SEC Week 8 predictions
Clinging to a one-game lead heading into the second half of the season, I’m hoping this week’s picks will be as easy as last — minus my one minor goof selecting Texas A&M to beat Alabama (bad choice).
The Aggies’ road game at Ole Miss was a sexy matchup before both teams fell in Week 7 causing the contest to lose some of its luster. Still, the loser of Saturday’s game is unofficially out of the West Division championship race before we hit November.
Week 7 pick results:
- Brad (@BCrawfordSDS) — 4-3 (against the spread); 6-1 (straight up)
- Christopher (@csmithSDS) — 4-3 (ATS); 5-2 (straight up)
- Brad (@BCrawfordSDS) — 28-37-1 (against the spread); 51-14 (straight up)
- Christopher (@csmithSDS) — 34-31-1 (ATS); 50-15 (straight up)
Auburn at Arkansas (-6)
Brad: How will Auburn play with a little momentum? The Tigers were able to withstand Kentucky’s best shot down the stretch last Thursday night and a win at Arkansas could suddenly revitalize postseason hopes. Sean White has all but solidified his place as Gus Malzahn’s starting quarterback while wideout Ricardo Louis has emerged into a play-making threat on the outside. But this game depends on the Razorbacks, a team that’s had an extra week to prepare and knows this is a must-win if they want to get to that six-win mark this season. I like Arkansas at home in a competitive game.
Arkansas 27, Auburn 20
Christopher: Sean White and the Auburn passing game appeared to (mostly) figure it out at Kentucky last Thursday. Still, the Tigers remain best when that offense moves the football on the ground. This Arkansas defense remains good at stopping the run. So it’s imperative that White and the Auburn receivers find some success. On the other side, Brandon Allen, the savvy veteran, is better than I anticipated. Without Carl Lawson, there’s very little chance that the Tigers (10 sacks) get pressure on Allen and the Razorbacks (5 sacks allowed). Add in steady production from Alex Collins and I expect a balanced offense from Arkansas with moderate success. Can Auburn create turnovers and produce enough offense? I have doubts.
Arkansas 28, Auburn 20
Tennessee at Alabama (-15)
Brad: After picking Alabama to go 11-1 during the regular season and win the SEC in December, I’ve gone against my gut two of the last three weeks and it’s come back to bite me. The rest of the way, I’ll take the Crimson Tide every week. I like the way Alabama’s playing right now, with an obvious chip on its shoulder. Jake Coker has assumed a leadership role on offense while the secondary’s no longer an issue. Fifteen points seems high against a team that could give Alabama problems thanks to dual-threat quarterback Joshua Dobbs, but I don’t see the Crimson Tide overlooking the Vols this weekend. There’s too much riding on the final five games of the regular season.
Alabama 31, Tennessee 14
Christopher: This is the eighth consecutive game for Alabama — including Wisconsin, Ole Miss, Georgia, Arkansas and Texas A&M. Brutal. The Tide are looking forward to a bye week before the earth-shaking matchup against LSU. First, of course, Bama must take care of Team 119. I mentioned bye weeks. It seems like every team gets one before facing Alabama, including Tennessee. The Vols have an element that has worked against Alabama’s stout run defense before: a dual-threat quarterback in Joshua Dobbs, and some occasional tempo. Still, with the Tide secondary much improved, it will be difficult for the UT offense. The impetus here is on Alabama to at least score in the 30s in order to cover this number. That’s happened in six of seven games this year, but that’s in part due to interception returns for scores. I’m not sure Alabama’s offense is good enough to cover the big number.
Alabama 28, Tennessee 17
Mizzou (-3) at Vanderbilt
Brad: If you like offense, stay away. What do you get when you mix two fast and solid-tackling defenses against units that haven’t been able to generate points this season? A lot of punts. It’s a shame the Tigers’ outstanding defensive performance between the hedges last week was spoiled by an inept unit on the other side of the ball, but that’s the way it has happened throughout the season for Mizzou. I came very close to picking the Commodores in an outright upset, but the Tigers’ edge at the line of scrimmage means Vanderbilt will be playing from behind throughout. After turning it over five times at South Carolina and scoring 10 points against an underwhelming defense, it’s hard to fathom the Commodores scraping together more than two scoring drives.
Mizzou 16, Vanderbilt 6
Christopher: Drew Lock hasn’t been the revelation at quarterback that Missouri fans hoped — at least not immediately, within an already-struggling offense. The inexperienced receivers, lack of depth at running back and an offensive line failing to meet expectations all have contributed. Is there any team in the country with such a chasm between the performances on offense and defense? Meanwhile, Vanderbilt must be feeling down after missing a chance to notch an SEC win last week against South Carolina. The Commodores offense, which has shown a few flickers of life this season, barely reached 17 points against Middle Tennessee State and got stuck at 10 against a mediocre Gamecocks defense. Playing against Mizzou? It could get ugly.
Missouri 17, Vanderbilt 9
Texas A&M at Ole Miss (-6)
Brad: If you’re a Texas A&M fan, you had to be disappointed in your team’s effort against Alabama. Not only did Kyle Allen surprisingly throw three interceptions, but the post-game narrative was one that’s lingered throughout Kevin Sumlin’s tenure — the Aggies aren’t physical enough at the point of attack. John Chavis knew going in that Texas A&M’s front seven had to contain Alabama’s run game or it would be a long afternoon. It didn’t happen. Until Texas A&M proves it can beat a quality team outside of Mississippi State, I’m siding with the opposing team. And the Rebels need this one, badly.
Ole Miss 34, Texas A&M 27
Christopher: The not-so-good news for Aggies fans is that the team still isn’t ready to win an SEC Championship. Compete for one? Maybe. But not win. The good news for Aggies fans is that the Ole Miss Rebels aren’t as well-suited to take advantage of Texas A&M’s flaws as Alabama, LSU and even Arkansas. Both of these programs tanked during the latter portion of the 2014 season and want to avoid a similar fate in ’15. The loser of this game, though, will be well on its way. Ole Miss doesn’t have the running game to attack the Texas A&M linebackers, and the Aggies should be able to apply relentless pressure on Chad Kelly, which has been a major issue of late for the Rebels. With all of the injuries for Ole Miss on defense — even with a potentially-healthy Robert Nkemdiche — I foresee a bounce-back game for Kyle Allen. He must avoid feeding interceptions to the Landshark defense, though.
Texas A&M 28, Ole Miss 27
Western Kentucky at LSU (-16.5)
Brad: I think this is the most underrated game of the weekend, a matchup putting two all-stars against one another on offense. Brandon Doughty’s gaudy numbers at quarterback for the Hilltoppers and Leonard Fournette’s unstoppable start means it’s safe to bet the over on Saturday. You’ll see several big plays from both offenses, but with Brandon Harris finally finding his rhythm and LSU’s edge off the snap, I wouldn’t think Western Kentucky can hang for four quarters against the nation’s fifth-ranked team.
LSU 48, Western Kentucky 24
Christopher: Since squeaking past Vanderbilt, 14-12, early in the season, Brandon Doughty and the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers have scored 41, 35, 56, 49, 58 and 55 points. I don’t think LSU’s pass defense is invincible, though it is very good. WKU has a real chance to win out after this game and finish 10-2. This is no slouch team. Wedged between a huge win against Florida and a bye week leading to the Alabama game, it’s also a classic let-down spot for the Tigers. I don’t expect LSU to lose, by any means. but I’m looking for Western Kentucky to keep it closer than the general public expects.
LSU 42, Western Kentucky 27
Kentucky at Mississippi State (-11.5)
Brad: I didn’t buy into the hype last week and took Auburn to beat Kentucky on the road. I’m not yet sold on the Wildcats as a legitimate threat because this team has been wildly inconsistent at times this season. There’s no doubt Mark Stoops’ squad is heading to a bowl game (at worst, 6-6) which is a considerable feat based on where Kentucky’s been in recent years, but it’s too soon to tell if this program’s truly made strides as far as being competitive against above-average competition. That wasn’t the same Auburn we’re used to seeing last week and Kentucky squandered an opportunity. The 11.5-point spread is tricky in Starkville and I’ll take the Wildcats to cover, but Dak Prescott won’t lose this game.
Mississippi State 38, Kentucky 27
Christopher: This is a tricky game between two inconsistent teams. Kentucky’s defense — at least statistically — is much improved from the second half of 2015. But the issues are starting to surface. Sean White threw for 255 yards in a solid outing against UK in Week 7. I expect Dak Prescott to eclipse 300. Then No. 1, Mississippi State struggled with Patrick Towles and Kentucky last season. But Prescott is the single-most vital player to his team in the SEC, ahead of even Leonard Fournette. He’s dialed in, and we’re entering the homestretch of his college career. I think he can exploit this Wildcats defense.
Mississippi State 35, Kentucky 17