It’s the second week of SEC play and at least week three for the others in FBS. Intriguing matchups continue to take place across the college football landscape. This weekend offers everything from one of the sport’s oldest rivalries in primetime to a couple of enticing battles at high noon on Saturday.
Here are a few picks and predictions that will probably aide in keeping up a sweat as temperatures cool across the country.
Arkansas State at Coastal Carolina, Noon EST
This is a tilt between two Sun-Belt teams who have already added some nice wins to their resume. The Red Wolves beat Kansas State 35-31 a few weeks ago. The Chanticleers beat Les Miles and the Kansas Jayhawks for their first victory of the season on the same day. Arky State has had two weeks off, while Coastal had a bye last week. This will be the first conference game for either team.
Look for the Red Wolves to get out ahead of the Chanticleers early. Arky State is led by a passing attack that ranks among the best so far this year. They are averaging a shade over 40 passing attempts per game. The Red Wolves’ rotation of quarterbacks has produced 629 yards through the air. They also have a respectable ground game, averaging 4.1 yards per carry.
Coastal has been more efficient toting the rock. The teal ground attack is averaging 4.85 yards on 78 carries. The Chanticleers have impressed early. They’ve created 4 turnovers while surrendering none. There’s much to like about this team by the sand. They even have bleached-blonde mullets to go along with a teal field.
Arkansas State has played a higher class each week. Coastal is the sexy pick, but Arky St. has faced some adversity already. The Chanticleers let Campbell hand around too long while giving up 21 points to the Camels’ offense. The Red Wolves will be on the prowl this week, and they’ll scavenge the Myrtle Beach area looking for a healthy W. Ultimately, Coastal will be stopped short to many times. The Red Wolves defense has only given up 10 third down conversions on 28 attempts. Look for the away team to put the Chanticleers in unfamiliar territory by forcing adverse situations. Home field advantage is not a factor in this one. Arky State by a field goal.
Arkansas State -3 (-120)
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Tennessee vs. Missouri, Noon EST
Another early game that could provide some fun action is an SEC bout between the Missouri Tigers and the Tennessee Volunteers. The Vols are coming off of a 31-27 victory against South Carolina, while the Tigers are coming off a 38-19 defeat at the hands of Alabama.
Make no mistake about it. The seemingly respectable 19-point deficit is due to late game mudding by Nick Saban. The Crimson Tide started the fourth quarter with a 35-6 lead. Once Alabama rotated a litany of positions, the Tigers finally found pay dirt.
Tennessee looked somewhat dangerous at times against South Carolina. The Vols revealed the capability of being explosive on both sides of the ball. Quarterback Jarrett Guarantano moved the ball 65 yards into the end zone with just two pass plays on one drive. Sophomore sensation Henry To’oto’o also had a pick 6 that he returned for 31 yards after barreling over defenders.
These two teams have become familiar with one another after Missouri joined the conference in 2012. The Tigers hold a 5-3 edge. The points and results have been all over the place in this brief relationship. A few years later, this matchup continues to be intriguing from a 51-48 (Mizzou) shootout in their first meeting to a 19-8 (Vols) rock fight in blistering conditions.
One commonality of late involves the under for these two teams. The under has cashed in nine of Tennessee’s last 12 games and 14 of Missouri’s last 19.
I think we see touchdowns as a premium in this game. The Vols have way more weapons, and Tigers’ head coach Eli Drinkwitz knows it. Look for Missouri to eat the clock while trying to move methodically down the field. They will utilize running back Larry Rountree III out of the backfield. The senior has totaled 370 yards in his career versus the Volunteers.
Drinkwitz kept defensive coordinator, Ryan Walters, onboard as the Tigers’ defensive manager when the new head coach landed in Co-Mo. That might have been his best move of the offseason. Walters has produced good results during his 6 seasons in Columbia. Last year, his defense ranked among the best in FBS in total defense, giving up just 312 yards per game. The pass defense ranked 10th by giving up just under 180 yards per contest.
Tennessee got the news earlier this week that transfer guard Cade Mays will be eligible. Look for more of an emphasis on the ground attack. The Vols’ offensive line showed a lack of push at times in the other Columbia last week. With the addition of Mays, Tennessee will be inclined to put more stock in their front. Ty Chandler and Eric Gray combined for 132 yards on 25 carries against the Gamecocks defense. I think the Vols try to draw the Missouri safeties in. The Tigers return both starters at the position but have to replace two defensive backs at the corners.
The Vols should win this one with ease, but let’s lay off of a spread that’s giving up nearly two touchdowns. The script for both teams will develop a recipe for going under in this one.
UNDER 48.5 (-110)
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Georgia vs. Auburn, 7:30 PM EST
This one is pretty simple. Auburn has a leg up in the quarterback department. Yes, Georgia has a plethora of talent, but at least Guz Malzahn knows who his signal-caller is for the foreseeable future. And sophomore quarterback, Bo Nix, will only get better under the tutelage of offensive coordinator Chad Morris.
The Tigers have plenty of weapons on the outside with Seth Williams and company. The junior had 112 yards on 6 receptions against a good Kentucky pass defense. He also added 2 touchdowns. Anthony Schwartz and Eli Stove combined for 95 yards and a score. Junior Shedrick Jackson will join the mix this week in Athens. The nephew of all-time-everything great, Bo Jackson, hauled in a 25-yard score against the Bulldogs last season.
Auburn doesn’t lack in weapons, but they are shuffling an offensive line. They are also replacing stud defensive players, including 2019 All-American Derrick Brown. However, the Tigers could hold Kentucky to just 13 points in a 16-point victory last Saturday.
Georgia struggled with Arkansas early. Last week’s performance leaves much to be desired for Athens’ faithful. Many are delusional in thinking that quarterback JT Daniels will rectify all their needs at the quarterback position. Fans are putting a ton of stock into a player who has mediocre stats over a 12-game career. The transfer has tallied 2887 yards against mostly PAC-12 defenses. The redshirt sophomore has 15 touchdowns and 11 interceptions to further soften his resume. His replacement at USC, Kedon Slovis, went on to throw for over 3,500 yards and sling 30 touchdowns for USC in the same amount of games. The knee injury is the least of Georgia’s worries.
As Daniels becomes more acclimated, Stetson Bennett looks to be the answer for now. The former walk-on is a college quarterback’s, well, quarterback. He’s the epitome of a feel-good story. The Blackshear, Georgia product grew up dreaming of playing for the Bulldogs. After walking on in Athens in 2017, the quarterback transferred to a junior college for a year. Last season, he returned to the ‘Dawgs. Now, he seems to be their best option for the moment.
On the defensive side, Georgia has struggled being disruptive to opposing quarterbacks. In 2019, the Bulldogs belonged to the bottom half of FBS in adjusted sack rate. Georgia only accounted for 6 negative plays against a much inferior Arkansas offense last week. They will have to live in Auburn’s backfield if they want to win this game comfortably.
This game could turn into a rumble in a telephone booth. If Georgia can’t get pressure on Nix, Auburn will have a field day. If they can, Auburn’s run game won’t compensate for their skill on the perimeter. This is the game of the night, and I think a touchdown is plenty for the Tigers. The under continues to plummet, so we’ll monitor that number. In a low-scoring affair, a touchdown is gold. For now, take the TD and run with it like Bo. Trust me, I asked him. He knows.
Auburn +7.5 (-115)
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Other Fan Run Predictions:
Matt Hubbard: Auburn over Georgia 31-17, Oklahoma State over Kansas 42-17
Dylan Salor: Ole Miss over Kentucky 34-31
Hayden Wallen: Baylor (-3) lock of the week, Texas/TCU over 62.5, SMU over Memphis
Will Stevens: Jacksonville State over Florida State, also maybe even Jackson State over FSU
Tanner Carson: Auburn over Georgia by a field goal. LSU poops real hard against Candy