The opening weekend of SEC play was exciting, surprising and telling, as some teams were outed as pretenders, while others were vaulted into contender status. LSU was smoked in Starkville last Saturday, surprising many around the country, but not us here at Hailstate Takeover. South Carolina was revealed to be a pretender in the East after being man-handled by Kentucky in Columbia, and Vanderbilt showed that they are for real and could very well make a push in the East. But the SEC season is long and grueling, and even tougher tests lie ahead. On Saturday, we find out who the top Dawgs really are when Mississippi State and Georgia meet Between the Hedges in Athens. Vandy hosts the mighty Crimson Tide in what would be the upset of the century if Derek Mason and company find a way to win that game, and Texas A&M will take on Arkansas in Dallas in a battle of coaches on the hot seat. So sit back, relax and get your picks in to your bookie. It should be a helluva weekend.
Standings after week 3:
1. Trey: 30-6 (83.3%)
T2. Blake: 29-7 (80.5%)
T2. Peyton: 29-7 (80.5%)
T4. Matt: 28-8 (77.7%)
T4. Cooper: 28-8 (77.7%)
*EDITOR’S NOTE: HOME TEAM IS LISTED SECOND IN CAPS*
UMass vs TENNESSEE (-28) Saturday 11:00
Cooper: Tennessee gets a great opportunity to bounce back against an opponent like UMass. Vols should have no problem in this one. UT 45-7.
Blake: Have we all forgotten how bad Tennessee really is? Almost beating Florida is not impressive this season, especially when the way you lose is to give up a 60-yard Hail Mary to the most inept offense in the country. Butch Jones is on the way out, and I see a weak performance in a “hangover” game for the Vols. But it’s in Neyland, and ultimately Tennessee will pull this one out. But it won’t be pretty. Vols 38-20.
Peyton: This could be a scary one for Tennessee, as it was for us last year. The Vols found a very small groove on offense though last week, and I believe it carries them. Tennessee 38-10.
Trey: This game might be closer than some anticipate, but Tennessee has too much talent to lose to UMass. Tennessee wins 41-24.
Matt: Tennessee is a mess right now and we know UMass can put up points, however Mark Whipple is on the verge of losing his job. UT wins 38-14.
Texas A&M (-2.5) vs Arkansas @ AT&T Stadium in Dallas Saturday 11:00
Cooper: Whichever coach loses this game could very well be gone by season’s end. Neither one of these teams is very good, but I do expect this to be a close game. I’ll take Arkansas 28-24.
Blake: This could be a game that decides the future of both programs, and it may be the loser who really wins in the long run. With Kevin Sumlin and Bret Bielema both in serious jeopardy of losing their jobs, it’s a bit of a miss heading into this one. Sumlin appears to be gone unless he wins out the rest of the way. I legitimately believe he has to win a national title to keep his job after the whole board of regents fiasco. On the other side is Bielema and Arkansas, where the power run game and tough-nosed defense he ran in the Big 10 was supposed to translate seamlessly to the SEC. It hasn’t yet. Bret’s team perennially falls short of expectations, and this season doesn’t appear to be any different. Both of these teams have bad defenses and inconsistent offenses, but one side does seem to have an advantage at a key position. Austin Allen is the best quarterback in this game, so I will side with Arkansas to pull out a big win in Dallas. However, keeping Bielema around is not much of a win. Razorbacks 34-20.
Peyton: Battle of the hot seats here. I still think Texas A&M is the worst team in the league and Arkansas proves to be to much for them. Arkansas 28-20.
Trey: I’m not sure that either one of these teams is very good at this point in the season, and both head coaches are under heavy scrutiny with their teams struggling for what seems like the fifth season in a row. However, I believe Arkansas is a little bit better than Texas A&M. The Aggies have struggled against an FCS team in Nichols State and struggled for much of the game against Louisiana-Lafayette last week. I’m taking the Hogs to win by a score of 34-24.
Matt: Texas A&M will be looking for a coach after this one. Arky wins 31-21.
Louisiana Tech vs SOUTH CAROLINA (-8) Saturday 2:30
Cooper: La Tech will put up some points, but South Carolina puts up more points. I’m taking the Gamecocks 42-28.
Blake: After the way MSU handled La Tech in week two, the Gamecocks have a guage of how they should fare against the Bulldogs from Ruston. But this will be a very difficult game for Will Muschamp’s offense after losing their leading big play receiver and returner Deebo Samuel last week, and the Gamecocks better figure out a way to move the ball before traveling to College Station next week. Still, it’s SEC talent over the CUSA Bulldogs. Gamecocks win 38-20.
Peyton: I think La Tech will score big in this game but ultimately SCAR will score bigger even with the loss of star athlete Deebo Samuel. South Carolina 42-31.
Trey: South Carolina, led by quarterback Jake Bentley, should be able to put up some points in this game and South Carolina’s defense will be too physical for the LA Tech offense in this one. South Carolina wins 44-24.
Matt: I would love to see La Tech win this game but I just don’t think they have enough athletes to compete with any SEC team. SC wins 35-24.
Alabama (-18.5) vs VANDERBILT Saturday 2:30
Cooper: I would love to see Vandy pull the upset, but Bama will just be too much. The Crimson Tide will stop the run and force Shurmer into some ill-advised passes. I think this one will be close early, but eventually the Tide will pull away for a 28-10 win in Nashville.
Blake: BOLD PREDICTION ALERT!: This is the week Alabama gets exposed! As still being better than Vanderbilt. Look I get it, Vandy has a talented defense and has really played well this year. Against teams not in the SEC and not named Alabama. The Tide have too much speed, power and athleticism to falter to Vanderbilt. I think the Commodores will put up a valiant fight, and this game will be close in the third quarter. But like the last decade has shown us, Alabama is going to run away in the fourth against an inferior opponent. Tide wins 27-14.
Peyton: Low scoring affair here. My heart tells me it’s a coin toss game, but my brain says this is still Nick Saban’s Alabama. So they “run away” in the 4th. Alabama 24-14.
Trey: Expect a defensive struggle in this game. Vanderbilt is pumped up and the Commodores have done some talking leading up to this game. However, Vanderbilt doesn’t have the talent to take down Alabama just yet. The Tide roll by a score of 27-14.
Matt: Vandy is my pick to win the East. Even still, the best in the East can’t beat the best in the West. Bama will win 28-7.
Syracuse vs LSU (-22) Saturday 6:00
Cooper: LSU will come out aggressive early and will look to make a statement after the game they had last week. Tigers win 49-10.
Blake: I think it’s safe to say that LSU is not what some thought they were, and Mississippi State is much better than anyone outside the State Family thought. That being said, LSU is much more talented than Syracuse at every position. Etling will look like an actual quarterback against an inferior defense, and despite Guice being out, the run game will be back to normal for the Tigers. Twenty-two points is a lot to cover for an anemic offense, but the LSU defense is still good. Tigers win 41-7.
Peyton: Big bounce-back game for LSU here, and boy do they need it. Guice may be sitting out, but they still win big. LSU 38-10.
Trey: LSU will be without star running back Darius Guice in this game, but in the end, it shouldn’t really matter. The Tigers should come out hungry to avenge their blowout loss to Mississippi state last week. Expect LSU to dominate this game. LSU wins by a score of 34-10.
Matt: LSU rebounds BIG TIME as Guice has a big game, if he plays that is. 35-7 Tigers.
Mississippi State vs GEORGIA (-5.5) Saturday 6:00
Cooper: Easily the game of the week in the SEC, this is where College Gameday should be instead of in Times Square. Both defenses are going to have to play big in this one for their team to win, and the offenses will have to make a few explosive plays. Turnovers could play a big part in this game as well. Ultimately, I think Nick Fitzgerald makes a big play in the fourth quarter to propel State to a 24-17 win in Athens.
Blake: After last week, I want to pick Mississippi State to win this game 56-0. However, I am a true State fan and I can’t possibly feel comfortable with success for any sustained amount of time. So I feel incredibly nervous and excited for this game. From an objective perspective, I think this stacks up as a strength on strength matchup for State’s high-powered offense against Georgia’s strong defense. Nick Fitzgerald and Aeris Williams showed they can play against LSU, but Georgia’s defense is another step up in competition. For the maroon-clad Bulldogs on defense, Jeffery Simmons will have to continue to be an All-American on the front line. State has all the talent and coaching to win this game, but going into Athens is incredibly difficult. I may be biased, but the Bulldogs can win this game and win it in style. It will be tough, but give me the Starkville Dawgs 31-17.
Peyton: Easily the SEC game of the week here. Battle for the second-best team in the conference and rightfully so. You’re gonna call me a homer, but these teams could possibly play more than once this year. But don’t quote me on that. Simmons is to much for Jake Fromm and we hold late. Miss State 27-17.
Trey: Expect this to be a close defensive struggle the whole game. I anticipate the first team to score 20 points in this game will win. Georgia is stacked on the defensive side of the ball and they boast the fifth-ranked rush defense in the country. This could give State some trouble running the football. On the other hand, Georgia’s offensive line is the weak spot on their team, as they are starting multiple freshman and an undersized left tackle. I believe this gives Mississippi State’s talented defensive line an advantage in this game. State wins a close one by a score of 24-20.
Matt: I can’t even describe how excited I am for this game. UGA is a very solid team with a good defense. The reason I think State pulls out the W is Todd Grantham’s defense destroying Jake Fromm. Good Dawgs win, 27-17.
Florida (-2) vs KENTUCKY Saturday 6:30
Cooper: Everyone is calling for Kentucky to pull the upset, but Florida has beaten the Wildcats THIRTY years in a row. I just can’t pick Kentucky until they break the streak. UF wins a low scoring affair 20-13.
Blake: What do Haley’s Comet and the Kentucky Wildcats beating Florida have in common? Both only occur once in a lifetime. Ok, ok, that was a stretch, but you get the idea. This game has had its share of wacky finishes and suspect officiating, so of course it will be an exciting one again. But unlike my compatriots, I say Florida is a joke of an offense and that win over Tennessee last week was as much a loss by the Vols as it was a win by the Gators. I think the Wildcats can pull this one out at home in a huge night game atmosphere. Kentucky finally got Benny Snell running and the defense attacking the football, and as good as Florida is on defense, I think Kentucky can move the ball. Wildcats win 24-20.
Peyton: Tough call here. I wanna pick Kentucky so bad after last week’s great performance, but I just can do it. Sorry Wildcats. Florida 28-23.
Trey: Kentucky hasn’t beaten Florida once in my lifetime, and I don’t see this game being any different. I’m not sure that Florida is that much better than Kentucky, but I do believe Florida has the better defense, and year in and year out Kentucky just can’t seem to beat Florida. Florida wins 27-20.
Matt: Florida is still completely unknown to me. I’m certainly not sold on Kentucky though. UF wins a low scoring game 20-10.
Auburn (-19.5) vs MISSOURI Saturday 6:30
Cooper: Missouri is just flat out terrible. Auburn will win this one easily 56-10.
Blake: I was on the Missouri offensive bandwagon after week one, and it’s cost me twice on picks the last two weeks. So this week, I say no more. Get thee away from me demon. I think Auburn, despite their inept offense through three weeks, has a very good defense. Mizzou on the other hand has Barry Odom. So yeah. Tigers big, 42-13.
Peyton: Mizzou is in the same boat as A&M. They just don’t have it together. I do see their defense giving Jarrett Stidham problems early but Auburn prevails. Auburn 34-20.
Trey: Missouri got absolutely demolished last week against Purdue and Missouri’s defense is atrocious. Auburn should be able to score some points against a bad Missouri defense, and Auburn’s stout defense should limit Drew Lock and the Missouri offense in this game. Auburn wins 34-17.
Matt: Jarrett Stidham is just the latest Auburn quarterback that gets all the hype without living up to it. Sadly for Mizzou, it doesn’t matter who is playing QB for Auburn. They can’t stop anybody. Auburn wins 35-20.