#2 OLE MISS at #24 LSU
Overlook LSU all you want, but never underestimate the passion created by a homecoming game. Don’t ignore the intense vitriol Ole Miss and LSU have for one another either.
If it weren’t for LSU the Rebels would have won at 32 straight games between 1960 and 1962. The early pre-integration 1960s were the glory years for college football’s most poorly branded program.
If College Gameday was barnstorming around the nation 55 years ago, it would have wound up witnessing Bill Cannon’s Heisman moment—an 89-yard kickoff return for a touchdown at Tiger Stadium on Halloween Night. Ole Miss would lose 7-3, but still ended the season ranked No. 1 by defeating LSU 21-0 in a Sugar Bowl rematchon New Years Day.
The roles were in reverse five years ago when 8th-ranked LSU soiled its pants on the road against Ole Miss after failing to get their field goal unit ready for the final play in one of the most bizarre endings to a contest in SEC history. For Jordan Jefferson and Les Miles, it was one of the early chapters in their bizarre gridiron partnership.
In 2003 eventual national champion LSU slipped past Eli Manning’s Rebels 17-14 to deny Ole Miss an SEC Championship berth.
It’s been a while since Ole Miss was the favorite defending SEC title hopes against an underdog LSU squad.
Brandon Jennings may wish he was benched for Brandon Harris once he realizes he can’t play a Tebow game, complete half of his 14 passes and handoff 40 times for the win against Ole Miss. These Landsharks can smell blood near the line of scrimmage.
From Tyrann Mathieu to Patrick Peterson, Morris Claiborne to Eric Reid LSU is typically the SEC’s top secondary. This season, Ole Miss’ Landsharks have strapped on wings and are defending the air better than any other team in the nation.
Cody Prewitt, Tony Conner and Senquez Golson are the wingmen for the nation’s best ballhawking secondary, but while not quite on the same plane as Ole Miss, LSU’s secondary is still living up to its reputation.
Ole Miss ranks 11th out of 14th SEC teams in rushing yards per game, meaning the pressure will be on Bo Wallace to thread the needle without pricking his own finger.
Ole Miss scatters LSU's ashes in Death Valley.
#1 MISSISSIPPI STATE at KENTUCKY
Dan Mullen’s Hail State success is the best case scenario for a traditional SEC doormat that’s been upgraded tobathroom rug. Mississippi State is chandelier in the SEC foyer now. Mark Stoops’ Wildcats are still in the embryonic stages of their ascension and the weekend could be another blow to their reeling team after LSU’s 41-3 TKO of Kentucky in Death Valley.
Kentucky was just smothered by LSU 41-3 in Week 8, but the worst passing defense in the SEC will surrender its fair share of yardage. Dak Prescott will also get to pad his numbers. The central question for Prescott is how he’ll divvy up his yardage.
Smart money says he’ll do most of his damage on the ground and rush for about 150 yards against Kentucky which is allowing 172 yards per game, 11th in the SEC. In conference play, Mississippi State opponents are racking up 219 yards per contest and their three-ranked foes (Florida, South Carolina and LSU) have rushed for 909 yards in three games.
Mullen’s Bulldogs are the runner-up to UGA as the SEC’s best rushing attack and have been consistent on the ground in-conference, against Power 5 adversaries and non-Power 5 sacrificial lambs.
Mississippi State wins.
#4 ALABAMA at TENNESSEE
While the Volunteers regroup from the black bear trap Ole Miss caught them in on the road last weekend, a second storm moves towards their sanctuary. Alabama still has a national championship glint in their eyes. Tennessee has something different in theirs.
When Lane Kiffin left Southern Cal and the Bay Area for Tennessee, he became the example of how the Beverly Hillbillies isn’t as amusing of a mix in reverse.
When he left Tennessee after less than a year to return to tropical weather, sandy beaches and earthquakes, the message was clear. Don’t come back now, ya hear? Fate has brought Kiffin back to Knoxville in an assistant’s role on Nick Saban’s staff, which has to be a satisfying sight for Vols fans. On the downside, he’ll be ridin’ with an entourage of NFL prospects who are pissed off.
Tennessee hates Lane like Bobby Boucher does Red Beaulieu and Alabama is at a fraction of their full strength away from Bryant-Denny Stadium.
Alabama 194, Opponent 33. Cumulative score of Bama’s four home games. Alabama 64, Opponent 59. Cumulative score of Bama’s three away games.
— College GameDay (@CollegeGameDay) October 22, 2014
Tennessee is no longer Dooleying, so I can imagine them keeping it close in Neyland, but it would take a catastrophic letdown for Bama to actually lose here.
Bama puts Tennessee in their lane.
#20 USC at #19 UTAH
The Trojans could have used The LA Colliseum security against Boston College.
— LenDale White (@THEREAL_LENDALE) October 19, 2014
Utah’s run defense is as effective at taking running backs out the game as The Colisseum security. Cody Kessler connected on a school-record seven touchdowns last weekend. Meanwhile, Javorius Allen quietly ranks third nationally in average yards from scrimmage.
He’s got his work set out for him.
Utah ranks 20th in rushing yards allowed per game and sixth yards allowed per carry.
Unfortunately, in a conference where gunslingers roam the countryside Utah’s Siamese quarterback platoon doesn’t offer much stability offensively.
If Kessler can withstand the rush, he could find soft spots in a 103rd ranked passing defense that is susceptible to giving up big plays. Not only are the Trojans skilled at receiver, but Allen has accumulated 24 catches for 290 yards this season.
USC lances Utah.
#14 ARIZONA STATE at WASHINGTON
Taylor Kelly’s return couldn’t have come at a better time. Or a worse time depending on your perspective. Washington’s 27 sacks is fourth-best in the nation. However, mobile quarterbacks give Shaq Thompson, overshadowed outside linebacker/Mel Kiper’s Mid-Season Defensive Player of the Year Hau'oli Kikaha and nose tackle Danny Shelton exert more energy to chase down. Alternatively, Kelly will have to do a lot more running around than he’d like in his first game back from a right foot injury.
Washington wishes they had Arizona State’s problem under center. Lingering concussion symptoms may force Miles to sit out this week after suffering a concussion against Oregon. In his stead, Washington could be inserting redshirt freshman Troy Williams.
It would behoove Notre Dame for Arizona State to keep winning, climbing the ranking and improving the strength of schedule of schedule on their college football playoff resume.
Even if Cyler Miles does get the start, Washington can’t keep pace with the Sun Devils frenetic attack.
Arizona State wins.
#6 OREGON at CALIFORNIA
This is a summarization of the Golden Bears lowlights against Oregon last fall.
The last time Cal took the field against the Ducks they were practically underwater as torrents of rain poured from the sky. Those Golden Bears looked more like Winnie the Pooh en route to a 1-11 record in Sonny Dykes’ first season at the helm. A little honey to help them hold onto the ball would have come in handy during that raging storm.
California quarterback Jared Goff’s first half offensive performance was the lousiest beginning for a quarterback in recent history. After seven passes practically underwater, Goff got the Sandman hook quicker than a tone-deaf opera singer on stage at The Apollo.
Cal fumbled four times in the first half and trailed 41-3. These Golden Bears are much improved from their Gummy Bear performance from last fall. However, with Jake Fisher protecting Mariota again, forget the rain, Oregon is a forest fire approaching Cal’s doorstep. There’s no Smokey on the Bears porous defense, I’m all out of appropriate Bear puns and California is running out of time to become bowl eligible.
Oregon smokes the Bears.
GEORGIA STATE at GEORGIA SOUTHERN
This may seem like an odd matchup, but the Battle for bragging rights to be known as the real GSU a more compelling matchup than Michigan and Michigan State. Georgia has always been a two-program state on the FBS level. However, with the inception of Georgia State football in 2010 and Georgia Southern’s ascension to full-time FBS status this season, the battle to be the Peach State’s third wheel has finally begun.
Triple option quarterback Kevin Ellison pilots the nation’s No. 1 rushing offense for Southern. Georgia State’s Nick Arbuckle the top JUCO quarterback nationally in the previous recruiting class.
Georgia State’s offensive success is predicated on the pass. At the very least, the contrast of styles should be intriguing. Georgia Southern is talented enough to compete in the ACC.
Georgia Southern draws first blood.