This week features a number of potential upsets. Which big name team will go down: Georgia, Bama, or LSU? We'll find out Saturday.
For more good SEC previews, check out my friends' picks at Team Speed Kills and The Ghost of Chucky...Mullins, That Is.
Vanderbilt at UGA
Vanderbilt's dream season took a turn south last week when the Commodores lost to Mississippi State. The dream is still alive for Vandy, though--they need one more win to get to bowl eligibility, and they still have a good shot at doing much more.
However, a trip to Sanford Stadium might not be the answer for the guys in gold and black. UGA boasts a great deal more athleticism than the Commodores and should be able to score at will if Matt Stafford can protect the ball. This is a game where Vandy will have to rely on their guile even more so than they have throughout the season, because if they can't produce game changing turnovers against UGA, it's probably going to be a long afternoon for them. I think they'll get a big play or two, but it won't be enough to keep the Dawgs from winning by a comfortable but not incredibly large margin.
Ole Miss at Alabama
Alabama and Ole Miss have both had a week to to rest and should be pumped for this game. Most will give Bama the advantage, but something tells me it's not going to be a cake walk for the Tide.
Mississippi has a number of playmakers on offense who are capable of making the sorts of game-changing plays that lead to upsets (actually, I should say the sorts of plays that led the Rebs over the Gators).
In fact, the Wild Rebel might be one of the best options for moving the ball against Bama. With players like Terrence Cody on the front line, it's near impossible to run the ball up the middle against Bama, and the Tide's potent pass rush makes a normal passing attack difficult to sustain. However, a little trickery could throw the Tide off their game and give Ole Miss a chance to score some points.
Defensively, I think the Rebels match up well against Bama. While they have a questionable secondary, Ole Miss has a powerful defensive front that may even be good enough to challenge Bama's all-world offensive line. If the Rebels can neutralize Glen Coffee and get to JP Wilson often enough to keep him from getting into a rhythm, the lack of talent in the Rebel secondary may not matter.
Even with all of these beneficial matchups, the Rebs will still have a tough time this week. However, I think there's a good chance for an upset here. Watch for Ole Miss to play Bama very close and have a chance to win the game late.
Mississippi State at Tennessee
Can things get any worse for Phil Fulmer? We'll find out this weekend when the upset-minded Bulldogs visit Neyland.
This will not be a pretty game, as both teams have issues on offense. MSU relies on TB Anthony Dixon for most of its yards, but without a reliable passing attack, the Bulldogs has difficulty opening things up for Dixon. The Vols had also relied heavily on the running of TB Arian Foster early in the season, but last week against Georgia Tennessee ran for a total of 1, yes 1, rushing yard. Nick Stephens, the Vols' replacement for embattled QB Jonathan Crompton, stepped up, though, so look for Tennessee to search for more balance this week.
Defensively, both teams are very good, although for the most part this year MSU hasn't looked as good as in years past. However, they did hold Vandy to only a little over 100 yards last week, which is quite a feat against any team. Both defenses have advantages over the opponents' weak offenses.
Expect an ugly game. There will possibly be lots of turnover, so it's hard to know who to favor. I'm going to say that Tennessee finally grabs a win in SEC play here.
Arkansas at Kentucky
This is a big game for both teams' bowl hopes. The Hogs may have gotten a little better against Auburn and are beginning to show signs of having something like a Petrino offense, but Kentucky's defense will give them a tough test. Kentucky, meanwhile, had severe troubles on offense last week against the Gamecocks, only gaining a little over 200 total yards. While the Cats' defense should keep them in the game, they're going to need to do better than that to win this game. Luckily, the Hogs defense is nothing like that of South Carolina, so expect to see Kentucky put some points on the board. With their defense, they shouldn't need many, so I'm going to take the home favorites in this game.
LSU at South Carolina
This week's biggest game--more on this one later tonight or tomorrow morning.
Idle: Florida, Auburn
The Gators get a week to celebrate the beat-down they put on LSU, while Auburn gets time to regroup and try to solve its offensive problems.