Welcome back to SEC football, where Week 9 showed us that stranger things were certainly upon us during this pre-Halloween weekend slate of football games.
Kentucky beat Tennessee for only the second time in 33 years, Ole Miss blew a 31-7 lead to Arkansas and Georgia beat Florida so bad that Jim McElwain was fired the very next day. Alright, so maybe the weekend wasn’t THAT crazy.
But, either way, every week of football is a brand new week filled with new and old storylines. The mystery and utter impatience for our team during the week leading up to game day is what keeps us glued to our TVs, phones and laptops come Saturday. As I mentioned though, with SEC football, almost anything can happen.
And ladies and gentlemen, I have found the most likely storylines to cause an earthquake throughout the SEC and NCAA football universe. Here are the biggest and the boldest predictions for Week 10.
Missouri muzzles the Gators
If anyone is tuning into this game in hopes of watching a strong Gator offense in a chess match against a stout Missouri defense, you should probably just turn the game off. Heck, if you’re looking for a close game between these two, then you can again just turn off the TV because it is not happening.
I’ll tell you right now that Florida has about as good of a chance at winning this game as Rocky Balboa did the first time he fought Apollo Creed.
(Spoiler Alert: Rocky took a total beatdown)
For just a mid-card SEC East game this week, this game actually has some very intriguing storylines.
Mizzou is coming off of a 52-12 demolition derby against UConn in which junior quarterback Drew Lock exploded for 377 passing yards and five touchdowns while completing 31-of-37 passes for an impressive 83.8 completion percentage. Side note — Florida has crushed Missouri in the last two meetings, so the Tigers have some vengeance to play with.
Florida, on the other hand, will be playing its first game of the post-Jim McElwain era. McElwain was fired last Sunday, and defensive coordinator Randy Shannon will be making his interim coaching coaching debut. Although Shannon does have experience as a head coach (albeit seven years ago), I do not consider Florida to be under a quality former coach with Shannon. That experience was a long time ago, and I’d be willing to bet things will still be quite frantic.
Missouri is favored in this matchup by 3.5 points, and it’s reasonable to see why: the game’s at home, there’s uncertainty for the opposing locker room and a potential three-game winning streak is on the line for the Tigers. Missouri will win, but the small line seems criminal to me.
Mizzou hosts too much talent in the likes of Lock, receiver J’Mon Moore and talented running back Damarea Crockett. The boys in black and gold will to expose the Gators’ defense this Saturday.
I just can’t see the Florida defense stepping up on the road with all the controversy surrounding the program. Drew Lock will roll at home and put points on the board, flustering a Florida team whose future is up in the air.
The losing coach from Auburn at Texas A&M will be fired this offseason
This Saturday, the Auburn Tigers will travel to College Station to take on the Texas A&M Aggies — and if were being honest, this game is just another matchup between two SEC West teams with no football season implications on the line. However, there is something else to watch for during this game, and that’d be the two head coaches.
Kevin Sumlin and Gus Malzahn have been names that have been tossed out over and over this season as potential canned coaches. I believe that the hot seat under the loser of this game is going to turn in to a ball of flames.
The coaching careers of both Malzahn and Sumlin have actually been fairly similar. Since 2013, Malzahn has gone 11-1, 8-4, 6-6, and 8-4 again. Sumlin, since 2012, has gone 10-2, 8-4, 7-5, 8-4, and 8-4 again.
Where things get really interesting is in each coach’s first season at his respective school. Each’s extreme success in their first season was seemingly due to a one-hit wonder. Auburn’s miraculous 2013 team, led by Nick Marshall, made it all the way to the BCS National Championship game. I can only imagine that Auburn fans were convinced they found the next Nick Saban after that season, and things clearly did not keep going that way.
As for Kevin Sumlin and the Fightin’ Texas Ags, Johnny Manziel was the driving force of that 2012 run that ended with a blowout against former rival Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl. This was Johnny Heisman’s team, and everyone knew it.
When you look past that first season for each, you uncover a plateau of wins. Neither Malzahn nor Sumlin has surpassed nine wins at their school following their first season.
Now, I know what some of you are thinking. “Well, Ric, Auburn is 6-2 and second in the SEC West behind Alabama right now.”
Well, mystery reader, I would tell you to look at the rest of the Tigers’ schedule as well. They travel to A&M, host College Football Playoff rankings’ No. 1 and undefeated Georgia, host Louisiana Monroe and then travel to No. 2 and undefeated Alabama.
I see two to three losses during this four game stretch coming from Georgia and Alabama, and then potentially A&M. So Malzahn will end yet another season most likely at 8-4 — potentially 7-5.
Kevin Sumlin and the Aggies are in a similar boat. Texas A&M is sitting at 5-3, which isn’t a terrible place to be. While the road isn’t as hard as Auburn’s is, the Aggies upcoming schedule is no joke: No. 14 Auburn, New Mexico, Ole Miss and No. 19 LSU.
This is where things get interesting for Texas A&M and Sumlin. If the Aggies win against Auburn, I think that gives them enough momentum to potentially lose just one game, possibly even none of their remaining contests. Yes, 9-3 is a possibility. But at the same time, if A&M loses, I worry that this spirals out of control and leads to a 7-5, maybe even a 6-6 season.
Either way, for both of these teams, you can grudgingly mutter “…again” after you read their final records here in a few months. Same old song and dance for these coaches.
All I know is that I sure wouldn’t want to be the losing coach and have to explain this loss or season to my athletic director, especially with an angry fan base outside the door with pitchforks.
If Tennessee Loses, Changes Will Quickly Come
For a decade of seemingly eternity now, Tennessee football fans have been forced to watch some of the ugliest football games in the program’s history. Vol fans have found disappointment in big games and big moments every year of Butch Jones’ tenure at Tennessee, and things have only escalated (or de-escalated?) during the 2017 season.
We’ve seen prediction after prediction on when John Currie will make the call on Jones’ firing, whether it was for after Georgia, Alabama or a loss to Kentucky. Each week greeted Vol fans with a familiar sense of disappoint to see that an irregular press conference had not been scheduled.
If Tennessee loses to Southern Miss on Saturday night, Butch Jones will be promptly fired on Sunday morning.
There’s a few quick things that I want to unpack in this statement, because on the outside you could argue that if Tennessee hasn’t fired Jones after bad performances against UMass, Georgia, Alabama and Kentucky, then it probably won”t after Southern Miss either. And sure, that could be sound logic.
However, if Tennessee loses to Southern Miss, all sense of logic goes out the door — chaos takes its place. Fans reached their boiling points weeks ago against actual SEC competition. If the Vols lose to a mid-tier Conference USA team… I can’t even imagine the outlash.
Here’s the deal. If I was a betting man, I would still bet that Tennessee will win this game: that’s a victory for Tennessee and a loss for Southern Miss.
But, could Tennessee lose? Absolutely, and it wouldn’t be that much of a shock. I would give Southern Miss a 35-40 percent chance to win in Neyland come Saturday Night, and I think some people would even go higher with that number. But if Southern Miss wins — which we have collectively decided isn’t a crazy thought — there is a 100 percent chance that Butch Jones is not the coach moving forward from this game.
This is not the kind of game the University of Tennessee loses, even in a year as bad as this one. This could ignite one of the craziest eruptions of a fan base in college football history. A loss to Southern Miss will make fans’ reaction to the last nine weeks look civil.