Wednesday, September 9, 2009

2009 SEC Football Picks, Week 2

Week 2 is here. While the Rebels have the week off to get rid of the flu bug that has ravaged the team, most of the rest of the league takes to the the field, including the first 3 conference games of the year.

Troy (0-1) at (#1, #1)Florida (1-0, 0-0)

11:21am CDT, SEC Network, XM199/Sirius218
All-time series
: Florida leads 1-0
Wednesday's Line: Florida - 36.5

The Gators welcome Troy to The Swamp Saturday morning. Like last week, they'll be able to name the score. Troy hasn't beaten a BCS-conference team since rolling Brad Smith and Missouri on ESPN in 2004. The last SEC team they beat was Mississippi State in 2001. This one will be as ugly as Urban Myer wants it to be. The 5TD+ line is scary, but something tells me that Corch Myers will be a bit ornery Saturday morning.

Straight Up Winner: Florida
Against the Spread: Florida

UCLA (1-0) at Tennessee (1-0, 0-0)
3:00pm, ESPN, XM103/Sirius121
All-Time Series
: Tennessee leads 7-5-2
Wednesday's line: Tennessee -8.5

The Bruins and the Vols will take major steps towards establishing their team identities this weekend before a packed house at Neyland Stadium. Both had impressive Week 1 scores, but against weak competition. Last year's debacle in LA set the tone for the whole dismal year for the Vols, a feat that they hope Lane Kiffin and staff are ready to rectify this season.

There's a bit of history between the staffs of these two schools with UCLA OC Norm Chow and Kiffin both serving as assistants on Pete Carroll's USC staff a few years back. The story of this game though will be the Vols' defense. All-world DB Eric Berry was used sparingly last week, but he'll be unleashed at full speed this week. Expect some big hits, a pick, and a remarkably frustrated Bruin offense.

Straight Up Winner: Tennessee
Against the Spread: Tennessee

Florida International (0-0) at (#4, #4)Alabama (1-0, 0-0)
6:00pm CDT, PPV, XM199/Sirius214

All-time series
: Alabama leads 1-0
Wednesday's Line: Alabama -34

Greg McElroy shook off an ugly start to finish with a decent statline against the vaunted VTU defense. Now the Tide get to exhale a bit against an overmatched FIU squad. The outcome here will never be in doubt. FIU will move the ball a bit throwing to WR T.Y. Hilton who Nick Saban says is a "better offensive player than anybody that we played against last week." So take that ACC! The only question is how focused the Tide will be. After routing Clemson to open the season in 2008, the Tide stunk it up in week 2 against Tulane, winning by a paltry 2 TDs against a bad team. They'll roll here, but 5 TDs is too much to give up.

Straight Up Winner: Alabama
Against the Spread: Florida International

Mississippi State (1-0, 0-0) at Auburn (1-0, 0-0)
6:00pm, FSN, XM199/Sirius214

All-time series
: Auburn leads 57-23-2
Last 12 matchups
Wednesday's line
: Auburn -14.5

Both the Gene Chizik and Dan Mullen eras started off on a positive note last weekend, posting blowout wins and scoring more points than either fan base was used to seeing. Each faces a sterner test this weekend as the pressure will be greater and the defenses quicker. The last time these two were on the field together, they nearly broke the game of football with the 3-2 embarrassment that resulted.

MSU RB Anthony Dixon makes his season debut this weekend after serving a 1-game suspension for a DUI arrest this summer. The Bulldogs moved the ball pretty well on the ground last weekend – 238 yds/4.5 ypc – but Auburn’s defense will prove a much sterner test. The Tigers held LaTech to less than 100 yds last week. MSU QBs Tyson Lee (who’s battling some nagging injuries this week) and freshman Chris Relf will be tested from the opening snap.

Auburn will be looking to build on a dominating 2nd half last weekend. After leading by just 3 at half, the Tigers cruised to a 37-13 win. While I’m not sure how much better MSU’s offense is than LTU’s, the MSU defense will be much quicker to the ball. This game is going to come down to execution on offense. MSU will also need to limit the ridiculous amount of penalties from last week – 12/152 yds – to help get the Tigers off the field.

This year’s game certainly won’t be as ugly as last year’s, and may even be watchable by neutral fans. Neither team should expect an offensive explosion, but a something close to a 24-14 Tiger win is likely. Until I see the Tigers offense move the ball against an SEC opponent, I'm skeptical about giving up 2 TDs to anybody.

Straight Up Winner: Auburn
Against the Spread: Mississippi State

Vanderbilt (1-0, 0-0) at (#11, #9)LSU (1-0, 0-0)
6:00pm CDT, ESPNU, XM198/Sirius216

All-time series
: LSU leads 20-7-1
Last 12 years
Wednesday's Line
: LSU -14.5

Color me unimpressed with LSU. The Tigers struggled to beat a team that hasn’t won since mid-season 2007 and gave up nearly 500 yds of offense, which was worse than any single game total they had last season. The offense was average at best and I’m still not sold on Jordan Jefferson as a star QB. Serviceable, sure, but able to win close a close, important SEC game in a hostile environment? I’m just not seeing it.

All that said, I’m even less convinced that Vanderbilt is for real. Last year’s season was an aberration just like Mississippi State’s 2006 season. I know the Commodores return a bunch of starters from that team and they utterly destroyed Western Carolina last week, but until I see them perform against legitimate competition, I’ll remain skeptical. LSU is a flawed team, but the Tigers are more talented at nearly – if not every – position on the field. The Commodores fell ass-backwards into some wins against superior competition last year, but I think they’ll be tougher to come by this season.

Give Vanderbilt credit for their impressive win last week following a bowl win last year, but this is Tiger Stadium at night. It's been 58 years since the Commodores left Baton Rouge victorious. There's no way LSU drops this one. The 2 TDs seems to be a good bargain for the Tigers.

Straight Up Winner: LSU
Against the Spread: LSU

South Carolina (1-0) at (#21, #21)Georgia (0-1)
6:00pm, ESPN2, XM197/Sirius21
All-time series: 45-14-2
Last 12 Seasons
Wednesday’s Line: Georgia -7

For the 18th straight year, the Gamecocks serve as the SEC opener for Georgia. The Dawgs are 12-5 in these games and Mark Richt is 6-2, though both losses have been in Athens, where this year’s game is. Lately, the games have been low-scoring slugfests with neither team topping 20 points since 2004 and close, with only 1 of the last 5 meetings decided by more than 7 points.

I don’t think it’s an understatement to say that this is a huge game for the Bulldogs. There’s a little bit of unrest after a paltry showing in Stillwater last week and dropping to 0-2 is the last thing Richt and staff want to do. I expect this game to be similar to many recent in the series… low scoring, utmost importance on special teams and field position, and whichever team makes the biggest play at the most opportune time wins the game. Look for the Dawgs to come out on top.

***9/10/09 UPDATE*** Rivals is reporting that UGA QB Joe Cox is out for Saturday's contest (h/t Blutarsky). Based on comments on Get the Picture though, that may not be the case. It'll be interesting to see how this plays out over the next 48 hours.

**9/10/09 UPDATE #2*** Never mind. Per Get The Picture, Cox is confirmed as starter for Saturday.

Straight Up Winner:Georgia
Against the Spread: South Carolina

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