2009 SEC Fearless Picks, Week 3, Part 2

Posted Sep 16, 2009

Previews and Predictions for the Week 3 SEC Games, Part 2

2009 SEC Fearless Predictions

Week 3 ... Sept. 19 Games, Part 2

East | Florida | Georgia | Kentucky | South Carolina | Tennessee | Vanderbilt 
West Alabama | Arkansas | Auburn | LSU | Ole Miss | Miss State
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Florida Atlantic (0-1) at South Carolina (1-1), 7:00 EST, Saturday, September 19, ESPN GamePlan

Why to watch: What is the real South Carolina? Is it the one that won a defensive slugfest against NC State, or is it the one that cranked out 427 yards of total offense in the gut-wrenching loss at Georgia? The Gamecocks get a week off from SEC play before dealing with Ole Miss at home in a Thursday night game, but they can't look past a rested Florida Atlantic team that was underwhelming in an opening weekend loss to Nebraska. The Owls have enough of a passing game to hang with Stephen Garcia and the USC air attack stride for stride, but they might have too many problems in several key areas to pull off the upset. Even so, FAU isn't afraid of playing away from home, and while it needs to be ready for next week's Sun Belt opener against ULM, the hope is to catch the Gamecocks napping this week.
Why Florida Atlantic might win: FAU's big problem early on will be against the run. The defensive line is banged up and the linebacking corps is smallish and unable to hold up against anyone who pounds the ball. While the South Carolina offensive line might be better than it was in recent years, it's not going to steamroll anyone meaning the offense will rely on the passing of Garcia. FAU would love for this to be a wide-open battle with its quarterback, Rusty Smith, getting hot early. He wasn't able to do much two weeks ago even though his line did a nice job against the Husker defensive front, but ...
Why South Carolina might win:… he'll have to get used to South Carolina hitting him time and again. The Gamecocks registered eight sacks in the first two games and have been swarming defensively. Georgia might have put up 41 points, but the offense only came up with 308 yards of total offense with 61 coming on one Branden Smith run. The Gamecock defense is playing extremely well, and FAU, even with a nice back in Alfred Morris, doesn't have the balance to put up big numbers.
Who to watch: FAU has to manufacture ways of getting to Garcia, while stopping the mediocre USC ground game could be a problem. The Owls were already without a key two key ends, losing Jamere Jackson to a slight knee injury and without Jermaine Council, who left the team a few weeks ago, and now they'll be without key defensive tackle Andy Czuprynski. A rising star on the inside, the redshirt freshman suffered an ankle injury this offseason and missed the opener against Nebraska. The FAU run defense got gouged, and it needs more production up front. If junior LB Michael Lockley and safety Ed Alexander are making a slew of tackles, that will mean it's a long night for FAU.
What will happen: South Carolina's offense won't exactly be on fire, but it won't have much of a problem with Garcia getting as much time as he needs to operate. The South Carolina defense isn't going to want to give up a thing, and it won't. The secondary will dominate.
CFN Prediction: South Carolina 24 … Florida Atlantic 6 ... Line: South Carolina -21
Must See Rating: (Melrose Place 5 … Toddlers & Tiaras 1) … 2
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SE Louisiana (2-0) at Ole Miss (1-0), 7:30 EST, Saturday, September 19, ESPN GamePlan

Why to watch: Ole Miss was awful for three quarters against Memphis, and then the floodgates opened and it was an ugly-looking 45-14 win. Now the Rebels have to prove they can actually play, and SE Louisiana might not be as bad a matchup as it might appear. The Lions don't have a prayer of pulling off a monster upset, but they have one of the most exciting FCS offenses in the country averaging 518 yards and 55 points per game. Yeah, there was a 41-7 win over Texas A&M-Commerce and a 69-20 win over Union, but the passing game can move the ball. If nothing else, the Lions will provide a good practice for a Rebel pass defense that will have to deal with the South Carolina passing attack next week.
Why SE Louisiana might win: The Lions can't but they have a rock-solid, veteran passer in Brian Babin, who has thrown for 665 yards and eight touchdowns without an interception in his first two games. Ole Miss will get up early and should have a lead without much of a problem, but Babin and the SE Louisiana passing game will try to keep the heat on all game long. Garbage time could be extremely interesting.
Why Ole Miss might win: SE Louisiana isn't very good. For all the big-time passing numbers and all the big plays the offense will come up with this year, there aren't going to be too many wins in the Southland. Projected to be a middle of the pack team with a mediocre defense, the Lions shouldn't provide too much of a problem for a Rebel offense that's looking to be sharp after its uneven performance two weeks ago. The explosion should come early.
Who to watch: Ole Miss will likely be without one star, DE Greg Hardy, who'll take at least this week off to try to get his banged up ankle healthy for SEC play, while RB Dexter McCluster might see a little action despite having the flu this week. The Rebels can win this game without them, but they'll need a strong performance from their leader, QB Jevan Snead, to show that the Memphis game was a fluke and that there's no need to worry. He threw two late touchdown passes, but he also threw two bad interceptions and completed just 12-of-22 passes. If he's not sharp, the coaching staff might have to come up with a Plan B and use more of the running game against South Carolina.
What will happen: Ole Miss will be able to call its shot, but SE Louisiana will put up a few scores in the fourth quarter after the Rebel starters have long been on the bench.
CFN Prediction: Ole Miss 63 … SE Louisiana 14 ... Line: No Line
Must See Rating: (Melrose Place 5 … Toddlers & Tiaras 1) … 1
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West Virginia (2-0) at Auburn (2-0),7:45 EST, Saturday, ESPN2, September 19

Why to watch: West Virginia has won both of its games by double-digits. Auburn has won both of its games by double-digits. Is either program the real deal? We'll have a much better idea after they meet Saturday night. The Mountaineers have started fast in the post-Pat White era, handling Liberty and East Carolina in Morgantown. A trip to the Plains of Alabama, however, will shed some light on the upside potential of this team, while answering some questions about the Big East as well. While no one wants to get too excited this early, Gene Chizik's tenure with the Tigers couldn't have started much better. Auburn has already scored 86 points, fueled by Gus Malzahn's high-energy, unpredictable offense, a stark contrast to a year ago. Last week, for instance, the Tigers routed Mississippi State, 49-24, a year after managing just a field goal in a 3-2 victory. The winner has a real good shot to crack the Top 25 for the first time this season.
Why West Virginia might win: The silver lining of White's graduation is that it's allowed Jarrett Brown to finally get on the field. The senior has been worth the wait. Tebow-like at 6-4 and 225 pounds, he can run through tacklers, but is also a skilled passer, blending a great arm with an ability to read coverages. He threw four touchdown passes last week and added 73 yards on the ground, while misfiring just seven times. Surrounded by a speedy supporting cast that includes RB Noel Devine and receivers Jock Sanders and Alric Arnett, he'll keep the Mountaineers in the hunt, even if it turns into a track meet.
Why Auburn might win: While it's only two games and the competition is about to get tougher, there's not much to dislike about the new Tiger attack. It's explosive, tough to defend, and capable of wearing teams out on the ground. The offensive line is playing light years better than 2008, opening huge holes for Ben Tate and Onterio McCalebb, who've both gone over 100 yards twice. With the running game purring and opposing pass rushes neutralized, Chris Todd has become a more efficient and less mistake-prone quarterback. This is one of the worst possible times for DT Scooter Berry and LB Reed Williams, two of West Virginia's best players, to be banged up.
Who to watch: West Virginia and Auburn have yet to allow a sack in 2009. That ought to change this weekend. DE Antonio Coleman is determined to make sure the retooled Mountaineer line gets its toughest test of the season. The All-America candidate has gotten to the quarterback just once, but with the lights on and a national TV audience in attendance, you know he's going to be a menace coming off the edge.
What will happen: Although moving the ball gets a little harder for Auburn, that misdirection running game is still going to get its yards and produce a handful of big plays. Provided the young Tigers don't overheat with emotion, that Jordan-Hare crowd, especially when the sun goes down, is like having a man advantage all night. Tate and McCalebb will snap off key runs, while Kodi Burns, the quarterback turned receiver, continues to play closer in Wildcat formations near the end zone.
CFN Prediction: Auburn 31 … West Virginia 20 ... Line: Auburn -6.5
Must See Rating: (Melrose Place 5 … Toddlers & Tiaras 1) … 4

Georgia (1-1) at Arkansas (0-0), 7:45 EST, Saturday, September 19, ESPN

Why to watch: Say this for Georgia; it will be battle tested. After the Dawgs had to battle in Stillwater against a pumped up Oklahoma State, they had to deal with a South Carolina offense that had its foot on the gas for a full sixty minutes. Arkansas isn't going to make things any easier with an offense that should start to shine like head coach Bobby Petrino envisioned when he bailed on the Atlanta Falcons a few years ago. The Hogs rolled up Missouri State in a 48-10 layup with 447 passing yards and close to 600 yards of total offense, but Georgia will provide a far stiffer test. Or will it? If the Georgia team that escaped last week's win over South Carolina by the skin of its teeth shows up this week, Hog QB Ryan Mallett and company could have a national coming out party. However, on the other side, Georgia could right the ship after the early loss to the Cowboys at just the right time with Arizona State and LSU up next before a three game stretch away from home. These two haven't played since 2005, but Georgia has owned the short series with the last Hog win coming in 1993.
Why Georgia might win: Experience. It's one thing to be able to win an opening game in a blowout and have two weeks to prepare for a huge SEC opener, but it's another to have dealt with two big games, two totally different styles as far as how the games were played, and to have dealt with the adversity that Georgia has gone through. That was a war last week against the Gamecocks that went down to the final moments, and even though the offense wasn't working well and the defense was struggling with Stephen Garcia and the USC attack, the team still found ways to win. Traditionally, Georgia has been fantastic on the road under head coach Mark Richt. He'll have his team on an even keel and will hope his defense can play better than it had over the first two weeks.
Why Arkansas might win: Can Georgia keep up a pace? The Dawgs got one big run against South Carolina, a kickoff return for a score, and took advantage of every break and every prime chance to score. However, it's not like the offense worked with Joe Cox only throwing for 201 yards and the ground game coming up with a mere 107 yards with 61 coming on a Branden Smith touchdown dash. Cox and company didn't have to engage in a shootout against Oklahoma State, and last week was all about survival with a late defensive stop. If Mallett and the passing game keeps the suddenly shaky Dawg secondary on its heels, Arkansas will be 2-0.
Who to watch: Alright, Ryan Mallett, now is the time when you need to show what all the fuss is about. The former Michigan starter spent a year off after transferring and he was great out of the gate against Missouri State, completing 17-of-22 passes for 309 yards and a score. He threw for 245 yards with three touchdowns at Wisconsin in 2007, and he led the way to a win over Minnesota. This is different. Now he gets to deal with SEC life and the type of test against Georgia that can define budding star's career. He'll have help from Michael Smith and the running game, but if Arkansas is going to go from being a grass roots sleeper for the SEC West title to a true contender, he has to be everything the recruiting hype said he'd be. With his arm strength and his confidence, he'll push the ball deep to test the Georgia corners, but he'll also trust his skills too much and could get tagged with a few interceptions.
What will happen: Mallett will throw for well over 300 yards and Arkansas will move the ball at will, but four turnovers and a good day from the Georgia ground game (finally) with a good rotation of backs will make the difference.
CFN Prediction: Georgia 30 … Arkansas 27 ... Line: Arkansas -1
Must See Rating: (Melrose Place 5 … Toddlers & Tiaras 1) … 4
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- Week 3 Part 1