SEC Week 10 picks
LSU is playing out of conference this weekend against La. Tech, and although there's no SEC implication, my Tigers find themselves in BCS contention and therefore all games matter this year.
As I've said many times, LSU would typically fall on their face in a game like this; coming off the big win over Auburn. When set up for success, we typically choose failure. Performance in games like this is the key to judging Nick Saban in relation to Gerry DiNardo, Curley Hallman and Mike Archer - who all failed to turn good starts into great seasons.
And so we welcome La. Tech to Baton Rouge Saturday night. La. Tech is 4-4, having beaten UL-Lafayette, Michigan State, UTEP and Nevada, and having lost to Miami, Fresno State, Boise State and Hawaii. They've got a big mixed bag of results so far in 2003.
The team throws a lot, averaging 323 yards in the air (and only 136 on the ground), and they can score (28 points a game). Of course, this is against a very diverse set of opponents. They rang up 435 passing yards against now-9th-ranked Michigan State, for example, and only 165 yards the next week against Fresno State.
Inconsistent, to say the least.
LSU gives up 201 yards passing per game, but only allows 9.5 points (tops in the NCAA). And La. Tech is quite generous (315 yards passing, 186 yards rushing, 30 points) in offense allowed.
On paper, it's an LSU win for sure. The X factor is "The LSU Letdown". My money is on Saban not allowing this to happen.
LSU, 42 - 20
Elsewhere, the Crocs play the Bulldogs in the annual "Florida beats Georgia" game in Jacksonville. I've had a lot of discussion with folks about who I "should" be for in this game. On the one hand, if Georgia keeps winning, our win over Georgia will help us out in the final BCS standings (assuming we also win out). On the other hand, if Georgia loses, that sets up the chance that the SEC East champion could be decided by a vote of athletic directors. Could you imagine the day when that vote is happening? Here in Atlanta it would be like how everybody crowded around TVs to watch the OJ verdict.
But leaving aside whatever I'd like to see happen (I'm still not 100% sure), I think the Crocs are on a major upswing, with Chris Leak really coming into his own as an SEC QB. And the Dawgs are hurting bad, especially on defense. I think they're starting a cornerback who's 5'4" this weekend.
So I like the Croc offense to break out in this game. Florida, 31 - 27
Arkansas at Kentucky - Back-to-back-to-back SEC losses really dropped a turd in the Hogs' punchbowl. They have much, much less to play for now. Kentucky is on a roll (by Kentucky football standards), having been competitive against Florida and South Carolina and then beating Ohio and Miss St. I like the Cats' passing attack here. Kentucky, 31 - 21
South Carolina at Ole Miss - I should pull for the Cocks here, wishing a first SEC loss on Ole Miss. But the Rebels still have to play Auburn before meeting up with us in a couple of weeks, so I won't worry too much about this week. Besides, it would be great to have the LSU/Ole Miss game mean something for the first time since the early 1970s. Rebels, 42 - 14
UL Monroe at Auburn - Don't poke the Tiger, please. Bad start, big recovery, loss to LSU to take a backseat in the SEC West race. Look for Auburn to light this one up big, big time. Auburn 63 - 6
Duke at Tennessee - Duke comes to Knoxville in November? Seriously, Why does the ACC's worst team want to take this kind of abuse mid-season? Have they not had their asses kicked quite enough yet? Vols, 38 - 3