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SEC Week 7 Preview and Predictions

Nick Marshall

Nick Marshall

Another week, another huge slate of action in the SEC. Seven ranked teams play this Saturday, with Mississippi State’s showdown against Auburn taking the spotlight in Week 7. The huge matchup in Starkville is a contest with national title implications, and quarterbacks Dak Prescott and Nick Marshall hope to make a Heisman push with a big performance.

Outside of Starkville, the SEC East title race could come into focus with Missouri hosting Georgia. If the Tigers can knock off the Bulldogs, Gary Pinkel’s team would have wins over the preseason favorites in the East (Georgia and South Carolina).

Florida hosts LSU in a critical game for two struggling teams, while Ole Miss travels to Texas A&M in another key SEC West showdown. Following up last week’s win against Alabama won’t be easy. Can the Rebels avoid a letdown in College Station?

Week 7 Previews and Predictions:
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SEC Week 7 Game Power Rankings

1. Auburn (-3) at Mississippi State

3:30 p.m. ET, CBS

For the second week in a row, Mississippi is the epicenter of Saturday’s SEC slate. But after the focus was in Oxford last week, the scene shifts to Starkville. Mississippi State has arrived as a SEC title contender, while Auburn can stake its claim for the No. 1 overall ranking nationally with a win on Saturday. On the stat sheet, there are a lot of similarities between the two teams. Mississippi State and Auburn average over 500 yards per game in SEC play, average 5.6 yards per carry on offense, both have dynamic Heisman contenders at quarterback, and defenses that hold opponents to less than 20 points per game. With two similar teams, what could be the deciding factor on Saturday? Keep an eye on Mississippi State’s secondary. The Bulldogs held their own against Texas A&M, but this unit leads the SEC by allowing 23 passing plays of at least 20 yards. Can Nick Marshall hit on big plays to Sammie Coates and Duke Williams? Auburn’s defense has improved since 2013, but how much has this unit progressed? The Tigers allow just 4.6 yards per play, but the Bulldogs – with quarterback Dak Prescott leading the way – are the toughest opponent they will play so far this year. This series has been one-sided recently, as the Tigers have won 11 out of the last 13 games against the Bulldogs. Mississippi State’s last victory against Auburn came in 2012, defeating the Tigers 28-10 in Starkville.

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2. Georgia (-3) at Missouri

Noon ET, CBS

The favorite in the SEC East is anyone’s guess. However, Saturday’s game between Missouri and Georgia could provide some clarity. The Bulldogs are still in the mix for the East despite a loss to South Carolina, while Missouri’s win over the Gamecocks has Gary Pinkel’s team atop the East – for now. The Tigers won in Athens last season but are a slight underdog on Saturday. The outlook for this game has changed significantly since Wednesday, as running back Todd Gurley has been suspended indefinitely due to a NCAA investigation. With Gurley out, backup Nick Chubb is expected to see the bulk of the Bulldogs' carries on Saturday. Missouri quarterback Maty Mauk struggled against South Carolina, but he should have more weapons at his disposal with the return of Jimmie Hunt and Darius White from injury. If the Tigers can protect Mauk, he will have opportunities to make plays against a Georgia secondary that has allowed 23 plays of at least 20 yards in 2014. Missouri needs to stop the run, but Georgia’s passing offense is set to improve with the return of receivers Malcolm Mitchell and Justin Scott-Wesley. Quarterback Hutson Mason is averaging only 153 passing yards in SEC play, and his performance will be critical to the outcome of Saturday’s game.

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3. Ole Miss at Texas A&M (–3.5)

9 p.m. ET, ESPN

Life in the SEC West isn’t easy. Just ask Ole Miss. A week after beating Alabama, the Rebels have to travel to Texas A&M. The Aggies are coming off a loss to Mississippi State and need a win to stay alive in the West Division title picture. Can Ole Miss avoid a letdown? Or was Texas A&M’s 5-0 start a mirage? The Rebels need another flawless effort from quarterback Bo Wallace on Saturday, as the senior delivered against Alabama with no interceptions on 31 attempts. Wallace should have opportunities for plays against a Texas A&M secondary allowing 278.3 yards per game. The Aggies lead the SEC with 19 sacks, but this unit is allowing 6.9 yards per play in conference games. If Texas A&M doesn’t get pressure on Wallace, the receiving corps of Ole Miss will be tough to contain. The Aggies averaged only 5.7 yards per play against Mississippi State last Saturday, which was its lowest mark of the season. Getting back on track will be a challenge for quarterback Kenny Hill, as Ole Miss is holding opponents to just 4.1 yards per play and has not allowed a passing touchdown since the opener. The last two games in this series were decided by three points. Expect another close one in College Station on Saturday night.

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4. LSU (-1.5) at Florida

7:30 p.m. ET, SEC Network

For the first time since 1989, both Florida and LSU enter their annual matchup unranked. The Tigers are 0-2 in SEC play, while the Gators survived an ugly 10-9 win over Tennessee last Saturday to move to 2-1 in the conference. Both teams enter this game with major question marks under center. Florida will turn to Jeff Driskel after Treon Harris’ suspension, while LSU’s quarterback situation is unsettled with Anthony Jennings and Brandon Harris vying to start. Quarterback play isn’t the only problem for LSU, as its defense is allowing 37.5 points through two SEC contests. Florida’s defense has struggled stopping the pass, but the Gators rank fourth in the SEC against the run. With two teams struggling to generate anything on offense, turnover margin and special teams will be critical. LSU has won three out of the last four meetings in this series.    

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5. Alabama (-9.5) at Arkansas

6 p.m. ET, ESPN

Last week, Ole Miss and Mississippi State scored breakthrough wins in the SEC. Is it Arkansas’ turn on Saturday? The last two meetings in this series have been a one-sided affair. Alabama has crushed Arkansas 104-0 over the last two years, and the Razorbacks have not defeated the Crimson Tide since 2006. Arkansas has significantly improved since 2013, so a 52-0 blowout would be a surprise. But for the Razorbacks to knock off Alabama, a perfect effort is needed. The Crimson Tide lead the SEC in rush defense (2.6 ypc) and only one opponent has managed more than 100 yards this year. The strength of Arkansas’ offense is on the ground, but running room could be limited on Saturday. With Alabama focused on stopping the ground attack, the Razorbacks need an efficient effort from quarterback Brandon Allen. The junior has passed for 751 yards this year and needs to have success on early downs to keep Alabama’s defense on its heels. As if that task wasn’t difficult enough, Arkansas needs its defense to slow down the Crimson Tide ground attack (5.3 ypc) and dynamic receiver Amari Cooper. Catching Alabama after a loss is never an enticing proposition, but Bret Bielma’s team has showed marked improvement since 2013. This is a good barometer game for Arkansas, and an opportunity for the Crimson Tide to exercise some of the frustration from last week’s loss.

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6. ULM at Kentucky (-21.5)

Noon ET, SEC Network

The Wildcats are one of the SEC’s biggest surprises through the first six weeks. Kentucky defeated South Carolina last Saturday, and a win over ULM would place Mark Stoops’ team just one victory away from bowl eligibility. The Warhawks are 1-1 this year against Power 5 conference teams, losing to LSU 31-0 on Sept. 13 and defeating Wake Forest 17-10 in the opener. ULM’s offense is averaging only 18.2 points per game, but the strength of Todd Berry’s team is on defense. The Warhawks limit opponents to 24 points per game and 5.1 yards per play. Those numbers will be tested on Saturday, as Kentucky has scored at least 30 points in two of its three SEC games and rank second in the conference with 16 plays of 30 yards or more.

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7. Chattanooga at Tennessee

4 p.m. ET, SEC Network

Tennessee steps out of conference play for the final time this year, hosting Chattanooga (No. 13 in the FCS poll) for the first time since 1969. As evidenced by close losses to Florida and Georgia, the Volunteers are improving under second-year coach Butch Jones, but a tough schedule leaves little margin for error to get to a bowl. Chattanooga’s strength is on defense (16.6 ppg), but quarterback Jacob Huesman headlines an offense that has scored at least 38 points in its last three games. The Mocs played Central Michigan tough in the opener and possess a solid defensive line that could create a few headaches for Tennessee quarterback Justin Worley. And after playing in Tuscaloosa last November, Chattanooga is no stranger to big-time SEC environments. However, it’s a lot to ask the Mocs to keep this one close. The Volunteers should have plenty of motivation after back-to-back SEC losses, and this matchup is a good way for Tennessee to fix some of its mistakes and work on a few things before playing Ole Miss and Alabama in the next two weeks.

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8. Charleston Southern at Vanderbilt
7:30 p.m. ET, Fox Sports Net

Vanderbilt’s still has faint bowl hopes, but the Commodores need a win on Saturday to stay alive in their postseason quest. Charleston Southern is 5-0 and ranked No. 24 in the FCS Top 25 poll, but this is easily the Buccaneers’ toughest game of 2014. Charleston Southern’s defense is holding opponents to just 17.6 points per game, and a triple-option attack on offense is not easy to prepare for during the heart of SEC play. First-year Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason is looking for a spark on offense, as the Commodores are averaging only 17 points per game and 4.6 yards per play. With Patton Robinette recovering from a concussion, freshman Wade Freebeck will start at quarterback for the Commodores. Freebeck – a true freshman – is completing only 44.6 percent of his throws. Charleston Southern’s numbers on defense are solid, but this matchup should help Freebeck and Vanderbilt’s offense build confidence before resuming SEC play on Oct. 25 against Missouri.

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SEC Week 7 Predictions

 

David 
Fox

Braden
Gall

Steven
Lassan

Mitch
Light

Auburn (-3) at Miss. State

Auburn 38-35

MSU 31-27

Auburn 34-31

Auburn 34-24

Georgia (-3) at Missouri

Mizzou 24-21

Mizzou 34-31

Mizzou 27-24

UGA 27-21

Ole Miss (+3.5) at TAMU

Ole Miss 35-27

TAMU 34-33

Ole Miss 34-27

Ole Miss 34-30

LSU (-1.5) at Florida

LSU 14-10

Florida 24-17

Florida 20-17

Florida 17-14

Alabama (-9.5) at Arkansas

Alabama 35-14

Alabama 30-21

Alabama 30-13

Alabama 30-21

ULM (+21.5) at UK

UK 38-14

UK 45-14

UK 38-10

UK 37-10

Chattanooga at Tennessee

UT 31-13

UT 38-13

UT 45-13

UT 41-10

C. Southern at Vanderbilt

Vandy 24-10

Vandy 34-17

Vandy 34-10

Vandy 28-10

Last Week

3-3

3-3

3-3

4-2

Season Record

45-10

46-9

46-9

48-7