Mississippi Rebels defensive end Robert Nkemdiche (5) and Southeast Missouri State Redhawks wide receiver Art Mueller (84) fight for the line during the first half at Vaught-Hemingway Stadiumlast Saturday in Oxford, Miss. (Spruce Derden/USA Today Sports)
After going a perfect 12-0 last weekend, Daily Post staff correspondent Andrew Hall is now 22-3 overall in predicting SEC football games this season. Here are his picks for this weekend.
No. 7 Louisville at Kentucky
Kentucky opened the season by allowing 35 points to Western Kentucky. Teddy Bridgewater and Louisville have scored over 40 points in each of their first two games. I think the Cardinals are going to put up some points. At best, this game pits a Heisman Trophy Candidate in Bridgewater against a rising star at quarterback (Kentucky’s Maxwell Smith leads the SEC in passer efficiency). At worst, this game pits a BCS Bowl-bound team in Louisville against a Wildcats team that might not win more than two games.
Our pick: Louisville by 21.
Southern Mississippi at Arkansas
Saturday, 12:21 p.m./SEC-TV
Both Southern Miss and Arkansas disappointed in 2012, but the Razorbacks appear to be on the rebound after a 2-0 start. Southern Miss, however, has now lost 14 consecutive games. Bret Bielema continues his early season success in his first year with the Hogs.
Our pick: Arkansas by 17.
Tennessee at No. 2 Oregon
Saturday, 3:30 p.m./ABC
Last year, the Vols managed to win games against N.C. State and Georgia State to open the season and in doing so found themselves briefly ranked inside the Top 25 before losing to Florida. Fortunately, expectations aren’t quite that high for Tennessee this year, even after another 2-0 start. So the letdown might not be there for Butch Jones in his first year. Oregon is a very good football team with significantly more talent and depth than Tennessee, and to expect an upset would be ill-advised.
Our pick: Oregon by 21.
No. 1 Alabama at No. 6 Texas A&M
Saturday, 3:30 p.m./CBS
Arguably the most anticipated game of the season, this matchup puts top-ranked Alabama in College Station taking on Johnny Manziel and the homestanding Aggies. The winner of this game has a leg-up in the SEC West and a clearer path to the BCS National Championship Game. Manziel has played well (when he’s been on the field), and we’ve only seen Alabama once this season, but I have a hard time betting against Nick Saban’s thirst for revenge.
Our pick: Alabama by 10.
Mississippi State at Auburn
Saturday, 7 p.m./ESPN2
Both of these teams project to finish in the middle of the SEC West behind titans like Alabama, LSU and Texas A&M. Nonetheless, this game could serve to differentiate either the Bulldogs or the Tigers among a group of peers that also includes Ole Miss and Arkansas. Mississippi State has experienced more recent success, but Auburn has more talent. This should be a low scoring affair between two mediocre offenses.
Our pick: Auburn by 10.
Vanderbilt at No. 13 South Carolina
Saturday, 7 p.m./ESPN
When these teams get together, low scoring battles tend to occur. Over the past six seasons, the average game between these two squads has seen fewer than 30 total points scored. South Carolina’s defense seemed susceptible at times against Georgia last week, and Vanderbilt’s defense broke down several times against Ole Miss in week one. Accordingly, I’d expect a few more points scored this year.
Our pick: South Carolina by 14.
Kent at No. 8 LSU
Saturday, 7 p.m./ESPNU
Kent has struggled to score this season (averaging fewer than 20 points per game) while LSU is averaging over 45 points per game. Combine that with home field and talent advantages for LSU, and this could be a very lopsided outing on the scoreboard. Look for Zach Mettenberger to continue his hot play for the Tigers while LSU’s young defense makes a statement against an inferior opponent.
Our pick: LSU by 35.
No. 25 Ole Miss at Texas
Saturday, 8 p.m./Longhorn Network
Texas has been in the news for all the wrong reasons this week thanks to the Longhorns’ defense allowing over 500 yards rushing to BYU. That of course led to defensive coordinator Manny Diaz being fired just two weeks into the season. Meanwhile, Ole Miss used a narrow victory over Vanderbilt and a 31-13 win over Southeast Missouri State to somehow sneak into the Top 25. I’m not sure how good Ole Miss looked in week one or how bad Vanderbilt’s defense looked, but I’m not quite ready to peg Hugh Freeze’s team in the Top 25. And, I can’t quite wrap my mind around Longhorns losing a game at home after so many embarrassing storylines were rubbed in their faces this week.
Our pick: Texas by 7.