By Cole Frederick/Sports Correspondent
Alabama Week 4 Review
In perhaps the most dominating win of the Nick Saban era, Alabama opened up conference play by embarrassing Vanderbilt, 59-0, on the road last Saturday (Sept. 23). The Crimson Tide outgained the Commodores, 677-78, in total yards and had 38 first downs compared to Vanderbilt’s three. Damien Harris carried the ball 12 times for 151 yards and two scores, while Bo Scarbrough added 79 yards and two touchdowns. Once the game was in hand, Alabama fans caught a glimpse of true freshman quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, who was 8 for 10 with 103 yards and two touchdowns through the air. Alabama improved to 4-0 overall and 1-0 in SEC play. The Tide hosts Ole Miss this Saturday (Sept. 30) at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
Auburn Week 4 Review
The Auburn offense had its best performance of the season in a 51-14 rout of Missouri last Saturday on the road. Kerryon Johnson rushed for five touchdowns in the win, while Jarrett Stidham threw for 218 yards and a touchdown. The Tigers attacked the Missouri defense in the vertical passing game as Nate Craig-Myers, Will Hastings and Kyle Davis all caught passes of over 45 yards. Auburn didn’t turn the ball over, a major improvement over last week’s five-turnover performance against Mercer. The Tigers also forced four Missouri turnovers as the defense was impressive yet again. Auburn improved to 3-1 overall and 1-0 in league play. The Tigers return home on Saturday to take on Mississippi State.
1. Alabama (4-0, 1-0)
2. Georgia (4-0, 1-0)
3. Auburn (3-1, 1-0)
4. Mississippi State (3-1, 1-1)
5. Florida (2-1, 2-0)
6. LSU (3-1, 0-1)
7. Kentucky (3-1, 1-1)
8. Vanderbilt (3-1, 0-1)
9. South Carolina (3-1, 1-1)
10. Tennessee (3-1, 0-1)
11. Texas A&M (3-1, 1-0)
12. Arkansas (1-2, 0-1)
13. Ole Miss (2-1)
14. Missouri (1-3, 0-2)
Week 5 Previews and Predictions
Week 4 record: 7-1; season: 36-8
Saturday, Sept. 30
Game of the Week
Mississippi State at Auburn (-9.5). Mississippi State enjoyed a lopsided win and suffered a lopsided loss in conference play the past two weeks and have another major showdown against SEC West rival Auburn on Saturday. It’s a pivotal matchup for both teams. The Bulldogs can’t afford another conference loss this early if they want to contend for the division title, while Auburn has a chance to practically eliminate Mississippi State from contention during the first month of the season. Gus Malzahn is 2-2 against Dan Mullen since taking over at Auburn in 2013, though the Tigers dominated the Bulldogs, 38-14, last season in Starkville. If Auburn has trouble containing MSU quarterback Nick Fitzgerald, Mississippi State could pull off the road upset. Otherwise, the Tigers have a good chance at starting 2-0 in SEC play. Prediction: Auburn 31, Mississippi State 20.
Vanderbilt at Florida (-10). The Gators snuck away with two huge victories the last two weeks against Tennessee and Kentucky, and Jim McElwain has his team in position to contend for a third straight SEC East title. Florida has been far from perfect, but the Gators keep finding ways to win close games, which has been a trend in McElwain’s tenure. Florida is catching a Vanderbilt team fresh off of a blowout loss to Alabama, and it might be difficult for Vandy to bounce back from that bad a loss in one week. Prediction: Florida 20, Vanderbilt 9.
Georgia at Tennessee (+7.5). Georgia’s 31-3 domination of Mississippi State was one of the most impressive wins of any team in the country last week, and Kirby Smart looks like he has the Bulldogs ready to take the next step as a program. Smart is undoubtedly patterning his squad after Nick Saban’s teams at Alabama: elite defense, controlling the line of scrimmage, running the ball well and throwing it efficiently without turnovers. The next test for Smart and Co. is how they respond to a big win. This week, the Bulldogs hit the road against a Tennessee team that looked dreadful a week ago in a narrow victory over UMass. Butch Jones is certainly on the hot seat, and his team will need a solid showing to convince the administration he’s still the right man for the job. Prediction: Tennessee 23, Georgia 20.
Eastern Michigan at Kentucky (-14.5). The Wildcats had plenty of chan-ces to beat Florida for the first time in over 30 years but made too many mistakes late in the game and let the Gators hang around. The season isn’t lost for Kentucky, and the Wildcats have a chance to get back on the right track against Eastern Michigan before returning to conference play against Missouri next week. Prediction: Kentucky 38, Eastern Michigan 17.
New Mexico State at Arkansas (-17). The Razorbacks have suffered heartbreaking losses to Texas A&M since 2012, but last week’s 50-43 overtime loss might be the toughest of them all. Arkansas had several chances to put Texas A&M away but had too many defensive lapses throughout the game. The Hogs should have an easy win over New Mexico State on Saturday before a brutal stretch of conference games starts next week. Prediction: Arkansas 41, New Mexico State 17.
Troy at LSU (-20.5). A week after a humiliating loss to Mississippi State, LSU did nothing to quiet the skepticism surrounding the team in last week’s 35-26 win over Syracuse. The off-ensive line still doesn’t look great, and the Orange moved the ball easily against the Tiger defense last week. Ed Orgeron’s team has another chance to improve this week against Troy before hitting the road for a tough game against Florida. Prediction: LSU 38, Troy 13.
South Carolina at Texas A&M (-9.5). Kevin Sumlin’s job is still far from secure, but last Saturday’s win over Arkansas took at least some pressure off him. Losing to South Carolina at home would be a bad look for Sumlin, so this is a game his team can’t afford to lose if he wants to be the Aggies’ coach next season. The Gamecocks narrowly escaped being upset by Louisiana Tech last week, and the offense looked to sorely miss star receiver Deebo Samuel, who was injured in the loss to Kentucky. Prediction: Texas A&M 31, South Carolina 24.
Ole Miss at Alabama (-28). The Rebels have given Alabama trouble over the last few seasons, but this Ole Miss team isn’t like the version that beat the Tide in back-to-back years. Ole Miss can still score, but the defense is porous and the Rebels already suffered a bad loss at Cal two weeks ago. Alabama should be able to run the ball at will against an Ole Miss defense that has been atrocious against the run, and while the Rebels might be able to score some, they shouldn’t be able to threaten the Tide at Bryant-Denny. Prediction: Alabama 48, Ole Miss 17.