Saturday, September 20
Mississippi State at Georgia Tech
This is a key game for struggling State's (1-2) hopes to make it back to a bowl game. GT (2-1) comes into this game a fourth-down conversion away from possibly being undefeated. Tech's offense is the option game we expect from coach Paul Johnson, and their defense has been effective as well. State, meanwhile, has their usual blend of good defense and non-existent offense. Lost in the talk about State's 3-2 loss to Auburn is that Auburn out-gained State by over 200 yards.
To win big games like this one, State desperately needs to move the ball better, because 100 total yards just isn't going to cut it. The key for Tech, on the other hand, is to limit turnovers. State probably won't move the ball well enough to win the game, so Tech needs to make sure they don't beat themselves. Look for Tech to win this one; State's offense probably just doesn't have enough firepower.
Alabama at Arkansas
This seems to be a trendy upset pick this week, what with the game being in Fayetteville and Arkansas getting a week off to prepare. However, Bama's defense is stout, and while Arkansas's offense should continue to improve throughout the year as they learn Petrino's system, I think Bama can shut them down. On the flip side, Arkansas's defense has already been moderately gashed by two lower-tier competitors. If there's a question mark for Bama, it's their inconsistent offensive play: they had over 400 yards against Clemson, less than 200 against Tulane, and 557 against Western Kentucky. However, given Arky's defensive woes and the fact that the Tide should be motivated to play a team that has given them trouble over the last few years, look for John Parker Wilson and company to come out and score some points.
Florida at Tennessee
The Gators travel to Knoxville for an early season showdown of Eastern Division contenders. With Percy Harvin ready to rumble, the Gators should be more effective on offense than what we've seen so far. However, question marks still remain for a defense that has performed so far but has yet to be tested. Tennessee, however, is only a minor test; their offense was pitiful in the embarrassing loss to UCLA and while it was more effective against UAB, UAB is awful. Despite the Vols' home-field advantage, look for the Gators to roll here.
Vanderbilt at Ole Miss
Who would have ever thought this would be one of the more interesting early season SEC matchups? A win for the Dores could lead them to the likely 6-2, bowl-eligible start that they've been dreaming of. However, Ole Miss's dynamic Wild Rebel offense will prove a stiff challenge for the Vanderbilt defense, which really hasn't been tested yet. Vanderbilt will likely have to score some points to win this one, so look for a possible shootout.
Wofford at South Carolina
More on this one later.
LSU and Auburn
The two Tigers renew their bizarro bowl rivarly, with LSU coming ranked 6th and Auburn ranked 10th. Honestly, we don't know a whole lot about LSU. They haven't played anyone of note yet, and while they've dominated, their competition has been so bad that it's hard to take anything away from their games thus far. However, they should have their usual bruising defense, and that could spell trouble for offensively-challenged Auburn.
A low-scoring game will be in Auburn's best interests, so I think it will be key for Auburn to control field position by limiting turnovers. Why? Auburn's defense is very solid and should be able to slow down a talented but youthful LSU offense that will have to deal with an away game atmosphere that will make them wish they could go back to Baton Rouge to play North Texas again. However, if Auburn commits a few turnovers in their own territory and lets LSU jump out to an early lead, they'll be in big trouble because I see no reason to believe that Auburn is capable of putting up big time points in a comeback effort against LSU. I'm expecting a game like the one in 2006: physcial, low scoring, an Auburn win.
Georgia at Arizona State
A highly anticipated matchup coming into the season, this one has lost a bit of its luster in the wake of ASU's loss to UNLV. The Dawgs should be careful, though, as ASU brings a lot of offensive firepower, certainly much more than South Carolina brought last weekend. However, even if a shootout occurs, I think Georgia has too much firepower for the Sun Devils.