SEC Football Predictions | Week 4
Week 3 Record (4-6) | Overall Record (19-16)
Welcome to the Week 4 edition of SEC Football Predictions. As mentioned in last week’s predictions, I will begin Week 4’s SEC Football Predictions with my palm planted firmly on my forehead for two reasons. The first reason is because Vanderbilt did exactly what I said they would do, which is lose.
The second reason is that I picked Vanderbilt to win over Georgia Tech and they did what they do every time they play a triple option team. Actually, I can think of two occasions and they were both to Paul Johnson teams. The first was against Navy in 2003 and the most recent occurred Saturday. Rather than wait for Vandy to be suckered into pulling everyone with a pulse on the the field and the sideline to the line of scrimmage to stop the run, Johnson went ahead and threw on first down and scored from 80 yards on the first play of Saturday’s game. He suckered Vanderbilt when he was at Navy in the 2003 win over Vanderbilt in Nashville. Vandy was a 10-point favorite and was never within reaching distance of the Midshipmen.
I missed two predictions in Georgia’s late-touchdown win over Missouri on the road in Columbia. I predicted Jacob Eason would have one more bad game before winning games like that on the road versus a team like Missouri. I was wrong. Although Missouri scored 27, it was one point shy and Eason threw a touchdown on 4th-and-10 to win the game for Georgia. So, go ahead and save those growing pains for another day.
Week 3 of SEC Football Predictions will be the last week that I try to get sassy and pick an upset that seems to make sense. Mississippi State almost came through as well as Missouri, but they lost and it not only hurts the losing team. It hurts us all and I don’t appreciate the selfishness on the part of MSU and Missouri. Speaking of underdogs, I went against better judgement again and took Auburn over Texas A&M. Auburn has no offense. None. Zero.
Since we are on Auburn, can we pose a question or two that needs to be asked by someone other than caller Tammy on the Paul Finebaum Show? Shouldn’t a team improve each year? Shouldn’t a team be peaking by year four of said coach?
Here’s the cheat sheet to those questions. The first question is Yes and the second question is Yes. To be fair to Gus Malzahn, it’s not like he’s an offensive genius that was mere moments from revolutionizing the SEC in 2013. I’m talking Spurrier 1990’s revolution. Oh yeah. Malzahn is known for exactly that and now the biggest weakness on this 2016 Auburn team is the offense. Especially quarterback.
Go ahead and read Week 4 of SEC Football Predictions before beginning your conversation on who you think will replace Gus Malzahn at Auburn next season. I’ll give you name and you can discuss among yourselves (after reading and studying the following picks): Mr. Lane Kiffin.
All Times Eastern | Utilizing AP Rankings until the College Football Playoff Selection Committee Rankings are released in October.
SEC Football Predictions | Week 4 | Sept. 24, 2016
Kent State (1-2) at #1 Alabama (3-0, 1-0 SEC)
Noon ET | SEC Network
Quick word of wisdom: Alabama is in unfamiliar territory. They haven’t played coming off a win over Ole Miss since 2013. The Tide will need to overcome the newness of this feeling and hang tough with Nick Saban’s alma mater. They probably will.
I don’t know how many points Alabama will put on the home side of the scoreboard, but I do know that the defense does not like seeing a season’s worth of points put on the board by Ole Miss last week in Oxford. Expect somewhere between one and negative one point for Kent.
PREDICTION: Alabama 41, Kent State 0
#12 Georgia (3-0, 1-0) at #23 Ole Miss (1-2, 0-1 SEC)
Noon ET | ESPN
Big game word of wisdom: Rankings aren’t always the most accurate, but we are really having a tough time ranking the teams in the correct order. Georgia has been ranked from 15 to 9 to 16 and now back to 12. Ole Miss has dropped to No. 23, but they are a full touchdown favorite over the Bulldogs Saturday morning/afternoon in Oxford.
If we want to allow statistics and facts to get in the way of opinion and feeling, we could look at the rushing numbers for each team on offense and defense. The Rebels rank 13th in offensive and defensive rushing, behind only South Carolina on offense and Kentucky on defense. Ole Miss only averages 115.7 yards per game while allowing 242.7 per game.
Georgia ranks eighth in rushing offense with 185.7 yards per game and ranks eighth on the defensive side, giving up 126.3 yards per game. If the run game is any indicator, Georgia could very well get the “upset” on the road.
Ole Miss ranks second in the SEC in passing offense with 325.3 yards per game and ranks fourth in passing defense, allowing only 216.3 yards. The Bulldogs rank sixth in passing offense with 233 yards per game while giving up only 214.3 yards which is good enough for third in the SEC.
For the second consecutive week, Ole Miss is facing a true freshman at quarterback. This quarterback has an even better group of running backs to hand the ball at any given point of the game in hopes of drawing the defense up to the line of scrimmage before opening up the pass.
The Rebels have a senior quarterback that can put up numbers and put them up fast. He led Ole Miss on two scoring drives in less than a minute against Alabama in the fourth quarter of last week’s loss in Oxford. He also threw for a lifetime of yards against a defense that gives up next to nothing nearly every week.
Kelly was an impressive 26-of-41 for 421 yards with 3 touchdowns and one very costly interception that was returned by defensive lineman Jonathan Allen for a touchdown.
Since we are looking at statistics, lets look at UGA’s running game against Missouri. Georgia earned 25 first downs Saturday night. Five of them came on the ground. F-I-V-E. Missouri has an impressive defense, but the sharks at Ole Miss look like Derek Dooley is on the sideline sending 13 players on the field every play.
This game will probably come down to quarterback play and Ole Miss will be better at quarterback at the end of the day. This is a great game to begin the day’s lineup of games.
PREDICTION: Ole Miss 34, Georgia 28
#19 Florida (3-0, 1-0 SEC) at # 14 Tennessee (3-0, 0-0 SEC)
3:30 PM ET | CBS
Biggest game word of wisdom: Tennessee has at least one thing going for them going into a game against a team they have not beaten since 2005 — everyone to the east of the sports books in Las Vegas believe Florida will win. Another possible advantage could be that Florida has yet to leave Gainesville to play this season and they will not have quarterback Luke Del Rio under center.
Although the Gators would much rather travel to Knoxville with the quarterback that seems to have established himself as the leader, Jim McElwain would give up three quarterbacks and two running backs if it means the defense is healthy. The only team that can be argued to have a better defense than this unit of assassins is the dominant group in Alabama.
Florida’s swarming and physical defense has allowed only 14 points in three games played (4.7 ppg). Granted, those three wins have come at home against UMass, Kentucky, and North Texas. The Kentucky win was a dominating performance against a team that is down, but they’ve had no problem scoring points — outside of the game in Gainesville where they scored seven.
Tennessee has been terrible in three weeks worth of efforts to live up to everyone’s expectation. It should be much easier living up to expectations this weekend since no one seems to believe Tennessee’s offensive line can keep Josh Dobbs upright and off the medical table.
Josh Dobbs ran for 136 yards in last year’s loss in Gainesville. If Dobbs is required to run for 100 yards Saturday inside Neyland Stadium, the shadows won’t be the only thing spread across the field as the day gets longer. Those 100 yards could cost more than one game to repay.
Unless running backs Jalen Hurd and Alvin Kamara can remove the burden and replace the production of Dobbs’ legs, I don’t see how Tennessee plans on scoring. They average 162 yards passing per game and Dobbs will not have time to find the open receiver while Florida puts pressure on him every play.
Maybe the Vols coaching staff have been holding Dobbs back so he would be healthy for this game. I’d like to think that is untrue. The coaching staff deserves to be fired before they even make The Vol Walk down Peyton Manning Pass and onto Philip Fulmer Way. Letting off the gas and assuming you can just hit full speed on demand is a great way to find yourself standing in the locker room each week asking why you didn’t win against a team you should have beaten by two touchdowns.
I’m donating to Tennessee the biggest favor I’ve ever given to a team wearing orange. Florida wins Saturday and it will be no less frustrating for Tennessee fans in 2016 as it was in 2014 and 2015 when the Vols had the greatest opportunity to beat undermanned Gator teams. I know this will more than likely cause me to be as popular in Knoxville as I am in Happy Valley for what I wrote about the Joe Paterno tribute at Penn State had last Saturday.
Once all is said and done, Tennessee fans will carry me off the field as a hero because I was wrong and blind JoePa lovers from Penn State will carry me to an empty field and leave me for dead. Good luck, Vol Fan. For your sake and mine, I hope I’m wrong.
PREDICTION: Florida 24, Tennessee 10
Mississippi State (1-2, 1-1) at UMass (1-2)
3:30 PM ET | ESPN3
Quick word of wisdom: I think Mississippi State wins this game. I know I said I would avoid bucking conventional wisdom, but what the heck. I’m feeling sassier than Butch Jones in a brickyard.
PREDICTION: Mississippi State 40, UMass 17
Delaware State (0-2) at Missouri (1-2, 0-1 SEC)
4:00pm ET | SEC Network
Quick word of wisdom: Sophomore quarterback Drew Lock leads the SEC in passing yards per game and has been been an instrumental part of a marked improvement on offense. Turnovers, interceptions in particular, did in the Tigers in last week’s loss to Georgia. If Lock continues to improve like he has thus far from his freshman to sophomore season, Missouri will have an offense that should be feared once again.
Lock will have a chance to get a few reps in this week without an SEC defense breathing down his neck most of the day.
PREDICTION: Missouri 52, Delaware State 3
Vanderbilt (1-2, 0-1 SEC) at Western Kentucky (2-1)
4:30 PM ET | CBS Sports Network
Quick word of wisdom: At the time of me writing this week’s SEC Football Predictions, Western Kentucky is a seven-point favorite over Vanderbilt. WKU opened the season in Nashville last year with a win over Vanderbilt. Western will be challenged by Vandy’s defense for two or three quarters in Week 4 of 2016 in Bowling Green, Kentucky, but the Hilltoppers offense will run the Commodore defense from one end of campus to the other.
If you’ve ever stepped foot on the campus of WKU, you (and your quadriceps) know well that it feels like the hills on campus are are as steep as Mount Everest. Vanderbilt will feel like they are running up those hills on defense every play by the time the fourth quarter rolls around.
PREDICTION: Western Kentucky 34, Vanderbilt 20
#18 LSU (2-1, 1-0 SEC) at Auburn (1-2, 0-1 SEC)
6:00 PM ET | ESPN
Quick word of wisdom: Gus Malzahn vs. Les Miles has gone from a battle between SEC Championship coaches to a battle between the embattled. Neither coach has a stronger enemy than the one within, so the weight of who this week’s opponent should not come into consideration when determining who will out-coach or get out-coached.
Something I bring up too many times for those who read these predictions more than once per year is how home field is not always an advantage. When you are on the hot seat as a head coach, playing at home can become more of a headache than a help. This game will be played at Jordan-Hare Stadium (pronounced Jor Dane Hurrrr or something like that) on Saturday and that should help Les Miles and the LSU Tigers.
LSU under Miles has yet to see a lead it didn’t like to nearly blow before holding on for the win. They did just that last week in their 23-20 win over Mississippi State in Baton Rouge Saturday night. That close 23-20 win was once a 20-0 and 23-3 blowout. How does Les do it? I no longer ask questions about Les Miles. He just does Les and trips over defeats into victories in more ways than one. He’ll do the same Saturday at Jurrdin Hare. Jordan Hot In Hurr. Jordan-Hare.
PREDICTION: LSU 9, Auburn 5
South Carolina (2-1, 1-1 SEC) at Kentucky (1-2, 0-1 SEC)
7:30p.m. ET | SEC Network
Quick word of wisdom: Eww. I don’t know what to do with this one. South Carolina is figuring things out in year one of the Muschamp era. Kentucky is forgetting everything good that has ever happened in year four of the Mark Stoops era.
The Gamecocks won’t lose solely because Kentucky can’t win.
PREDICTION: South Carolina 28, Kentucky 17
#17 Arkansas (3-0, 0-0) vs. #10 Texas A&M (3-0, 1-0 SEC)
8:00 p.m. ET | ESPN
Big game word of wisdom: This game may actually the biggest and best of the day. Arkansas is a team that has found a way to win on more than one occasion in this season alone. The season started slow out of the gate when the Hogs needed a late drive to get the come-from-behind victory over LA Tech in Week 1.
Week 2 was amazing for a fan with no dog (or hog or frog) in the hunt, but probably led Arkansas fans to set an appointment for first thing Monday morning with the nearest cardiologist. Arkansas built a 2-score lead early in the game, but that quickly turned into a blown lead. That blown lead led to a tie game and a chip shot field goal for TCU that the Hogs special teams found a way to block, sending the game to overtime. Junior quarterback Austin Allen did his best impression of older brother Brandon from last year’s circus against Ole Miss, taking the snap and bulling his way into the end zone to clinch the victory.
Texas A&M’s Trevor Knight has surprised those outside of College Station who believed he was a one trick pony during his days as Oklahoma quarterback. Knight had a great game in the Sugar Bowl in the Sooners big win over Alabama following the 2013 season.
He dropped to third on the depth chart by the end of the 2015 season and decided to transfer. He has not been Johnny Manziel by any means, but he has yet to be be a liability to his team. He remains a 50 percent passer and quarterback efficiency ranks 10th in the SEC, leaving the senior trailing four sophomores and two freshmen in the category.
Knight ranks third in the conference in average passing yards per game, but two interceptions on 63-of-119 passing will drop your efficiency quickly when it’s going against only five touchdowns in three games.
Arkansas blew this game last year and has this game circled as one they want to move to the win column in 2016. Bret Bielema has been a great fit for Arkansas. Come to think of it, he’s been an even better fit for the entire conference.
Bielema came in from Wisconsin as a guy who didn’t seem able to keep up with the high octane and depth of the SEC. He’s been a great personality and a great brand ambassador for the school and conference. I have mentioned Arkansas and Florida numerous times in this series predictions as teams that will make noise in 2016.
Florida will sound off around 7:00 p.m. Eastern Time and Arkansas’ noise will be in the the sound of the hogs being called from Dallas, Texas following this win over Texas A&M to close a great day of SEC Football action.
PREDICTION: Arkansas 41, Texas A&M 28
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. For more college football coverage from Eric, visit PuntOnThirdDown-dot-com for the POTD Blog and POTD 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.