SEC Week 5 Predictions

USC’s loss to the Beavers last night sets this weekend up as Upset Watch ’08, Part I. Last season led the college football world up to expect lots of top-5 upsets and general disarray in the season. So now we’re on watch for the Great Crumbling once again.

No. 6 LSU, of course, welcomes to town the kids whose parents aren’t upper-class enough for them to be accepted at Ole Miss – the Bulldogs of Mississippi State. Coming off the win over Auburn and looking forward to the big battle at Florida in a couple of weeks, LSU puts itself in a great position to be an Upset Watch favorite.

In this matchup, though, the Tigers give me no reason to look for an upset. MSU has no rushing offense (No. 11 in the SEC), an unspectacular passing offense (No. 7), is dead-last in SEC scoring, can’t stop the run (11th in the SEC) and gave up almost as many points against Georgia Tech (38) as Ryan Perrilloux’s new club did (41).

If you look at the stats, the shining star for the Bulldogs is their pass defense, ranked first in the SEC in pass efficiency defense and No. 2 in passing yards given up. That number, though, is heavily colored by the Tech game (62 yards given up in the air – 438 on the ground). MSU did, though, hold Auburn to 154 passing yards – the War Eagles put 250 on LSU.

So give MSU credit for a pass defense; it’ll hardly matter on Saturday. The Tigers sport the SEC’s No. 2 rushing offense and showed how dominant their offensive line is last week. LSU has yet to lose a fumble this season, so chances are not good that MSU stays in the game because of Auburn-like mistakes.

LSU 35 – 10

Elsewhere in the SEC:

No. 10 Alabama rides in to the pitch blackness of Athens to take on No. 3 Georgia: I want to pick Alabama here. I still don’t buy Georgia as a top-3 team, and I think Alabama has a great shot to win this game.

The numbers don’t support it – When the Tide has the ball, Bama’s got the No. 1 rushing offense in the SEC; Georgia has the No. 1 rushing defense. Georgia has the No. 11 passing defense; Alabama has the No. 11 passing offense. No exploitation for Bama by the numbers there.

When Georgia has the ball, the Dawgs have the No. 4 rushing offense against the No. 3 rushing defense but the No. 2 passing offense against the No. 8 passing defense. Opportunities abound for the Dawgs to riddle Bama’s secondary.

I don’t think, though, that you’ll see just the 15 passing attempts Bama put up against Arkansas. The Tide passing stats are stunted by 73 yards against Tulane and 74 yards against Arkansas. Both of those games were won by defense and special teams, and Bama had fewer offensive possessions and little reason to bust out the passing game then. Against Clemson, JP Wilson rang up 180 passing yards, and against Western Kentucky he put up 276. Not spectacular numbers by any means, but more of an indication of how Georgia should view the Tide passing game.

Execution-wise this game, I think, will come down to whether Georgia can exploit Bama’s pass defense better than Bama exploits Georgia’s. Past performance is with Georgia there.

But more importantly, I believe the game will come down to motivation. Mark Richt, of course, has “called a blackout” for the game, and the Dawgs will again storm the field in their awesomely-powerful black jerseys. I suppose the first time you do that as a surprise to the team and your fans and come running out in the awesomeness that is non-red clothing, it charges you up. Second time you do it when you announce it a week in advance? It’s probably charged up Fonzie and the Tide more.

So I look for Bama to open up their offense; hit Georgia with a strong passing game they haven’t seen on tape and hammer home the run. All in white jerseys, no less. If Bama’s secondary can come together and hold the Dawg air game in check, I like the Tide here.

Bama 31 – 28

Ole Miss at No. 4 Florida: Ole Miss would need a whole lot of help to win this one. Their offense doesn’t suck, but their defense does. At home in The Swamp, Florida isn’t likely to screw this one up.

Gators 38 – 20

Tennessee at No. 16 Auburn: Ah, lovely. Two teams who love to make mistakes. If Auburn plays like they did against MSU and Tennessee plays like they did against Florida, this could be ugliness for the ages. I wouldn’t be shocked to see Tennessee get itself together and pull and upset, but I’m not picking that.

War Eagles 2 – 1 (yes, I know)

Arkansas at No. 7 Texas: Die, pigs, die.

Horns 48 – 13

UAB at South Carolina: The Cocks managed to get by Wofford 23-13. Can they stand up to the massive Blazer attack? I guess this passes for drama in South Carolina these days.

Cocks 17 – 16

Western Kentucky at No. 32 Kentucky: Never have so few cared so little about a 3-0 team. I know Louisville looked like a decent game when you scheduled it, Kentucky, but I’m starting to understand why you were left off that SEC Schedule iPhone app.

‘Cats 34 – 17

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2 Responses to “SEC Week 5 Predictions”

  1. nandu says:

    > War Eagles 2 – 1 (yes, I know)

    I really think safeties should be recorded as 2 points off the safetied team’s score (making 0 – -2 a real possibility). In my world, your pick would be dead on.

  2. John says:

    So much for the Gators. Now if the Vols can beat Auburn, it’s gonna be a weird week in the BCS.

    And in the Bama/Georgia game, I’m rooting for the refs!

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