SEC Week 4 predictions
It’s safe to say most of us didn’t see that one coming.
Ole Miss’s win over Alabama last weekend wasn’t as close as the final score indicated. The Rebels dominated the football game, cashing in on five Crimson Tide turnovers with a knack for big plays offensively.
It was a performance worthy of national merit and poll voters responded with an eye-opening 12-spot shift for Ole Miss from No. 15 to No. 3 the following day.
RELATED: Week 4 AP Top 25
Christopher and I both picked Alabama to survive at home, but it didn’t happen. The LSU-Auburn matchup was easier to call, but neither of us expected it to be a one-sided affair.
Week 3 pick results:
- Brad (@BCrawfordSDS) — 6-4 (against the spread); 7-3 (straight up)
- Christopher (@csmithSDS) — 7-3 (ATS); 8-2 (straight up)
- Brad (@BCrawfordSDS) — 12-22 (against the spread); 27-7 (straight up)
- Christopher (@csmithSDS) — 22-12 (ATS); 28-6 (straight up)
Southern at Georgia (-54.5)
Brad: The Bulldogs were unstoppable against South Carolina, especially Greyson Lambert who completed an NCAA-record 24-of-25 passes against the Gamecocks’ soft zone coverage. Nick Chubb managed a quiet 159 yards rushing and two touchdowns while Sony Michel crossed the goal line on three different occasions. There’s so many weapons this season at Brian Schottenheimer’s disposal offensively, a new threat seems to emerge every Saturday. Georgia’s 1s won’t play long this weekend during the easiest game of the season.
Georgia 59, Southern 3
Christopher: Southern is an OK team by FCS standards — the Jaguars received a few votes in the latest FCS poll — but I don’t see much hope for them in this game. Louisiana Tech hung 62 points on Southern just a few weeks ago. With Nick Chubb eager to extend his streak of 100-yard rushing games, and the likelihood he’ll be on a bit of a pitch count, the Bulldogs will be looking to spring a few huge runs early in the game. And it’s not like UGA is going to stop scoring once backups like RB Keith Marshall and QB Bryce Ramsey take over. I expect a similar result as when Georgia took down Troy last Sept. 20.
Georgia 67, Southern 3
UCF at South Carolina (-15)
Brad: In a bit of a twist, Steve Spurrier is starting a true freshman quarterback for the first time in his career against the Knights, a microcosm of just how bad this season has gone offensively for the Gamecocks. South Carolina hasn’t found a rhythm and is in danger of missing out on bowl season for the first time since the 2007 campaign. I would’ve liked to have seen the Head Ball Coach give Perry Orth the nod at home considering his first career start came against a Top 10 team on the road last week, but he feels Lorenzo Nunez may provide the spark needed to get this offense going. Whatever you say, coach …
South Carolina 30, UCF 14
Christopher: Everyone is focused on South Carolina’s offense and the quarterback situation. But this is the game for the Gamecocks to get right on defense. UCF enters this contest at 0-3, scoring a combined 29 points against the likes of Florida International and Furman, an FCS school. UCF starting quarterback Justin Holman is out due to injury, and the team’s impressive fleet of skill players has been depleted due to graduation and entry into the NFL draft. I expect South Carolina to run the ball often, with or without Brandon Wilds. Steve Spurrier may even play hot potato at quarterback. But as long as the Gamecocks play solid defense, this one shouldn’t be close late in the game.
South Carolina 31, UCF 10
LSU (-24.5) at Syracuse
Brad: The primary pre-game storyline for this matchup? LSU is worried its fans will run out of alcohol outside of the Carrier Dome. That tells you all you need to know about the Tigers’ rare trip to New York. Coming off a breakout performance against Auburn, Heisman front-runner Leonard Fournette is going against the ACC’s second-best rush defense allowing just 46.7 yards per game this season. The standout sophomore will eclipse that total in the first quarter as the Tigers pound the Orange into submission early. Expect quarterback Brandon Harris, relatively quiet over his first two starts, to prove his value.
LSU 38, Syracuse 10
Christopher: This is not quite a classic let-down spot, but LSU just finished off two emotional SEC wins and now must travel some 1,200 miles for a noon ET kickoff against a mediocre ACC opponent. Syracuse boasts the nation’s No. 3 rushing defense, which is totally misleading because the Orange have faced Rhode Island, Wake Forest and Central Michigan. Still, Syracuse allowed just 3.4 yards per carry in 2014, 20th in the country, so there’s reason to believe this is a decent rushing defense. LSU went super conservative on offense against Mississippi State and Auburn — with success — so what reason do we have to believe the team will do anything else here? The Orange have all sorts of injury problems at quarterback, so the likelihood of an upset is low, but I think they’ll keep it closer than expected.
LSU 31, Syracuse 13
Tennessee at Florida (pick ’em)
Brad: The streak must end in Gainesville, right? If Tennessee loses its 11th straight game to Florida on Saturday, the fan base may turn on Butch Jones, who hasn’t yet proved the Vols can beat any team of substance in the SEC under his regime. This game was always more important than Tennessee’s non-conference showdown with Oklahoma as far as title hopes are concerned, but whatever equity Jones acquired last fall with the program’s first bowl win in several years is in danger of disappearing with a loss to the Gators. His stock is teetering and this game’s a must-win.
Tennessee 20, Florida 17
Christopher: I think public perception of Tennessee is skewed by three things: injuries, the double-overtime loss to Oklahoma and the 400+ passing yards allowed to Bowling Green. In reality, the Vols are 2-1 against the spread, and just got back starting safety LaDarrell McNeil. It won’t matter as much in this game that Curt Maggitt is out. If Florida’s inexperienced offensive line struggled against Kentucky’s defense, the Vols should be effective up front in this one. Unless Will Grier can make several plays downfield, I don’t think that Florida, despite a good defense, is going to be able to score enough to win here.
Tennessee 24, Florida 13
Louisiana-Monroe at Alabama (-38)
Brad: Enough with the quarterback carousel. It’s time to pick a guy and stick with him. I thought Jake Coker ‘won the job’ in the second half of last weekend’s loss to Ole Miss, a passer who was noticeably more confident launching the football in the face of pressure compared to Cooper Bateman. Alabama now gets to take its frustration out on a team that played just 3.5 quarters against Georgia earlier this season before calling it off. Derrick Henry hits 100 yards, Kenyan Drake scores two touchdowns and the Crimson Tide win going away. Regardless of the lopsided matchup, priority No. 1 is deciding on a starting quarterback.
Alabama 49, Louisiana-Monroe 7
Christopher: The Crimson Tide recovered from last year’s road loss against Ole Miss to win the SEC. Doing that in back-to-back seasons is daunting, to say the least, especially with teams like Georgia, LSU and Texas A&M remaining on the regular-season schedule. But if ever Nick Saban’s message about “The Process” and the need to always improve — as well as the “no one believes in us any more” line — are going to get through against a weak non-conference opponent, it’s here. Expect to see a ticked off Alabama take the field at Bryant-Denny Stadium on Saturday.
Alabama 42, Louisiana-Monroe 3
Texas A&M (-7) vs. Arkansas
Brad: I expected this game to be a matchup of top 15 unbeatens before the season, but the Razorbacks haven’t held up their end of the bargain. Back-to-back disappointing losses has turned Bret Bielema into the butt of all coaching jokes (Kliff Kingsbury and Sonny Dykes didn’t hold back) and injuries have ravaged a once-prolific offense. A win Saturday in Arlington would go a long way in righting the ship, but Arkansas doesn’t match up well with the Aggies on either side of the football and everyone is excited to see John Chavis’ revamped defense against its first SEC competitor. Texas A&M makes a statement and wins big.
Texas A&M 41, Arkansas 24
Christopher: Arkansas’ rushing offense showed signs of life last week against Texas Tech, as Alex Collins ran 28 times for 170 yards. The Razorbacks dominated this game for more than three quarters last year before the Aggies rallied, winning in overtime after a late flourish. Texas A&M is a better team at this point in the season, but this is also a decent matchup for a physical Arkansas team. I worry about an underperforming Razorbacks secondary against the myriad of talented Aggies pass-catchers. But I think the Hogs are backed into a corner at this point and are better than what they’ve shown the last two weeks. And I’m still not sold on John Chavis’ defense as a championship-type unit, at least until 2016. Expect coach Bret Bielema’s team to at least keep this one close.
Texas A&M 31, Arkansas 27
Vanderbilt at Ole Miss (-24.5)
Brad: Lost in translation of last weekend’s madness was Vanderbilt’s offensive explosion against Austin Peay. Wideout Trent Sherfield caught 16 passes for a school-record 240 yards during the Commodores’ 40-point victory. He’ll need another Herculean effort alongside quarterback Johnny McCrary to stop Ole Miss — the hottest team in college football this season. The Rebels dominated Alabama for three quarters in Tuscaloosa before hanging on to ‘upset’ the second-ranked Crimson Tide. I think Ole Miss covers a spread that seems a bit low to me considering the matchup advantages.
Ole Miss 52, Vanderbilt 14
Christopher: Give Vanderbilt credit. The Commodores offense performed just OK against Georgia, but that’s saying something for this bunch. Then Vandy exploded for 47 points Saturday against FCS school Austin Peay. The Commodores’ defense is decent as well, limiting Georgia to 31 points — including a punt return for a touchdown. This is a letdown spot for Ole Miss after a huge road win against Alabama and before another big road game against Florida. Plus, even if the Rebels snag a comfortable lead, expect coach Hugh Freeze to get some time for his backups and open up an opportunity for a back-door cover. This line has dropped since it opened, despite 64 percent of the public betting on Ole Miss. That tells me the pro money is on Vandy.
Ole Miss 38, Vanderbilt 14
Mississippi State at Auburn (-2)
Brad: How is Auburn favored in this game? Not only is redshirt freshman Sean White making his first career start ahead of Jeremy Johnson at quarterback, but Will Muschamp’s defense hasn’t proved it can stop any offense of substance this season, much less the SEC’s top returning quarterback in Dak Prescott. It may be a stretch to some, but I think Mississippi State could surpass 500 yards of total offense in this one and the Tigers struggle playing catch-up throughout the game. Unless Auburn finds a rhythm on the ground, Mississippi State could feast on a team that’s fading fast.
Mississippi State 38, Auburn 24
Christopher: This is another game that the squares (ehm, Brad) are going to be heaping money on Mississippi State in an ill-conceived overreaction. I like Auburn in this game. The Tigers haven’t looked like the team the media predicted to win the SEC. But remember, just a few weeks ago, Auburn was projected to finish at the top of the West Division, while Mississippi State was projected to finish at the bottom. Yes, Sean White is the biggest question mark in this game. A backup quarterback elevated to the starting role, he won’t have to out-duel Dak Prescott to win this game. I’m not sold on Mississippi State at the line of scrimmage on either side of the football. LSU did a number on both these teams, though the final score was much closer against Mississippi State. Still, if Auburn can get back some semblance of offense with the quarterback change, even without DE Carl Lawson, the Tigers have the more talented team and are playing at home. This is a must-win for coach Gus Malzahn, and I expect the team to play like it.
Auburn 27, Mississippi State 20
Missouri at Kentucky (-3)
Brad: Mizzou’s making it real hard for me to believe this team’s a division title contender this season, but I’ll go with Gary Pinkel’s track record until the Tigers prove otherwise. Let’s be honest, Mizzou was lucky to beat UConn at home last week. The offense was a mess and the Huskies failed to convert several opportunities that may have altered the outcome. The Tigers have not looked like a Top 25-caliber team through three weeks, but that could change Saturday with a win at Kentucky. A loss for Patrick Towles and the Wildcats squanders whatever momentum they had post-South Carolina.
Mizzou 24, Kentucky 20
Christopher: In case you’ve forgotten in the last four days, these two offenses scored a combined 18 points on Saturday. Oh, and the defenses allowed a combined 20 points. Quarterbacks Maty Mauk and Patrick Towles both are struggling. Neither offensive line is playing well. Russell Hansbrough and Boom Williams are above-average SEC running backs, but the former is dealing with an ankle injury and the latter seems to garner about 15 carries per game maximum. Which team is going to make more mistakes? Missouri has been terrific as a road underdog in the last several years, and I think the Tigers claim the better defense in this one as well.
Missouri 21, Kentucky 17