This week’s College Football PNP articles will feature some key SEC games, including one of the sport’s biggest matchups of the season. We will also examine a game outside of the SEC that could provide an edge for those looking cash winning tickets this weekend.
The contenders and pretenders are starting to separate with most conferences well into play. Here are a couple of games that consist of both identities, with some still trying to find their way.
This is how we see these two day-time matchups playing out.
Tennessee vs. Kentucky
This is a game that will define the aforementioned ‘pretenders’ category more solidly as two programs in the SEC East are looking get out of middle ground in the division. Kentucky had disappointing performances against Auburn and Ole Miss to start the season. Tennessee was riding an eight-game winning streak as they led Georgia at halftime during last week’s loss. Then, the wheels came for the Vols.
A game against the Wildcats may be just what the doctor ordered in Knoxville. But a victory won’t come easy. Two out of the last three meetings have produced one-score affairs.
It’s hard to get a feel for this line, as Tennessee (-6.5) could easily bust things open with weapons like Josh Palmer on the outside. Even against a stiff Georgia defense, quarterback Jarrett Guarantano was able to connect deep with Palmer on a couple of occasions.
But the Vols’ focus will be on formulating a consistent run game. After finishing with negative rushing yardage against the Bulldogs, head coach Jeremy Pruitt will look to establish a formidable push up front. With the Georgia game taken out of the equation, Tennessee is averaging 4.3 yards per rush. The Vols ran 51 times for 232 yards against Missouri two weeks ago.
Kentucky’s defense appears to be solid against the run, ranking 13th in yards per carry (3.0). But this will be a step up in class for the Wildcats. Their first three opponents combined for a rush play percentage of just 38.5 percent. Mississippi State and Ole MIss have no interest in forming a power run game. And Kentucky’s first opponent, Auburn, introduced a shuffling offensive line.
I think Tennessee wins this game. It is a must-win for Pruitt considering last week’s demise. The Wildcats are sandwiched in between the disappointment in Athens and rival Alabama. The Vols can’t afford to lose two straight while staring at Alabama. Pruitt gets the job done and does so by attacking Kentucky right in the gut. Tennessee’s offensive line will gain some respect back.
Recommendation: Tease this game with the next preview.
Texas A&M at Mississippi State
Davis Wade Stadium
4:00 PM EST
The oil tycoons are resting a little easier now that head coach Jimbo Fisher has finally won a big-time SEC game outside of the 7-OT thriller down in College Station, TX two years ago.
Fisher won’t get to 10 wins inside the regular season this year, but that seems to be the mark set for contending with the likes of Alabama for first-class in the conference. Despite being blown out by the Tide a couple of weeks ago, the Aggies still have a chance to do damage in the SEC. Last week’s victory against Florida provides enough momentum for Fisher to go on a run. There are only two ranked opponents left on A&M’s schedule.
The line for this game is floating between (-5) and (-6). Texas A&M will try to avoid a letdown against a potentially-pesky Mike Leach attack. While State’s general defensive stats may look nice, their efficiency is not so great. The Bulldogs are allowing four yards per play, good for 5th in the nation. But if you look at their points per play metric, they are just average with a mark of .369.
Leach’s Air Raid is resulting in a -3 turnover margin and an extremely high interception rate (5.79%). State is among the worst in college football in both of those categories.
Meanwhile, the Aggies are averaging 5.3 yards on the ground to compliment Kellen Mond’s terrific start to the season. The senior quarterback has thrown for 845 yards with an efficient completion percentage (62.6%). Mond has seven touchdowns and just one interception.
Look for the Aggies to control this game. The only worry here is the unpredictable nature of Leach. A&M could struggle through a hangover and experience some lumps in defending the nation’s No. 1 passing attack. But in the end, Fisher keeps the oil money happy. Couple this with the Vols in a 6-point, two-team teaser. You may even get a point with A&M. This should yield around a (-120) line. Vols win, Aggies win. Money in your pocket.
Vols, Aggies 6-point teaser
Other Fan Run picks and predictions: Hayden Wallen: Ole Miss( -1.5), South Carolina (+2.5) Trey Wallace: Georgia (+4.5), South Carolina (+2.5) Billy Williford: UNC (-14.5) AJ Cook: “Fade Mississippi State” Nate Hodges: “I like Ole Miss and Bama”