Thursday, 25 September 2003

SEC Week 5 prognostications (and Week 4 recap)

Time for more shaming! The good news is, I can pick games that don't involve the AP Top 25. The bad news is… nobody cares about games that don't involve the Top 25. First the recap:

FLORIDA [2-1] 31, Tennessee [2-0] 21. [CBS]
Actual score: 10-24. Tennessee came to play, Florida didn't. Hence Tennessee is rewarded with sole possession of the SEC East lead and the first division head-to-head result in the league, putting Florida's SEC East hopes in serious jeopardy barring some self-destructive behavior on the part of the Vols.
Georgia [3-0/1-0] 24, LOUISIANA STATE [3-0] 17. [CBS]
10-17. A close game as expected, but LSU held off Georgia in the first half when Georgia had a good shot at making some scores. The legend of Death Valley lives!
Kentucky [1-2/0-1] 41, INDIANA [1-2] 10.
34-17. Well, Kentucky can win out-of-conference... let's see what happens this week.
ALABAMA [2-1/1-0] 35, Northern Illinois [2-0] 14.
16-19. For one thing, the team NIU beat was not Wisconsin. That was last year, except it wasn't, because Wisconsin won that one somehow. UNLV beat Wisconsin. NIU beat Maryland.

For another thing, Alabama is the Jeckyll and Hyde of the SEC. Actually, Jeckyll and Hyde seem to be operating on other teams as well (take Florida, who've demolished some of their opposition but can't hang with Big Six foes). Shula was supposed to win this one.

Turns out this one was on GamePlan. Woo hoo. (Some people in Alabama allegedly paid $30 to see this. They should demand a refund. For one thing, the clock was unreadable. For another, Tyler Watts was on color. He wasn't bad, but sheesh... you'd think Bama could do better for their home announce team than a 23-year-old kid fresh out of college.)

TEXAS CHRISTIAN [2-0] 35, Vanderbilt [1-2/0-2] 17.
30-14. This one was also on GamePlan. Dan Stricker was not on color. Vandy was again let down by their own miscues. The clock here was at least red, so it was semi-legible. CSS really needs to work on their graphics... the WAC game I saw between LaTech and Fresno had better overlays, and it was produced by an outfit I'd never heard of before.
SOUTH CAROLINA [2-1/0-1] 38, Alabama-Birmingham [1-2] 7.
42-10. They weren't booing, they were shouting "Lou".
HOUSTON [2-1] 38, Mississippi State [0-2] 31.
45-38. Sadly, I was right on this one, although State didn't blow the lead at least. (Yes, I am now feeling sorry for State. Don't worry, the emotion will pass.) Unfortunately, a TD-INT ratio of 3:5 will put you in a hole rather quickly.
NCAA Infractions Committee [∞-0] $12,000/player, AUBURN [1-2/1-0] 0.
No news is usually good news. Except in NCAA investigations.
OLE MISS [2-1/1-0]
No word yet on starting RB.
Texas Tech's game against NC State will be televised Saturday at 11 CDT on ESPN2. As NC State's offense is similar to that of Ole Miss, although perhaps even more pass-oriented, it may be a good preview of how the game in Oxford is likely to turn out.

NC State absolutely dominated Tech, despite an obscene 586 yards of passing by B.J. Symons. No more comments here... gotta wait for the Prognostication for the skinny!

Conference standings: UT's win over UF puts them in the SEC East lead, coupled with Georgia's loss. Everyone in the West is either 1-0 or 0-0 in conference at this point, with the first two divisional matchups coming this Saturday.

Time for the predictions. Thanks to my friends at the SEC office (who put this stuff on the web for anyone to read, including people like me), I have the actual, fact-filled "Week 5 Game Preview" in hand to help me predict the games. We'll see if this helps any. Surely at least I'll actually correctly name past opponents for teams.

As always, starting with JP's "heat death" game and working forward. Home team in CAPS, record [W-L/CW-CL], and TV...

KENTUCKY [2-2/0-1] 24, Florida [2-2/0-1] 17 [JP].
Florida comes into Commonwealth Stadium looking to get back on-track after imploding against UT. UK is 0-16 in the past 16 meetings between these squads, and if they were playing at the Swamp I'd probably give the edge to Zook's crew. But, to paraphrase Janet Jackson, they're not, so I can't. This same Kentucky squad has given Florida serious scares in its last two meetings, and "QB by committee" doesn't quite have the ring of "Rex Grossman." So, without the Swamp mystique, I have to go with the 'Cats.

Since I originally wrote this, Ron Zook has decided to go with Chris Leak as his sole starting QB. However, the prediction stands.

ALABAMA [2-2/1-0] 27, Arkansas [3-0/0-0] 14 [CBS].
You've got to figure CBS thought this game was much more attractive last Monday; now they'd probably want to swap with JP. Arkansas has looked pretty good, particularly in its win over Texas, but Bama probably isn't in the mood to be embarrassed at home for the third time in four games. Look for the Tide to stomp the Razorbacks in this one as they try to prove they are the rightful SEC West champions. [Aside: Am I the only one who finds Verne Lundquist and Todd Blackledge annoying?]
AUBURN [1-2/1-0] 35, Western Kentucky [3-0] 17.
The Tigers catch Western Kentucky looking ahead to their October 4 road date with I-AA powerhouse Western Illinois and pull off the upset.

Ok, maybe not. But I can't think of any other obvious reason why Auburn should win, since WKU has held its last three opponents to three points each and is ranked third in the I-AA rankings, and their kicker scored half of their points last week against EKU. Plus one of their players is obviously a military brat ("Heidelburg, Germany" is not your typical American high school), so I have to give them sentimental props. So what if they play in the "Gateway" conference (is this a new name for the OVC?). I have yet to figure out what Auburn's doing this season, but nonetheless I pick them to win simply because of SEC pride. Or something. But not-so-secretly I want the Hilltoppers to win.

Other interesting note: Tubby is a 1976 graduate of Southern Arkansas. If I didn't read the press release, I -would not know that- (spoken in Phil Hartman channeling Ed McMahon voice). Ok, enough silliness. Back to predictions.

Oh, we're saving that one for last. Never mind.
VANDERBILT [1-3/0-1] 17, Georgia Tech [1-3/0-2] 14 [PPV].
Yes, you read that right... PPV. Anyway, before I choke to death laughing hysterically, I guess I'd better justify why I'm picking Vanderbilt. Yes, Georgia Tech spanked Auburn, who in turn spanked Vanderbilt. And, as a firm believer in the transitive property, I should therefore believe that Georgia Tech will spank Vanderbilt. However, fundamentally I think Vandy is "due" and Ga Tech is probably looking forward to NC State.
TENNESSEE [3-0/1-0] 31, South Carolina [3-1/0-1] 17 [ESPN].
A UT win puts them in a pretty commanding position in the SEC East, all but eliminating USC from contention — in September. Ouch. Lou's done good work in Columbia, but ultimately the Gamecocks are no match for the Vols at home in Knoxcille.
Louisiana State [4-0/1-0] 45, MISSISSIPPI STATE [0-3/0-0] 7 [ESPN2].
Set your VCRs, folks, because this may be the last time you get to see Jackie Sherill on the sidelines of a football game on national television. This one could get ugly, particularly if the artificial noisemakers rule has to be enforced against State fans heckling their own team. And, last but not least…
OLE MISS [2-1/1-0] 38, Texas Tech [2-1] 21 [Webcast only].
The Red Raiders come into Oxford as the first Big XII foe to ever visit Vaught-Hemingway (which tells you something about Ole Miss's typical NonCon schedule). Despite piling up gaudy numbers, Tech's offense was quite ineffective last week against NC State's defense (and probably wasn't helped by absolutely horrible special teams play). On the other hand, Ole Miss's offense has shown signs of figuring out how to get the running game to work, and the defense has been more effective than in years past (despite some weakness in the secondary early on).

I'd definitely expect to see a shootout, perhaps reminicent of the Memphis game, with both Manning and Symons putting up obscene passing numbers. But Tech has a porus defense, giving up nearly 200 yards on the ground per game (and nearly 450 ypg total)--a weakness even the mediocre Ole Miss running backs can exploit, particularly when you consider Cutcliffe's penchant for the short passing game. That, home field, a team with essentially the same personnel motivated by its tough 42-28 loss in Lubbock last year, and the Rebels' quality special teams play (led by reliable PK Johnathan Nichols) should translate into a Rebel win. However, I also expect the Rebels to be lethargic early, which could open the doors for the Red Raiders to open a decent lead.