2009 SEC Fearless Predictions
Week 6 ... Oct. 10 Games, Part 2
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SEC Fearless Predictions
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Houston (3-1) at Mississippi State (2-3),12:30 EST, ESPNU, Saturday, October 10
Why to watch: A letdown in El Paso was expected. A smackdown in El Paso caught everyone off guard. After defeating Oklahoma State and Texas Tech in back-to-back games and rising deep into the Top 25, Houston’s trek into the BCS discussion got derailed by, of all teams, UTEP. The Cougars got smoked by the Miners, 58-41, blowing up all kinds of goals in under four hours. It’ll be interesting to see if the program can regroup and avoid going into a funk. Although Mississippi State has had some brief flashes of potential in Dan Mullen’s debut in Starkville, it’s been unable to get over the hump against better opponents, like Georgia Tech and LSU in recent weeks. If the Bulldogs are to have any chance of becoming bowl-eligible during this rebuilding year, they’ll have to seize those games, such as this weekend’s, that are within reach.
Why Houston might win: Despite having faced two quality Big 12 teams already, the Cougars lead the country in total offense and are averaging more than 42 points a game. The porous Mississippi State secondary, which just allowed 266 passing yards to an option quarterback, doesn’t figure to provide much resistance. Case Keenum is an ideal fit for this wide-open Houston passing attack, already chucking 13 touchdown passes and more than 400 yards a week. The Cougs will spread the field with a bunch of jackrabbits, like Bryce Beall, Tyron Carrier, and Charles Sims, giving the Bulldogs looks that they’ve never seen before.
Why Mississippi State might win: Houston will be having nightmares starring Donald Buckram for the foreseeable future. He’s the UTEP back, who bludgeoned the Cougar D for 262 yards and four touchdowns on 32 carries in last Saturday’s upset. The Bulldogs figure that if Buckram can run wild, a top SEC back, like Anthony Dixon, should be prolific as well. While Dixon doesn’t have the Miner’s wiggle, he has rushed for 100 yards in each of the last three games and has the power to wear defenses down. Dropping back behind a line that’s excelled in pass protection, QB Tyson Lee will get the time he needs to pick TE Marcus Green and WR Chad Bumphis.
Who to watch: Balanced offenses are a particular concern for Mississippi State, which has given up 121 points in games with Auburn, LSU, and Georgia Tech. Houston’s quest for balance will hinge on Beall’s ability to find running lanes. More so than a year ago, when he rushed for 1,247 yards as a rookie, he’s been contained and held to no more than 78 yards in a game. When he’s rolling, the Cougars are doubly difficult to slow down.
What will happen: We’re going to find out in Starkville if the real Houston is the one that took down two Big 12 teams or the one that got shelled by UTEP last Saturday. As always, the truth lies somewhere in between, which will be good enough to get back on the winning path. The Mississippi State defense lacks the stoppers in the back seven to keep Keenum from having another 400-yard, three-touchdown day.
CFN Prediction: Houston 37 … Mississippi State 27 ... Line: Houston -2
Must See Rating: (A Serious Man 5 … Couples Retreat 1) … 2
-Free Expert Football Predictions
Kentucky (2-2) at South Carolina (4-1), 12:30 EST, Saturday, October 10
Why to watch: Is South Carolina ready to be a real, live player in the SEC race? The loss at Georgia in a 41-37 shootout in mid-September was the lone blemish as the team has nice wins over NC State and Ole Miss on the résumé, and it has had chances to sharpen up against Florida Atlantic and South Carolina State. Despite a slew of injuries, the Gamecocks need to be hitting their stride to get by a pesky yet struggling Kentucky team before going on the road to deal with Alabama. The Wildcats are an unknown with their two losses coming in back-to-back home games against Florida and Alabama. While they lost those by a combined score of 79 to 27, there’s no shame in losing to, arguably, the two best teams in America. However, with a trip to face a resurgent Auburn next week, but the schedule eases up in a huge way, somehow coming up with a win over the hot Gamecocks is a must to likely avoid an 0-4 SEC start. UK’s bowl hopes will hardly be dead with a loss, ULM, Mississippi State, Eastern Kentucky, and Vanderbilt are still on the schedule, but they’ll be on life support.
Why Kentucky might win: After facing the Gators and the Tide, South Carolina might look like its running in mud. UK played better than Alabama for a good portion of last week’s game, and then Mark Ingram and the Tide running game took over and bad things started to happen. South Carolina’s offense is fine and balanced, but it can bog down for stretches and look abysmal. NC State and Mississippi’s defense had something to do with that, but there will be chances for the Wildcats to take control of the game if they can get the pass rush going. The USC offensive line is average at best when healthy, and it’s currently not healthy.
Why South Carolina might win: UK keeps shooting itself in the foot. The offense has turned the ball over 11 times so far, and while facing Florida and Alabama was part of the problem, there were four fumbles and an interception against Miami (no, the other one), and Louisville. South Carolina’s offense isn’t going to take a whole slew of big chances as it tries to get the running game working and lets the defense take care of the rest. Kentucky’s defense is good enough to hold up for a while, but it has a habit of wearing down and that’s when the big rushing plays will come. On the other side of the ball, the UK passing game isn’t working and the offense should be too one dimensional for stretches.
Who to watch: Is anyone playing better than South Carolina LB/DE Eric Norwood? A classic tweener who was told he’d be a third round pick had he left early, he has made himself a ton of money over the first five games of the year with 30 tackles and six sacks highlighted by a dominant performance against Jevan Snead and Ole Miss. Kentucky can’t run at him, he’s too effective at shedding the trash and getting to the ball, and he chases down everything run away from him. For Kentucky, starting corner Paul Warford has a leg injury. That’s a little problem against the USC passing game, but being without All-America playmaker Trevard Lindley on the other side is a big problem. Carted off the field against Alabama with an ankle injury, and he won’t be able to go. That means true freshman Martavius Neloms will be picked on early and often.
What will happen: South Carolina is banged up in several spots, but the UK secondary is a big problem with the corner injuries. The Gamecocks will run the ball as much as possible, and then attack Neloms and the new defensive backs once the safeties start to cheat up a bit.
CFN Prediction: South Carolina 30 … Kentucky 14 ... Line: South Carolina -10.5
Must See Rating: (A Serious Man 5 … Couples Retreat 1) … 2.5
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Alabama (5-0) at Ole Miss (3-1), 3:30 EST, Saturday, October 10, CBS
Why to watch: This would be the biggest game on the SEC docket, and might even be the most important game of the weekend, if it wasn’t for that Gator-Tiger thing happening at night in Baton Rouge. That, and the problem that Ole Miss isn’t playing well. The Rebels were everyone’s darling this offseason with a team loaded with veterans, a nice, favorable schedule with all the top teams (at least how it looked in August) coming to Oxford, and with a star QB in Jevan Snead who was going to be the Next Big Thing among NFL scouting circles. Snead has been awful, the offense has struggled, and the Rebels lost to the one team in the first four weeks with a pulse, South Carolina. But it can all be wiped away with one huge, megawin over the team that’s playing better than anyone in America.
With all due respect to Florida and Texas, Alabama deserves to be No. 1 right now. There isn’t any one phase that the Tide isn’t dominating with the most complete team across the board. There might not be any household Heisman names like Tebow or McCoy for average fans to grasp on to, but there isn’t a weak link for anyone to exploit. The win over Virginia Tech to start the season is looking better and better, and the Tide took a dangerous Arkansas team and handed it its lunch. Kentucky played better than Bama for most of last week’s game and still lost by 18. But now is when the real work begins. The Tide gets LSU at home and the trip to Auburn to end the regular season now appears to be worth paying attention to, but this is the game the team needs to solidify itself once and for all as a true contender for the national title. A win would put away a pesky Ole Miss team that’s too talented to not have it all come together at some point, while a Rebel victory would shaky up the national championship case and would redefine the SEC season. One way or another, this game will be more than just the appetizer before the main course at 8 p.m. EST.
Why Alabama might win: If Ole Miss couldn’t deal with the South Carolina or Vanderbilt defenses without struggling, and had problems against the woeful Memphis D for about 50 minutes, then what possible chance does it have against an Alabama defense that might be the best in America. Throw out the running game, Ole Miss will be lucky to hit the 100-yard mark against Terrence Cody and a Tide defensive front that’s playing like a brick wall, which means this game, and the Ole Miss season, is on Snead. The junior threw three picks last week against Vanderbilt, has followed up every decent play with a wildly air-mailed throw, and hasn’t been nearly sharp enough to prove he can handle himself against the defense the Tide will throw at him. Alabama has the SEC’s best pass rush, and more than just the sacks it will get on Snead will be the number of pressures. Be shocked if the Tide doesn’t come up with at least four takeaways.
Why Ole Miss might win: While Snead and the Ole Miss offense have received all the headlines, mostly for being so poor, the defense has been more than solid. Alabama is way overdue for a letdown of a performance, and that might come because the Rebel defense will force it to happen. Virginia Tech did a decent job of getting into the backfield against the Tide and being disruptive, and the Rebels have the potential to do even more. The combination of Kentrell Lockett and Greg Hardy should be in the face of Bama QB Greg McElroy all game long, and they should be able to throw off the timing of the precise, efficient attack. Over the last two games, Ole Miss has allowed quarterbacks to complete 26-of-61 passes and will give McElroy his toughest test yet.
Who to watch: Alabama RB Mark Ingram hasn’t been in the Heisman discussion quite yet, but that might change in a big hurry. The sophomore has shown home run hitting ability to go along with his power, averaging 5.8 yards per carry with 487 yards and six touchdowns. He wasn’t used much against the mediocre teams, but he carried it 26 times for 150 yards and a score against Virginia Tech and rumbled for 140 yards and two scores to put away Kentucky last week. He’ll be option one for the Tide offense, and considering the Rebel run defense hasn’t been a rock so far, he’ll be used more and more as the game goes on to hope for the one big run to put the game away.
What will happen: Alabama is way overdue for a clunker, but that might have been last week in the first half against Kentucky. This will be a fully focused, fully business-like performance with the defense overcoming the shakiest offensive day the Tide has had so far to pull out a tougher-than-expected win with a big fourth quarter.
CFN Prediction: Alabama 23 …. Ole Miss 16 ... Line: Alabama -6.5
Must See Rating: (A Serious Man 5 … Couples Retreat 1) … 5
-Free Expert Football Predictions
Week 5 Part 1 (Florida at
LSU, and more)