2009 SEC Fearless Predictions
Week 8 ... Oct. 24 Games, Part 2
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Week 8, Part 1
ULM (4-2) at Kentucky (3-3), 7:00 EST, Saturday, October 24
Why to watch: This might not be the week off that Kentucky was hoping for. The Wildcats are battered and beaten up, and it might be tough to not be on letdown alert after playing well in losses to Alabama and South Carolina and beating Auburn at Auburn. This is the first of a three-game homestand, and with a trip to Vanderbilt to follow, anything less than 7-3 going into the Georgia game will be a major disappointment. But ULM isn't a pushover, winning three straight to take a stranglehold on the Sun Belt race, and with a not-that-bad loss to Arizona State four weeks ago. This starts a rough run of four away games in five weeks, and while this would be a nice win, the program would rather have a victory at Troy next week.
Why ULM might win: Kentucky can't throw the ball right now, which is fine, because ULM can't defend the pass. The Warhawk secondary has been torched time and again, but the defensive front has been solid and the run defense is among the best in the Sun Belt. The UK offensive line has several injured players, and top RB Derrick Locke has a knee issue. With so many injuries and so many concerns, this is hardly a 100% Wildcat team and It could be ripe for the picking.
Why Kentucky might win: ULM will be without Trey Revell. The Warhawk starting quarterback broke his thumb last week against Arkansas State, and while this isn't exactly the equivalent of Oklahoma losing Sam Bradford, it's a big deal considering Revell is the team's second leading rusher and had grown into a nice passer and a good leader. ULM will be throwing a redshirt freshman, Cody Wells, into the fire, and while he's smart and he has good upside, it's welcome to the SEC time.
Who to watch: The Morgan Newton era continues on. With UK's starting quarterback, Will Hartline, out, it's been up to Newton to take over the offense. He ran for a score against Auburn, but he was a disaster throwing the ball completing just 5-of-13 passes for 39 yards. Will Fidler wasn't much of a help completing just 4-of-9 passes, so this is Newton's job for the foreseeable future. The 6-4, 220-pounder was Mr. Football in Indiana last year, and while he's not a big-time prospect, he's expected to be good enough to step in and produce if everything else around him is working.
What will happen: ULM's offense will sputter and stutter, but RB Frank Goodin will have a decent day. It won't be enough as UK gets another great all-around performance from WR Randall Cobb, and the defense will take care of the rest.
CFN Prediction: Kentucky 31 … ULM 14 ... Line: Kentucky -15.5
Must See Rating: (Monty Python: Almost the Truth (The Lawyer's Cut) 5 ... This Is It 1) … 2
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Vanderbilt (2-5) at South Carolina (5-2), 7:00 EST, Saturday, October 24, ESPNU
Why to watch: South Carolina can't blow the layup. The Gamecocks have had problems with Vanderbilt with two straight losses including a 24-17 defeat last season, but this is a different Commodore team and this is certainly a different Gamecock team. Vandy lost its last three games and five of the last six, with the one win coming against Rice. The offense is just as bad as it was last year, but the defense isn't producing like it needs to and the losses are mounting. Losing to Ole Miss and Georgia hurt, but those games were both at home. Throw in the home loss to Mississippi State and a loss to Army, and this hasn't been a pretty start. Things don't get much better with road trips to Florida and Tennessee still to deal with, and with Georgia Tech and Kentucky coming to Nashville, this isn't the solid year Vandy fans were hoping for. South Carolina battled hard in a loss to Alabama last week after winning its previous four games. With a bear of a last month, the Gamecocks need to get bowl eligible now, of the pressure will mount with road trips to Tennessee and Arkansas up next before facing Florida and Clemson.
Why Vanderbilt might win: It's not like the South Carolina offense is exploding. Vanderbilt doesn't have an offense and can't score in bunches, so it needs its defense to come up with a big performance against the Gamecock running game and hope the passing attack sputters. USC QB Stephen Garcia will play, but he has a gimpy knee suffered in the Bama loss. Throw in the loss of top receiver Moe Brown to a concussion, and the Gamecocks might be sputtering. The pass defense is third in the nation allowing just 134 yards per game, but …
Why South Carolina might win: … the offense really is next-level bad. Vandy has gone over 200 passing yards just once, against Rice, with three passing touchdowns, and the ground game isn't picking up the slack. The Commodores have run for over 200 yards just once, again, against Rice, and against Western Carolina. This is the second-least efficient passing attack in America, and it's not going to all of a sudden get healthy against the nation's fifth-best pass defense. The Gamecocks are allowing just 143 passing yards per game and aren't going to have any issues this week.
Who to watch: As if the Vanderbilt offense needed more bad breaks, it's going to be without its top lineman, tackle Thomas Welch, who hurt his ankle against Georgia and will be out for at least this week. That means it's uh-oh time for the Vanderbilt pass protection, which was spotty to begin with, as South Carolina's Eric Norwood should go ballistic. The senior All-American has been held in check for the last few weeks, failing to register a sack in the last three games since dominating Ole Miss, but he's due. It's not like he has been invisible, he made eight tackles against Kentucky and six against Alabama, but he's at his best when he's getting into the backfield. He made ten tackles and a sack last year against the Commodores, and he should have similar success this week.
What will happen: It's not going to be pretty. It'll be a war of offensive ineptitude in a defensive slugfest, and Vandy's O will be just a little bit worse.
CFN Prediction: South Carolina 27 … Vanderbilt 9 ... Line: South Carolina -12.5
Must See Rating: (Monty Python: Almost the Truth (The Lawyer's Cut) 5 ... This Is It 1) … 2.5
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Florida (6-0) at Mississippi State (3-4), 7:30 pm EST, Saturday, October 24, ESPN
Why to watch: Can Dan Mullen get inside the heads and the gameplan of Florida to pull off the upset? The Mississippi State head coach was a big part of the Gator success over the last few years, and now he's looking to pull a Josh McDaniels over Bill Belichick and beat Urban Meyer. If anyone knows Tim Tebow, it's Mullen, who's still friends with the Gator star, but that won't matter and it's not like Florida is going to ease off the gas because everyone likes the former assistant. The Gators haven't exactly looked like dominant world-beaters over the last few games needing some bad calls and a late field goal to get by Arkansas, and struggling to get by LSU. Even so, there's no arguing with a double-digit win over LSU in Death Valley, and last week's game against the Hogs appears to have been the unfocused blip on the résumé. Florida lost that game last year to Ole Miss, and it won it this year. MSU pulled up out of the three-game nosedive with a 27-6 win over Middle Tennessee, and if it can pull off the upset of the year, Bulldog football, and Mullen, would get on the national map.
Why Florida might win: MSU doesn't generate any pressure. The run defense is fine, thanks to a decent set of linebackers who hold up well, but there will need to be plenty of chance-taking to get to Tebow and force him to hurry his throws. Arkansas was able to come up with six sacks and several other pressures to make Tebow rush and it still didn't matter. Tebow completed 17-of-26 passes for 255 yards and a score, and if he gets time, like he will this week, he'll be throwing darts. Florida will try to run first and go with the pass second, and if the MSU tackles can't hold up against the dive play that's working so effectively, this will be a long afternoon for the Bulldogs.
Why Mississippi State might win: The only chance is if 1) Florida is looking ahead to Georgia and plays another sloppy game and 2) as ugly as it might be to put this out there, if Tebow gets hurt. He looked like his old self against Arkansas, playing with a more reckless abandon and with more power, but he's still a mere month removed from a devastating concussion and he still has to be a little careful. MSU doesn't take the ball away, but shockingly, neither does Florida. The fantastic Gator defense has forced a mere two fumbles this season with both coming from Troy, and has picked off seven passes. If MSU doesn't win the turnover battle, like Arkansas did last week, there's absolutely no shot of winning. However, this can be close if the offensive line plays more physical than it has over the last month and if the O gets a huge day from …
Who to watch: RB Anthony Dixon. After being suspended for the season-opener against Jackson State, the senior has gone on a tear with 696 rushing yards and seven touchdowns with five straight 100-yard games. He has been the focal point of the offense and he has been put in good situations to make things happen both inside and out, and Mullen and his staff will have to be more creative to produce against a Florida defense that gets its star back. All-America LB Brandon Spikes is back after missing last week's game with a groin injury. The Gators will be without nose tackle Lawrence Marsh, who has been having problems with an ankle injury, and Jaye Howard, who's trying to get back from a knee injury. There will be plenty of opportunities for Spikes and Dixon to say hello.
What will happen: How the heck did Arkansas stay so close to Florida? Turnovers. Florida lost four fumbles and gave up one monster pass play, but MSU doesn't have any sort of a passing attack and it never wins the turnover battle. MSU will play inspired football, and that will matter for about a quarter.
CFN Prediction: Florida 34 … Mississippi State 14 ... Line: Florida -22
Must See Rating: (Monty Python: Almost the Truth (The Lawyer's Cut) 5 ... This Is It 1) … 3
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Week 8, Part 1