There’s a huge a battle in the SEC East as Georgia, a decisive and impressive Week 1 winner over Clemson, heads to South Carolina. The Bulldogs will be looking for their first win in Columbia. Elsewhere, Arkansas makes the trip to Lubbock to play Texas Tech for the first time in over two decades; Tennessee visits Oklahoma in what figures to be a tough matchup for the young Vols; and Kentucky and Florida meet in the Swamp in an intriguing early SEC matchup.
Week 3 Previews and Predictions
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SEC Week 3 Game Power Rankings
1. Georgia (-6) at South Carolina
3:30 ET, CBS
They’ve only played one game, but the Georgia Bulldogs have been one of the most impressive teams in the nation thus far. Led by arguably the deepest backfield in college football and a talented front seven on defense, Georgia has the look of a team that can compete for a spot in the College Football Playoff. The impending trip to South Carolina doesn’t look as treacherous as it did in the preseason — thanks to the Gamecocks’ rough start to 2014 — but playing in Williams-Brice Stadium has been a nightmare in recent seasons for Mark Richt’s club. Georgia has lost two straight in Columbia, including a 35–7 debacle two years ago when the Dawgs were 5–0 and ranked No. 5 in the nation. Todd Gurley, then a freshman, was held to 39 yards on 13 carries on that night. Don’t expect that to happen again.
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2. Arkansas (+2.5) at Texas Tech
3:30 ET, ABC
These two old Southwest Conference rivals meet for the first time since 1991, Arkansas’ final season in the league before bolting for the SEC. Texas Tech is a very shaky 2–0 after alarmingly close wins over Central Arkansas (42–35) and at UTEP (30–26). The Red Raiders have struggled to stop the run, allowing an average of 53 rushing attempts (fourth-worst in the nation) and 224.5 rushing yards per game. That’s not good news with Arkansas looming. The Hogs feature a loaded backfield and a big offensive line that specializes in run-blocking. This could be a touch matchup for the Red Raiders.
3. Tennessee (+20.5) at Oklahoma
8 ET, ABC
After taking care of business against two solid mid-major programs (Utah State and Arkansas State), Tennessee begins a treacherous stretch with a trip to play Oklahoma. The Sooners are one of the most talented teams in the nation — and they have a ton of experience in key spots. Tennessee, too, has a lot of talent, but the vast majority is painfully inexperienced. The obvious problem for the Vols — in this matchup and going forward — is on the offensive line, by far the team’s weakest unit. Quarterback Justin Worley and the talented skill players will have precious little time to operate against the Sooners’ defensive front.
4. Kentucky (+18) at Florida
7:30 ET, SEC Network
The competition has been weak, but the early reports are promising for both Kentucky and Florida, the two worst offensive teams — by total yards and points scored — in the SEC last season. Kentucky has found the right quarterback to operate Neal Brown’s “Air Raid” attack in sophomore Patrick Towles. Florida has had the right quarterback, but Jeff Driskel has not been able to stay healthy. The Gators are the heavy favorite for a reason, but there is belief around the SEC that Kentucky is vastly improved in Mark Stoops’ second season. Don’t expect the Cats to win this game, but it would be a surprise if they got blown out.
5. UCF (+9.5) at Missouri
12 ET, SEC Network
This game would have more meaning had Penn State not connected on a last-second field goal to beat UCF in Week 1. Still, the Knights are a solid team that should be even better in its second game now that they have settled on a quarterback. Pete DiNovo won the job in the preseason but was ineffective against Penn State. Justin Holman came off the bench and threw for 204 yards and a TD on only 14 attempts. UCF, however, will need to get its running game going after struggling mightily in Week 1. Missouri very quietly posted a dominating 49–24 win on the road against a dangerous Toledo team. Maty Mauk, an Ohio native, threw for 325 yards and five touchdowns to lead an offense that piled up over 500 yards. I’m not sold on the Tigers defensively yet, but the offense has the weapons to thrive in 2014.
6. Mississippi State (+14.5) at South Alabama
4 ET, ESPNews
After struggling a bit with UAB last weekend, Mississippi State heads to Mobile to play South Alabama in what figures to be the biggest game in the five-plus years of Jaguar football. Joey Jones has done a tremendous job making this program relevant in such a short time. The Jags went 6–6 overall and 4–3 in the Sun Belt in 2013 and are projected to be one of the better teams in the league in ’14. They opened their season with a solid 10-point win at Kent State last weekend. Mississippi State escaped last week with a 47–34 win over UAB despite giving up 548 total yards, including 435 through the air. South Alabama has the personnel to do some damage on offense. This might not be easy for MSU.
7. Louisiana-Lafayette (+27) at Ole Miss
4 ET, SEC Network
It flew under the national radar, but one of the most surprising scores through the first two weeks of the season was Louisiana-Lafayette’s 48–20 loss at home to Louisiana Tech. The Ragin’ Cajuns must regroup in a hurry with a trip to Oxford on the horizon. Ole Miss wasn’t sharp in the first half of its win against Boise State but has been outstanding since, pulling away from Boise for a 35–13 win and dominating Vanderbilt in a 41–3 victory in Nashville. If quarterback Bo Wallace limits the turnovers, the Ole Miss offense will be one of the SEC’s best in 2014.
8. ULM (+31) at LSU
7 ET, ESPNU
ULM is 2–0 with seven-point wins over Wake Forest (possibly the worst major-conference team in the nation) and Idaho (one of the worst FBS teams in the nation). Now, the Warhawks make the short trip to Baton Rouge to face a very young but very talented LSU team. True freshman tailback Leonard Fournette stole the headlines in the preseason, but sophomore wide receiver Travin Dural has been the best player on the LSU offense through two games. Dural is averaging a staggering 48.5 yards on his six receptions and has already scored four touchdowns.
9. Rice (+31) at Texas A&M
9 ET, ESPN2
Rice has a brutal two-game stretch to open the season. The Owls lost at Notre Dame, 48–17, in Week 1 and now head to Texas A&M. The Aggies have been perhaps the most impressive offensive team in the nation in the early going. With an outstanding offensive line, a group of quality running backs and wide receivers, all that was needed was someone to emerge at quarterback. Clearly, that has happened in the form of sophomore Kenny Hill. This will not be close.
10. Southern Miss (+48) at Alabama
6 ET, ESPN2
It’s difficult to envision a scenario in which Southern Miss’ offense scores more than a touchdown in this game. The Golden Eagles were held to 283 yards and zero points by a Mississippi State defense that allowed 548 points and 34 points the ensuing week to UAB. Alabama’s cadre of elite tailbacks will post some gaudy stats in Tuscaloosa this weekend.
11. UMass (+16.5) at Vanderbilt
12 ET, ESPN3
Vanderbilt has scored a total of 10 points in two games yet is favored by 16.5 points over UMass. Seems a bit strange, but the boys in Vegas usually know what they are doing. The Commodores’ search for a quarterback continues — true freshman Wade Freebeck entered the competition this week — but Vanderbilt has found its answer at tailback. Ralph Webb has 165 yards (37 percent of the team’s offense) in two games and has emerged as a team leader as a redshirt freshman.
Week 3 SEC Predictions
UMass at Vanderbilt
UCF at Missouri
Arkansas at Texas Tech
Georgia at S. Carolina
Miss St. at S. Alabama
UL Lafayette at Ole Miss
So. Miss at Alabama
ULM at LSU
Kentucky at Florida
Tennessee at Oklahoma
Rice at Texas A&M