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SHANE SHACKLEFORD: Another Week of SEC Football Predictions

COVID-19 has affected all of us in a myriad of ways. To say it has taken its toll on the sports world, especially college football, would be a vast understatement.

So when the SEC announced last week that the Vanderbilt/Missouri and the Florida/LSU matchups were postponed, coupled with the announcement that Alabama coach Nick Saban, Bama athletic director Greg Byrne and Florida coach Dan Mullen were diagnosed with the virus, Week Four in the SEC was kind of a drag. (Saban, as it turned out, had a false positive test for COVID.)

Regardless of who you root for, this virus and its effects have exacted a toll on all of us, so in the spirit of competition and fun, let’s talk some football.

Last Saturday, we saw the following:

  • Kentucky exorcise some Halloween ghosts and goblins in Tennessee.

  • Alabama was Alabama, while Auburn was Auburn.

  • Ole Miss is like a vacation destination; nice place to visit, but wouldn’t want to live there.

  • The Comeback Team of the Year is located in Fayetteville. Arkansas has something cooking. Very well coached and will be a tough out the rest of the season.

  • Is the Air Raid grounded for the rest of the season? While Mississippi State finally scored an offensive touchdown, they had 20 rushes for minus 2 yards. Ouch.

Last week, the Backwoods Swami went a terrible 2-3 in his predictions, falling to 16-10 for the season (predictions in bold).

Kentucky 34, Tennessee 7 (I’m so glad I missed it!)

Alabama 41, Georgia 24

Texas A&M 28, Mississippi State 14

Auburn 22, South Carolina 30

Ole Miss 22, Arkansas 31

LSU/Florida (PPD)

Vanderbilt/Missouri (PPD)

Week Six of conference play has some intriguing matchups. Let’s investigate, shall we?

Kentucky at Missouri

As far as momentum, Kentucky has it right now. After looking dead in the water losing to Ole Miss, the Wildcat defense has become their own version of the Big Blue Wall and completely shut down the Air Raid of MSU and the passing game of 18th-ranked Tennessee, forcing 10 turnovers in those two games alone. It seems as though the defense has their identity and it couldn’t come at a better time. The offense also found some traction against the Vols, using the run/pass option to open up holes for the running game and nice seams for the passing game. Most importantly, quarterback Terry Wilson was a leader, and while his stats weren’t mind blowing, he was consistent and didn’t turn the ball over. I’ll take that all day.

Missouri had a bye week last week so it had time to rest up and watch a lot of film on the Cats. Coach Eli Drinkwitz is an innovative offensive coach and does have some talent that will play on Sundays soon. The Tigers have some momentum too, beating previously-ranked LSU 45-41 in Columbia.

This game will come down to how Wilson and the UK offense do against the Missouri defense. Allowing 41 points is usually a precursor of difficulties on defense, and Kentucky is riding the best defense currently in the SEC. Give me the Cats to go to 3-2.

PREDICTION: Cats 30, Tigers 17

Auburn at Ole Miss

If there is ever a schizophrenic matchup this season in college football, it has to be the Ole Miss Rebels and the Auburn Tigers. It seems like there is no way to get a gauge on either team and how they will perform from week to week. Let’s look at the Tigers first. Since the second half of excellence against Kentucky in the season opener, War Eagles have been thumped by Georgia, got an awfully favorable call to defeat Arkansas on a field goal, and allowed a South Carolina team to comeback and beat them. They are either lucky to be 2-2 or should be 3-1 depending on who you ask. The Hot Seat just got a little hotter for Auburn coach Gus Malzahn.

For Ole Miss, the vacation analogy fits for this reason: the Rebels can excite the football world with a nuclear Lane Kiffin offense and outscore Kentucky and almost Alabama, but when it comes time for the bill (defense), the Rebs get thumped by Florida, UK, and Alabama. Unfortunately for the Rebels, it was an ugly day on the trip on both sides of the ball. The defense was still an issue and the interception bug bit quarterback Matt Corral and bit hard. Until Hotty Toddy can improve defensively, the offense cannot carry the load by itself. Maybe Kiffin and defensive coordinator DJ Durkin don’t have all the pieces yet in Oxford. They sure better get them in a hurry. The SEC bill always comes due, especially on Saturdays in the fall.

Looking at this matchup, it all boils down to the Ole Miss defense against the Auburn offense. If the Rebs’ defense can get off the field, their chances of winning improve; allow the Tigers to dominate the ball offensively, and winning is a far-away thought. Auburn has the pieces to win comfortably, but it really depends how much Malzhan and staff get into their own way of coaching. In a shootout give me the Rebels.

PREDICTION: Ole Miss 38, Auburn 31

2 Alabama at Tennessee

On paper this Third Saturday in October looks like a snoozefest for the Crimson Tide. The Tide rolls into Knoxville off a win over Georgia 41-24 in Tuscaloosa and has all the weapons at their disposal that usually is in their repertoire. Their success is tied to the play of quarterback Mac Jones. When Jones plays at a high level, everything looks better and Bama gets rolling. I am concerned a little about their defense. Usually a staple of Nick Saban’s program and littered with NFL talent everywhere, it seems like the Tide can be caught either out of position on plays or the coverage is lacking in the secondary. Ole Miss exposed the deep middle most of the night against the Tide and Georgia did the same down the field, so the SEC and the nation’s offensive coordinators will be looking for ways to hit the big play against Bama.

For the Vols, I still feel like coach Jeremy Pruitt is building the program right. The Vols' approach of power football on offense and a hard-hitting defense is the blueprint for success in the SEC. The problems at Rocky Top are squarely at the quarterback position. It’s painfully obvious Jarrett Guarantano is not the answer; however, the backup J.T. Shrout isn’t either. It got bad enough that Harrison Smith, a walk-on, found his way onto the field. Pruitt will eventually get a quarterback to run the system, but that player probably isn’t on the roster currently.

As far as the matchup goes, I don’t think if Peyton Manning was taking snaps in Knoxville it would matter too much. Alabama is rolling on offense and really Tennessee isn’t nearly consistent enough at quarterback to make the Tide pay. Give me the Tide easily.

PREDICTION: Tide 49, Vols 10

South Carolina at LSU

The pundits on the SEC Network called this one early on, picking the Gamecocks in an upset over Auburn in last Saturday's contest. Behind running back Kevin Harris’ 83 yards and two scores and quarterback Collin Hill’s 144 yards passing, and the Gamecocks’ red zone defense that held when it had to and forced three Bo Nix interceptions, coach Will Muschamp might have cooled off the Hot Seat a little bit. It wasn’t a pretty win, but nonetheless a big SEC win for Carolina.

If I had to guess, the Tigers have done some soul-searching on defense and tried to shore up their deficiencies on that side of the ball. No one feels sorry for the defending national champions regardless of who’s gone and who comes in. LSU is having a difficult time in defensive coordinator Bo Pelini’s scheme, which doesn’t bode well with Alabama and Ole Miss’ offenses yet to come.

Carolina does have momentum coming into Baton Rouge. LSU has its issues defensively. But I think the week off helps the Tigers iron enough things out defensively and score the necessary points to beat USC. Give me the Tigers at home.

PREDICTION: Geaux Tigers 33, Gamecocks 24

Stay safe and stay well, football fans. Enjoy the games.

Shane Shackleford is a regional sports columnist from Speedwell, Tenn. You can follow him on Facebook, Twitter, and several media outlets --The Corbin Times-Tribune, London Sentinel-Echo, A Sea of Blue, Magazine, and


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