Week 4 bold predictions, including LSU's backup QB making some waves
There have been some big surprises in the first three weeks of SEC play. Some, we saw coming, but many, even we didn’t expect.
Let others do safe, conservative picks against a point spread. In the bold predictions game, we’re taking some risks. Sometimes, we’re on the money (Vandy over Kansas State, Mizzou completely laying an egg), sometimes we miss (No, LSU didn’t win by three touchdowns, and no, Hayden Hurst didn’t bring a victory to South Carolina).
But which is which? That’s where the fun lies. Here’s a bold prediction for each SEC game.
Defensive score lifts Kentucky over Florida
It barely qualifies to predict Kentucky ending Florida’s three-decade streak. What does qualify is that it’s the Wildcats’ defense that will produce a defensive score to win. Feleipe Franks has never played a true road game for Florida. Meanwhile, the Kentucky defense — the same group that had Mark Stoops on the hot seat a year ago after giving up 262, 244 and 223 rushing yards in its first three games — has now given up 55, 62 and 54 yards in the first three games of 2017. Kentucky’s pass defense can be spotty, but they’ll make a big play late for a game-winning score. East leader Kentucky? Why not?
UK/Florida not even most historic streak busting of week!
That honor goes to Mississippi State, which last won in Athens in 1956. Until this weekend. We believed in Nick Fitzgerald and company before, but the absolutely mauling they put on LSU convinced us that they’re for real. The common thread between last week’s game and Saturday’s matchup with Georgia? Trust the reliable veteran QB over the impressive phenom who hasn’t seen a ton of adversity. Come Sunday, two-thirds of the SEC’s outcast brigade will be 4-0 and ranked in the top 25. As for the third member of that group …
Alabama holds Vandy under 150 yards of offense
Yeah, that sounds crazy, even for Alabama. But the Tide did hold eight teams to under 195 yards last year. Vandy has won more or less despite its offense so far. Kyle Shurmur has looked good, but Alabama is something else. The Vandy running game has to get going for them to succeed against top level competition, and it’s not going to happen this week. Alabama 38, Vandy 0.
Auburn wakes up, has two 100-yard rushers
Kerryon Johnson is back. The guess here is that much of the punch missing from Auburn’s offense is too. This is a get-better game for the Tigers, and we see Johnson and Kamryn Pettway returning to 2016 form with 100+ rushing yards each as Auburn rolls against Missouri. This sets up an Auburn/Mississippi State game that could get the Tigers into the thick of the West race.
Brennan starts to make his case at QB
Syracuse wouldn’t beat LSU in a hundred years, but the interesting thing here is under center. Danny Etling is the old-school guy, but Myles Brennan is a blank slate, which is always appealing to a new coaching staff. The Tigers are a 9-3, 8-4 type team with Etling. They’ll win the games they should win, but they’re not gaining any ground on the top teams. Brennan has a much, much higher upside, and when he throws a touchdown and leads another scoring drive in the second half for LSU, his name will be echoing more and more around the Tigers’ fan base.
Sumlin’s march to being fired continues
The Aggies will lose to Arkansas. They’ll definitely lose to Alabama, and lose at Florida. Maybe they beat South Carolina in College Station, maybe they don’t. But they’re 3-4 (or maybe 2-5) at their bye week after the Florida game on Oct. 14. With games against Mississippi State, Auburn, and at Ole Miss and LSU still remaining on the schedule, if Sumlin’s fate isn’t officially announced, it’ll at least be decided quietly by that off week. Bret Bielema breathes a large sigh of relief, because it’s not him.
Tennessee feeds John Kelly
There’s no big surprise on this game, so let’s assume the Vols continue to give work to the SEC’s leading rusher, John Kelly. Frankly, Kelly has been the best part of this season for UT, and if the Vols want any meaningful shot at the Georgia Bulldogs next week, they might explore taking the ball out of Quinten Dormady’s hands and putting it more into Kelly’s. Let’s pencil him in for 150 rushing yards and remaining No. 1 in the SEC run rankings. If not, Butch Jones might well be keeping Sumlin company on the resume-and-realtor circuit.
South Carolina gets right, by air
Jake Bentley throws for 350 yards this week. Carolina wasn’t as good as people thought before last week, but they also aren’t as bad as they looked. Even without Deebo Samuel, USC has enough options (Bryan Edwards, Hayden Hurst) to throw the ball well on Louisiana Tech. As long as Will Muschamp can hold himself back from trying 50-plus-yard field goals with a kicker who shanked an extra point, the Gamecocks will be fine.