2009 SEC Fearless Predictions
Week 2 ... Sept. 13 Games, Part 2
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SEC Fearless Predictions
Week 2, Part 1
FIU (0-0) at Alabama (1-0), 7:00 EST, Saturday, September 12, ESPN GamePlan
Why to watch: Alabama came out and rocked Virginia Tech in a more one-sided game than the 34-24 final score might appear. The Tide running game steamrolled over the Hokies, while the run defense kept Tyrod Taylor and the Tech ground game under wraps. This begins the Sun Belt portion of Alabama's schedule with North Texas next week after the expected scrimmage against FIU, but the Golden Panthers are rested and have a Tide team that could be on letdown alert after starting out with such an impressive win. Mario Cristobal's team starts the season with four road games in the first five, and it has to adopt a road-warrior mentality now before going to Rutgers next week.
Why FIU might win: Unlike Virginia Tech, FIU might have a real live passing game to deal with. Veteran QB Paul McCall has just enough talent and experience to hold up against the Bama pass rush, and he has the weapons on the outside, led by T.Y. Hilton, to potentially hit on a few big plays against a secondary that didn't have to worry much about Tyrod Taylor getting the ball deep.
Why Alabama might win: FIU's biggest question coming into the season? The rebuilt defensive line. Uh-oh. Alabama gouged the Hokie defensive front, one of the best in the nation, for 268 rushing yards and spent the better part of the evening beating it up. FIU will have to get extremely creative to generate any sort of a pass rush, and there might be little to no hope of keeping the Tide under 300 rushing yards unless ...
Who to watch: … Mark Ingram isn't 100%. The bruising sophomore was the star of the opening day game with 150 yards and a touchdown, and three catches for 35 yards and a score, but he hurt his knee. From all indications, it's not going to be a problem, but the coaching staff would like to limit his workload. Making matters worse is his overall healthy after getting socked by the flu this week. In a perfect world for Bama, this becomes a blowout right away and super-recruit Trent Richardson can get his feet wet after running three times for ten yards against Tech. Roy Upchurch will also likely play a bigger rushing role.
What will happen: FIU will get a few scores just to make the Tide defense grouchy, but they won't be nearly enough to overcome the struggles on the lines. Alabama will run all over the Golden Panther defensive front, while the Tide offensive line should pave the way for a second straight big game.
CFN Prediction: Alabama 41 … FIU 10 ... Line: Alabama -33.5
Must See Rating: (Curb Your Enthusiasm Season Premiere 5 … The Fresh Beat Band 1) … 1.5
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Vanderbilt (1-0) at LSU (1-0), 7:00 EST, Saturday, September 12, ESPN GamePlan
Why to watch: 2005 was the last time Vandy and LSU has faced each other, and the two have only faced each other five times since 1990, the last Commordore win over the Tigers. While Vandy is far better than it has been over the last several years, it's still in for a tall task to not only win in Death Valley, but to buck history. The Commodores haven't won in Baton Rouge since 1951, but they were razor-sharp last week in a 45-0 blasting of Western Carolina while LSU is coming back from a dogfight in Seattle. The Tigers have the longest road trip in school history facing a game Washington squad, but there's no time to let down in what should be the light and breezy part of the slate. If they can get through the SEC opener, they should get to Louisiana-Lafayette and Mississippi State to follow before going to Georgia. Vandy gets Mississippi State at home next week.
Why Vanderbilt might win: Larry Smith. While he might not be the talent that Washington's Jake Locker is, the Vanderbilt starting quarterback has the potential to give the LSU defense a few fits. A nice passer, who completed 10-of-18 passes last week for 153 yards and a touchdown, and with 66 rushing yards, he's a dual-threat playmaker who could move the ball in a variety of ways. The LSU defense that's getting by on reputation at the moment gave up 321 passing yards and 51 on the ground to Locker.
Why LSU might win: The Tigers didn't necessarily go through the motions against Washington, but Charles Scott and the ground game were held in check and Jordan Jefferson had to be the one who carried the offense. That's not a bad thing. Vandy's defense should have a decent pass rush, but it's not going to make as many big plays as it came up with last year and it's not likely to make Jefferson screw up. To beat the Tigers, Vandy has to win the turnover battle by a large margin, and even though the Huskies tried to rattle Jefferson last week, the big mistakes didn't come. Locker was fantastic and the UW offense put up big numbers, and it was still an LSU win in a pumped up environment. Now the Tigers are back home.
Who to watch: The NFL types are ready to hand millions of dollars to LSU WR Brandon LaFell, but it was junior Terrance Toliver who turned into the star on Opening Day. He came up with just four catches, but they went for 117 yards and two touchdowns as he became the type of playmaker who'll force defensive coordinators to roll a safety over his way. Any attention taken off of LaFell could create a problem for the Commodore secondary. For Vandy, with top running back Jared Hawkins out for another week as he's recovering from a foot problem, that means the ball will go to freshman Zac Stacy again. He came up with a big first week rushing 20 times for 133 yards and a score, and he needs to have another strong performance to take the pressure off of Smith.
What will happen: LSU isn't going to be sharp and its offense will be in for a bit of a struggle, but a few early scores will force Vandy to scramble. The Tigers should stay comfortably ahead all game long, but they won't be able to coast. However, the Commodores don't have the firepower to pull off the upset.
CFN Prediction: LSU 27 … Vanderbilt 13 ... Line: LSU -15
Must See Rating: (Curb Your Enthusiasm
Season Premiere 5 … The Fresh Beat Band 1) …
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Mississippi State (1-0) at Auburn (1-0), 7:00 EST, Saturday, September 12, EPN GamePlan
Why to watch: In a battle of two of the SEC's new head coaches, Dan Mullen is coming off a strong debut leading Mississippi State to a 45-7 win over Jackson State, while Gene Chizik quieted the doubter, at least for one week, as Auburn blew away a good Louisiana Tech team. The Tigers, who didn't have any offense last season, got an efficient performance from QB Chris Todd, big days on the ground from Onterio McCalebb and Ben Tate, and had the type of game their fans had been waiting for. The SEC opener is big enough, but Auburn might have its eye on next week's showdown against West Virginia, which could truly signal the return of Tiger football on a national scale. MSU isn't expected to do much, picked by many to finish last in the SEC West, but the expectations and the season could take a quick turn with a big road win.
Why Mississippi State might win: Punting. It might not seem like a big deal, but if this turns out to be a bit of a defensive battle, field position should be at a premium, at least for a little while. Heath Hutchins did a nice job with his two kicks against Jackson State, averaging 49 yards per shot, while Auburn didn't get much from the return game against Louisiana Tech. Offensively, Auburn was able to get the offense going partially because Todd had ten days to throw. MSU's pass rush isn't going to special, but it should get more pressure than Louisiana Tech did.
Why Auburn might win: It was Jackson State. MSU's offense came up with a balanced performance against JSU, while the defense was great at forcing mistakes and stuffing the run. However, things should be far different against an Auburn defense that spent last week swarming over the La Tech running game and an offense that has the tempo and the speed to keep the Bulldog D on its heels. MSU is going to have to throw it even more than it did last week, and that plays into Auburn's hands. MSU's quarterbacks will be under intense pressure and will have to make quick, smart decisions, meaning the Tigers should be able to capitalize with a few key turnovers.
Who to watch: Which Mississippi State quarterback is it going to be this week? Or will it be both again? Tyson Lee is the most experienced, safest option, but he's having shoulder problems meaning more of the load should be on the shoulders and legs of Chris Relf. While he didn't do much down the field, he threw three touchdown passes and ran for 82 yards and a score. Auburn will have to prepare for both quarterbacks, while MSU will have to prepare for McCalebb, a lightning-quick true freshman who has superstar written all over him. He's not all that big and he's not going to hit anyone, but MSU could have a nightmare of a time tackling him.
What will happen: It's amazing what having playmakers will do. Todd is a steady, effective passer who'll keep the chains moving, while McCalebb and Ben Tate have the potential to be the SEC's best 1-2 rushing punch. Auburn will build on what it did against Louisiana Tech and will open up some more eyes around the SEC.
CFN Prediction: Auburn 26 … Mississippi State 13 ... Line: ?????
Must See Rating: (Curb Your Enthusiasm Season Premiere 5 … The Fresh Beat Band 1) … 2.5
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Week 2, Part 1