In & around SEC football: Week 3 Previews and Predictions

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By Cole Frederick/Staff correspondent

Alabama Week 2 Recap
Nick Saban knew his team would have a sluggish start against Mercer, and it took the Crimson Tide a few possessions to wake up and shake off the rust before cruising to a 48-14 victory. Bryce Young threw three touchdowns passes on top of 227 yards, while JoJo Earle caught seven passes for 85 yards. Alabama faces its toughest test of the young season on Saturday (Sept. 18) as they travel to Gainesville to play No. 11 Florida.
Auburn Week 2 Recap
The Tigers faced another overmatched opponent in Alabama State, and Auburn predictably started slowly and looked disengaged as the Tigers built a 20-0 halftime lead. However, Auburn amped up the pressure in the second half and easily won at 62-0. Quarterback Bo Nix did not have to do much and threw for 108 yards and two touchdowns. Tank Bigsby rushed for 122 yards on only 11 carries, and freshman Jarquez Hunter ran for 147 yards and a score. The first true test of the season comes this Saturday as the Tigers travel to State College to take on No. 10 Penn State.
Week 3 Previews and Predictions
Last week: 11-2
Season: 23-4
Saturday, Sept. 18
Game of the Week: Auburn at Penn State (-6). The first major test of the Bryan Harsin era comes on the road at one of the toughest environments in the country. Penn State is having its annual White Out game, and it will be the biggest crowd Auburn has seen since the 2019 season. Bo Nix has been efficient and turnover-free through two games, but the competition has been weak, and Nix has struggled in road games during his first two seasons. Penn State’s defense was very impressive in a road win at Wisconsin, and this one is shaping up to be a matchup controlled by both defenses. Prediction: Penn State 27, Auburn 23.
New Mexico at Texas A&M (-29.5). Texas A&M barely escaped Colorado with a narrow 10-7 victory, and the Aggies lost starting quarterback Haynes King for at least six weeks. Backup Zach Calzada did not turn the ball over against the Buffaloes, but he’ll need to be much better over the next few weeks as A&M play Arkansas, Mississippi State and Alabama. Prediction: Texas A&M 38, New Mexico 3.
Chattanooga at Kentucky. Mark Stoops has turned Kentucky into one of the most successful programs in the SEC with strong defense and running the ball, and this year the Wildcats seemingly possess the offensive firepower that Stoops’ previous teams lacked. Will Levis has provided a spark at quarterback, and Chris Rodriguez submitted an electric 206-yard, three-touchdown performance in a 35-28 win over Missouri. Kentucky looks like the second-best team in the SEC early in the season. Prediction: Kentucky 45, Chattanooga 9.
Southeast Missouri State at Missouri. Missouri simply could not handle Kentucky up front in a narrow road loss, but there were many positives for Eliah Drinkwitz’s team. The offense moved the ball effectively against a good defense, and the Tigers had chances to win a road game in which they did not play particularly well. Missouri has a good chance to correct some of those errors in this tune-up game before going to Boston College next week. Prediction: Missouri 52, Southeast Missouri State 16.
Tennessee Tech at Tennessee. The UT defense struggled in a 41-34 home loss to Pitt, and some of the woes for the Volunteers can be attributed to injuries. However, it is apparent that Tennessee remains far behind the rest of the league in terms of talent. Josh Heupel has his work cut out for him in his first season in Knoxville. Prediction: Tennessee 48, Tennessee Tech 7.
Alabama at Florida (-14.5). Alabama and Florida have battled for numerous conference titles over the last 30 years and have been arguably the two best programs since in modern SEC history. The rivalry has been lopsided in recent years, however, and Alabama has won seven straight games dating back to the 2009 SEC championship game. While Alabama is somewhat inexperienced offensively, the Tide should have no problem moving the ball against the Florida defense, The UA defense has the potential to dominate this game. Prediction: Alabama 41, Florida 16.
Georgia Southern at Arkansas (-23.5). Sam Pittman recorded the biggest win over his brief head-coaching career as his Hogs dominated Texas, 40-21. Arkansas was physically dominant, and the game was never in doubt after halftime. The Razorbacks should handle Georgia Southern and have a big game next week against Texas A&M. Prediction: Arkansas 38, Georgia Southern 10.
Mississippi State at Memphis (+3). Mississippi State was very sloppy in its season opening win over Louisiana Tech, but the Bulldogs started the game against North Carolina State last week much faster. MSU ran the opening kickoff back for a touchdown and cruised to a 24-10 win over the Wolf Pack. The Bulldogs now travel to Memphis for a tricky game against an explosive Tiger offense, and Mike Leach’s team has LSU on deck. This has trap game written all over it. Prediction: Memphis 38, Mississippi State 34.
South Carolina at Georgia (-31.5). Shane Beamer is 2-0 in his first season in Columbia, but the Gamecocks are about to play one of the best teams in the country on the road. Even if J.T. Daniels is out again for the Bulldogs, backup Stetson Bennett, who has started several games during his career, is capable. Georgia was dominant in a win over UAB, and the Bulldog defense might be the best in the country. Prediction: Georgia 38, South Carolina 6.
Central Michigan at LSU (-19.5). Another game, another flat performance from LSU. It’s not easy to get up for McNeese State, but the Tigers looked disinterested last week. Central Michigan does not have the talent to beat LSU, but the Tigers need to figure out who they are before conference play begins next week at Mississippi State. Prediction: LSU 37, Central Michigan 15.
Tulane at Ole Miss (-14). The Rebels have one final tune-up before the October 2 showdown at Alabama, and so far, the Ole Miss defense has been the biggest surprise. Lane Kiffin’s
offense is still dynamic, but the Rebel defense has shined early this season. The Rebels will be challenged this week against a good Tulane offense, and Ole Miss need to keep improving as it prepares for the Crimson Tide. Prediction: Ole Miss 48, Tulane 27.
Stanford at Vanderbilt (+12). Both the Cardinal and Commodores overcame disastrous Week 1 performances and bounced back for impressive victories this past weekend. Stanford beat USC so badly that the Trojans fired head coach Clay Helton, while Vanderbilt went on the road and knocked off Colorado State. Clark Lea earned his first career win as a head coach, and Vandy has a very challenging test this weekend as Stanford comes to Nashville. Prediction: Stanford 27, Vanderbilt 13.

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