SEC Football Predictions | Week 3
Week 2 Record (9-3) | Overall Record (15-10)
Welcome to the Week 3 edition of SEC Football Predictions. Sorry I’m so late. I was counting up all those wins from last week. And avoiding calls from those who took my advice and believed MTSU would destroy Vandy.
I knew the SEC would get it together again. Sure, I picked Jacksonville State to beat LSU and Eastern Michigan to defeat Missouri, sparking the largest dumpster fire in the South since Sherman visited Atlanta in 1864 to catch a Braves game before torching the city.
Now that the SEC has reclaimed its spot high atop the college football mountain thanks to Arkansas’ upset victory over TCU (as predicted right here in this very blog just one week ago) and Tennessee’s ability to recover fumbled footballs laid on the ground by Virginia Tech. Just a note to the Hokies coaching staff and administration: I would consider working on getting to second down this week in practice.
An interesting statistic for Week 3 of SEC Football Predictions is the SEC’s schedule non-conference games for this week include opponents ranked 114 (Texas State), 115 (New Mexico State, who plays at No. 92 Kentucky), and 126 (North Texas) in the S&P Power Rankings.
Please watch your step and follow me to Week 3 of SEC Football Predictions.
All Times Eastern | Utilizing AP Rankings until the College Football Playoff Selection Committee Rankings are released in October.
SEC Football Predictions | Week 3 | Sept. 17, 2016
Ohio (1-1) at #15 Tennessee (2-0, 0-0 SEC)
Noon ET | SEC Network
Quick word of wisdom: This is a game the Vols cannot afford to suffer a letdown. Even with a win, Tennessee needs to walk off the field Saturday afternoon with confidence and belief that they are the greatest team inside Neyland Stadium. But before they make their way to the locker room, they first need to leave that confidence on the green grass of Shields-Watkins Field. Taking that confidence with them on the week of the Florida game will do nothing but provide a false sense of hope until Saturday afternoon around 3:25 p.m. Eastern Time. Once the Vols suffer the first challenge of the afternoon, the confidence needed to fuel the belief that they are the greatest team inside Neyland Stadium on any given Saturday will have been exhausted during the week as the team listened to how this year was going to be different than the previous 11 games against Florida.
I guess I should stop preaching to Tennessee while I look ahead to next week’s 3:30 p.m. kickoff on CBS against Florida. Ohio should have no shot to win this game. They lost a 4-hour-plus triple -overtime battle last week against Texas State. Texas State is ranked 114 in the S&P+ Rankings and Ohio is ranked 91 and….. ……….jpjp;lk.m….. Sorry. I dozed off. Let’s hope no one else falls asleep and hurts themselves during this one.
PREDICTION: Tennessee 44, Ohio 10
Vanderbilt (1-1, 0-1) at Georgia Tech (2-0)
12:30 ET | ACC Network
Quick word of wisdom: Vanderbilt can run the ball and can play defense. How the defense plays against this Georgia Tech triple option remains to be seen. Georgia Tech beat Boston College in Dublin in Week 1 and beat Mercer in Week 2. Vandy head coach Derek Mason knows a thing or two about stopping strong offenses from his days facing Oregon as as defensive coordinator at Stanford.
In addition to running back Ralph Webb and a solid defense, Vanderbilt also has the Georgia Tech’s schedule as an ally. Tech is in the second of four straight home games with the back half of the four games holding much more punch than the first half. Back-to-back home games against Mercer and Vandy won’t get your attention quite like back-to-back home games against No. 5 Clemson and the Mark Richt-led No. 25 Miami.
Vanderbilt has the ability to burn some clock with a strong day from Ralph Webb. This one may look similar to Vandy’s opener against South Carolina. I’m about to go against my better judgement after witnessing the Commodores get an “almost won” and a “we would have won if we just had an offense.” Vanderbilt does this year-after-year, but this team seems to have a consistent and durable running back, which is even more valuable when you have a defense that can slow down most any team in the country.
I’ll just go ahead and advise you to read my weekly review on PuntOnThirdDown.com to witness the anger that can flow out of this keyboard after relying on Vanderbilt to win a game.
PREDICTION: Vanderbilt 17, Georgia Tech 16
#1 Alabama (2-0, 0-0 SEC) at # 19 Ole Miss (1-1, 0-0 SEC)
3:30 PM ET | CBS
Big game of wisdom: Alabama has lost two in a row in this series and are favored by 10 points. The offense doesn’t have any rhythm at this point, but the defense is so good that Nick Saban nearly murdered Lane Kiffin on the sideline because a late fumble allowed Western Kentucky to score a touchdown late in the game. A game they won 38-10.
For whatever reason, there are still so many people who develop a nasty case of TMJ from the speed at which their jaws drop in shock and awe when anything regarding Lane Kiffin occurs. Most of the logical people (that leaves many of us out) understand that Lane Kiffin is like a sports car. It is fast and shiny and looks best when the lights are brightest. It holds those same attributes when the lights are turned off and everyone else just wants a little peace and quiet. Bama fans love it when Kiffin holds his hands like an a-hole extrovert predicting a touchdown before the ball is snapped, but they can’t find enough pearls to clutch when he tries to run a play with a little sass when leading 38-3. Back to the sports car. We love the looks and attention the car gets when it is as fast as it is loud and lives up to its own hype. But that same sports car is much louder and more obnoxious when we pull up to the church parking lot on Sunday while little old ladies are doing all they can just to ease their way through the doors of the building.
The Crimson Tide did not put everything together last season until after the Ole Miss game when they went on a road trip to Athens, Georgia, and destroyed the Bulldogs in the rain. Don’t be surprised if the Tide offense and defense play a complete game one week early in 2016 and puts the Rebels away early. But…
Don’t be surprised if Ole Miss puts together four quarters of football like they played against Florida State on Labor Day. If they do, it will be a classic in Oxford. Both defenses are great up front. Ole Miss has more of an identity on offense with Chad Kelly at quarterback. The gaping wound thus far in Oxford has been the run game. Then again, Alabama’s running game has been off as well. It wasn’t doing too well the first two games of the 2011 season with two quarterbacks fighting for the starting job. Trent Richardson and AJ McCarron put everything together pretty well eventually.
If Alabama does not turn the ball over five times, they win this game. It will be a close game and the final drive will determine the entire rest of the season when Jalen Hurts is leading Alabama down the field for a chance at the winning score. Jalen Hurts will either make a critical freshman error on that final drive and his progression will be slowed to snail’s pace. Or Hurts will make two or three key throws and runs on the final drive to set up Adam Griffith for a 38-yard game-winner. If Griffith hits it, he doesn’t miss more than two times the rest of the season. If he misses, Griffith goes into a hole from which he may never recover.
No pressure, guys.
PREDICTION: Alabama 20, Ole Miss 19
East Carolina (2-0) at South Carolina (1-1, 1-1 SEC)
4:00 PM ET | SEC Network
Quick word of wisdom: East Carolina defeated NC State from the ACC last week. The Pirates will add South Carolina from the SEC this week. The Gamecocks have, by far, the worst scoring offense in the SEC with 13.5 points per game. Kentucky is the next worst team at 21 points per game, but 35 of the 42 total points the Wildcats have scored in 2016 came in the first half of Week 1.
Both the Pirates and Gamecocks have first-year head coaches. South Carolina is a 3.5-point favorite, and the oddsmakers are giving those odds based solely on the fact that this game is at Williams-Brice Stadium. If you’ve read anything I’ve ever written, you will have read the next statement 20 times, and will see it another 20 times after that. Home games are only an advantage to good teams. Programs that are trying to rebuild following unprecedented success over the last decade, a la South Carolina, play worse at home than on the road. The shadow of previous success is darkest and coldest at home.
The Gamecocks have a total of 551 yards of offense in two games. Granted, they have also played two conference games on the road to open the season, so my theory on home games being a negative could be proven false by the time the cooling relief of the afternoon shadows make their way across the green grass of Williams-Brice Stadium.
Now that I have covered both sides of my hind parts in two paragraphs, I’ll make a prediction.
PREDICTION: East Carolina 21, South Carolina 17
New Mexico State (1-1) at Kentucky (0-2, 0-1 SEC)
4:00pm ET | SEC Network
Quick word of wisdom: Kentucky is favored by 21 points over a pretty bad New Mexico State. Kentucky is better than pretty bad, but the Wildcats’ psyche is in shambles. Although New Mexico State is ranked 115 in the unusually much-referenced S&P+, Kentucky is only ranked 92. That is the same difference in rankings as Texas State and Ohio. Could this be the big overtime game that sees a ton of scoring and excitement? Maybe. It will just be a game that is exciting yet anticlimactic due to neither team having much to play for. Kentucky gains nothing winning this game and New Mexico State can walk around acting like they beat the New England Patriots because they beat a school with a ton of SEC wins in basketball. Get ready to cut down the nets, Aggies (that’s New Mexico State).
PREDICTION: New Mexico State 48, Kentucky 45 OT
Mississippi State (1-1, 1-0 SEC) at #20 LSU (1-1, 0-0 SEC)
7:00pm ET | ESPN2
Quick word of wisdom: Although their record is 1-1 and the fans are ranting about the 2016 season as if Les Miles and the Tigers are 3-8 (full disclosure: I had them losing to Jacksonville State last week), LSU is ranked No. 2 behind only Alabama in the S&P+ Rankings. This power rating system mixes a number or two with a couple formulas and spits out some extensive numbers that would make Will Hunting blush. If the S&P+ believes in LSU, then maybe we should as well.
MSU sophomore quarterback Nick Fitzgerald is beginning to stand a little taller in the shadow left by Dak Prescott. It was this same weekend and same venue two years ago that Dak Prescott sky-rocketed from promising quarterback to Dan Mullen’s right handed clone of Tim Tebow.
LSU will need to lean on Leonard Fournette on the ground once again. One signal of distress that could manifest itself Saturday night inside Tiger Stadium will come from a familiar position on the field; quarterback. There were some people ready to throw a ticker tape parade over the performance of junior quarterback Danny Etling in Saturday’s win over the FCS Jacksonville State Gamecocks. Etling completed 6-of-14 passes with a touchdown and an interception on his way to 100 yards passing. Of his 100 yards passing, 46 of them came on the first quarter touchdown pass to DeSean Smith.
Brandon Harris is listed as the starting quarterback for Saturday night and if that is the case, LSU will lose. Les Miles once played Jordan Jefferson for an entire game where the offense didn’t cross midfield until the fourth quarter. I’ve decided on a different winner three different times in the process of writing this one prediction. My fourth and final answer is those who shake a bell for cows.
PREDICTION: Mississippi State 27, LSU 20
#17 Texas A&M (2-0, 0-0 SEC) at Auburn (1-1, 0-0 SEC)
7:00pm ET | ESPN
Quick word of wisdom: It looks like Vegas has yet to board the Texas A&M hype train. Auburn comes into this game as a 4-point favorite. Even with this game being played at home, it’s hard to believe A&M has that much hype going for them after two weeks, only to be an underdog going into a game where the opponent’s quarterback won the job based on him not playing as bad as the others.
Auburn’s defense is really good, and the offense appears ready to gain some form of an identity. A&M quarterback is due for a Trevor Knight type of game and Auburn defensive coordinator Kevin Steele should be watering at the mouth for an opportunity to give the offense at least a short field with which to work. The Tiger defense will come after Knight and force enough bad decisions that should lead to at least one defensive score. The defense will be the difference as Auburn opens the flood gates to quench the perceived dumpster fire after losing to a great Clemson team.
PREDICTION: Auburn 31, Texas A&M 21
North Texas (1-0, 0-0 SEC) at #23 Florida (2-0, 1-0 SEC)
7:30p.m. ET | ESPNU
Quick word of wisdom: Florida plays North Texas. See the Ohio-Tennessee prediction for the similar philosophy the Gators will need to apply in this game and after. It will just be the opposite of what I told Tennessee. Make sense? Great.
PREDICTION: Florida 48, North Texas 6
Texas State (1-0) at #24 Arkansas (2-0, 0-0 SEC)
7:30p.m. ET | SEC Network
Quick word of wisdom: This Texas State team is more than likely just returning from its game at Ohio last Saturday. The battle of the Bobcats lasted three overtimes, as the Texas State version defeated Ohio, 56-54.
Arkansas and Florida are the two most underrated teams in the SEC. I believe Florida will win the East, and Alabama’s toughest game may not be in Knoxville, Oxford, or Baton Rouge. It may very well be in Fayetteville.
PREDICTION: Arkansas 34, Texas State 7
No. 16 Georgia (2-0, 0-0) at Missouri (1-1, 0-0 SEC)
7:30p.m. ET | SEC Network
Quick word of wisdom: Georgia is a 6.5-point favorite, and I’m not sure why other than the good running game. The scary thing about this game for Georgia and the rest of the SEC East is that if Missouri finds a way to win this one, they could once again be overlooked all the way to the Georgia Dome in December. It’s doubtful, but not completely unlikely. You need only look to 2013 and 2014 to see the early precedent set by the Tigers in their second and third season as members of the SEC.
Once Jacob Eason settles in as the permanent quarterback, Georgia will win games like this one. I think he has one more game with just enough growing pains to fall short in Columbia.
PREDICTION: Missouri 27, Georgia 19
Eric Taylor is a contributor to FBSchedules.com. Follow him on Twitter @EricFromSpfld or contact him via email at Eric–at– TaylorCreativeGroup–dot– net. Eric is also President and Founder of Taylor Creative Group, home of the Punt On Third Down blog and podcast. Be sure to Like the Facebook page Facebook.com/EricTaylorWritesStuff for the latest on the 2016 SEC Football Predictions and all POTD Blogs and Podcasts.