2009 SEC Fearless Predictions
Week 6 ... Oct. 10 Games
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SEC Fearless Predictions
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Game of the Week
Florida (4-0) at LSU (5-0), 8:00 EST, Saturday, October 10, CBS
Why to watch: Almost no one has questioned whether or not Florida is the No. 1 team in the country ever since almost the entire team decided to come back for one more big push, and now it's time to prove it and show why. The Gators are 4-0, and they haven't been threatened, but if it's possible to be No. 1 in the nation in rushing, No. 2 in scoring, No. 1 in total defense and No. 2 in scoring defense and be underwhelming, they've done it. Check that. They haven't been underwhelming by the ridiculously unfair and unattainable standards they've set for themselves. Players like Tim Tebow and Brandon Spikes have publicly and privately stated several times that they want to make an all-timer of a statement this season, but in the one game against a halfway decent team, Tennessee, the Gators struggled a wee bit too much to grind out the win. If the 2009 Florida Gators want to be in the discussion among the best teams to ever play college football, it's time to flex some muscle and it's time to do some stomping. Beating LSU at LSU on a Saturday night in the primetime CBS slot would do that. However, if Florida can win big, it might not be as impressive as it appears on paper.
LSU is 5-0 and is 3-0 in SEC play. Ranked No. 4 in the country, it has its national title destination in its own hands. But to make the trip to Pasadena, and to get through this showdown alive, there has to be some improvements. Major improvements. LSU's win at Washington to start the season, but it took too much work to beat Mississippi State, the wins over Vanderbilt and Louisiana-Lafayette weren't exactly of national title caliber, and it took a very bad call to bring new life in the comeback win over Georgia. The lines have been mediocre to awful, the offense has been sputtering, and the defense isn't anywhere near as good as the national title level LSU teams, but 5-0 is 5-0. The Tigers are coming up clutch when they absolutely have to, and they have the talent, speed, and athleticism to hang with Florida stride for stride. Can years of top-shelf recruiting classes, five games of experience, and a night game, with the fans certain to be out of their minds, be enough to beat the best college football team in America? Maybe. This might be a team that does what it has to do to win.
Why Florida might win: The LSU defensive front has been awful. There was a time not that long ago that the Tigers had the best front four in America, and it wasn't even close. But the days of Glenn Dorsey and Tyson Jackson are long gone, and now there's no pass rush whatsoever, registering an SEC-worst five sacks in five games, while the stats make the run defense look better than it actually is because there hasn't been anyone on the schedule so far who can pound it. The last thing the Florida quarterbacks need, whether it's Tebow or his tremendously talented backup, John Brantley, need is time. Give these two four seconds and they'll pick apart the New York Giants. Tebow is expected to play, but coming off his bad concussion he's not likely to be the 25-carry bull in a china shop that he was before; at least not right away. Fortunately for him, he has the speed around him in the backfield to make the nation's No. 1 running game produce, and he has the line in front of him to dominate the struggling Tiger line.
Why LSU might win: The secondary has been excellent. Yes, the Tigers are giving up 205 passing yards per game, and yes Georgia's A.J. Green came up clutch last week, but with little to no pass rush to help the cause, the corners have done a nice job and the safeties have been productive. Washington's Jake Locker was excellent in comeback mode, and it's not like Mississippi State, Vanderbilt, or Louisiana-Lafayette can throw, but the Tiger defensive backfield should be able to erase the mediocre Florida wideouts for long stretches. If Tennessee can make the Florida offense, with a healthy Tebow, one dimensional, then so can LSU. Troy quarterback Levi Brown has been on a hot streak, but he's not an elite player. He's the best quarterback Florida has faced so far, meaning …
Who to watch: … Jordan Jefferson, you're up. All the focus and all the discussion will be surrounding Tebow's bruised brain. He was able to practice this week and has been cleared to give it a go, but the game and the focus could quickly shift over to Jefferson, who has quietly had a very nice sophomore season considering the running game isn't providing much help. Unlike last year when the LSU quarterbacks couldn't stop throwing the ball to the other team, Jefferson has been stingy throwing just two picks and seven touchdowns. However, one of those interceptions came last week against Georgia, the one true test on the slate so far, and he didn't throw any touchdown passes. He can't make mistakes against Florida, he'll have to spread the ball around, and he'll have to keep the tempo up to keep the speedy veterans on the Gator D moving. That means the future NFL pass rushing duo of Florida's Carlos Dunlap and Jermaine Cunningham need to be woken up and told the season has started. Dunlap has been fine, making two sacks and doing a decent job of making things happen in the backfield, while Cunningham is just now getting his legs back after having problems with the flu early on. He's overdue for a big performance.
What will happen: Florida will be Florida, and it will be because of the defense. Brantley will end up playing a role, but this game is on the shoulders of Brandon Spikes and a lightning-fast Gator D that will keep the inconsistent LSU running game under wraps and will pick off Jefferson three times.
CFN Prediction: Florida 26 … LSU 16 ... Line: Florida -8.5
Must See Rating: (A Serious Man 5 … Couples Retreat 1) … 5
-Free Expert Football Predictions
Auburn (5-0) at Arkansas (2-2), 12:00 EST, Saturday, October 10, ESPN
Why to watch: Florida at LSU is the big game of the day, and Alabama at Ole Miss will be the hyped undercard, but this might be the SEC's most fun game. Auburn is finally starting to get some respect from the pollsters, and it only took a 5-0 start and a win at Tennessee to get a little attention. Gene Chizik's team might not be playing as well as Alabama and it might not be as talented as Florida, but it has been balanced, productive, and with wins over Mississippi State, West Virginia, and Tennessee, it has been tested. With only two more road games the rest of the way after this week, even though they're at LSU and Georgia, the schedule shapes up relatively well. But first, the Tigers have to be ready for a bombing. Arkansas came up with an impressive blowout win over Texas A&M last week as the SEC's top passing game threw its way to a 47-19 win. Ryan Mallett has made the Hog offense explosive and good enough to have a puncher's chance against anyone in the SEC. This begins one of the toughest three-game stretches that anyone will have to face going to Florida next week and Ole Miss the week after, but a home win over Auburn would announce that the program has arrived under head coach Bobby Petrino and would make the rest of the SEC West season extremely interesting.
Why Auburn might win: The Arkansas defense hasn't started the season quite yet. Even in last week's blowout over Texas A&M, the secondary allowed 345 yards and 113 on the ground. While the Aggies had to bomb away to try to get back into the game, it was just another rough outing for a Hog secondary that's giving up big plays in bunches. The Auburn offense is doing everything well and has proven to be versatile enough to run when needed and throw to break games open. Arkansas will be able to keep up in any short of shootout, but Auburn should be more effective. Defensively, the pass rush should be able to get to Mallett early and often.
Why Arkansas might win: The Auburn defense has faced one quarterback who can throw a forward pass, West Virginia's Jarrett Brown, and he threw for 221 yards and a score. He threw four interceptions, but he was able to push the ball down the field without a problem. The Tigers haven't seen anyone like Mallett, and he should be able to drive the ball past the corners at will. Helping out the Hogs will be a woeful Auburn punting game, who might finally give the struggling Arkansas punting game a break. Arkansas has been at a decided special teams disadvantage in every game so far, but not this week. The Hogs can return kickoffs, but the punting has been awful and the punt return game has been non-existent. At times, Auburn has been worse in both categories.
Who to watch: Tim Tebow is the star of the SEC, Greg McElroy has been fantastic for the Alabama offense, Ole Miss star Jevan Snead will be a high draft pick, LSU's Jordan Jefferson has been strong and effective, and Mallett has been the SEC's most dangerous passer. However, it's not crazy to suggest that Auburn's Chris Todd has been the SEC's best quarterback so far. The senior has been a godsend after struggling a bit last year, throwing 12 touchdown passes and an interception in his first five games this season. Ultra-efficient and making great decision after great decision as a steady and productive playmaker, he is eighth in the nation in passing efficiency and has been great at getting the ball out of his hands in a hurry. He might not outbomb Mallett, but he'll almost certainly be more effective.
What will happen: Arkansas will get its licks in, and will keep up in the shootout for most of the game, but Auburn will control the second half with the ground game along with a passing attack that will complete third down pass after third down pass. Enjoy this game. It'll be a whole bunch of fun.
CFN Prediction: Auburn 38 … Arkansas 34 ... Line: Auburn -2.5
Must See Rating: (A Serious Man 5 … Couples Retreat 1) … 4
-Free Expert Football Predictions
Vanderbilt (2-3) at Army (2-3), 12:00 EST, Saturday, October 10
Why to watch: If Vanderbilt has any hope of going to a bowl for a second year in a row, this is a game it must win, and it must win big. The Commodores beat Western Carolina to start the season and beat a bad Rice team without a problem, but the offense has only managed a total of 19 points in SEC play and can't get the passing game to work. They won't be the favorites in any game the rest of the year and will have to pull out a few upsets with its defense and special teams, but before facing Georgia next week, the offense has to use this game to find something that works. Army started out the year looking like a possible candidate for a big turnaround with a 2-1 start with wins over Eastern Michigan and Ball State, but it got shoved around by Iowa State and lost a heartbreaker at home to a bad Tulane team. There are still winnable games on the schedule against VMI and North Texas later in the season, but this would qualify as the program's biggest win in a long time.
Why Vanderbilt might win: There are one dimensional teams, and then there's Army. The Rich Ellerson-coached team is supposed to be balanced and efficient throwing the ball, but it hasn't happened yet; the right players aren't in place, especially in the receiving corps. Vanderbilt's defense hasn't been great against the run, but it's been excellent at making plays behind the line and should be able to stop the Army ground game before it starts. If Army throws for more than 30 yards it might be a shock considering the Commodores have the nation's third best pass defense and the Knights are dead last in the country in passing, averaging 68.2 yards per game. Army might be 119th in the nation in passing efficiency …
Why Army might win: … but Vanderbilt is 120th, dead last in America. The Knights don't have to worry about a Commodore passing game and can send everyone in the defensive backfield up to the line to stop the run. Army hasn't faced anyone who can move the ball, and Vanderbilt qualifies in that category with no firepower and no deep passing game to worry about. It's not likely that the Commodores will ever get up by enough to force Trent Steelman to start throwing the ball to get back into the game; Army shouldn't have to get out of its normal offense. Vandy can't punt making life much easier for a Army offense that can't afford to start in poor field position.
Who to watch: With top running back Zac Stacy struggling through an ankle injury, Vanderbilt has turned to freshman Warren Norman to handle more of the workload. The 5-10, 188-pounder is a tough pounder for his size who can also tear off big runs in the open field. He has stepped up when needed for the Commodore offense starting out with 105 yards in the opener against Western Carolina and carried the attack with 119 yards on just 11 carries against Rice and running for 86 yards against Ole Miss. He can catch and he's the team's best kickoff return option, and he'll continue to be used in a variety of ways.
What will happen: The two teams are almost the same with the exact same strengths and weaknesses, but Vanderbilt is better in all phases. If you like running this will be for you as the two teams might combine for fewer than 100 yards in the air.
CFN Prediction: Vanderbilt 30 … Army 17 ... Line: Vanderbilt -10.5
Must See Rating: (A Serious Man 5 … Couples Retreat 1) … 2
-Free Expert Football Predictions
Georgia (3-2) at Tennessee (2-3), 12:20 EST, Saturday, October 10
Why to watch: There was a time not all that long ago when Georgia vs. Tennessee would've stopped the college football world in its tracks. But now, the two big-name SEC superpowers are playing in an afterthought of a game, at least compared to the other big SEC games of the day, as they jockey for position for mid-level bowl game after strange and disappointing starts to their respective seasons. The new coaching staff hasn't come up with anything new for a Tennessee offense that can run, but can't do much of anything else. A strong defense and decent special teams have been enough to beat Ohio and blow away Western Kentucky, but mostly the Vols' claim to fame is coming close in the three high-profile games losing to UCLA by four, Florida by ten, and Auburn, last week, by four. Five of the first six games were at home, with this being the last of the run, and head coach Lane Kiffin needs a win … badly.
Georgia has been extremely weird with a flu-ridden team that couldn't do anything against Oklahoma State one week come back to hang up big numbers in a win over South Carolina the next. It took everything on both sides of the ball to get by Arizona State, and last week the Dawgs came up with a near-win over LSU, hurt by a horrendous unsportsmanlike penalty before Tiger RB Charles Scott ran his way to the win. Which Georgia team is going to show up this week? The loss to LSU isn't that big a deal considering it came in interdivision play, and even though no one's paying attention to the Dawgs, if they win this game and get by Vanderbilt the week after, all of a sudden, the Cocktail Party against Florida will probably be for the SEC East title. They can't slip up this week in a game it should win if it doesn't make a slew of mistakes, while Tennessee can turn its season around with an upset.
Why Georgia might win: Georgia's biggest issue on defense is consistently defending the pass. No problem here. Tennessee has been forced to hide QB Jonathan Crompton all season long, and while has thrown for 222 yards or more in three of the five games, throwing it 43 times last week against the Tigers, Georgia will happily allow Tennessee to throw it whenever it wants to. If this gets into any sort of a shootout, Georgia is far better equipped to bomb away and has proven it can win in firefights, while Tennessee and its passing attack have yet to come through when needed.
Why Tennessee might win: Tennessee's offense needs all the help it can get and it needs several big breaks, and Georgia should provide them. While Tennessee has had turnover problems throughout the year, Georgia has really had turnover problems. Dead last in the SEC, and 115th in the nation in turnover margin, the Dawgs have only forced four turnovers this season, only Fresno State and Nevada have come up with fewer, while the offense has lost seven fumbles and six interceptions. Defensively, Georgia's front seven has been solid against the run, but when push came to shove against LSU last week, the Tiger ground game produced.
Who to watch: Where is the Georgia running game? The Dawgs were supposed to replace Knowshon Moreno with a bevy of tremendously talented backs, but they've been disappointing so far with the ground attack currently last in the SEC in rushing averaging a mere 99 yards per outing. Richard Samuel was trying, and he has been the team's leading rusher, but the coaching staff basically ignored him and the run last week with the team carrying the ball just 24 times for 45 yards with Washaun Ealey running for 33 of them. This isn't running back by committee; this is using a slew of backs to try to find someone who can produce on a regular basis. Tennessee isn't likely to allow more than 100 rushing yards this week, so if Joe Cox isn't on, this could be an ugly game.
What will happen: It's not going to be pretty, but it'll be close late. Despite what happened last week, Georgia will be better in crunch time and will get a decent game from the defensive front against the still-emerging, but banged up Tennessee O line.
CFN Prediction: Georgia 20 … Tennessee 17 ... Line: Tennessee -1
Must See Rating: (A Serious Man 5 … Couples Retreat 1) … 3
-Free Expert Football Predictions
Week 5 Part 2 (Bama at Ole
Miss and more)