After going 9-1 in the opening week, it’s time to look into the Crystal Ball again and try to predict how the SEC teams will fare this week. Things get a little tougher with three conference games on tap … as well as a few more of the usual early season creampuffs.
Auburn at Mississippi State- The Auburn Tigers played well against Clemson until they got into the red zone. Auburn was woeful in the red zone and settled for four field goals instead of punching it in for touchdowns. Look for that to improve against State if Auburn is going to extend its domination of the Bulldogs (11 wins in the last 12 meetings). It will be the running game with Onterio McCalebb and Tre Mason that gives Auburn its best chance to win. Mississippi State was not even pushed to work up a sweat against Jackson State, but Auburn’s defense, if it improves its tackling, will cause the Bulldogs problems. Look for Auburn’s Kiehl Frazier to be better getting his team into the end zone this week.
Winner: Auburn, 24-20
Florida at Texas A&M- This game (along with Georgia at Missouri) has been overhyped for months as Texas A&M and Missouri jump into their first seasons in the Southeastern Conference. It will feature two young quarterbacks in Florida’s Jeff Driskel and A&M’s Johnny Manziel, a redshirt freshman. Driskel does have a game and part of last season under his belt, but he will be facing a hostile crowd, known as the “12th Man” in Aggie lore. Florida was sloppy in its lackluster opening win over Bowling Green, but that could be balanced out by A&M’s mistakes that usually accompany a season opener. Florida running back Mike Gillislee will have a target on his back after rushing for 148 yards and two touchdowns last week. He will need another big game to help take some of the pressure off Driskel, whose hold on the Florida No. 1 quarterback job is tenuous at best. Manziel will have the benefit of a big, experienced offensive line that returns four of five starters and only allowed nine sacks last year. Christine Michael also enjoys running behind that offensive line. The 5-11, 213-pound Michael has speed and the ability to run over people. He has rushed for 2,374 yards (5.4 yards per carry) and 22 touchdowns in his career.
Winner: Texas A&M, 17-14
Georgia at Missouri- This game will match two of the most exciting quarterbacks in the Southeastern Conference in James Franklin of Missouri and Aaron Murray of Georgia. Bulldogs coach Mark Richt knows that the atmosphere will be wild with Missouri hosting its first conference game, but it is Franklin that worries him much more than the crowd. Georgia found a new weapon last week in freshman Todd Gurley, who burst onto the scene with three total touchdowns. Georgia is a two-point favorite but this one is basically an even matchup. The inclination here is to pick the upset, which is what I’ll go with.
Winner: Missouri, 24-21
Vanderbilt at Northwestern- Imagine if you can that Vanderbilt would go on the road at a Big Ten school and still be a favorite. Well, that is the situation as the Commodores visit Northwestern and as a 3½-point favorite. The Commodores played well despite losing to South Carolina in their opener, and they are counting on quarterback Jordan Rodgers to come through again against Northwestern, who is coming off a thrilling 42-41 win at Syracuse and boasts one of the nation’s top special teams players in Venric Mark, who had 284 all-purpose yards against the Orange. Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter injured his non-throwing shoulder but will be ready to go against the Commodores.
Winner: Vanderbilt, 35-31
Washington at LSU- The Tigers are huge favorites playing at home under the lights and they should be. Washington was not impressive in beating San Diego State 21-12 last week and now the Huskies have to go into Death Valley and face one of the nation’s top three teams. To keep from getting embarrassed, Washington will have to tighten up quickly from last week’s performance. LSU played about as well as needed in beating North Texas, but they face a stiffer test with Washington quarterback Kevin Price behind center. He will no doubt target a young defensive secondary for LSU. The Tigers should keep rolling offensively as quarterback Zach Mettenberger continues to settle in behind a big, strong offensive line and a stable of running backs.
Winner: LSU, 44-10
Here are the picks from the rest of the SEC:
South Carolina 38, East Carolina 21
Alabama 38, Western Kentucky 14
Tennessee 45, Georgia State 0
Ole Miss 14, UTEP 10
Arkansas 52, Louisiana-Monroe 21
Kent State 14, Kentucky 13