Last week , SEC football didn’t see any Halloween surprises. No ranked teams lost, and four of the six home teams won. Looking toward this weekend, the schedule only features four SEC games, but involves one of the most important matchups of the season in an SEC East battle between a pair of AP Top-10 teams.
No. 8 Florida (3-1) at No. 5 Georgia (4-1)
Saturday, Nov. 7 – Sanford Stadium – Athens, Ga.
3:30 p.m. on CBS
This afternoon’s CBS matchup has big implications for the SEC East standings. Anything can happen in college football, but after this weekend, neither team, as of now, is scheduled to face another ranked opponent. It’s very likely the winner of Florida vs. Georgia will play in the SEC Championship as they sit at second and first in the East, respectively. Florida’s strength is its offense, led by its dynamic Kyle duo in senior quarterback Kyle Trask and junior tight end Kyle Pitts. Georgia is a bit more balanced but certainly has a more consistent and intimidating defense. Trask holds the SEC’s second-best quarterback rating at 189 and is tied with Matt Corral for most passing touchdowns in the conference with 18. Georgia’s defense currently ranks 13th in the country in yards per game, 11th in yards per play and fourth in touchdowns allowed among teams who have played at least five games. The offense, on the other hand, ranks sixth in the SEC in points per game and 10th in passing yards per game. However, the Bulldogs do have a potent rushing attack that ranks third in the conference in terms of rushing yards per game with 175. Overall, Georgia appears to be the more cohesive team on paper and has a clear defensive advantage over Florida, whose defense gives up an average of almost 30 points per game. This game will ultimately come down to which defense can make a few crucial stops, and the evidence supports that Kirby Smart’s Bulldogs can do just that.
Prediction: Georgia 30, Florida 27
Tennessee (2-3) at Arkansas (2-3)
Saturday, Nov. 7 – Razorback Stadium – Fayetteville, Ar.
7:30 p.m. on SEC Network
Tennessee is coming off of a bye week following a three-game losing streak to Georgia, Kentucky and Alabama. The Volunteers started the season 2-0 with wins against South Carolina and Missouri, but have struggled as they’ve faced stiffer competition. Over their last three contests, they’ve allowed an average of 42 points a game while only scoring an average of 15 points. They’re 24 percent on third-down conversions, have had 24 penalties and have also lost the time of possession battle in all three losses. The volunteers have also averaged only 267 total yards per game in that time. They managed to score just seven points against Kentucky as quarterback Jarrett Guarantano threw two pick-sixes. For Arkansas, since losing to Georgia on opening weekend, the Razorbacks have gone 2-2, but they’ve been a lot more competitive this season with new head coach Sam Pittman, Florida quarterback transfer Feleipe Franks and the emergence of sophomore receiver Treylon Burks. Arkansas will host the Volunteers, and in its last home game against Ole Miss, a 33-21 win, Burks hauled in 11 balls for 137 yards and a touchdown while the defense forced a stunning seven turnovers. That likely won’t happen again, but Arkansas is the overall better team, has more consistent quarterback play and the coaching advantage in this one.
Prediction: Arkansas 24, Tennessee 21
Vanderbilt (0-4) at Mississippi State (1-4)
Saturday, Nov. 7 – Davis Wade Stadium – Starkville, Miss.
4 p.m. on SEC Network
Both of these squads are coming off of tough losses. Vanderbilt let Lane Kiffin and Ole Miss log 645 yards in a 54-21 loss at home, while Mississippi State was shut out by Alabama 41-0. In the four games since scoring 44 in a Week 1 win over LSU, Mike Leach’s Bulldogs have only scored 30 points and have found the endzone just four times. They continue to struggle mightily at the quarterback position as freshman Will Rogers threw just 147 yards on 37 pass attempts along with two interceptions in his first game as K.J. Costello’s replacement. Costello eventually came in to replace him but didn’t do much better, going 4-of-11 for 16 yards. Mississippi State ended with just 200 total yards. On the flipside, the Commodores are looking to build off of what was the best offensive showing of their season. Freshman quarterback Ken Seals threw for 319 yards and a pair of touchdowns as the offense logged 421 total yards. Junior receiver Cam Johnson was Seals’ favorite target as the offensive team captain caught 14 balls for 97 yards. With Vanderbilt having a bit of offensive momentum, and with Mississippi State coming off its worst game of the year, the Commodores could be looking at their best chance to win a game this season.
Prediction: Vanderbilt 20, Mississippi State 17