With Georgia being off this weekend, I have the luxury of being able to observe this weekend’s games from the point of view of a bemused, dispassionate observer. So in that vein, here is a look at some of the more interesting games that will be happening today.
Florida vs Mississippi State: Florida has struggled profusely in Starkville. Believe it or not, they haven’t won a game there since 1985. That includes the 1992 loss in which Steve Spurrier famously berated then-defensive coordinator Ron Zook and the sideline cam caught it and broadcast it to the whole country, and the 2004 loss which cost then-head coach Ron Zook his job. Mississippi State is improving under first-year head coach Dan Mullen, and could be at an advantage with Mullen’s intimate knowledge of Tim Tebow and the inner workings of the Florida offense. Tim Tebow hasn’t been quite as sharp since coming back after his concussion; the offense has only managed 36 points in the last two games and was nearly undone by turnovers last week against Arkansas.
Prediction: Florida 27, Mississippi State 17.
LSU vs Auburn: Auburn got off to a 5-0 start under first-year coach Gene Chizik, but all my Auburn friends tell me that they hadn’t played anybody during that time. (Hmmm…one of those wins was against Tennessee. That means Georgia didn’t play anybody in Knoxville a couple of weeks back, and still had their asses handed to them on a silver platter.) But since then Auburn has struggled, losing to Arkansas and Kentucky. Jordan Jefferson and the LSU offense are eager for redemption coming off an ugly 13-3 loss to Florida and having had a bye week to sit on it.
Prediction: LSU 27, Auburn 22.
Tennessee vs Alabama: Man, please.
Prediction: Alabama 45, Tennessee 10.
Georgia Tech vs Virginia: Georgia Tech has not won in Charlottesville since 1990. The most rankling loss for Georgia Tech in that span was in 2001 when Virginia beat them on a hook-and-ladder. After losing the first three games this season in classic style, including embarrassing beatdowns at the hands of William and Mary and TCU, Virginia has managed to figure some things out and win some games. Don’t look now–but they are 3-0 in ACC play and the only unbeaten team in the conference. Georgia Tech is coming off an extremely emotional win over Virginia Tech where the fans bum rushed the field, tore down the goalposts and carried them up to the president’s house. Under Chan Gailey, you could count on Georgia Tech to lose this game. Not anymore.
Prediction: Georgia Tech 35, Virginia 32.
Miami vs Clemson: Miami is the up-and-coming power in the ACC. Since losing 27-7 at Virginia Tech, they have rebounded nicely with huge wins over Oklahoma, Florida A&M, and Central Florida. They also have wins over Florida State and Georgia Tech to their credit. Clemson has some playmakers on offense but they have struggled to 3-3 overall.
Prediction: Miami 38, Clemson 23.
BYU vs TCU: TCU has a tackling dummy sporting a BYU helmet in their weight room. Think this game isn’t big for them? Meanwhile, BYU is eager to atone for their Florida State beatdown, and that could start this week.
Prediction: BYU 45, TCU 38.
Iowa vs Michigan State: A Michigan State team that got punked by Central Michigan, choked against Notre Dame, and nearly choked against Michigan, is suddenly playing much better. Iowa is a very tough-minded team, and they will need all the toughness they can bring for this one.
Prediction: Iowa 31, Michigan State 30.
Texas vs Missouri: Texas hasn’t lost the week after playing Oklahoma since 1997. Missouri is struggling to rebuild this year.
Prediction: Texas 31, Missouri 14.
Washington vs Oregon: A suddenly improving Washington team under first year coach Steve Sarkisian has already pulled off an upset win over Southern Cal, and they may actually have a chance to win this one. Oregon had better not be looking ahead to its own game with Southern Can next week.
Prediction: Washington 37, Oregon 34.
USC (no, not that one) vs Oregon State: Southern Cal has had a bit of trouble with Oregon State lately. But no problems with them in California.
Prediction: Southern Cal 45, Oregon State 13.