IAKOW Staff picks: week 8

SEC Games

Auburn at Arkansas

NWB: Auburn showed me something in a tough environment last week beating UK. The win was good enough to put Neil in the lead by one game, as I picked the Cats. I think they’ve turned a corner. Unfortunately, here’s the stat that matters Saturday: Arkansas is 15th in the nation against the run. Auburn is 100th. To paraphrase Will Muschamp: “You better learn to fit the power and counter” if you’re going to play Arkansas. Arkansas 34, Auburn 21

NS: I’m convinced Auburn is just a tailspin waiting to happen. They’ve never really gotten great quarterback play, their defense is averaging 426 yards a game and they’ve still got the toughest teams on their schedule remaining (Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, and Texas A&M). Arkansas, desperately seeking this win for bowl eligibility purposes, will happily kick start the process. Arkansas 38, Auburn 14

Tennessee at Alabama

NWB: Is Alabama the greatest one loss team since the 2007 New England Patriots? To hear some tell it, yes. Thing is- I still see a team with Jake Coker at quarterback that struggles against elite defenses. I’d pick Tennessee if the game were in Knoxville. It isn’t, and Derrick Henry is the difference in a dogfight. Alabama 20, Tennessee 14

NS: Tennessee would really, really like this win, but Alabama really, really needs it. I still think this Alabama team is vulnerable and could potentially be knocked out of playoff contention with another loss soon, but Tennessee’s defense isn’t good enough to be the team to do it. Josh Dobbs may put a scare into the Crimson Tide for a quarter or two, but Alabama runs its streak to eight in the rivalry in fairly convincing fashion. Alabama 31, Tennessee 10

Missouri at Vanderbilt

NWB: This is the most difficult conference game to pick this year. Mauk’s suspension (cocaine will get you four games most places) continues and Lock was sensational against South Carolina (most are) but has been miserable otherwise. I’d expect two of the nation’s better defenses to play great football, and for whichever team turns the ball over least to win. Some in Nashville are calling this a “must win” for Derek Mason, who has folks remembering the Woody Widenhofer era up in Anchor Down land. That’s an era head coaches don’t want to be compared to. Vanderbilt 13, Missouri 9

NS: Missouri essentially saw its hopes at an SEC East three peat vanish in an all time ugly loss to Georgia last week. And while my high school probably has a better offense than Mizzou, the Tigers’ defense is still stingy. Thing is, the same could be said for Vanderbilt. So this game may be the most unwatchable yet. But Russell Hansbrough and Ish Witter do just enough to get the win for the Show-Me State natives. Missouri 6, Vanderbilt 3

Western Kentucky at LSU

NWB: Hilltoppers beat Vanderbilt this season and can move the football. LSU has you know who in two weeks and is coming off an emotionally-draining win over Florida. Trap game? Sure. Good thing Leonard Fournette is trap-proof. LSU 38, Western Kentucky 21

NS: WKU will fight, like Eastern Michigan did. And they’ll lose fairly convincingly, like Eastern Michigan did. Brandon Harris has his coming out party in a romp. LSU 49, Western Kentucky 13

Texas A & M at Ole Miss

NWB: Desperate Rebels team that gets Laremy Tunsil back against Aggies squad hoping to stay in the New Year’s Six and Atlanta picture. This is big boy stuff in Oxford. I keep remembering all the pressure Florida got against Ole Miss with Bullard, McCallister, Jordan Sherit and Cece Jefferson and while Myles Garrett and Daeshon Hall don’t have as much help as those guys, they’ll pressure Chad Kelly a bit which should help a young secondary. I expect Kyle Allen to bounce back and Sumlin’s squad to get a huge road win. This is a game that reminds you of how brutal the SEC is… Texas A & M 27, Ole Miss 24

NS: Ole Miss can go one of two ways after a devastating loss to rival Memphis: they can fight back from it and win out to claim the SEC West’s spot in Atlanta, or they can sputter like a helicopter that’s had its engine shot. I’m going with the latter option. Kevin Sumlin is great at coaching his team to road victories, and he’ll get another big one here. Texas A&M 31, Ole Miss 17

Kentucky at Mississippi State

NWB: Mike Stoops has Kentucky playing at a good level but they’ve missed two great chances for program-changing wins at home. Now they head to Starkville to play a Bulldogs team that is solid all-around and still, at least tangentially, in the SEC West title race. Kentucky will make a bowl game but the best shot at a statement win will come against Georgia in November. Miss State 28, Kentucky 20

NS: I look at this game in a very suspicious manner. Kentucky’s on the rise, Mississippi State’s on the decline… but Mississippi State has the better team all across the field. Dak Prescott may not be a Heisman Trophy frontrunner this year, but he won’t have too much trouble against a so-so Kentucky defense. Mississippi State 41, Kentucky 24

National Games

FSU at Georgia Tech

NWB: Jackets one of the season’s biggest disappointments, but they are 7-2 at home vs ranked foes under Johnson. FSU has Clemson in two weeks but Saturday, but they won’t overlook a squad that pushed them in the ACC Championship last season. Main thing in this game is that Dalvin Cook is averaging almost 9 yards a carry and Georgia Tech surrenders 5.2 a carry. That’s a mismatch. FSU 38, Georgia Tech 17

NS: This ACC Championship Game rematch looked like a lot more fun back in the summer. Now, the Jackets are 2-5 and staring at going from Orange Bowl champs to becoming bowl ineligible in October (GT plays Virginia next week). What a turnaround. FSU is in no real danger here as long as Dalvin Cook’s hamstring doesn’t flare up. FSU 37, Georgia Tech 21

Clemson at Miami

NWB: Deshaun Watson just threw for 420 yards against a BC defense that made Everett Golson look like Skyler Mornhinwheg. So Clemson is a team that is just starting to figure out how good it can be. Miami can compete talent-wise with everyone in the conference, and they are at home, which means family and friends plus another handful of people who got lost on the way to South Beach will be there. The question for me is how much confidence did Miami get leading FSU late in Tallahassee two weeks ago? And can Joseph Yearby give them enough running the ball to make life easier on Brad Kaaya? If they do, they’ll save Al Golden’s job. Miami 27, Clemson 24.

NS: No way Clemson gets caught looking ahead to next week’s showdown against FSU, right? Deshaun Watson is coming off a huge performance against the nation’s best defense (Boston College), and now he faces a Hurricane defense that’s 60th in FBS in yards per game allowed. He’ll take advantage, for sure- but not before Brad Kaaya frightens the suddenly cocky Clemson fan base with a big showing of his own. Clemson 34, Miami 21

Utah at USC

NWB: Bizarre to see a team ranked #3 in the country a road underdog to a team with three losses and an interim coach. Will look even more bizarre after the game. Utah 26, USC 20.

NS: Why in the name of all things holy is USC a three point favorite against the 3rd ranked team in the nation? The Vegas spread setters’ sudden desire to lose a lot of money is of no concern to Travis Wilson, though, who will guide Utah to a lopsided win over Los Angeles’s second best team. Utah 34, USC 10

Wisconsin at Illinois

NWB: Two of the nation’s better defenses (Wisconsin #7, Illinois #29) face off in Champaign. If you are an ATS guy, there is not much value in this game and it is a great one to stay away from. Illinois had a rough offseason, but it appears losing the coach was addition by subtraction. They’ll be bowl eligible, but come up just short Saturday… Wisconsin 20, Illinois 16

NS: Illinois has a solid defense that will pressure Joel Stave throughout the game, but they won’t be able to stop him when it matters most. Chalk one up for the Cheese State on the road. Wisconsin 27, Illinois 14

Duke at Virginia Tech

NWB: Devils have rattled off three wins in a row since losing to Northwestern. Hokies are coming off a brutal loss to Miami, and have already lost a home game to Pitt this season, so there’s fair questions about how much their usual vaunted homefield advantage matters this year. I thought VT was an oddly over-valued team in the preseason magazines, but I can’t imagine them missing a bowl game. Duke isn’t as good as we’ve seen the last few years, but Cutcliffe’s team has been great at winning games they should. Duke 16, Virginia Tech 13.

NS: Virginia Tech’s defense is always at least going to be adequate under Bud Foster and Frank Beamer. But I’m not sure the Hokies have the defensive personnel to stop Duke’s Thomas Sirk nor the offensive firepower to outscore him. Duke 23, Virginia Tech 9

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