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Will the real SEC contenders please stand up?

September 24, 2009

This is a long SEC Football weekend, beginning with tonight’s match up in Columbia between the visiting Ole Miss Rebels and the South Carolina Gamecocks. Alabama will host the SEC leading QB, Ryan Mallett while LSU goes on the road to face the 2-1 MSU Bulldogs. Auburn of course takes the week to catch its breath against the traveling Cardinals of Ball State.

Over in the East, Georgia gets top billing against the Sun Devils of Arizona State and Florida takes the Gator nation into Kentucky. Tennessee is relaxing on Rocky Top against Ohio and Vandy travels deep into Texas to face Rice.

Tonight the nation gets to see if Ole Miss is for real and for certain worthy of a top 5 ranking. Joe doesn’t think they are, but begs you just the same to continue reading for the “why not?”

By the way, Joe’s Auburn prediction / preview blog will be posted separately and later. Stay tuned!

Ole Miss vs. USC. Houston Nutt has been one of the darlings of the preseason and Jevan Snead has enjoyed top billing with Tim Tebow. Meanwhile, Steve Spurrier has put together a very solid defense and groomed Garcia into a QB with a nose for wins. This is Joe’s upset special of the week! This should shape up to be a see-saw game over the course of 4 quarters with neither team totally stretching their legs. I think the Gamecock D is going to harry Snead and stymie the Rebel rushing attack. Flip the field, and I think the Gamecocks get their rushing yards as a result of Garcia scrambling and making big plays. He’ll probably throw some interceptions along the way, but he’s got as much quit in him as a Jack Russell Terrier. Ole Miss may be favored by 3 in most circles, but the Gamecocks prove victorious tonight. Ole Miss 27, USC 28.

The West is Best.

Arkansas vs. UAT. As much as I would like to say the Tide are pretenders, I won’t. Cause they aren’t. Arkansas is a bubble team winning with a QB who is setting the conference on fire after a few games. Unfortunately, the Hawgs have too many untested variables in other phases of their game. Does Alabama have the horses to pressure Mallett and prevent the downfield display? More than likely, especially when they all but eliminate any rushing game with their front 4. Throw in a well timed blitz or two and I think Arkansas gets exposed in Tuscaloosa. This one will be close for 2 quarters, but the second half will belong to the $aban nation. Arkansas 17, Alabama 28.

LSU vs. Miss. State. The Bayou Tigers have been the real sleepers of the league thus far. One might argue a top 10 ranking and what is now regarded as a signature win over Washington would beg to differ. However, no one who has watched LSU play this year is walking away saying, “whew, I wish we didn’t play them this year.” In fact, a quick perusal of Auburn bloggers at this point in the year says, “Auburn has more than a fighting chance!” MSU was gashed at Auburn, but showed signs of improvement on the road at Vandy. Add to that Coach Dan Mullen is at least familiar with LSU’s attack and I think you have a close game. I look for this one to follow the trend of the weekend and bounce back and forth with neither team giving up or going over the top. However, much like what we saw in Auburn in week 2, LSU just has more talent and experience in winning tight games. LSU 24, MSU 14.

The East are Beasts.

Arizona State vs. UGA. Georgia gets the nod for scheduling in the conference, although their fans may be wishing they hadn’t signed up for the Oklahoma State Cowboys so eagerly. No matter, the Sun Devils aren’t of the same calibre as the Cowboys or the Dawgs. ASU also doesn’t get to play in humidity or raucous crowd environs very often and I look for Georgia to capitalize on both early. Joe Cox should get plenty of opportunities to pad his numbers against a Sun Devil defense that will simply get worn down by the UGA running Dawgs. Add to that the visitors offense is ill equipped for backwoods Georgia behemoths, and UGA puts this one away in a hurry. ASU 14, UGA 35.

THE FLORIDA vs. Kentucky. Last year, THE FLORIDA stumbled after beating Tennessee for their only loss. Does history repeat itself? Only with USC and Ohio State. In other words, not with the Swamp dwellers this year. Whether or not you buy into the flu bug and the impact it had against UT, THE FLORIDA is for real and should make light work of UK at home. This game may even be a turning point for Urban’s Meyer Marauders where they put it all together and begin the run of potency everyone has been waiting for. UF 42, UK 21.

Ohio vs. Tennessee. In an organized and televised somewhere scrimmage, UT wins by running the ball and playing defense. Crompton will be allowed to do more than pump fake somewhere in the 2nd quarter and he’ll enjoy some decent numbers in an eventual rout. Ohio 10, UT 35.

Vandy vs. Rice. This isn’t the same Rice Owls team that won last year’s Texas Bowl. This also isn’t the same bowl bound Vandy team as last year. Rice has given up big numbers in three straight losses and Vandy has played well at times, but still not put it all together in a big upset (LSU and Miss. State), with their lone win against a directional Carolina squad. This could be a shoot-out, but then again, neither team has the offense to do that, even against overmatched defenses. Vandy ecks out the win on the road to even their record to 2-2. Vandy 24, Rice 17.

For more analysis, read CFNs predictions.

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