Week 4 SEC Game Predictions
LSU Hosts Auburn in SEC Game of the Week
The game of the year has come and gone in the SEC, with Alabama taking care of Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M in College Station in a game that lived up to all the hype. This week’s slate of SEC action doesn’t feature a game of that caliber, or even the caliber of Ole Miss at Texas, but there are a few crucial games that could determine bowl eligibility in a couple months.
Of the nine games with SEC teams this week — Ole Miss, South Carolina and Kentucky are idle — only two are conference games, with Tennessee trying to snap their eight-game losing streak to Florida, and Auburn traveling to LSU. The Tigers vs. Tigers matchup is my game of the week for the conference, and should be a raucous environment Saturday night in Baton Rouge where visiting teams rarely escape with a win in night games.
Two intriguing non-conference matchups that will go a long way toward determining how successful each team can be this season, is the games for Arkansas and Missouri. The Razorbacks travel to Rutgers with a shot to improve to 4-0, and Missouri travels to Indiana to take on a Hoosiers offense averaging 50 points per game. Wins for both teams could mean they are back in a bowl, after each missed out on the bowl season in 2012.
Alabama, Texas A&M, Vanderbilt and Mississippi State face inferior opponents this week, but the Bulldogs need to be careful against a potent Troy offense after losing in the final seconds a week ago. Could a potential upset be in the works?
Here are this week’s predictions for the SEC games. The order of games are listed in order of start time. I went a perfect 10-0 last week to bring my season total to 30-3.
Vanderbilt at Massachusetts
Vanderbilt gets healthy against UMASS, as they will even their record at 2-2. The Minutemen have one of the worst offenses in the country, averaging only seven points per game, and their defense gives up more than 35 per game. Vandy wins 45-7.
North Texas at No. 9 Georgia
Georgia gets a tune up game one week before hosting LSU, but they shouldn't look too far ahead and discount North Texas, who has the firepower to put up some points on Georgia. However, I don't think they can put up enough to hang with Aaron Murray and Todd Gurley for four quarters. Georgia pulls away after the first quarter and wins 42-14.
Arkansas at Rutgers
Arkansas is unlikely to have quarterback Brandon Allen, who is out with a shoulder injury, so A.J. Derby will make his first start for the Razorbacks. He will be asked to manage the game and hand it off to freshman phenom Alex Collins and super sophomore Jonathan Williams, and make a few key throws on third downs throughout the game. Gary Nova and Paul James lead the Rutgers' offense, and will give the Hogs their stiffest test thus far in their first road game. However, I think Arkansas squeezes out the road victory based on their ground game and win 24-21.
Tennessee at No. 19 Florida
It's Florida week for Tennessee, as they are trying to erase the memories from their trip to Oregon and their lopsided loss at the hands of Marcus Mariota and the Ducks. Both teams are coming off losses, but the Gators were idle last weekend after losing to Miami. The rivalry has not been kind to the Vols in recent memory, as they've dropped eight straight to Florida and 17 straight to ranked opponents. I think the veteran leadership on Tennessee and head coach Butch Jones will have Tennessee ready to give the Gators their best shot, and I think this game is a lot closer than many think. Ultimately, I think the home crowd and depth of Florida propels them to victory 23-17.
Southern Methodist at Texas A&M
This is going to get ugly for SMU, who face an angry Texas A&M team who fell one play short to Alabama one week ago. Johnny Manziel will have a monster game and lead the Aggies to a 55-20 win.
Colorado State at No. 1 Alabama
After taking out Texas A&M last week, Alabama gets a bit of a tune in Colorado State before taking on Ole Miss next weekend. I believe Alabama will come out and score three touchdowns in the first quarter and coast to an easy victory. Alabama wins 44-13.
Troy at Mississippi State
Mississippi State lost a heart-breaker last week at Auburn, which could be the difference in making a fourth straight bowl appearance for the Bulldogs. I'm a big fan of quarterback Dak Prescott, who has looked great starting in place of an injured Tyler Russell. But it's the quarterback for Troy who could open some eyes this weekend in Starkville. Corey Robinson leads the nation's No. 7 passing attack and an offense averaging nearly 45 points per game. State is more talented and the deeper team, but Troy will not be a pushover, especially if they are still reeling after the last second loss to Auburn. Mississippi State wins, but it's much closer than it should be, and escape with a 34-27 win.
Auburn at No. 6 LSU
Tigers vs. Tigers. Auburn is 3-0 in the Gus Malzahn era and Nick Marshall is developing nicely in his offense. However, he hasn't played a defense anywhere near as nasty as what he will see in Baton Rouge Saturday night. As great as the LSU defense has been, they have been overshadowed by Zach Mettenberger and a suddenly prolific offense. I like LSU's offense to be the difference and a raucous home crowd to make life difficult for Marshall. LSU wins 37-20.
Missouri at Indiana
This is a must-win game for Missouri if they want to get to a bowl game in 2013 after missing the postseason last year. The schedule gets much tougher in the coming weeks, but they have had an extra week to prepare for their first road game against an Indiana team averaging 50 points per game. The Tigers have been just as good averaging 48, so this looks like a potential shootout in Bloomington that comes down to the team who gets the ball last. I like Missouri to come away with a field goal at the end and win 35-34.