In & around SEC football

September 21, 2017 chris
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By Cole Frederick/Sports Correspondent

Auburn Week 3 Review
It wasn’t a performance for the ages, but Auburn did enough to defeat FCS-member Mercer, 24-10, last Saturday (Sept. 16). Auburn outgained Mercer 510-246 but the Tigers turned the ball over five times while forcing zero turnovers. It was an ugly performance, and the offensive struggles from the loss to Clemson didn’t seem close to being resolved against the Bears. The Tigers improved to 2-1 overall and open up conference play this Saturday, Sept. 23 on the road at Missouri, which has looked the worst of any SEC team through three games.
Alabama Week 3 Review
Alabama’s 41-23 win over Colorado State wasn’t as close as the final score indicated, but Nick Saban’s team wasn’t exactly sharp against the Rams. The Tide defense had difficulty rushing the passer and failed to record a sack in the win. On the bright side, Jalen Hurts played one of the best games of his career in throwing for 248 yards and two touchdowns and running for 103 yards and another score. Alabama improved to 3-0 on the year and begins conference play this Saturday at Vanderbilt.
SEC Rankings
1. Alabama (3-0)
2. Georgia (3-0)
3. Miss. State (3-0, 1-0)
4. Auburn (2-1)
5. Florida (1-1, 1-0)
6. Vanderbilt (3-0)
7. LSU (2-1, 0-1)
8. Kentucky (3-0, 1-0)
9. South Car. (2-1, 1-1)
10. Tennessee (2-1, 0-1)
11. Arkansas (1-1)
12. Ole Miss (2-1)
13. Texas A&M (2-1)
14. Missouri (1-2, 0-1)
Week 4 Previews and Predictions
Week 3 record: 6-4; season: 29-7
Saturday, Sept. 23
Game of the Week
Mississippi State at Georgia (-6.5). Mississippi State’s win over LSU wasn’t a complete surprise, but the way the Bulldogs humiliated a talented Tiger team was both shocking and impressive. Dan Mullen has had success his entire career with dual-threat quarterbacks, and Nick Fitzgerald is the perfect player for Mullen’s system. The MSU’s schedule only gets tougher from here, however, as the Bulldogs visit a Georgia team that might possess more overall talent than LSU. Kirby Smart’s team is 3-0 following an easy win against Samford, and his team has the speed and athleticism on defense to at least somewhat contain Fitzgerald and the Mississippi State offense. Six teams in the SEC East are capable of winning the division, and a Georgia loss would put them at an early disadvantage in a division they should win. Prediction: Georgia 27, Mississippi State 23.
Texas A&M vs. Arkansas (+3).* Both the Aggies and Razorbacks lost a non-conference showdown earlier this season, so this is a pi-votal game for both teams and the two head coaches. Bret Bielema’s job security is likely relatively safe despite him having a losing record (26-27) at Arkansas, but the same cannot be said for Kevin Sumlin at Texas A&M. The Aggies are 2-1 this season but they’ve been anything but impressive through three games. Texas A&M is 5-0 against Arkansas since its first SEC season in 2012, and this could be a turning point game for both programs. Prediction: Arkansas 31, Texas A&M 28.
UMass at Tennessee (-26). The Volunteers lost in heartbreaking fashion to Florida on a Hail Mary pass as time expired, and it wasn’t Butch Jones’ finest moment as a head coach. After the loss to the Gators, Jones will be under plenty of pressure to ensure that Tennessee remains in the hunt for the SEC East Division title. The schedule is tough for the Vols after this week with a showdown against Georgia on deck. That’s a game Jones might need to win for job security heading into the second half of the season. Prediction: Tennessee 48, UMass 12.
Louisiana Tech at South Carolina (-11). After two impressive wins away from home to start the season, the Gamecocks stumbled at home against Kentucky last weekend. To make matters worse, star receiver Deebo Samuel broke his leg during the game and will miss the rest of the season. South Carolina remains a tough team to beat for every team it plays the rest of the year, but the Gamecocks might be a year away from being a major contender in the East. Prediction: South Carolina 40, Louisiana Tech 27.
Alabama at Vanderbilt (+19.5). The Commodores had one of the best wins of any team in the country last week after they upset Kansas State, 14-7, in Nashville. Derek Mason’s defense put on an impressive performance, and the offense did just enough to secure the win. This week’s challenge will be much tougher when the Crimson Tide visit town, and Vanderbilt hasn’t beaten Alabama since 1984. Alabama has too much firepower to lose the game, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see Vanderbilt keep this one close into the second half. Prediction: Alabama 23, Vanderbilt 6.
Syracuse at LSU (-23.5). New offensive coordinator Matt Canada is regarded as one of the best play callers in the country, so perhaps LSU’s problem is more personnel-oriented as opposed to the scheme. Whatever the case is, the Tigers don’t have long to figure it out after Saturday’s embarrassing 37-7 loss to Mississippi State. The Tiger defense wasn’t much better than the offense, and this doesn’t look like a team that can contend for the SEC West title. LSU gets what should be a pair of easy wins the next two weeks before the next big conference test at Florida. Prediction: LSU 41, Syracuse 16.
Florida at Kentucky (+2.5). Not many predicted this game to be one of the biggest games of the opening month of the season in the SEC, but there’s a lot potentially at stake between the Gators and the Wildcats. Both teams are 1-0 in league play, and a 2-0 start would put the winner in great position only four weeks into the season. A loss doesn’t exactly ruin the year, but it will put one of these teams at a major disadvantage with a lot of football left to be played. The good news for Florida is that it has beaten Kentucky 30 straight times, including a 45-7 beatdown last year. The bad news for the Gators is that these two teams are pretty evenly matched this season and the Wildcats have home field advantage. Prediction: Florida 22, Kentucky 16.
Auburn at Missouri (+18.5). Auburn’s offense has been disappointing through three weeks, and last Saturday’s 24-point performance against Mercer was embarrassing for a program with as much talent as the Tigers have on the roster. On the other side of the ball, the Auburn defense has been exceptional and has the potential to keep the Tigers in any game they play this year. Missouri has been ab-ysmal on both sides of the ball, and Barry Odom could soon find himself on the hot seat despite only being in his second year as head coach. If Auburn’s offense can’t get going against Missouri’s porous defense, Gus Malzahn’s team might be in se-rious trouble for the rest of the year. Prediction: Auburn 34, Missouri 13.
*At AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Tex.