Neil W. Blackmon and I remain tied for the season on October 15th. That’s pretty intense. Imagine if NWB hadn’t picked the Gators to lose 3 times?
Auburn at Kentucky
Neil W. Blackmon: If you are into advanced metrics, this is a UK team that is 1.4 wins ahead of where it should be, based on measures of their efficiency both offensively and defensively and the schedule they’ve played. Another view is they are a dropped TD from being 5-0 and in control of the SEC East. Meanwhile, did a bye week fix what ails Auburn offensively? And how much growing up did Auburn do on defense ahead of a UK offense that has moved the ball well at times this season? Squeaker but… Kentucky 21, Auburn 14.
Neil Shulman: I have no idea who to pull for in this one. Do we as the first place team in the SEC East want the second place team to lose, or do we root for our ineffective and mouthy ex-coach to get embarrassed? Rooting interests aside, this should be a very interesting game tonight. Patrick Towles has been heavily criticized for being a good QB, but one that just can’t win the big game. Here’s his chance. It won’t happen, though, as Auburn’s defense finally starts to get its you know what together midway through the season. Auburn 24, Kentucky 20
Ole Miss at Memphis
NWB: It’s weird Ole Miss is playing this game at the Liberty Bowl but that’s not a real long drive and the Rebs will have plenty of fans on hand as Chad Kelly and company shred the nation’s #104th ranked defense. Ole Miss 45, Memphis 24.
NS: Don’t let the “at Memphis” bit fool you. This is a de facto home game for Ole Miss, and this is a Rebels team that’s past the point of licking their wounds following a beatdown in the Swamp, and has regrouped to the point that they are back in the national title conversation if they can string a few more wins together. They’ll get their first one here- but not before the high flying Memphis offense puts a scare into them. Ole Miss 48, Memphis 35
Louisiana Tech at Miss State
NWB: If you are like me you’ve been waiting most the year to see Jeff Driskel face off against the Miss State defense. Driskel has nearly 2,000 yards passing and 11 TD this season against only 3 INTs, and Miss State is only a middle of the road secondary. It will take Dak Prescott to prevent the feel good story of the year for Driskel, and Miss State will get just enough. Miss State 30, Louisiana Tech 24.
NS: Meh, next game… OH WAIT IT’S THE JEFF DRISKEL GAME! Let me reconsider for a second. (Reconsiders.) Nah, Driskel’s return to the SEC still isn’t enough to make me think they pull off the shocker in Cowbell Country. He’ll have some nice moments, but not enough of them for LT to win the game. Mississippi State 42, Louisiana Tech 24
Alabama at Texas A & M
NWB: Aggies had a bye, have Kyle Field, a great defensive line and John Chavis, a master of scheming Alabama offenses. Tide have momentum and it looks a little like Jake Coker is figuring things out at the quarterback position. Analytics point to Alabama as well, but not by much, so I’ll listen to the computer, which says… Alabama 27, Texas A & M 23.
NS: I really want to pick Texas A&M in this game. Something about Kevin Sumlin just screams, “Pick against me, I DARE YOU.” But Alabama has proven with its shocking defeat to Mississippi at home and thumping of Georgia in Athens that the location of the game means nothing to them, so take that out of the equation. Jake Coker is starting to put it all together as the Crimson Tide’s full time quarterback. And while the Crimson Tide’s defense may not be what it once was, it’s still good enough to make the game saving stop. Alabama 34, Texas A&M 31
Vanderbilt at South Carolina
NWB: Gamecocks have had a trying two weeks, from having to play a conference home game on the road to having their head coach retire/resign in the middle of the week. I just have a feeling they play inspired football behind a crowd desperate to cheer for them. South Carolina 23, Vanderbilt 14.
NS: Gotta go with the best player on the field in a game that’s mostly devoid of good ones. Vanderbilt’s defense may be better than advertised, but that doesn’t mean they’ll have an answer for Pharaoh Cooper. South Carolina might want to enjoy this win, though, because it’s probably the last one they’ll get over an SEC team for a long time. South Carolina 27, Vanderbilt 6
Florida at LSU
NWB: How many distractions can Florida insulate itself from? From an intangibles standpoint, the two schools of though are that it is too hard to overcome or Florida plays absolutely inspired, “We’re all we got” ball. Remember the latter worked for FSU in 2013. As for the game, these are two really even football teams and one is at home. I like Treon Harris to lead the Gators to Atlanta, but he has to stay healthy and I worry that initially, that limits some of what he does best in the running game. Florida stays close with defense but… LSU 23, Florida 14
NS: I’m pretty sure anybody reading this is well aware of the disastrous week it’s been for the Florida football program, so let’s forget about that and talk about the game. The Gators’ 6-0 start has been utterly shocking because of the turnaround from a year ago, but even the best teams in Gator history have that one game where they self destruct and blow a game they should have won (see 2008 Ole Miss, 2006 Auburn, etc.) You can’t ever really predict when that will happen, but a road game at Death Valley at night seems as good a prescription for it to happen as any. LSU 17, Florida 7
Missouri at Georgia
NWB: Nobody circles the wagons like a wounded Mark Richt football team at home. Rout, and a date with Florida to decide the east… School Up North 30, Missouri 7
NS: The road team has dominated this series since Missouri joined the SEC East in 2012. In fact, the home team has never won this game. Georgia breaks that this week, though. Nick Chubb may be out for the season, but Keith Marshall and Sony Michel are two phenomenal tailbacks that would start for almost any other SEC team. With their season nearing the point of irreparable failure, Mizzou will fight, but it won’t be enough. Georgia 28, Missouri 14
Michigan State at Michigan
NWB: What’s astonishing to me isn’t just how fast Jim Harbaugh’s team has adopted his identity, but how quickly. Meanwhile, the Ed Davis injury and Connor Cook not being selected captain have really hurt Mark Dantonio’s football team. Another astonishing fact? Michigan is a heavy favorite using advanced analytics– which have them ranked #3 despite a loss and Sparty #40 with one. That’s a bit of a bridge too far, but Michigan wins. Michigan 24, Michigan State 20
NS: Michigan State really didn’t look against Rutgers, and their supposed “hang your hat” win over Oregon looks less and less impressive with each week. What momentum they built with their huge Cotton Bowl win over Baylor is now fading, and fast, while Michigan appears to be a program on the rise faster than most expected. Michigan 34, Michigan State 24
Iowa at Northwestern
NWB: Hawkeyes are unbeaten but were fortunate against Wisconsin and now they’ve lost their best DL, Drew Ott, for the year. Home team has won the last five in this series and Pat Fitzgerald’s guys will respond well from last week’s debacle in Ann Arbor. Northwestern 17, Iowa 10.
NS: I don’t buy either team despite the one combined loss between them. Northwestern’s ugly style of play will dictate the game flow, though, and so you can expect them to play with fire after being embarrassed by Michigan last week. Kirk Ferentz will probably have a trick or two up his sleeve, but Northwestern prevails in a sloppy game. Northwestern 6, Iowa 3
Penn State at Ohio State
NWB: Penn State has a very good defense and we all know Cardale Jones and company have been lethargic this year. I think a night game against a quality opponent gets their attention. Zeke Elliott wins it late… Ohio State 28, Penn State 19
NS: Penn State’s been a sort of surprise this season. The only surprise will be if they survive more than a half in the Horseshoe against an Ohio State team that is desperately looking for a quality performance, as opposed to a mere “win”. Ezekiel Elliot has a huge game as Ohio State rolls. Ohio State 38, Penn State 7
USC at Notre Dame
NWB: Notre Dame was probably going to win this game anyway. The question now is can Clay Helton hold that staff together all year or will the rats jump ship? Notre Dame 35, USC 10
NS: Malik Zaire’s injury hasn’t quite affected Notre Dame as much as we thought it would. DeShone Kizer has done a fine job guiding this team after stepping in in emergency duty, and his latest achievement will be leading the Irish to an easy win over a USC program that’s fallen to pieces. Notre Dame 34, USC 12
UCLA at Stanford
NWB: Evenly matched offenses but Stanford is the team playing better defensively and the Myles Jack injury really hurts UCLA in a game like this. Epic #PAC12AFTERDARK battle, and potentially the first of two for these clubs. Stanford 28, UCLA 24
NS: Josh Rosen has had a great start to the 2015 season, but he’ll run into a buzz saw tonight. Stanford is one of those teams that’s never really great, but they’re always stout defensively and doubly so at home. UCLA is the better team, but Stanford clamps down on him and wins an ugly game late. Stanford 17, UCLA 6