Below is a full rundown of this weekend’s SEC action, including television information (all times Eastern), the latest odds from Las Vegas, and our own predictions, prognostications and projections. Have at it…
Mississippi State at Georgia
12:00pm on FSN
Why It Matters: Because any loss for Mark Richt is a bad thing. His critics are waiting for another stumble. On the other sideline, Dan Mullen has seen the air come out of MSU’s balloon in recent weeks. If State falls to 0-3 in the conference, he’ll officially be out of the honeymoon stage and into the normal, up-and-down, roller-coaster existence of your typical SEC coach.
What Vegas Says: Georgia by 7 (opened at -7.5)
What We Say: Mississippi State has had better luck against the SEC East than the SEC West under Mullen, including a win over UGA last year. But State’s defense doesn’t look as stout this season and Isaiah Crowell is heating up. Expect Richt to remind his team of last year’s loss in Starkville, too.
Prediction: Georgia 28, Mississippi State 21
Kentucky at LSU
12:00pm on SEC Network
Why It Matters: It would qualify as a monster upset? I don’t know. Can’t think of any reason to watch this one.
What Vegas Says: LSU by 30.5 (opened at -28.5)
What We Say: Randy Sanders’ offense isn’t likely to get well against old colleague John Chavis’ blazing fast defense. But at least it’s a morning game… so Tiger fans won’t be fully loaded for kickoff. The only question in this one: Does Jordan Jefferson make an appearance.
Prediction: LSU 41, Kentucky 10
Texas A&M at Arkanas
12:00pm on ESPN
Why It Matters: It’s a non-conference conference game. A&M will be looking to show that it belongs in the SEC. As an SEC fan will you pull for Arkansas to show that the SEC isn’t to be trifled with? Or will you pull for Texas A&M to prove to the national media that it can play with SEC teams? While the media will blow an A&M win or a loss way out of proportion, tomorrow’s result won’t mean much when the Aggies truly saddle up for league play in 2012.
What Vegas Says: Texas A&M by 2.5 (opened at -3)
What We Say: A&M has motivation on its side. It’s playing for pride and it’s trying to bounce back from second half collapse versus Oklahoma State last week. Arkansas has been showing some cracks in the ol’ armor. They didn’t allow a sack to Alabama, but Tyler Wilson was pressured all day long just the same. The Razorbacks’ run game also disappeared. Couple last week’s blowout loss with a struggling win over Troy the week before and it looks like the Hogs have a few too many problems to beat a good A&M team deep in the heart of Texas. But it oughta be close.
Prediction: Texas A&M 31, Arkansas 30
Buffalo at Tennessee
12:30pm on CSS
Why It Matters: This is the Vols’ last warmup before facing a string of Georgia, LSU, Alabama and South Carolina. They need to run the ball and find a replacement for superstar Justin Hunter.
What Vegas Says: Tennessee by 28.5 (opened at -28.5)
What We Say: Buffalo’s lone win on the season came over Stony Brook. Stony Brook.
Prediction: Tennessee 42, Buffalo 9
Auburn at South Carolina
3:30pm on CBS
Why It Matters: Carolina offense hasn’t clicked yet and that’s led to a series of closer than expected games. Auburn’s offense has started to wobble, but its defense has already fallen. Can it get up against Marcus Lattimore?
What Vegas Says: South Carolina by 10 (opened at -11.5)
What We Say: Coming into last week’s game, Florida Atlantic was averaging 95 yards per game on offense. They managed 300+ against the Tigers. If Steve Spurrier feeds the ball to Lattimore 25-30 times, this one’s not close. If he tries to get Stephen Garcia and his passing game going… all bets are off.
Prediction: South Carolina 35, Auburn 24
Alabama at Florida
8:00pm on CBS
Why It Matters: You’re kidding, right?
What Vegas Says: Alabama by 4 (opened at -5)
What We Say: Florida’s got home field advantage and the memory of last year’s blowout in Tuscaloosa to fuel them. If the Gators are to have any chance of winning this one, they’ll need to sell out completely to stop Bama’s run game. AJ McCarron hasn’t been forced to win a game for the Tide yet. Will Muschamp and Dan Quinn have to make him carry Bama in this one. Florida could certainly pull the upset, but the Gators rely so much on Chris Rainey (rushing, receiving, returns, punt blocks) that you wonder what would happen if he stubbed his toe in the first quarter. Take the team that’s more balanced.
Prediction: Alabama 27, Florida 17
Ole Miss at Fresno State
9:15pm on ESPN2
Why It Matters: If they made a movie about Houston Nutt’s chair it would be called, “Mississippi Burning.”
What Vegas Says: Fresno State by 3.5 (opened at -4.5)
What We Say: Fresno State lost by 15 to Cal and by 13 to Nebraska. The Bulldogs’ only wins have come over Idaho and North Dakota. In other words, Pat Hill’s team doesn’t look so special. Normally, the SEC would be the pick over the WAC in this one. But flying cross-country for a late night game isn’t easy. And the Rebels rank in the 100s nationally in rushing offense, passing offense and scoring offense.
Prediction: Fresno State 21, Ole Miss 17