SEC Fearless Predictions, Oct. 25
Georgia WR A.J. Green & LSU RB Charles Scott
Georgia WR A.J. Green & LSU RB Charles Scott
Posted Oct 22, 2008

It's a shakeout week for the SEC pecking order with Alabama battling Tennessee, Florida gets a tougher-than-it-looks game against Kentucky, and Georgia goes to LSU where new stars, WR A.J. Green and RB Charles Scott, will get the spotlight. Check out the Previews and Predictions for the Week 9 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
- Sept. 27 | Oct. 4 | Oct. 11 | Oct. 18

How are the picks so far? SU: 38-13 ... ATS: 18-25

- SEC Fearless Predictions, Week 9, Oct. 25, Part 2 (Bama vs. Tenn.)

SEC Game of the Week

Georgia (6-1) at LSU (5-1), 3:30 EST SEC
Why to watch: This is more than just a possible SEC title game preview, it’s a national title-caliber statement game for one and an elimination game for the other.  It’s a chance for either a rebuilding LSU program to show its maturity, and to show that it’s still alive after the 51-21 obliteration at Florida and an underwhelming performance at South Carolina, or it’s a chance for Georgia, problems and all, is still going to be a factor down the stretch.

Georgia was never healthy this year from the get-go, suffering crippling injury losses on both sides of the line with All-America talents like OT Trinton Sturdivant and DT Jeff Owens gone before the season could even get rolling. The brilliance of QB Matthew Stafford and RB Knowshon Moreno, and the emergence of freshman WR A.J. Green, have been enough to overcome a variety of issues, and the run defense has been as stingy as ever, but the Dawgs have done little more than inspire a big national yawn so far. The 27-10 win over Arizona State was nice, but that was quickly wiped away by a 31-0 first half blasting from Alabama followed up by two straight mediocre performances in wins over mediocre Tennessee and Vanderbilt teams. There would be nothing to sneeze at if the Dawgs can beat LSU in Death Valley, and if they run the table, with the Florida game, at Kentucky, at Auburn, Georgia Tech, and an SEC title game, assuming they get through the rest of the conference slate unscathed, then it might be time to put them in their first national title game in the BCS era no matter what anyone else does.

What’s one loss to LSU? Whatever. If last year’s team can win the national championship with two gaffes, one mistake is no big deal. However, no one’s comparing this team to last year’s killer, and after struggling too much in the biggest games so far, an impressive win is a must. This game kicks off a stretch of five straight home games, including the showdown with Alabama, before finishing up at Arkansas. It’s possible for the Tigers to win out and face Florida in a rematch in the SEC title game, and if that happens, they’ll likely be in a position to play for the national title for a second straight season with a win.

Why Georgia might win: As good as the LSU defensive front might be, with or without the injured Ricky Jean-Francois, it got ripped up by the Florida running game two weeks ago and allowed 175 yards to the Mississippi State running game. The Tigers haven’t faced a back anywhere near the same zip code talent-wise as Moreno, while the inconsistent Georgia offensive line should be able to hold its own when it has to blast its way for the ground game. Meanwhile, the LSU offense has been no big whoop, feeding off momentum, key late drives, and the running of Charles Scott. Georgia’s run defense isn’t allowing a thing so far, and it should be able to keep Scott in check and force the Tigers to win through the air. However …
Why LSU might win: … the Georgia secondary can be beaten. With little pass rush to help the cause, the Bulldog secondary has allowed a few too many big plays even though it hasn’t faced a who’s who of passing quarterbacks. Yeah, the run defense has been great, it ranks third in the nation allowing just 61 yards per game, but it only faced one really good ground game, Alabama’s, and that’s the one loss. In other words, the stats are a bit misleading. With top linebacker Dannell Ellerbe still out with a knee injury, and facing an elite LSU offensive line, don’t be shocked if Georgia starts giving up rushing yards in chunks for the first time all year.
Who to watch: The Lee/Hatch, Hatch/Lee thing seems to be working for the Tigers. Against South Carolina, Jarrett Lee did a nice job most of the way, completing 16-of-26 passes for 189 yards with an interception. And then head coach Les Miles came up with the curve ball, putting in the more mobile Andrew Hatch in crunch time and getting 19 rushing yards and a 2-of-3, 10-yard passing effort that included the game-winning touchdown. These two don’t have to outplay Stafford, but they need to be mistake-free and efficient.
What will happen: Georgia is as good an SEC road team as they come, but LSU is built on the lines to slug it out in close, tension-filled battles like this one will be. The LSU kickers, led by Colt David, have hit 9-of-10 field goals so far, while freshman Blair Walsh has been rock-solid hitting 11-of-15. This week, David will hit his key late field goal; Walsh will miss his.  
CFN Prediction: LSU 20 … Georgia 17 … Line:  LSU -2.5
Must See Rating: (5 SNL with Palin – 1 Jose Canseco: Last Shot) … 5
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Thursday, October 23

Auburn (4-3) at West Virginia (4-2), 7:30 EST, ESPN
Why to watch: When schedules were released in the summer, this shaped up as one of the most intriguing non-conference match ups of the year. While five losses between Auburn and West Virginia have certainly diminished its national appeal, it remains a critical crossroads game for both schools. Back-to-back losses to Vanderbilt and Arkansas have eliminated the Tigers from SEC contention and Tony Franklin from his post as the offensive coordinator. Auburn will be giving the ball to versatile sophomore Kodi Burns, the player’s and fans’ choice to pilot the disabled offense. The Mountaineers are having offensive problems of their own under Jeff Mullen, who’s become the Big East’s version of Franklin around Morgantown. On the bright side, West Virginia expects to get Pat White back from a concussion and still controls its own destiny for a BCS bowl game. The winner of this game could get a boost that carries it through the second half of the year.
Why Auburn might win: Defense. Amid all the troubles the Tigers have faced this fall, the defense has not been one of them. They’re allowing just 13 points a game, and have been equally tough against the run as the pass. Sen’Derrick Marks, Antonio Coleman, and Tez Doolittle are the cornerstones of a terrific defensive line that’ll neutralize West Virginia’s strength and experience on the interior and help keep its offense reeling. The ‘eers haven’t been right since the opener, averaging only 17 points over the last five games.
Why West Virginia might win: The Mountaineers won’t be the only team in Milan Puskar with problems on the offensive side of the ball. Auburn has been a wreck, ranking 107th nationally in total offense and getting next to nothing from the passing game. West Virginia’s 15th-ranked scoring defense has allowed one touchdown pass at home all year and will make Burns’ third start of the season a difficult one. LB Mortty Ivy and S John Holmes are microcosms of the Mountaineer defense, swarming to the ball and playing with exceptional range.
Who to watch: Auburn’s ability to turn things around and possibly save Tommy Tuberville’s job rest squarely on the shoulders of Burns, a talented sophomore who is still raw in the passing game. He’ll benefit from an extra week of preparation and from not having to constantly look over his shoulder at Chris Todd. Burns is at his most dangerous when he’s on the move, so look for the Tiger staff to implement a gameplan that maximizes his unique skill set. If nothing else, the change at quarterback has been something the rest of the team has rallied around over the last week.
What will happen: Possibly sensing that Tuberville is in trouble, Auburn will play its best game of the season, getting a great effort from the defense for a pivotal road win. Burns will play sporadically, leaning on backs Ben Tate and Brad Lester to carry the load on offense. Special teams, a strength for both schools, will play a key role throughout the night.
CFN Prediction: Auburn 23 … West Virginia 17 … Line: West Virginia -3.5
Must See Rating: (5 SNL with Palin – 1 Jose Canseco: Last Shot) … 3.5
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Saturday, October 25

Kentucky (5-2) at Florida (5-1), 12:30 EST GamePlan
Why to watch: Death, taxes, and Florida beating Kentucky. The Wildcats have had their moments over the years with wins over the big boys, highlighted by last season’s thrilling triple overtime classic over eventual national champion LSU, but they haven’t had much luck cracking the Gator code. Florida has won 21 straight in the series, and 27 of the last 28, with the last UK win coming in 1986. However, this might be big blue’s best shot thanks to a tremendous defensive line, an emerging, clutch offense, and a bit of a swagger having pushed Alabama a few weeks ago and coming back to beat Arkansas last week. Meanwhile, it’s game on for Florida after a 51-21 beatdown over LSU. That win put the national title dream back on track with the showdown against Georgia coming up next week. With all due respect to South Carolina and the trip to Vanderbilt, this might be the Gators’ toughest non-Georgia game the rest of the way. It’s a trap, sandwiched in between the Tigers and Dawgs, and it should be one of the better games in the lopsided series.
Why Kentucky might win: Beyond the letdown factor, Florida should have a few problems with the tough, aggressive UK defense that’s allowing just 156 passing yards per game and has been a steady rock against the run. The Wildcats might not be explosive, but they don’t make a slew of mistakes and they have a habit of rallying in the second half. This team does the little things well with good special teams, a strong pass rush, and a surprisingly good offensive line that’s doing a great job in pass protection.
Why Florida might win: Does Kentucky have any players left on defense? Tackle Myron Pryor was playing at an All-America level, but he’s out with an ankle injury. The entire linebacking corps might be on the shelves with Braxton Kelly trying to fight through a shoulder injury, Micah Johnson having problems getting past an ankle problem, and Johnny Williams suffering a shoulder injury. They’re all saying the right things about trying to get back on the field, but that’s a reach. Oh yeah, and Tim Tebow is just starting to heat up. The short to midrange passes he’s able to crank out to keep the offense moving to set things up for the deep ball should be there all day against the new, untested linebackers. The real loss is Pryor. Good SEC tackles are worth their weight in gold, and after Florida missed LSU’s Ricky Jean-Francois last week, it catches a huge break this week.
Who to watch: Florida’s Percy Harvin might be the star jack-of-all-trades in this game, but Kentucky freshman sensation Randall Cobb is quickly becoming a folk hero. He was fantastic under center against Norfolk State, running for two scores and throwing for 87 yards and a touchdown, and then he was out injured for a few weeks. With Mike Hartline firmly entrenched as the starting quarterback, Cobb was moved to receiver to try to make up for the loss of Dicky Lyons, the leading receiver who got knocked out for the year with a knee injury, and he came through with eight catches for 53 yards against South Carolina and five grabs for 73 yards and two late touchdowns to beat Arkansas.
What will happen: Kentucky is too banged up to pull off the win. The offense just isn’t strong enough to match Tebow and company punch-for-punch.
CFN Prediction: Florida 31 … Kentucky 10 … Line:  Florida -23
Must See Rating: (5 SNL with Palin – 1 Jose Canseco: Last Shot) … 3.5
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Duke (3-3) at Vanderbilt (5-2), 3:00 EST
Why to watch: It might not be an ordinary afternoon when Duke travels to Nashville this Saturday. After losing back-to-back road games to Mississippi State and Georgia, Vanderbilt remains one game away from the bowl eligibility that’s escaped it for more than a quarter-century. If the ‘Dores can secure that magical sixth win in front of the home crowd, the celebration just might empty the stands and topple the goal posts. Duke has been authoring a surprise season of its own, playing markedly better under first-year head coach. Even after getting whipped in the second half by Miami a week ago, the Blue Devils can get right back in the postseason chase with a road upset this weekend. At some point, they’ll need to win a game or two they’re not supposed to in order to bowl for the first time since 1994.
Why Duke might win: The Blue Devils need to turn this into a shootout, the kind of game Vanderbilt can’t win. The Commodores have been among the nation’s most feeble offenses all year, ranking a sorry 118th in the country and getting nothing out of the passing game. If Duke can jump out to a lead behind the pitch-and-catch combo of Thaddeus Lewis to Eron Riley, Vandy will have a difficult time mounting a comeback. The Duke D has been better than expected, picking off eight passes in the last four games and getting good effort from a front seven led by DE Greg Akinbiyi, DT Vince Oghobaase, and linebackers Vincent Rey and Michael Tauiliili.
Why Vanderbilt might win: The Commodores are going to shut down Duke’s primary key to victory, its passing attack. Vandy has an outstanding secondary that features corners D.J. Moore and Myron Lewis, and safeties Ryan Hamilton and Reshard Langford. Moore will blanket Riley, forcing the Blue Devils to rely more than they’d like on the nation’s 90th-ranked running game and complimentary receivers, like Raphael Chestnut. The Commodores are a disciplined, well-coached team that doesn’t make penalties and leads the SEC in sacks.
Who to watch: Moore isn’t just one of the nation’s best-kept secrets at cornerback. He’s also a dynamite special teams performer, who’ll be counted on to give Vanderbilt good field position. He’s No. 7 nationally in punt returns, making for an interesting match up with a Duke special teams unit that’s gotten dramatically better in Cutcliffe’s first season in Durham.
What will happen: Get ready to holler, Vandy fans. After wrestling teams from the SEC for four straight weeks, the Commodores will revel in an opportunity to face a less physical opponent. They’ll control the tempo of the game on defense, while getting the necessary production from QB Mackenzi Adams and RB Jared Hawkins to pull away in the second half.
CFN Prediction: Vanderbilt 27 … Duke 14 … Line:  Vanderbilt -10
Must See Rating: (5 SNL with Palin – 1 Jose Canseco: Last Shot) … 2.5
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- SEC Fearless Predictions, Week 9, Oct. 25, Part 2 (Bama vs. Tenn.)