SEC Week 9 predictions
Week 8 pick results:
- Brad (@BCrawfordSDS) — 3-3 (against the spread); 5-1 (straight up)
- Christopher (@csmithSDS) — 3-3 (ATS); 4-2 (straight up)
- Brad (@BCrawfordSDS) — 31-40-1 (against the spread); 56-15 (straight up)
- Christopher (@csmithSDS) — 37-34-1 (ATS); 54-17 (straight up)
Ole Miss (-7) at Auburn
Brad: As it turns out, the Rebels aren’t playing zombies from The Walking Dead during Halloween this season. Last week’s victory over Texas A&M means Ole Miss still controls its own destiny in the West race despite appearing six feet under heading into the matchup following a disappointing effort at Memphis. Hugh Freeze’s team executed the game plan despite a couple miscues and played flawless defense to turn back the Aggies. Ole Miss has already stumbled on the road once this season in Gainesville, but at this junction, much more rides on this game against Auburn. And the Tigers won’t have enough defense to keep up.
Ole Miss 34, Auburn 20
Christopher: The return of Laremy Tunsil can’t be overstated, especially with the way Ole Miss’ offensive line had failed to protect Chad Kelly or establish the run. Last weekend, Tunsil outplayed Myles Garrett. Auburn’s version of Garrett, Carl Lawson, has played less than a game in the last two years due to injuries. He may or may not suit up against the Rebels. At any rate, the Tigers don’t appear capable of badgering Kelly to the extent of some recent teams, like Florida. Auburn’s offense has been creeping toward respectability, but it better take care of the football, as Ole Miss excels at forcing takeaways.
Ole Miss 35, Auburn 27
Georgia vs. Florida (-2.5, Jacksonville)
Brad: Is this the season-saver for Mark Richt and the Bulldogs? Both teams are coming off bye weeks and Georgia welcomes several key players back who have nursed injuries including Sony Michel and Jordan Jenkins. You have to think Georgia hasn’t forgotten about last season’s effort in Jacksonville and wants to return the favor now that the roles are reversed. Florida still has a College Football Playoff chance if it wins out, but Georgia would need a lot of help with two losses. In one of the SEC’s best games of the season, I think Geoff Collins’ defense terrorizes Greyson Lambert and the Gators prevail.
Florida 27, Georgia 24
Christopher: Georgia was a double-digit favorite in this game just a few weeks ago, so kudos to whomever was wise enough to back Florida at that time. And boy, would things start to get worrisome for Mark Richt if he lost this game to fall to 5-3 with four contests remaining after entering the season as a potential College Football Playoff contender. Can UGA terrorize Florida with a punishing ground game? Leonard Fournette managed 195 yards of total offense against the Gators. But with Nick Chubb shelved due to a major injury, the answer is uncertain. I expect a tossup game here. So I like getting 2.5 points on a side.
Florida 28, Georgia 27
Vanderbilt at Houston (-11)
Brad: Before the season, this game looked challenging for the Commodores. After eight weeks, it looks almost unwinnable. Despite coming off its first SEC win in Derek Mason’s tenure last time out, Vanderbilt will need to score at least a couple touchdowns to beat one of the nation’s hottest teams under first-year coach Tom Herman. Last week at UCF, the unbeaten Cougars trailed 10-7 late in the second quarter before a barrage of touchdowns led to 52 unanswered points. They’re one of three nationally-ranked teams without a loss from the American Athletic Conference. Temple and Memphis have marquee wins to their credit. It’s now Houston’s turn to open a few more eyes against a struggling SEC squad.
Houston 31, Vanderbilt 13
Christopher: The Commodores and Derek Mason got an SEC win by outlasting a hapless Mizzou offense. Great. Now Vanderbilt must go on the road to face a Top 25 team. Despite a pretty good defense, those hoping that the ‘Dores will eclipse last year’s win total and at least keep bowl eligibility as a legitimate conversation for a while longer may be in for a reality check. Coached by Tom Herman, the Cougars are 7-0 and in the running for a New Year’s Six bowl game. This is a good tuneup for that team before they take on Cincinnati and Memphis in the next two weeks.
Houston 31, Vanderbilt 17
South Carolina at Texas A&M (-16)
Brad: What’s wrong with the Aggies? If there was an easy answer, Kevin Sumlin would’ve already told us. Offensive coordinator Jake Spavital has come under fire along with Kyler Murray for sideline shenanigans against Alabama. This team, one that was ranked inside the Top 10 a few weeks ago, is in obvious disarray, but talented enough to turn it around. That starts against South Carolina as a multi-touchdown home favorite. The Gamecocks are coming off a bye week as interim coach Shawn Elliott prepped for his first ‘big boy test’ in the SEC. Wins over Vanderbilt are nice, but a victory in College Station would make for a fantastic resume builder for Elliott as South Carolina’s staff picks a head coach in the near future. I don’t think the Gamecocks have enough talent on defense to keep up, however.
Texas A&M 38, South Carolina 17
Christopher: South Carolina just doesn’t have the personnel on offense or defense to match up with Texas A&M right now. Perhaps Pharoh Cooper can make some big plays and the defense can force the Aggies into a few turnovers, but I’m skeptical. Meanwhile, Texas A&M isn’t as good as it looked during a season-opening clinic against Arizona State and isn’t as bad as it looked in a 20-point loss at Ole Miss. Kevin Sumlin’s team seems to take two steps forward and one step back, then occasionally inverts. But I expect a slow build the rest of this season before the team finally is ready to contend for an SEC West title in 2016.
Texas A&M 35, South Carolina 17
Tennessee (-8.5) at Kentucky
Brad: I thought last week’s 11.5-point spread at Mississippi State was a slap in the face to Kentucky … I was wrong. They’re starting to look like the same Wildcats as we approach the final month of the season, stuck somewhere between average and eight wins. Dak Prescott put on a show against a defense that appeared out of sorts most of the night. And with quarterback Patrick Towles trending down, the offense hasn’t clicked the way it did in September. This is a winnable game for Kentucky at home, but I’d expect the Vols to hold on late.
Tennessee 24, Kentucky 17
Christopher: Kentucky’s defense is what we thought they were. That’s what Dak Prescott revealed to all of us in Week 8, and to a lesser extent Sean White in Week 7. I fully expect Tennessee quarterback Joshua Dobbs to be good enough to exploit that unit as well. UK’s pass defense allows 7.4 yards per attempt. The Wildcats offense averages 19.8 points per game against SEC competition this year. The narrative that Kentucky has turned around its program may be true in the intermediate term, but in the short term, this team has more personnel issues than some are acknowledging. For now, UT is the better team.
Tennessee 31, Kentucky 17
UT Martin at Arkansas (-37)
Brad: A must-win as far as bowl hopes are concerned, the Razorbacks won’t have to convert a fourth-and-goal and a nail-biting two-point conversion in overtime to beat this week’s opponent. Arkansas wins big as it inches closer to the postseason down the stretch.
Arkansas 48, UT-Martin 13
Christopher: The Skyhawks gave up 76 points at Ole Miss (Week 1), lost to FCS No. 1 Jacksonville State (Week 3) and since have reeled off four consecutive wins. Still, the UT-Martin defense has given up at least 45 points in three separate games this year. Arkansas isn’t going to be able to take this game lightly, as the team needs a fourth win to retain postseason hope. The Razorbacks should hold a huge advantage at the line of scrimmage, so unless the Skyhaws get something going in the air, expect this one to be a blowout.
Arkansas 49, UT-Martin 10