Friday, September 9, 2011

Week 2: SEC Picks to Watch

By: @LivingCrimson

In my bow to superstition, no predictions on Alabama football. All picks to win are mine and do NOT follow Vegas lines.

Bama Penn State clash

Alabama vs. Penn State

No. 3 Alabama (1-0, 0-0 SEC) at No. 23 Penn State (1-0, 0-0 B1G)

3:30pm EST / 2:30pm CST (ABC)

Series record: Alabama leads 9-5

The Crimson Tide travels to Happy Valley to face the Nittany Lions on Saturday, September 10, 2011. ABC announcers will be Brad Nessler and Todd Blackledge, with Holly Rowe on the field.

All-Time Historical Bama Milestones involving Penn State: Most quarterback hurries in a game (Derrick Thomas, 9, Oct. 22, 1988); 6th most yardage in a game (Walter Lewis, 336 pass, 37 rush, Oct. 8, 1983); 6th most rushing yards and 4th most rushing attempts in a game (Bobby Humphrey, 220 yards on 36 attempts, Sep. 12, 1987); 2nd most consecutive rushes in a game (Bobby Humphrey, 13, Sep. 12, 1987); 5th and 6th most pass attempts in a game (Gary Hollingsworth, 45, Oct. 27, 1990, 43, Oct. 28, 1989); 5th most pass completions in a game (Gary Hollingsworth, 26, Oct. 28, 1989); 4th longest field goal (Van Tiffin, 53 yards, Oct. 13, 1984).

Notable Notes: A sellout crowd of more than 108,000 is expected ... Philip Sims and Penn State freshman DT Evan Hailes attended the same high school in Chesapeake, Va. ... Alabama has held opponents to negative rushing yards in its last two contests, dating back to the 49-7 win Jan. 1 over Michigan State at the Capital One Bowl. ... Nittany Lions sophomore Silas Redd is off to a promising start as the featured back after running for 104 yards on 12 carries last week, including 94 yards by the second quarter.

Quotable Quote: Alabama grad and ESPN studio host Rece Davis … “No non-Big Ten opponent has beaten Joe Paterno's team more often than Alabama. No one has burned the Nittany Lions to their soul the way Alabama has.”

Box Scores: Last weekend, Bama faced unranked Kent State (0-1,0-0 MAC) at Bryant-Denny Stadium, winning the game 48-7. Penn State faced unranked Indiana State (0-1,0-0 MVC) at Beaver Stadium, winning the game 41-7. Bama and Penn State last faced off in 2010, with Alabama winning 24-3.

Game Notes: Alabama Game Notes and recap/history from RollTide.com; Penn State Game Notes from GoPSUSports.com.

Roll Tide!

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MissSt helmet away

Mississippi State vs. Auburn

No. 16 Mississippi State (1-0, 0-0 SEC) at Auburn (1-0, 0-0 SEC)

12:21pm EST / 11:21am CST (ESPN3 / SEC Network)

Series record: Mississippi State leads 59-23-2

Pick to Win: Mississippi State by 14 points

The Bulldogs travel to Jordan-Hare Stadium to face the Tigers on Saturday, September 10, 2011. SEC Network announcers will be Dave Neal and Andre Ware with Cara Capuano on the field.

This game opens SEC play for both teams. Mississippi State was very close to defeating SEC West winner Auburn in 2010, and returns its starting quarterback Chris Relf and explosive running back Vick Ballard. Auburn returns the fewest starters in the nation with six, and will now field eight scholarship walk-ons and as many as fifteen true freshmen.

After last week’s game, Ballard was named the SEC Offensive Player of the Week after rushing for 166 yards on 10 carries and three touchdowns (the fifth time in 13 games). Ballard now leads the SEC and is fifth in the nation in rushing. He’s a big, bruising back and hard to bring down and is the key to this game. Auburn cannot defend against him. The Tigers gave up five TDs and 227 yards rushing to Utah State last week … a WAC team. Ballard will run around, through and over a very young and inexperienced Auburn defense.

Mississippi State should dominate Auburn on both sides of the line, bringing a balanced attack on offense and an improved defense. Auburn’s OC Gus Malzahn will engineer quick scoring plays with its talented offensive players, so don’t expect the game to be a shutout for the Bulldogs. However, experience and depth for MSU will win the day.

My inclination is to predict an absolute annihilation by Mississippi State, but Malzahn can make any quarterback successful and somehow keep a defense honest (the irony).

Quotable Quote: Former Auburn head coach Pat Dye on what Mississippi State is thinking about this game … “I'd be licking my chops.”

Box Scores: Last weekend, Mississippi State faced unranked Memphis (0-1,0-0 CUSA) at Liberty Bowl stadium, winning the game 59-14. Auburn faced unranked Utah State (0-1,0-0 WAC) at Jordan-Hare Stadium, winning the game 42-38. Mississippi State and Auburn last faced off in 2010, with Auburn winning 17-14.

Game Notes: Mississippi State Game Notes from MStateAthletics.com; Auburn Game Notes from AuburnTigers.com.

Watch on TV and Online: On TV, PDF of cable affiliates carrying the SEC Network TV channel and DirecTV channels. Online ESPN3 links to upcoming football games.

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SouthCarolina helmet away2

South Carolina vs. Georgia

No. 12 South Carolina (1-0, 0-0 SEC) at Georgia (0-1, 0-0 SEC)

4:30pm EST / 3:30pm CST (ESPN / ESPN3)

Series record: Georgia leads 46-15-2

Pick to Win: South Carolina by 3 points

The Gamecocks will travel to Sanford Stadium to face the Bulldogs on Saturday, September 10, 2011. ESPN announcers will be Sean McDonough and Matt Millen with Heather Cox on the field.

This game opens SEC play for both teams. Under Mark Richt, the Bulldogs lead the series 7-3. Seven of those games have been decided by seven points or less. Anything goes in this rivalry game and both teams usually play above their ability.

2010 SEC East winner South Carolina returns its starting offensive trifecta of quarterback Stephen Garcia, Heisman hopeful RB Marcus Lattimore and predicted 1st round draft pick WR Alshon Jeffery. The Gamecocks are only the second team in the country to return a 3,000-yard passer, a 1,000-yard rusher, and a 1,000-yard receiver.

USC’s defense, however, is uneven. Considered to have one of the better DLs in the conference but a leaky secondary, it gave up 260 yards passing and 5 TDs to East Carolina last weekend … a C-USA team. Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray will torch the Gamecocks defense, especially if he throws to big TE Orson Charles. However, UGA is fielding a very young, inexperienced team with practically no depth. South Carolina’s relentless rushing (Lattimore ran for 182 yards and two TDs last year vs UGA) will outpace any Georgia scoring and seal the win.

The outcome of this game has no comparison to the Georgia-Boise State game or any business as a measuring stick for Boise State versus the SEC. In an intense SEC rivalry, the result is rarely predicted by previous games.

Quotable Quote: Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Mark Bradley on Mark Richt’s hot seat… “[L]osing to South Carolina could well convince Bulldog Nation that there will never again be great days under this coach, and once that happens there’s almost no going back.”

Box Scores: Last weekend, South Carolina faced unranked East Carolina (0-1,0-0 CUSA) at Bank of America Stadium in North Carolina, winning the game 56-37. Georgia faced no. 5 Boise State (1-0,0-0 MWC) at the Georgia Dome, losing the game 21-35. South Carolina and Georgia last faced off in 2010, with South Carolina winning 17-6.

Game Notes: South Carolina Game Notes from GamecocksOnline.com. Georgia Game Notes from GeorgiaDogs.com.

Watch on TV and Online: On TV on the ESPN channel. Online ESPN3 links to upcoming football games.

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Tennessee helmet home

Tennessee vs. Cincinnati

Cincinnati (1-0, 0-0 B1G) at Tennessee (1-0, 0-0 SEC)

3:30pm EST / 2:30pm CST (ESPN2 / ESPN3)

Series record: Tennessee leads 4-1

Pick to Win: Tennessee by 10 points

The Vols will host the Bearcats at Neyland Stadium on Saturday, September 10, 2011. ESPN announcers will be Mike Patrick and Craig James with Jeannine Edwards on the field.

Both teams are in the second year under their respective head coaches and both are trying to bounce back from losing seasons. Tennessee hasn’t begun the season 2-0 since 2006. Cincinnati returns 16 starters from a team that went 4-8 in 2010.

Expect this game to be another SEC romp over a Big East team. The Bearcats will face more than 100,000 very loud, hostile fans repeatedly singing “Rocky Top” along with blaring speakers. If the mental torture doesn’t get to them, then SEC football will.

Last weekend Cincinnati fielded eight true freshmen and eight redshirt freshmen, along with an offense weighted more than 2-to-1 rushing over passing. Big East rushing will likely not have success against an SEC defense, weakened though the Vols may be from injuries and other attrition. Look for the Bearcats to take to the air, which will be matched pretty evenly by Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray (with an SEC best 5-1 as a returning starter, averaging +300 yards per game, and currently the fifth highest national QB rating). A Vols win this weekend will be their sixth straight regular season victory, a good indication of the effectiveness of Bray’s offense (returning a total of 7 starters).

An upper hand for Cincinnati lies in its turnover margin; it forced five turnovers and didn't commit any in its last game. Conversely Tennessee fumbled six times (didn’t lose any) and threw two interceptions (negated by penalty). In the end, though, expect the Vols tough SEC play to overwhelm the Bearcats and propel Tennessee to the win.

If the Vols weren’t injured in certain key positions, would really have to predict a blowout by Tennessee.

Quotable Quote: GoVolsXtra John Adams …“Cincinnati just doesn't seem like a BCS team. [It] resembles a C-USA team on the field.”

Box Scores: Last weekend, Tennessee faced Montana (0-1,0-0 Big Sky) at Neyland Stadium, winning the game 42-16. Cincinnati faced Austin Peay (0-1,0-0 OVC) at home in Nippert Stadium, winning the game 72-10. Tennessee and Cincinnati last faced off in 1992, with Tennessee winning 40-0.

Game Notes: Tennessee Game Notes from UTSports.com. Cincinnati media guide from GoBearcats.com.

Watch on TV and Online: On TV on ESPN2 channel. Online ESPN3 links to upcoming football games (blacked out in Tennessee).

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Vegas Spreads On Other SEC Games:

Kentucky vs. Central Michigan, Commonwealth Stadium

12:00pm EST / 11:00am CST (ESPNU)

Line: Kentucky by 10.5

Mississippi vs. Southern Illinois, Vaught Hemingway Stadium

6:00pm EST / 5:00pm CST (ESPN3)

Line: Ole Miss by 18


No. 18 Florida vs. UAB, Ben Hill Griffin Stadium (The Swamp)

7:00pm EST / 6:00pm CST (FoxSportsSouth / ESPN3)

Line: Florida by 23.5

No. 14 Arkansas vs. New Mexico, War Memorial Stadium

7:00pm EST / 6:00pm CST (ESPNU)

Line: Arkansas by 36

Vanderbilt vs. Connecticut, Vanderbilt Stadium

7:30pm EST / 6:30pm CST (ESPN3)

Line: Vandy by 2

No. 2 LSU vs. Northwestern, Tiger Stadium (Death Valley)

8:00pm EST / 7:00pm CST (ESPN3)

Line: LSU by 47

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