State didn’t exactly look like USC beating Ohio State, the team is as good as advertised (even if the pollsters don’t necessarily agree). It’s Alabama who makes this showdown the biggest game of the week. With Kentucky, Ole Miss, at Tennessee and Arkansas State in the next four games, it’s not looking too far ahead to assume the Tide will likely be 9-0 going into the trip to LSU with a win this week. Considering it’s a road game, Alabama can lose close and still be in the hunt for the whole ball of wax by winning out, but Georgia probably can’t afford a loss at home considering dates with LSU, Florida, and Auburn are away from the Hedges.
Why Alabama might win: Defense, defense, and more defense. Georgia doesn’t have the type of high-powered attack that can come out and hang 50 on the board if Bama has a bad defensive day, and the Dawg lines aren’t going to dominate like they did last week against ASU. South Carolina and its anemic offense was able to move the ball through the air on the Bulldog defense, while the D all but shut down Knowshon Moreno (if 79 yards can be shutting down) while holding Georgia to 252 yards of total offense. Bama has the defensive front to put pressure on Matthew Stafford while being able to keep Moreno under wraps.
Why Georgia might win: For all of the good things the Alabama defense has done, it has yet to face a real, live offensive line. The Clemson front was a mess to start the season, and while it has improved a bit, still isn’t a killer. Arkansas is having a nightmare of a time in pass protection, and Tulane and Western Kentucky don’t have O lines on the same planet as Georgia’s.
Who to watch: The quarterbacks. Much will be made about the coaches and the defenses and atmosphere, but this game should come down to which quarterback plays better. Alabama’s John Parker Wilson has been terrific so far and was solid against Georgia last year, completing 17-of-35 passes for 185 yards with no picks and two touchdown runs, but Matthew Stafford was better in the end. Stafford has mostly been a “scout” type of player. He has the tools, the jaw-dropping arm, and the size to be the first quarterback, if not the first player, in next year’s draft if he chooses to come out, but he hasn’t done anything all that special outside of being extremely consistent. That is, he hasn’t done anything all that special outside of a 25-yard pitch to Mikey Henderson in overtime for the 26-23 win over Alabama last year. He has been flawless so far this season throwing five touchdown passes and no interceptions. Wilson can add a signature win this week to go along with being Alabama’s all-time yardage leader, while Stafford has the potential to be seen more as a elite college football winner, and not just a pro prospect, if he can pull this off.
What will happen: Alabama is the real deal, but Georgia, in the black jerseys, will be a bit more consistent. Alabama might have the offensive line and a frothing-at-the-mouth defense waiting to pounce, but it doesn’t have Stafford or Moreno.
CFN Prediction
: Georgia 23 … Alabama 16 ... Line: Georgia -6.5
Must See Rating: (5 Debate No. 1 - 1 The 2008 Primetime Emmys) … 5
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Saturday, Sept. 27

Ole Miss (2-2) at Florida (3-0), 12:30 EST, ESPN Gameplan
Why to watch: For whatever reason, Ole Miss has played Florida tough. Last year Florida needed to fight to win 30-24, and the Rebels won 20-17 in 1989, 2002 and 2003. This is a good Ole Miss team in search of a statement moment in the Houston Nutt era after suffering close losses to Wake Forest and Vanderbilt. The Rebels dominated the Commodores, but six turnovers turned into the great equalizer, including a fumble in the end zone late. On the flip side, Florida is riding high after a 24-point win at Tennessee, helped mostly by the play of Brandon James and the special teams. The offense hasn’t clicked well enough for some, but the defense, a sticking point going into the year, has been fantastic. This is the relatively easy part of the schedule with Arkansas up next before the big-time battle with LSU.  
Why Ole Miss might win: 331 yards of total offense a game? Florida? Believe it, as the Gators have achieved a near-perfect mix of running, averaging 164 yards per game, and just 170 yards per outing through the air. The Ole Miss defensive front is more than good enough to harass the Gator backfield for a full sixty minutes. Currently, the Rebels are ninth in the nation in both sacks and tackles for loss.
Why Florida might win: Turnovers. Florida is tied for second in the nation in turnover margin with nine takeaways and is the only team in America to not have a turnover yet. On the other side, Ole Miss is 109th in the nation in turnover margin giving it away 12 times and only gaining seven takeaways. The formula has worked. Run the ball, don’t screw up, let the defense win the game. It has worked from day one.
Who to watch: Tim Tebow ran for at least one touchdown in 14 straight games, but he has yet to run for a score this year. Worse yet, his accuracy has diminished in a big way, completing just 59% of his throws with five touchdown passes and no interceptions. The reigning Heisman winner is too good to just be a game-manager, but he needs to get moving on the ground to start offering more options for the offense. He only has 31 rushing yards so far, meaning someone else has start to shine to prove the running backs aren’t just along for the ride.
What will happen: Ole Miss has the lines to keep this a lot closer than Gator fans might be expecting. Florida will struggle before pulling away in the fourth.
CFN Prediction: Florida 31 … Ole Miss 13 ... Line: Florida -23
Must See Rating: (5 Debate No. 1 - 1 The 2008 Primetime Emmys) … 3
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Tennessee (1-2) at Auburn (3-1), 3:30 EST, CBS
Why to watch: It sounds like something special … Tennessee at Auburn. This should be the SEC title game, and it was in 2004 when the Tigers beat the Vols 38-28 on the way to an unbeaten season. In fact, Auburn won twice over the Vols that year including a 34-10 stomping in Knoxville. These two have only played each other three times since 1999, with Auburn winning all three, but Tennessee has never needed a win more than it does right now. With a date at Georgia coming up soon and after the loss to Florida, Tennessee has to start saving face now.
Why Tennessee might win: Lost in all the problems so far have been the strong play on the lines. Tennessee has done some shoving around, while the offensive line has done a decent job of protecting QB Jonathan Crompton. To have any chance against the stout Tiger defensive front, Tennessee will have to keep the pass rush in check while pounding away until the running game starts to work. With 178 yards on the ground, LSU showed last week that Auburn can be run on, but Tennessee has to make a commitment to doing it.
Why Auburn might win: Tennessee is having way too many problems putting points on the board. The skill players aren’t playing poorly, the line has been fine, and the defense, for the most part, has done its job. Now the points have to start coming. Auburn’s defense has a habit of making offenses struggle, and this week should be no exception. Tennessee has one of the SEC’s least efficient passing games, and if Auburn generates consistent pressure, Crompton will struggle.
Who to watch: The one thing Auburn QB Chris Todd needs is time. He’s not the most active, efficient passer, but he’s good enough once he gets a little time to work. He was a gamer against LSU, getting knocked around a bit while still firing away for 250 yards. The Auburn offensive line is better than it showed against the stellar LSU defensive front, and while Tennessee has good players in the front four, there’s no pass rush to worry about.
What will happen: Tennessee will come out firing. Usually when the Vols appear to be down and out, they come through with a shocking performance. Auburn’s defense will be too tough for Tennessee to go on a big run, but this should be closer than Tiger fans might like. Tennessee has the athletes to keep up, but it doesn’t have the consistency to win in a tougher-than-expected battle.
CFN Prediction
: Auburn 20 … Tennessee 13 ... Line: Auburn -6.5
Must See Rating: (5 Debate No. 1 - 1 The 2008 Primetime Emmys) … 3
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Arkansas (2-1) at Texas (3-0), 3:30 EST ABC
Why to watch: Let’s try this again. Hurricane Ike postponed this showdown between two former Southwest Conference superpowers, and since then, Arkansas got hammered by Alabama 49-14 and Texas rolled over Rice. Longhorn head man Mack Brown wanted this off-week to rest up for the Big 12 season with a trip to Colorado, the battle with Oklahoma, and a home date with Missouri to kick off a killer stretch of conference games without a break. The Hogs need time in general. Like Texas, they don’t get any sort of a break. This was supposed to be the off-week to prepare for Florida and then Auburn, but now it’s all about trying to get the Bobby Petrino era rolling with a statement performance in Austin. Arkansas is 2-1, it’s not like things have gone into the tank from the start, but the wins over Western Illinois and UL Monroe were too tight for comfort. Meanwhile, Texas beat Florida Atlantic, UTEP and Rice by a combined score of 146 to 33.
Why Arkansas might win: This is going to be a theme for most of the year: the Texas secondary is struggling. To be fair, teams are bombing away in comeback mode to try to keep up with the Longhorn offense, but it’s not like the Texas defensive backs are stopping anyone cold allowing 255 yards to FAU, 267 to UTEP, and 301 to Rice. Casey Dick and the SEC-leading Arkansas passing game should be able to bomb away.
Why Texas might win: Pressure. Texas is getting into the backfield early and often, cranking out nine sacks and 22 tackles for loss. The Arkansas offensive line has been a disaster so far allowing ten sacks and doing little for the running game. Injuries have been a problem, but it’s also about the transition to the new coaching staff and the offense. The Texas defensive front should be able to take advantage and force plenty of mistakes.
Who to watch: While Chase Daniel, Sam Bradford, and Graham Harrell are just a few of the Big 12 quarterbacks getting noticed on a national scale, Colt McCoy is playing as well as any of them, if not better. Now only is McCoy taking the passing game to another level, hitting 78% of his passes for 833 yards and 11 touchdowns with an interception, and he leads the team with 194 rushing yards and two touchdowns. By far, this is his toughest test yet, but it’ll be nothing like he’ll face over the next few weeks.
What will happen: Texas will need a while to get going with little running game to rely on outside of McCoy, but there will be enough of an offensive mix for the Longhorns to get by with ease. Two key Hog turnovers will make an interesting battle a blowout.
CFN Prediction: Texas 38 … Arkansas 17 ... Line: Texas -27.5
Must See Rating: (5 Debate No. 1 - 1 The 2008 Primetime Emmys) … 3
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- SEC Fearless Predictions, Week Five, Part 2