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SEC Fearless Predictions, Nov. 29, Part 2
Tennessee S Eric Berry
Tennessee S Eric Berry
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Nov 26, 2008


Previews and Predictions for the Week 14 SEC, Part 2

SEC
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 | Oct. 25 | Nov. 1 | Nov. 8 | Nov. 15
- Nov. 22

How are the picks so far? SU: 61-18 ... ATS: 28-43

Expanded Previews ACC | Big East | Big Ten | Big 12 | M-West | Pac 10 | SEC

- SEC Week 14 Predictions, Nov. 29, Part 1

Saturday, November 29

Georgia Tech (8-3) at Georgia (9-2), 12:00 EST, CBS
Why to watch: When Paul Johnson was hired by Georgia Tech almost a year ago, he knew that beating  Georgia was on the top of his to-do list. The Yellow Jackets have lost seven in-a-row to the Bulldogs, moving further and further behind their in-state rival, a gap Johnson in charge of narrowing. Tech is coming off an impressive win over Miami last Thursday, and is in the ACC Coastal clubhouse with a 5-3 mark. To win the division, however, it’ll need Virginia to upset Virginia Tech on Saturday afternoon. The Bulldogs must get to 10 wins in order to keep their fading at-large BCS bowl hopes alive. With Florida and Alabama on target to gobble up those two SEC openings, however, a far more likely scenario has them playing in the Capital One Bowl against a Big Ten opponent.
Why Georgia Tech might win: The Yellow Jackets are going to enjoy a considerable advantage at the point of attack when Georgia has the ball. While the Dawgs have been scrambling with injuries on the offensive line, Tech has been rock solid in the trenches with ends Michael Johnson and Derrick Morgan, and tackles Vance Walker and Darryl Richard. The team ranks in the top 20 nationally in sacks, total defense, and scoring defense, presenting a major challenge to the balanced Georgia offense. Johnson’s option has begun to purr, racking up almost 1,100 yards in the last three games with Florida State, North Carolina, and Miami.
Why Georgia might win: With a much-needed week of rest behind them, the Dawgs have the speed and discipline on defense to slow down the option and force Tech QB Josh Nesbitt into more passing situations. Georgia is No. 15 nationally against the run, and its problems pressuring the quarterback and defending the pass won’t get exposed this weekend. As tough as the Yellow Jackets can be on defense, they’ve yet to face an offense with as much skill position talent as Georgia. The combination of QB Matt Stafford, RB Knowshon Moreno, and WR A.J. Green is like nothing they see on a week-to-week basis in the ACC.
Who to watch: With Georgia Tech content to pound it on the ground 50 or so times, this is the type of game designed for Georgia LB Rennie Curran. In just his second season of action, he’s having an All-American-type year, leading the Dawgs with 98 tackles, nine tackles for loss, and three sacks. He’s got the speed and instinct to be in on a ton of plays, while keeping Jacket B-back Jonathan Dwyer from getting through the hole and busting past the second line of defense.
What will happen: Georgia Tech is fired up for this game. If Georgia can’t match that intensity for four quarters, the winning streak will be over. While Johnson has narrowed the gap, as directed, his Yellow Jackets won’t be quite ready to win a game in Athens. They’ll fall in a thriller on a fourth quarter drive directed by Stafford and capped by Moreno.
CFN Prediction: Georgia 28 … Georgia Tech 24 ... Line: Georgia -8.5
Must See Rating: (5 Football while eating Thanksgiving food – 1 Home movies after dinner) … 4
  
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Florida (10-1) at Florida State (8-3), 3:30 EST, ABC
Why to watch: As if this storied rivalry needs any more juice, the Gators are one of just five teams with a legitimate shot at a national crown and the ‘Noles are in the hunt for the ACC title and their first 10-win season since 2003. Florida may be No. 4 in the latest BCS rankings, but after seven straight wins by at least 28 points, it’s recognized in many circles as the hottest and most talented team in the country. With wins over Florida State and Alabama, the Gators would likely be the top seed in the BCS Championship Game. The Seminoles are coming off a statement blowout at Maryland one week after laying an egg in a critical home loss to Boston College. They’ve got a half-game lead in the Atlantic Division, but need the Eagles to lose Saturday afternoon in order to play in the ACC championship game. Florida State has lost the last four to Florida, so a win here would send a national statement that the program is on the verge of turning the corner.
Why Florida might win: While Tim Tebow and the offense have deservedly grabbed most of the headlines, the Gator D has been the unsung hero during the seven-game winning streak. A young group a year ago, it’s gelled around LB Brandon Spikes and an athletic secondary to rank in the top 10 in total defense, scoring defense, and turnover margin. Florida has allowed more than 21 points just once all season and is giving up 102 yards a game on the ground. If they can slow down Antone Smith and the Florida State running game, it’ll be up to erratic QB Christian Ponder to keep pace with the high-scoring Gator offense. If he’s forced to do too much, Ahmad Black, Joe Haden, and the rest of the defensive backs will make him pay.
Why Florida State might win
: Although no one looks capable of stopping the Florida offense these days, the Seminoles do have the talent and speed to slow it down. They’re No. 7 nationally in total defense and have notched six sacks in three of the last five games. The catalyst up front has been DE Everette Brown, who’s second in the country in sacks and is coming off a dominant effort in College Park. With burners like Percy Harvin, Chris Rainey, and Jeff Demps, the Gators are as fast as any team in the country, but Florida State is one of those rare teams capable of stringing out plays and limiting the damage. Gator defensive tackles Matt Patchan and Lawrence Marsh might both miss this game with knee injuries, which would provide a big boost to the ‘Nole running game.
Who to watch: While Tebow’s numbers may be down from last year’s Heisman season, in many ways, he’s become a more effective quarterback as a junior. Rather than being the focal point of the attack, he’s got enough talent around him to be a distributor that gets everyone involved. He’s only rushed for 427 yards, but he’s No. 5 nationally in passing efficiency and has been picked just twice all year. Two more crisp efforts in front of national audiences could position him for a second Heisman win.
What will happen: Fueled by the home crowd, Florida State will get off to a fast start. It’ll struggle, however, to maintain that level of intensity for four quarters. Eventually, Harvin or Rainey will zip through a seam in the defense to quiet the crowd and end the threat of an upset. The Gators will build some space in the second half and start looking ahead to Alabama at some point in the final quarter.
CFN Prediction: Florida 39 … Florida State 21 ... Line: Florida -15.5
Must See Rating: (5 Football while eating Thanksgiving food – 1 Home movies after dinner) … 4
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Kentucky (6-5) at Tennessee (4-7), 6:30 EST ESPN2  
Why to watch: The end of the Phil Fulmer era isn’t going so softly. His Volunteers showed up last week, at least on defense, to beat Vanderbilt to keep the record from being too ugly. Finishing 5-7 and on a two-game winning streak would look a lot better at this point than 4-8, but first Tennessee has to get by a Kentucky team looking for bowl positioning. It would love to go to the Chick-fil-A Bowl but it’s most likely headed towards either the Music City or Liberty. The Wildcats have lost three of their last four games, and five of their last seven, but this supposed rebuilding season has been a tremendous success. Beating Tennessee would take on an even bigger significance than just ending the Fulmer run on a down note. UK hasn’t beaten the Vols since 1984, a span of 23 games, and has lost 28 of the last 30.
Why Kentucky might win: 4-of-9, 21 yards, two interceptions. That’s what the Tennessee quarterbacks came up with for the passing game last week in the win over Vanderbilt. B.J. Coleman is a runner, and he helped jump-start the Tennessee attack, but the passing game continues to be a liability and the offense, as a whole, has been a disaster, averaging an SEC-worst 265 yards per game. Kentucky’s defense is just good enough to keep the Vols under the 20 point mark. 
Why Tennessee might win: It’s not like Kentucky can throw. Randall Cobb is a tremendous athlete and a dangerous all-around playmaker, but he’s a wide receiver playing quarterback. He’s doing what he can to lead a formally lousy offense, but he’s just not a consistent passer. The Tennessee defense can’t be blamed for this year’s slide; it’s been fantastic, allowing a mere 270 yards and 17.4 points per game. There should be just enough of a push from the defensive front to keep Cobb from getting his legs moving and the UK running game rolling.
Who to watch: Tennessee safety Eric Berry is special. The true sophomore is a Thorpe Award finalist with seven interceptions, taking two back for scores, 67 tackles, and three sacks. His 45-yard pick six sealed the win over Vanderbilt, and with the interception he’s been on a host streak with five in his last seven games. Kentucky wouldn’t be going bowling without Cobb saving the season, but the true freshman throws picks at bad times, with four in the last three games. He’ll have to watch out for Berry on every play.
What will happen: This is Tennessee’s bowl game. Don’t dismiss that it’s also the final game for a slew of Vol seniors who aren’t going to want to leave Knoxville on a down note for themselves, or for Fulmer.
CFN Prediction: Tennessee 23 … Kentucky 17 ... Line: Tennessee -4.5
Must See Rating: (5 Football while eating Thanksgiving food – 1 Home movies after dinner) … 2.5
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Vanderbilt (6-5) at Wake Forest (6-5), 7:00 EST, ESPNU
Why to watch: A couple of schools with such high hopes at the mid-point of the season are stumbling to the end of the regular season. A popular choice to win the ACC Atlantic, if not the entire conference, Wake Forest has lost four of its last six games, failing to close out the tight ones. While the Demon Deacons have the necessary six wins to be bowl eligible, they need this game to assure themselves a third consecutive bowl invitation. Vanderbilt has been even worse in the second half, dropping five of its last six games. It’s a good thing the SEC will only have eight programs qualify for the postseason, or else the Commodores’ bowl drought might have extended into 2009. Both schools will be looking to crank up struggling offenses and pick up some much-needed momentum heading into December.
Why Vanderbilt might win: Throughout this rough patch in the second half of the season, the Commodores’ defense has rarely buckled, allowing more than 24 points just once to Florida. They’ve got a top-flight secondary and the SEC’s premier sack unit, which is a particular concern of Wake Forest. The Demon Deacons have struggled all year to protect Riley Skinner, yielding more than sacks than all but one ACC team. Vandy can bring pressure from every level of the defense, and defensive backs D.J. Moore, Myron Lewis, Ryan Hamilton, and Reshard Langford have the hands of receivers when the ball is in the air.
Why Wake Forest might win: The Vanderbilt offense has gone from bad to worse as the season has progressed. The ‘Dores are 117th nationally in total offense, and have been held to 14 or fewer points in six of the last seven games. They’ve had a revolving door at quarterback involving Mackenzi Adams and Chris Nickson, neither of whom has played with much consistency. Vandy will match up poorly with a Deacon D that not only limits big plays, but also leads the nation in turnovers gained. With LB Aaron Curry and CB Alphonso Smith prowling the field, the Wake defense will have a chance to outscore the Vanderbilt offense.
Who to watch: If you’re going to beat the Vanderbilt defense, it’ll likely be on the ground. They’ve had some problems in run defense, most recently against Tennessee and Florida, which creates an opportunity for Wake Forest backs Brandon Pendergrass and Josh Adams. Adams hasn’t been completely healthy in a while, which has allowed Pendergrass to take over the team lead in rushing. He’ll need to soften the interior of the Commodore defense, so Skinner can make a few connections in play-action.
What will happen: The first team to 20 will pick up win No. 7. That team will be Wake Forest, which will get past Vanderbilt on a defensive touchdown and three field goals from Sam Swank, the All-American who made his long-awaited return from injury a week ago.
CFN Prediction: Wake Forest 23 … Vanderbilt 16 ... Line: Wake Forest -4
Must See Rating: (5 Football while eating Thanksgiving food – 1 Home movies after dinner) … 3
  
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- SEC Week 14 Predictions, Nov. 29, Part 1