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SEC Week 8 Preview and Predictions

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After two monster weekends in the SEC, things calm down just a bit. There’s still plenty of intrigue, but the Week 8 slate lacks the Armageddon-esque matchups of recent weeks. It might be a stretch to call Texas A&M and Alabama rivals, but these teams have played two very entertaining games since the Aggies joined the league. Neither Missouri nor Florida has the look of an SEC champ, but the winner of this game in Gainesville could still be a threat in the wide-open East. Elsewhere, Georgia heads to Arkansas, Kentucky visits Death Valley and Ole Miss hosts Tennessee.  

Week 8 Previews and Predictions:
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SEC Week 8 Game Power Rankings

1. Texas A&M (+11.5) at Alabama (3:30 ET, CBS)

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Two years later, the Aggies return to the scene of the crime — a monumental 29–24 win over No. 1 Alabama in the school’s first-ever visit to Tuscaloosa. Since that victory, however, Texas A&M is “only” 7–6 in SEC games and has allowed an average of 39.8 points in those six defeats. Offense has not typically been an issue during Kevin Sumlin’s tenure, but the Aggies have been slow starters in recent weeks. They’ve scored a total of 10 points in the first halves (while giving up a total of 49) of consecutive losses to Mississippi State and Ole Miss. Alabama is experiencing some puzzling offensive problems of its own. The biggest surprise in last week’s lackluster 14–13 win at Arkansas was Alabama’s inability to run the ball. The Crimson Tide averaged only 2.0 yards per attempt against a Razorback defense that allowed 6.3 yards per carry against Auburn, 4.6 against Texas Tech and 5.1 against Texas A&M. Not good.

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2. Missouri (+6) at Florida (7 ET, ESPN)

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This might not be the second “best” SEC game on the docket, but it’s a very intriguing matchup between a pair of teams jockeying for position (behind Georgia) in the average SEC East. Missouri is coming off one of the worst performances of the Gary Pinkel era, a 34–0 loss at home to Georgia. The Tigers were actually decent on defense — Georgia averaged a season-low 4.4 yards per play — but the Mizzou offense was absolutely brutal. Speaking of bad offensive play, Florida cracked the 300-yard mark for the first time since the three-overtime win against Kentucky in mid-September yet lost a heartbreaker to LSU in Gainesville. Statistically, the Florida offense has actually been decent at home, averaging 5.7 and 5.4 yards per play against Kentucky and LSU, respectively. That’s far from proficient, but it is a sign of progress (though only at home). This week, Florida is expected to play both Jeff Driskell and Treon Harris at quarterback. That will be interesting.

3. Georgia (-3.5) at Arkansas (4 ET, SEC Network)

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Georgia passed its first test without Todd Gurley with ease, rolling past Missouri 34–0 in Columbia. The Bulldogs head to Fayetteville this weekend for their second (and final) trip west of the Mississippi this season. Arkansas is clearly improved in 2014, but the Razorbacks are still nursing an SEC losing streak that reached 15 with a one-point loss to Alabama. You figure at some point the Hogs will break through and win a game (or two) in the league this season. Doing so this week, however, could be tough. The Hogs will have to find a way to run the ball on a Georgia defense that is allowing under 3.0 yards per carry for the season. This is not a good matchup for Arkansas.

4. Kentucky (+9.5) at LSU (7:30 ET, SEC Network)

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Kentucky has stormed out of the gate with a 5–1 record and needs only one win to become bowl-eligible for the first time since 2010. It’s just a matter of time, right? Maybe not. Take a look at the Cats’ schedule: At this point, Kentucky will be an underdog in each of its final six games. The guess here is that UK finds a way to win at least one more game, but it’s far from a sure thing. LSU has a pep in its step after escaping Gainesville with a three-point win. This is still a team with significant issues — on both sides of the ball — but the emergence of Leonard Fournette in recent weeks has at least given Les Miles’ club an offensive identity.

5. Tennessee (+16.5) at Ole Miss (7 ET, ESPN)

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Ole Miss has climbed the national rankings in recent weeks thanks to a dominating defense and an efficient offense that is limiting mistakes. The Rebels “only” averaged 332.5 yards in consecutive wins over Alabama and Texas A&M, but they turned it over just once while forcing four turnovers. That is a recipe for success. Tennessee has yet to find a recipe to deliver an SEC win. The Vols have come close, losing by three at Georgia and by one to Florida at home. Several things will need to go well to give the Vols a chance to win in Oxford: Freshman tailback Jalen Hurd must be healthy enough to carry the rushing load (he had only two carries last week against Chattanooga); the offensive line must overachieve and find a way to protect quarterback Justin Worley; and Tennessee needs to win the special teams battle.

6. Furman at South Carolina (12 ET, SEC Network)

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South Carolina returns to action for the first time since blowing double-digit fourth quarter leads in consecutive games — a 21–20 loss at home to Missouri and a 45–38 loss at Kentucky. The Gamecocks should have little trouble with a Furman team that has lost four straight games. 

Week 8 SEC Predictions

 

David Fox

Braden Gall

Steven Lassan

Mitch Light

Furman at S. Carolina

USC 35-7

USC 45-10

USC 45-10

USC 38-10

Texas A&M at Alabama

UA 42-28

UA 31-20

UA 34-24

UA 30-20

Georgia at Arkansas

UGa 21-20

UA 24-23

UGa 27-24

UGa 31-17

Tennesse at Ole Miss

UM 35-14

UM 40-20

UM 34-13

UM 27-17

Missouri at Florida

UF 13-9

UF 27-24

UF 24-20

UF 17-13

Kentucky at LSU

21-17

LSU 27-24

LSU 27-20

LSU 31-20

Last Week

6-2

5-3

5-3

6-2

Season

51-12

51-12

51-12

54-9