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.
Our Week 7 SEC selections:
BYU at Mississippi State (-24)
Michael: I understand why so many are down on Mississippi State coming into this one but the fact of the matter is the Bulldogs lost to arguably two of the nation’s best teams on the road in the last three weeks. Very few teams would have fared any better at Georgia or at Auburn right now. I like MSU to bounce back in a big way and show they still have a Top 25-caliber team against BYU. Nick Fitzgerald will have a big game and the passing game will find some footing before SEC play resumes next weekend. On the flip side, the Cougars are a dreadful team and rank amongst the nation’s worst passing offenses. This team is not built to challenge Mississippi State.
Mississippi State 45 BYU 10
Connor: There’s something that I realized after watching BYU play the likes of LSU and Wisconsin. The Cougars aren’t a very good football team. So here we have a bad football team taking on a Dan Mullen offense that’s coming off a bye. I know the Bulldogs cooled off in a hurry, but I’ve got to think they can light up the scoreboard at home against lackluster BYU. Give me a big MSU bounce-back win.
Mississippi State 42, BYU 14
South Carolina at Tennessee (-3)
Michael: How Jarrett Guarantano performs could be the ultimate factor in this game. That seems to be a ton of pressure to put on a first-time starting quarterback, however, his comments during fall camp stating he expected Tennessee to compete for an SEC Championship this year proves he has some moxie. As bad as things have looked on offense for the Vols, the defense is actually playing pretty well right now and getting to the QB (UT has 12 sacks on the season). South Carolina currently has several issues on the offensive line as three starters missed the Arkansas game. The Gamecocks have also failed to replace Deebo Samuel’s production, not only on offense but on special teams as well. The key to beating a Muschamp team is holding them to under 18 points — he has a 33-9 record when his team scores more than 17 points; his teams have a record of 5-21 when they score 17 or less. QB Jake Bentley is great, but he’s been very inconsistent over the last month. Normally, I would take the Vols in this spot but things are so bad behind the scenes I can’t imagine Tennessee and Butch Jones beating Will Muschamp for the first time in seven tries. One bad break could open the floodgates in this one.
South Carolina 27 Tennessee 13
Connor: Can you picture what Neyland would look and sound like if the Vols just got pummeled? I know it’s hard for a half-empty stadium to make a lot of noise, but I imagine the boo birds would be deafening. Having said that, I don’t think the Gamecocks waltz into Tennessee and pull off what Georgia did. Somehow, someway I think John Kelly makes a big play in the final minutes to give Tennessee a badly-needed victory to potentially save his coach’s job. Still, South Carolina covers.
Tennessee 24, South Carolina 23
Auburn (-7) at LSU
Michael: Last weekend was huge for Coach O and LSU but the reality is Florida isn’t that good of a team — that’s why I predicted their upset of the Gators last weekend. Auburn will be a significantly bigger challenge for LSU and the fact that the game was chosen as the CBS game doesn’t help either — night games in Baton Rouge make things much tougher on opponents. The adjustments made by Orgeron and his staff worked well last weekend and should continue to help but facing off against such a balanced offense and a loaded defense will prove to be too much in this game. Auburn should have the advantage in the kicking game as well here.
Auburn 27 LSU 17
Connor: So we’re really ready to buy into the notion that LSU can stay within a touchdown of a top-10 team right now? I get that it’s in Baton Rouge and the Tigers just got a gritty win in the Swamp, but I’m still not sold on their ability to move the ball against a defense like Auburn. The Tigers have been lights out all year on that side of the ball, including in that Clemson loss. LSU still has to find a way to contain Kerryon Johnson, which has been no small task in the early going. Add in the fact that Jarrett Stidham is starting to play to his potential and I like what Gus Malzahn has going in this one.
Auburn 27, LSU 10
Vanderbilt at Ole Miss (-3)
Michael: Vanderbilt looked like a different team a month ago. Filled with so much promise and sitting just outside the Top 25 rankings, then reality set in and knocked the program back down a few pegs. Ole Miss can relate. The difference for the Rebels? They have elite talent in key positions on their roster. After a terrible start against Auburn, Shea Patterson and the offense kept fighting and actually built some momentum in the second half of the game. If that translates to this weekend, the Commodores could be in trouble. Vanderbilt really needs to keep Ralph Webb going if there’s any hope of him salving his senior season — after averaging over 5 yards per carry as a junior, Webb is under 3 yards per carry this season after six games.
Ole Miss 33 Vanderbilt 28
Connor: This is my “so good to see you!” bowl. These are two teams that have to be glad to see one another instead of another SEC power. This is actually a really interesting matchup if the Commodores can get some of their defensive mojo back. We still haven’t seen Ole Miss’ high-powered offense look the part against a Power 5 team. The interesting thing is that the way to beat Vanderbilt is usually by pounding the rock like Alabama and Georgia did. The Rebels (or Landsharks?) won’t try to do that. I’ll say Ralph Webb finally gets going against that weak Ole Miss defense and the Commodores get back on track in Oxford.
Vanderbilt 28, Ole Miss 24
Texas A&M at Florida (-3)
Michael: I understand why so many are picking A&M to win this game outright but I don’t see it happening. While the Aggies are an improving team, they are relying on a ton of youth this season. Those players, Kellen Mond in particular, have played very well in spots but don’t be surprised if the hostile crowd gets to them in this one. Protecting Feleipe Franks will be the key to the game on offense for Florida — A&M leads the SEC in sacks while Florida ranks 10th in the SEC in sacks allowed; while on defense it will be stopping the run — Kevin Sumlin has a 44-6 at A&M when the Aggies rush for at least 150 yards. The Gators just so happen to be allowing an average of 156 rushing yards per game this season. If Florida can tighten up in those two areas, they stand an excellent shot at earning another SEC win at home in their hideous Swamp men uniforms.
Florida 21 Texas A&M 17
Connor: I’ll be honest. I didn’t think the Aggies would turn things around after that opening week collapse. To their credit, they did. Last week against Alabama was possibly the Aggies’ best performance of the season, so one would think that they’d be in perfect position to roll into the Swamp and pick up where they left off, right? Sometimes, you just have to go with a gut call. I can’t see Jim McElwain losing consecutive games at home. I just can’t. While all conventional wisdom says Texas A&M is the better team right now, I think this is one of those wild games that Florida somehow puts in its back pocket.
Florida 21, Texas A&M 20
Arkansas at Alabama (-30)
Michael: This one could get ugly. Arkansas looks beyond weak on both lines of scrimmage and will be hitting the road this weekend to take on arguably the league’s best two lines. Things are so bad in Fayetteville right now, Razorback fans can’t decide who should start at quarterback in this game due to senior starter Austin Allen being too beaten/rattled and not wanting the redshirt freshman Cole Kelley to be thrown to the wolves. Arkansas may trot out Ty Storey just to preserve the other two QBs in front of him on the roster. Meanwhile, on the other side of the field, Nick Saban just called out his juggernaut of a team for “only” winning by eight on the road in one of the SEC’s most hostile environments after thoroughly controlling the vast majority of that game. Good luck and godspeed Arkansas, you are going to need it this weekend.
Alabama 56 Arkansas 7
Connor: Here’s some rat poison for you, Nick. After only winning at Texas A&M by eight — basically a loss for Alabama — I think your team will come out ON FIRE against a defeated Arkansas team. I think whoever starts at quarterback for the Hogs is in for a painful day unlike any he’s had before. I see Alabama running all over Paul Rhoads’ defense en route to a blowout victory. The question is whether this game will be over at the end of the first quarter or by halftime. I’ll take the end of the first quarter. Give me the Tide and more Bret Bielema hot seat talk.
Alabama 56, Arkansas 7
Missouri at Georgia (-30)
Michael: Poor Mizzou, they gave it their best shot at Kentucky in hopes of saving the season and the referees bungled the closing moments of the game, giving them no shot at stealing a victory on the road. Now they get to face the league’s top defense on the road. Should be fun. After several weeks of dominant performances, Georgia is due for a letdown performance. I doubt this game will be close for long but I like the Tigers to cover in the end.
Georgia 38 Missouri 17
Connor: There are probably some people who keep waiting for Georgia to have that sleeper game. I’m not one of them. I believe in the Bulldogs’ ability to show up ready to roll each week. I don’t think Kirby Smart will have a tough time getting his team fired up for Missouri after last year’s near-disaster in Columbia. Missouri still can’t stop the run, which doesn’t bode well against Georgia. This looks like another game in which Jake Fromm has to throw maybe 10 times and Nick Chubb and Sony Michel combine for 300 yards. Give me the Dawgs all day, every day in this matchup.
Georgia 49, Missouri 10