In & around SEC football - Week 4 previews and predictions

October 15, 2020 chris
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By Cole Frederick/Staff Correspondent

Alabama Week 3 Recap
Alabama outlasted Ole Miss, 63-48, last Saturday in the highest-scoring regulation game in SEC history, and both offenses were stupendous. The Crimson Tide finished with 723 yards of offense, including 417 through the air from Mac Jones and 206 on the ground from Najee Harris. Harris scored five rushing touchdowns, while DeVonta Smith caught 13 passes for 164 yards and a score. Ole Miss compiled 647 yards of offense and caused the UA defense grief all night. Alabama’s offense has been virtually unstoppable through three games but will face its biggest test this Saturday (Oct. 17) when Georgia visits Bryant-Denny Stadium. The Tide defense will need a much better performance if Alabama is to improve to 4-0. In addition, the team likely must play without head coach Nick Saban, who tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this week.
Auburn Week 3 Recap
Despite entering as a two-touchdown home favorite, Auburn was fortunate to survive last Saturday’s matchup with Arkansas. The Tigers won 30-28 on a late field goal from Anders Carlson, who had missed on the previous drive from a similar distance. Auburn quarterback Bo Nix attempted to spike the ball and stop the clock, but he threw the ball backwards, which should have resulted in a fumble. The officials ruled it an incomplete pass, however, which allowed Auburn to kick the game-winning field goal. The Tigers led 17-0 in the first half and did not trail until Arkansas took a 28-27 lead with 5:29 remaining, but it was not a sharp effort by the home team. Nix threw for 187 yards and a touchdown, and Anthony Schwartz caught 10 passes for 100 yards and a score. Tank Bigsby has been the biggest bright spot on the Auburn offense, as the freshman rushed for 146 yards on 20 carries. The Tigers improved to 2-1 and travel to Columbia on Saturday to take on South Carolina.
SEC rankings
1. Alabama (3-0)
2. Georgia (3-0)
3. Florida (2-1)
4. Texas A&M (2-1)
5. Tennessee (2-1)
6. Ole Miss (1-2)
7. Auburn (2-1)
8. Kentucky (1-2)
9. Arkansas (1-2)
10. Miss. State (1-2)
11. Missouri (1-2)
12. South Carolina (1-2)
13. LSU (1-2)
14. Vanderbilt (0-3)
Week 4 Previews and Predictions
Week 3: 5-2; season: 15-6
Saturday, Oct. 17

Game of the Week: Georgia at Alabama (-4). This rematch of the 2018 national championship game had enough intrigue and suspense, and the absence of head coach Nick Saban adds another twist to the rivalry between the two powerhouse programs. Saban’s COVID-19 positive rest was revealed on Wednesday, and while the 68-year old head coach said he feels fine and is asymptomatic, not having his presence on the sideline is a significant loss. Offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian will serve as acting head coach on the sideline, and his offense is facing the top defense in the country. Georgia has been elite defensively thus far, and that’s the marquee matchup of the evening. The Bulldogs have been sufficient offensively with Stetson Bennett at the signal caller, but Georgia has not been particularly challenged. While Alabama’s defense struggled with Ole Miss’ up-tempo attack, it matches up better with Georgia’s offense. Both teams are legitimate national title contenders and could very well meet again in December for the SEC championship. Prediction: Alabama 29, Georgia 19.
Auburn at South Carolina (+3). Before the season, this was a game that most Auburn fans expected a relatively seamless victory. Three weeks into the season, however, it’s evident this Auburn team is not particularly strong on either side of the ball and will struggle to run away from any team in the SEC. South Carolina is more than capable of winning this game, and the Gamecocks should be able to run the ball successfully against Auburn’s front seven without K.J. Britt at linebacker. The Tiger offense looked more confident against Arkansas, but this is still a group that lacks consistency and struggles in the trenches. Auburn has won eight straight against the Gamecocks and have not lost to South Carolina since 1933, but the Tigers are on upset alert on Saturday. Prediction: Auburn 33, South Carolina 31.
Kentucky at Tennessee (-6). The Volunteers were competitive with Georgia for nearly three quarters last Saturday, but the Bulldog defense proved too much for Tennessee to handle. This is still an improved UT squad, but it is not quite ready to compete for an SEC East title. Nevertheless, the Vols need to bounce back quickly this Saturday in Knoxville. The Wildcats earned their first win of the season last week against Mississippi State. Kentucky has only won twice over Tennessee over the last 35 years, and the Vols narrowly beat the Wildcats, 17-13, last season in Lexington. Prediction: Tennessee 24, Kentucky 13.
Ole Miss at Arkansas (+2). Both the Rebels and Razorbacks have been impressive through three weeks despite holding 1-2 records. Lane Kiffin has instantly transformed the Ole Miss offense into a juggernaut, and Sam Pittman has Arkansas playing better than it has in years. While it’s early in both cases, both coaches seem like great fits at their respective schools. Both teams suffered difficult losses last weekend, and this game should be an excellent matchup between two potential spoilers in the SEC. Prediction: Ole Miss 34, Arkansas 31.
Texas A&M at Mississippi State (+6.5). Since Mississippi State shocked LSU in the opening week with an impressive 44-34 victory, the Bulldogs have lost two straight and scored a combined 16 points. At this point, it’s clear LSU that is not a good team, and the Tiger defense is particularly porous. If the Mike Leach Air Raid offense is going to get back on track, this is the week for another breakout performance. Texas A&M has been gashed through the air in consecutive weeks, though the offense came alive last week in a 41-38 win over Florida. After back-to-back games against ranked opponents, the Aggies should beware of a letdown spot on Saturday in Starkville. Prediction: Texas A&M 45, Mississippi State 40.
Both LSU at Florida and Vanderbilt at Missouri were postponed due to positive COVID-19 cases. Make-up games have been tentatively rescheduled for December.