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Fearless Predictions: SEC
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Posted: 2 hours ago

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Game of the Week
LSU (9-2) at Arkansas (10-1)
— Friday at 2:30 p.m. ET
Why to watch: While Arkansas has already clinched the SEC West and will play Florida for the conference title next week, in the court of public opinion, this will be for the honor of being the best team in the division. Arkansas is fourth in the pecking order behind Michigan, USC and Florida in the hunt for the number two spot in the BCS race behind Ohio State, but that can change in a huge hurry with an impressive win over the Tigers and a blowout over the Gators. For LSU, it's playing for a possible at-large BCS bid. Notre Dame and Michigan are locks, while Boise State has to beat Nevada to leave just one spot let. If the Broncos lose and LSU beats Arkansas, Les Miles' crew, currently on a five-game winning streak, might be Rose Bowl bound.
Why LSU might win: Defense, defense, defense. LSU's D is number one in the country, third in scoring D, eighth against the pass, and most importantly in this game, sixth against the run allowing just 75 yards per game. The defensive line has dominated all season giving up just three 100-yard team rushing games and four touchdowns. How did Ole Miss come so close to pulling off the shocker? LSU's offense went through the motion and RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis had a workmanlike 96-yard day. Chalk it up to a bit of a letdown; the Tigers will be frothing at the mouth looking to shut down Darren McFadden and the Hog ground game. Arkansas can't win if it has to throw.
Why Arkansas might win: Has LSU actually faced a running team yet? Auburn and Kenny Irons moved the ball a bit, but they've hardly been sensational this year. Fresno State got down big early and had to throw. Tennessee's ground game was dead in the water once QB Erik Ainge was knocked out allowing the Tigers to put eight men in the box on every play. The Hog offensive line will hit LSU in the mouth for one of the first times all season long while McFadden and Felix Jones are the best backs the defense has seen. On the other side of the ball, the Hog defense might be among the most underrated in the nation and should keep this from being any sort of a shootout. Take away the 50 point disaster in the opener against USC and Arkansas is giving up just 12 points per game.
Who to Watch: McFadden didn't get into the Heisman race this year despite rushing for 1,303 yards and 12 touchdowns, catching a scoring pass, throwing for two scores and returning a kickoff for a touchdown. He can establish himself early on as the front runner for the 2007 campaign if he lights up LSU for 100 yards in front of a national audience. The real key for the Hogs will be sophomore QB Casey Dick, who doesn't have to throw for 300 yards, but he does have to be effective on third downs and can't turn the ball over. In other words, he has to managed the game.
What Will Happen: Arkansas will run better on LSU than any team has all year, and the Hog defensive front will shut down the Tiger running game, but JaMarcus Russell will come up with two sharp second half drives to win a classic.
Line: Pick
Must See Rating: (5 skip the birth of your first born - 1 Deck the Halls) ... 4.5
Fearless Prediction: LSU 17 ... Arkansas 13

Florida (10-1) at Florida State (6-5) — Saturday at 12 p.m. ET
Why to Watch: It's beauty contest time. USC has a spot in the national title there for the taking by beating Notre Dame and UCLA, and while the Gators are still sort of in the hunt, no one's doing backflips over the idea of putting them in over Michigan if the Trojans lose. Florida, who's going to the SEC Championship game next week to face Arkansas, has to make the voters want to see a Buckeye-Gator matchup, and the only way that happens is with a complete and total obliteration of Florida State followed up by an impressive blowout win over Arkansas. It's not that Florida has been bad, it's that it's been, well, zzzzzzzzs in tight wins over average teams like Vanderbilt, South Carolina and Georgia. Florida State needs some sort of a win to pull up out of the nosedive into mediocrity after losing to Wake Forest and struggling against Western Michigan over the last two weeks. The nightmare of a season can take an immediate turn by ruining Florida's national title dreams.
Why Florida might win: The Florida State offense has been abysmal since good performances against Maryland and Virginia. The running game was always an issue, but all of a sudden, the passing attack went from inconsistent to non-existent with Drew Weatherford and Xavier Lee taking turns to see who can stink more. Part of the problem has been the mediocre play of an offensive line that's not giving the quarterbacks enough time to work and isn't opening up anything for the running game. The Florida defensive line, now that it gets DE Jarvis Moss back from a one-game suspension, will take up residence in the Seminole backfield.
Why Florida State might win: Pressure. Lost in FSU's lost season has been the great play of the blitzing, attacking linebacking corps that's making play after play in the backfield and doing a great job of getting to the quarterback. Florida's tackles have been average at best in pass protection, and time and time again, QB Chris Leak has proven to be lousy when he's under any sort of a hurry. Give Leak time and he'll carve you apart. Get someone in his face and his throws will sail all over the place. The Seminole secondary will get several chances to make plays, and if it can take advantage, the offense will get short fields to work with.
Who to Watch: In this week's edition of Florida State's game of musical chairs, Weatherford will get the start despite completing nine of 25 passes for 86 yards and two interceptions over the last two weeks. The coaching staff plans to let him go as long as he's effective, unlike last week, when the idea was to get Xavier Lee more work early on. Lee completed nine of 13 passes for 144 yards and two touchdowns against Western Michigan, and was far better than Weatherford, but there's no set plan to get him on the field.
What Will Happen: Florida State will be jacked up early, and the defense will keep this from getting ugly, but it won't matter. Florida will play its tightest game in weeks pulling away in the second half.
Line: Florida -9.5
Must See Rating: (5 skip the birth of your first born - 1 Deck the Halls) ... 3.5
Fearless Prediction: Florida 31 ... Florida State 17

Kentucky (7-4) at Tennessee (8-3) — Saturday at 12:30 p.m. ET
Why to watch: Can Kentucky really finish second in the SEC East? If Rich Brooks' team can beat the Vols for the first time since 1984, after losing 21 straight, it'll finish behind Florida as the East's second best team. To do that, it'll have to play night-and-day better than it did in a near choke in a 42-40 win over UL Monroe last week needing a missed two-point conversion to survive. Tennessee is still hoping to somehow sneak into a big bowl game like a New Year's Day bowl, but unless the SEC gets two teams into the BCS, the Music City Bowl is more likely. The Vols bounced back from a bad performance against Arkansas to throttle Vanderbilt 39-10 to keep hopes for a ten-win season alive.
Why Kentucky might win: When was the last time Tennessee faced a vertical passing game like Kentucky's? The league's best passing attack has been bombing away on everyone averaging 273 yards per game, while QB Andre Woodson has been terrific at keeping the mistakes to a minimum. LSU's JaMarcus Russell, South Carolina's Syvelle Newton and Florida's Chris Leak all threw effectively against the Vols able to dink and dunk their way up and down the field. However, they had interception issues. As long as Woodson doesn't throw three picks, UK should be O.K.
Why Tennessee might win: Erik Ainge has to be giddy as a kid after three pieces of pumpkin pie with whip at the idea of bombing away on the nation's worst defense, while the running game should be able to do whatever it wants to. UL Monroe ran for 351 yards and four touchdowns last week on the Wildcats, but the big problem throughout the year as been pass defense allowing a nation-worst 271 yards per game. Back from an ankle injury, Ainge showed how much better the offense is with him completing 21 of 26 passes for 266 yards and two touchdowns against Vanderbilt last week. Also, this might be the game ...
Who to Watch: ... Robert Meachem seals up a spot on the All-America team. Already in the hunt for major post-season honors, the Volunteer junior could be in for a 150-yard day against a UK secondary that can't cover, can't tackle, and should spend most of the game staring at No. 3 running away from it. As good as Meachem has been the SEC's hottest receiver is Kentucky's Keenan Burton with nine touchdowns in the last four games and 20 catches for 286 yards and five scores in the last two. Not just an explosive receiver, he's also been a tremendous kickoff returner averaging 25 yards per try.
What Will Happen: Oh this will be fun. Expect lots of scoring and over 600 passing yards between the two teams, but the Tennessee offense will also add about 250 yards on the ground.
Line: Tennessee -18
Must See Rating: (5 skip the birth of your first born - 1 Deck the Halls) ... 3
Fearless Prediction: Tennessee 48 ... Kentucky 23

South Carolina (6-5) at Clemson (8-3) — Saturday at 12 p.m. ET
Why to watch: South Carolina looks to get its first win in the bitter in-state rivalry for the first time since 2001. The Tigers have won four straight in the series and could desperately use a bit of a confidence boost after struggling a bit too much with NC State a few weeks ago and losing to Virginia Tech and Maryland after stomping on Georgia Tech in late October. The Gator Bowl would love to jump all over Tommy Bowden's club, even through the Chick-fil-A Bowl is more likely, but first, the Tigers have to win. South Carolina just wants to go somewhere, and it will, but it needs to win to be 100% assured of a spot. Coming off their best performance of the year in a 52-7 annihilation of Middle Tennessee, the Gamecocks are looking for their first good victory of the season. So far, their best win was over Kentucky, but they've battled hard against the big boys like Florida, Arkansas, Tennessee and Auburn.
Why South Carolina might win: Clemson's offense has lots of pizzazz and tons of production, but it's not scoring. Turnovers haven't really been a problem, and the productive balance has been there against everyone except Virginia Tech, but the points have been hard to come by over the last three weeks. South Carolina's defense gives up yards, but not a lot of points. On the other side of the ball, the USC offense has found its passing game as the season has gone on helped by the reemergence of Blake Mitchell, who has thrown for 876 yards over the last three games. Clemson's secondary hasn't faced a good passing game a top-notch passing game all year.
Why Clemson might win: The South Carolina run defense is overrated. It can be tough at times, and LB Jasper Brinkley has been unbelievable throughout the year, but the defense front can be moved around and the linebackers will give up a few next-level runs. Arkansas was able to crank out yards in chunks, while others haven't been able to come up with the balanced needed to open things up for the ground game. A few big deep throws early should be just enough to keep the safeties back and provide the sliver of daylight needed for the speed backs. Now ...
Who to Watch: ... can the 1-2 tandem of James Davis and C.J. Spiller produce? The world saw what they could do in the scintillating performance against Georgia Tech, and then the machine shut down against Virginia Tech and struggled to get back to the previous form. Spiller carried the day against NC State rushing for 154 yards and a touchdown, while Davis went from being a candidate for the Doak Walker award to off the map after running for 30 yards against Virginia Tech and 34 against the Wolfpack. If one's not running well, the other usually picks up the slack. If the two are rolling, Clemson is unstoppable.
What Will Happen: Make it five in a row. Clemson has too much firepower to be kept under wraps for a third straight week. USC's offense is way too average against good defenses. Blake Mitchell will go back to being Blake Mitchell.
Line: Clemson -5
Must See Rating: (5 skip the birth of your first born - 1 Deck the Halls) ... 3
Fearless Prediction: Clemson 26 ... South Carolina 17
Mississippi State (3-8) at Ole Miss (3-8) — Saturday at 2 p.m. ET
Why to Watch: The Egg Bowl might not hold any national interest and is only a battle between two 3-8 teams, but it's vital for momentum going into the off-season. Both programs are on the upswing, even if the wins aren't flowing, with Ole Miss battling LSU in an overtime loss and pushing Alabama and Auburn to the wall in recent weeks, while MSU had a nice game in a loss to Arkansas and beat Alabama a few weeks ago. The loser finishes in the bottom of the West, while the winner will turn the heat down for a few months.
Why Mississippi State might win: Ole Miss is one-dimensional with no passing game to help out BenJarvus Green-Ellis and the ground attack. The Bulldogs held Darren McFadden to 84 yards last week and the Hogs to 128 yards. If Quinton Culberson and the linebackers can be in the right positions, like they were throughout last week, and don't miss tackles, the middling Rebel offense will sputter and cough.
Why Ole Miss might win: Forget about MSU running the ball. The ground game has been better over the last few weeks with its second best game of the year last week against Arkansas, but it still only ran for 154 yards. Now that starting QB Michael Henig is out after breaking his collarbone, the explosiveness should be gone from the Bulldog attack meaning Patrick Willis and the Rebel linebackers should be able to fully focus on teeing off on the ground game.
Who to Watch: The quarterback situations for each team will be under the microscope. Ole Miss starter Brent Schaeffer is the starter, and the coaching staff desperately hopes he has a big game to springboard him into the off-season. Seth Adams stepped in against LSU when the offense was bogging down and completed three of five passes for 23 yards, and he could see time again if Schaeffer has another average performance. For Mississippi State, now-starting quarterback Omarr Conner wasn't bad earlier in the year, but the offense didn't go anywhere with him under center. In his final game, he gets one last shot.
What Will Happen: Don't expect fireworks in any form. It'll be a hard fought battle with the team that limits its mistakes coming up with the win. MSU will get a better game from its defense and will win on a late score.
Line: Ole Miss -3
Must See Rating: (5 skip the birth of your first born - 1 Deck the Halls) ... 2
Fearless Prediction: Mississippi State 20 ... Ole Miss 17

Georgia Tech (9-2) at Georgia (7-4) — Saturday at 3:30 p.m. ET
Why to Watch: While this might not be a rivalry to anyone outside of Georgia, and the Bulldogs might have a bigger beef with Florida and Tennessee, this is still a good grudge match. Georgia Tech has bigger fish to fry next week with the ACC championship game, but first it's looking for the first win over Georgia since 2000. If the Dawgs were ever ripe for the picking in the rivalry, this is the time with a team struggling to find any sort of consistency. It was able to thump Auburn with its best performance of the year to turn the season around after a stunning loss to Kentucky, and a win over Tech would mean a nine-win season is still possible. The Yellow Jackets don't just need this game, the ACC does, too. If Tech ends up as the ACC champion, a loss to an SEC also-ran isn't going to look good on a national scale.
Why Georgia Tech might win: Can The Georgia offense show up two games in a row? Auburn went through the motions on defense and got picked apart, and run over, by Matthew Stafford. The Dawg balance was as good as it's been all season long, but there were three fumbles adding to a rough season hanging on to the ball. Georgia Tech is fantastic at limiting mistakes and great at forcing turnovers, so it'll be a shock if it doesn't finish +2 in turnover margin. The Dawgs aren't going to be able to run the ball this week like they were able to at Auburn, so Stafford has to be sharp. Unfortunately, Tech is seventh in the nation in pass efficiency defense.
Why Georgia might win: The Yellow Jacket offense isn't exactly going to light up any Christmas trees. Even with Calvin and James Johnson making several big plays, the passing game is mediocre at best. The Georgia secondary has the athleticism and talent to put the clamps down on the Johnson's and should force Tech QB Reggie Ball into one of his patented 36% passing days. Also, remember where Tech's head might be. This might be a rivalry game, but next week's game is more important.
Who to Watch: Will Georgia have anyone to run the ball? Danny Ware appears to be good to go after suffering a knee/ankle injury against Auburn, while Kregg Lumpkin is fighting through a knee problem. These two have be more than just consistent, they need to carry the offense to keep the Tech linebackers from teeing off on Stafford. The freshman has to limit his mistakes. He didn't throw any picks and was efficient against Auburn, and Georgia won. He threw eight interceptions in the previous three games, and Georgia lost to Kentucky and Florida and barely beat Mississippi State.
What Will Happen: Tech will take home the Governor's Cup with a balanced offense, a oh-my-goodness touchdown catch from Calvin Johnson, and a swarming day from the defense.
Line: Georgia -2
Must See Rating: (5 skip the birth of your first born - 1 Deck the Halls) ... 3
Fearless Prediction: Georgia Tech 26 ... Georgia 17

For more previews, predictions and prognostications, go to the CollegeFootballNews.com.


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