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Each week in this column, SDS news desk editor Michael Bratton (@MichaelWBratton) and SDS senior national columnist Connor O’Gara (@cjogarac) will go head-to-head, picking every SEC game against the spread while sharing their thoughts heading into each matchup.
The calendar hasn’t even hit October yet and fans all around the league are beyond eager to fire their coach for someone better. Gotta love the crazed passion of SEC fans. So who survives to see another week? Here are our SEC picks for Week 4.
So who survives to see another week? Here are our SEC picks for Week 4.
UMass at Tennessee (-28)
Michael: It could be tough for Tennessee to come out fired up for this Noon kickoff against an overmatched and 0-4 UMass squad. While the Vols should wreck this team, this game could tell us a lot about the mindset of the team after losing a heartbreaker to the Gators. Look for the Vols to start out slow before pulling away in the second half.
Tennessee 30 UMass 17
Connor: Coming off that devastating Florida loss, the Vols get a favorable foe to take out some anger. John Kelly should have a handful of touchdowns by halftime against a UMass team that’s still looking for its first win. Having said that, UMass also hasn’t lost any of its four games by more than 10 points. Tennessee puts it away by halftime, but UMass covers.
Tennessee 38, UMass 13
Louisiana Tech at South Carolina (-8.5)
Michael: This could be another game that features a deflated team after losing its first game of the season. The loss of Deebo Samuel could be huge for the Gamecocks, as he masked some of the deficiencies of this team during the first three games of the season. Don’t be shocked if the Bulldogs pull the upset on the road, I have them covering in Columbia.
South Carolina 24 Louisiana Tech 20
Connor: Losing Deebo Samuel was a devastating blow for what looked like a promising offense coming into the Kentucky game. I have questions about how high this unit can fly without Samuel, but after seeing what Mississippi State did at Louisiana Tech, I have a hard time believing this one winds up being a one-score game. Jake Bentley relies on Hayden Hurst and Rico Dowdle heavily and the Gamecocks bounce back.
South Carolina 31, Louisiana Tech, 13
Syracuse at #25 LSU (-22.5)
Michael: Unlike the previous two games, LSU has shown a tremendous ability to bounce back following disappointments last season. Even with the possibility of Derrius Guice missing this game, I’ll take the Tigers under the lights at night in Death Valley by a wide margin in this matchup.
LSU 38 Syracuse 13
Connor: I think you could’ve given the Tigers 10 quarters and they wouldn’t have hit 24 points against MSU last weekend. The Tigers were overwhelmed up front, and they couldn’t get time to throw. Syracuse, however, won’t present that kind of challenge. This game ends up having a similar feel to the BYU game and Derrius Guice (assuming he plays) has a monster showing against the Orange.
LSU 42, Syracuse 14
#15 Auburn (-19) at Missouri
Michael: If you missed Auburn’s game against Mercer, you might assume the 14-point win over Mercer was a bad sign. I took it the other way, as the Tigers moved the ball at ease in that game and should have won going away but failed to do so after losing four fumbles and an interception. Losing the turnover battle by 5 and winning is by two touchdowns is an incredibly rare feat. Also of note in last week’s game, Jarrett Stidham appeared to find his form which is a huge plus for the Tigers. Look for Auburn to blow the doors off a reeling Mizzou this weekend.
Auburn 48 Missouri 17
Connor: Missouri flat out quit vs. Purdue last week. There’s no other way to say it. They were dominated from the start and they didn’t look like a Power 5 team for the vast majority of that game. On the flip side, I think the Auburn offense has been pressing a bit too much. There’s no reason they can’t establish some balance and consistently piece some drives together against the Tigers. Missouri keeps it close early, but Auburn finds its offensive groove in the second half.
Auburn 34, Missouri 10
#1 Alabama (-18.5) at Vanderbilt
Michael: The hype surrounding Vanderbilt is understandable. Last week’s win over a ranked opponent and achieving a 3-0 record is an unbelievable accomplishment considering where the program was when Derek Mason took it over. That being said, the Commodores were very fortunate last week after a few bad calls went against Kansas State. The Commodores also had some issues defending the legs of Kansas State’s slow quarterback. That doesn’t bode well for their chances against Jalen Hurts. Look for all the big talk to come back and bite the Dores this weekend.
Alabama 33 Vanderbilt 6
Connor: This might be the toughest game to pick, not from a result standpoint. Alabama ain’t leaving Nashville without a victory. But it’s easy to picture Vanderbilt’s red-hot defense giving what’s been a relatively unimpressive Alabama offense (by their own high standards) problems. Do I think the Tide rolls into Vandy and drops 40? No, Charles Wright and the Vanderbilt defense won’t let that happen. I think Alabama is jump-started by improved play from the front seven and Kyle Shurmur comes back down to earth a bit.
Alabama 30, Vanderbilt 7
Texas A&M (-2.5) vs. Arkansas (in Arlington)
Michael: Considering the recent history of this series, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see either team come away from Arlington with a win. I’m leaning heavily toward Arkansas due to the fact the Razorbacks had a bye week, which has factored into several big wins in recent seasons, the coaching and quarterback advantage for the Hogs, and my belief that TCU is a much better team than many gave them credit for before their game in Fayetteville. Arkansas was only a play or two away from potentially stealing that game before the score got out of hand late. The Hogs get back on track in a big way here.
Arkansas 31 Texas A&M 10
Connor: Arkansas had two weeks to prepare for the showdown in Jerry World. The fact that the Aggies are favored in this one — considering how badly they played against lackluster competition — is favored says a lot about where Arkansas is at. The Razorbacks are severely dominated at the skill positions, but this one comes back to whether or not Paul Rhoads’ defense can frustrate a true freshman quarterback. I think he draws up a game plan to contain the dual-threat signal-caller and Arkansas gets a much-needed win to start SEC play.
Arkansas 24, Texas A&M 20
#20 Florida (-2.5) at Kentucky
Michael: I hate to jinx it for the Wildcats, but I’m doing it anyway — the streak ends Saturday night in Lexington. Despite the emotional win last weekend, I have no idea how Florida is still ranked over teams like Vanderbilt and Kentucky. They are a terrible team overall that features some outstanding defenders and kickers. The Gators will get exposed this weekend by the Wildcats. Prepare for the goalposts to be torn down at Kroger Field.
Kentucky 28 Florida 13
Connor: Man, it’s tempting to pick the Wildcats. Considering how well that defense played against South Carolina, it’s easy to envision the same story unfolding against Florida. But I think the Gator defense will overpower Kentucky’s relatively mediocre offense and ultimately keep the streak intact. Florida scores a defensive touchdown AND two offensive touchdowns in a hard-fought road victory.
Florida 21, Kentucky 14
#17 Mississippi State at #11 Georgia (-5.5)
Michael: This should be the best matchup in the SEC this weekend. While some have been suggesting the winner of this game could be the second-best team in the SEC, I contend the victory likely has more of a claim for the league’s top spot after earning two marquee wins in four weeks. MSU’s 30-point win over LSU was the most impressive win in the SEC to date, but I think the challenge gets much tougher going on the road and facing a better defense between the hedges.
The progression of the MSU defense under Todd Grantham came much quicker than I expected. It will be interesting to see how much Georgia relies on freshman QB Jake Fromm to make plays this weekend, as any errors like the ones he had against Notre Dame could prove to be fatal against Mississippi State. On the other hand, Georgia will likely force Nick Fitzgerald to beat him with his arm, which is easier said than done. Winning first and second down was something LSU failed to do on a consistent basis and Georgia must do to force throws on third down. Otherwise, Dan Mullen’s offense is nearly unstoppable on 3rd and short with so many options to choose from with Fitzgerald running the offense. This was a tough call, but I’m leaning toward the team I believe has the better defense in this matchup.
Georgia 23 Mississippi State 17
Connor: If you had asked me to pick this one a week ago, I would’ve probably had the home Bulldogs by double digits. But after getting the chance to watch how that MSU defense looked against a one-dimensional LSU offense, I’m buying the road Bulldogs. Jake Fromm hasn’t seen speed quite like what he’ll see on Saturday. Jeffery Simmons and the MSU defense continue their fast start, and that Nick Fitzgerald guy makes a play or two in another big statement game for MSU.
Mississippi State 24, Georgia 21