We’re speeding toward the halfway point of the SEC football season. Hard to believe, huh?
Do we know any more this morning than we did in August? You bet we do.
We know Alabama is stacked. That Tide defense embraces three simple principles: Show up to the ball quickly; show up in large numbers; show up angry.
We know LSU just throws a box of jerseys into the locker room each fall and out comes a stocked roster of super athletes. Somewhere in the SEC bylaws there must be a rule that whoever wears No. 7 for LSU has to be a stud.
From there, everything else is guesswork and matchups. There have been flashes and moments for most of the league’s teams, including Vanderbilt, which takes a stellar 3-1 mark to Alabama tonight.
More will be revealed today, of course after divisional games between Auburn and Arkansas and between Georgia and Tennessee. Whether that knowledge is permanent or fleeting, though, is anyone’s guess. Well, anyone other than LSU and Alabama, because those two are so good they don’t have to guess.
Last week’s SEC guesses: 4-3 overall, 3-4 against the spread
Season’s SEC guesses: 34-8 overall, 26-14-2 against the spread
Georgia at Tennessee
7 p.m., Neyland Stadium
• TV/Radio: ESPN2/106.5 FM and 102.3 FM
• Breakdown: Come Sunday morning, how you finish this sentence, “Boy, that Tyler Bray is _,” will be interesting. It could be “awesome.” It could be “frustrating.” Is this the game he delivers a big win against a big-time foe? Is this another struggle against a team with similar talent? We’ll know a lot more before Sunday school starts.
• The line: Georgia minus-2
• The pick: Tennessee, 33-27
AUBURN at Arkansas
7 p.m., Reynolds Razorback Stadium
• TV: ESPN
• Breakdown: Auburn’s upset at South Carolina was predicated by a ball-control offense that gave Michael Dyer 41 carries. “That’s what we felt the defense was allowing us to do,” Tigers coach Gene Chizik said this week. “He’s a durable guy, and I think he could carry it 41 times again this week.” Dyer may be able to handle that workload, but here’s saying that this high-octane Arkansas offense will set a faster pace than South Carolina did last week.
• The line: Arkansas minus-10
• The pick: Arkansas, 42-27
Mississippi STATE at UAB
Noon, Legion Field
• TV: SportSouth
• Breakdown: Hey, didn’t you used to be Dan Mullen, hotshot SEC coach on the rise? Yeah, the Dan Mullen who had MSU dreaming of big things but managed all of 213 total yards against Georgia. If the Bulldogs can’t get well against an 0-4 UAB team, well, then maybe there is no getting well this fall for the Bulldogs.
• The line: Mississippi State minus-18
• The pick: Mississippi State, 52-17
Florida at LSU
3:30 p.m., Tiger Stadium
• TV: CBS
• Breakdown: Maybe the sheer excitement of playing against Les Miles — the undefeated quote king who is part Yoda, part Yogi Berra — has allowed first-year Florida coach Will Muschamp to channel his inner sage. “Athletically,” Muschamp said this week, “you look at the front seven of LSU, they have a lot of guys.” Isn’t it just seven guys in the front seven, Coach? Oh, well. Here’s a stat for you: LSU is 1-13 against the spread as a double-digit favorite in SEC games under Miles.
• The line: LSU minus-14
• The pick: LSU, 30-20
Kentucky at South Carolina
Noon, Williams-Brice Stadium
• TV: WDSI
• Breakdown: The less-than-reliable Connor Shaw will start at quarterback today against the Wildcats, replacing the erratic Stephen Garcia. Isn’t that like replacing a keg of Milwaukee’s Best with Natty Light? Sure, it’s a change, but is it really much more than that? “We believe in him and he deserves the opportunity,” USC coach Steve Spurrier said. “Stephen has struggled and that’s why we made the change.” Which means Shaw deserves the chance because Garcia no long deserves the chance. Forget it, as long as South Carolina hands the ball to Marcus Lattimore no fewer than 30 times, the Gamecocks will be fine.
• The line: South Carolina minus-20
• The pick: South Carolina, 41-10
VANDERBILT at Alabama
7 p.m., Bryant-Denny Stadium
• TV/Radio: ESPNU/1370 AM & 97.3 & 99.3 FM
• Breakdown: Is Vandy better? Sure. Is Vandy going to beat someone that’s not expecting it? Absolutely. Is Vandy’s secondary among the nation’s best? You bet. But this is Alabama, which will not have to do much more than hand the ball to surging Heisman candidate Trent Richardson and let loose the country’s best defense. Some of the best doctors in the world are at Vanderbilt. Good thing, too, because this one could get painful.
• The line: Alabama minus-29
• The pick: Alabama, 41-2
Jay was named the Sports Editor of the Times Free Press in 2003 and started with the newspaper in May 2002 as the Deputy Sports Editor. He was born and raised in Smyrna, Ga., and graduated from Auburn University before starting his newspaper career in 1997 with the Newnan (Ga.) Times Herald. Stops in Clayton and Henry counties in Georgia and two years as the Sports Editor of the Marietta (Ga.) Daily Journal preceded Jay’s ...