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SHANE SHACKLEFORD: Wild SEC Going Through Halloween-Like Campaign

Happy Halloween! But with 2020 having the look of a B-rate horror film that seems to have no end, hasn’t it been Halloween long enough? Discuss.


It was a short week in SEC play with only four games on tap, but nevertheless, there still was plenty to discuss.


In a nutshell, let’s review the week that was in SEC play:

  • Auburn survives at Ole Miss on another questionable call/no-call that leads to a game-winning touchdown in Oxford.

  • LSU got back to being LSU, drilling South Carolina in Baton Rouge.

  • Although Alabama was its usual dominant self, the Tide got a crushing blow in losing All-American candidate Jaylen Waddle to a season-ending ankle injury.

  • Kentucky’s offense was, um, offensive in a loss to Missouri.

Last week, the Backwoods Swami went .500 yet again (18-12 overall) in a shortened SEC week. Let’s look at how he performed (picks in bold:)


Kentucky 10, Missouri 20

Alabama 48, Tennessee 17

LSU 52, South Carolina 24

Ole Miss 28, Auburn 35


With a nearly full slate of games this week, let’s look into the crystal ball and do a little trick or treating, shall we?

Georgia at Kentucky


Simply put, the Kentucky offense was barely competitive against an aggressive Mizzou defense. On Monday, the quarterback position on the depth chart was Terry Wilson or Joey Gatewood. Later that day, coach Mark Stoops says Wilson had an injury that held him out of practice. Is there a change afoot in Lexington?


Interestingly, though, Georgia isn’t satisfied with their signal-caller play either. After losing to Alabama, Bulldog quarterback Stetson Bennett IV got less-than-stellar reviews. Could this be an opportunity for the Dawgs to play heralded USC transfer, JT Daniels?


Usually, with teams that have turmoil at quarterback, I look at the defenses. I still believe the Cats have a top-five SEC defensive unit; by the same token, UGA has probably the second-best unit in the conference. Combined with playmakers and depth everywhere I just don’t see the Cats pulling this one out. Kentucky will play better but not enough to win.


PREDICTION: Dawgs 31, Cats 17


LSU at Auburn


I’ll be honest, it’s hard to pick against Auburn because they could be 1-4 instead of 3-2 if not for some rather questionable calls and no calls in their wins. Guess they’ve been really lucky. But really, the Auburn Tigers are a dangerous club based on their playmakers on offense. Quarterback Bo Nix and receiver Seth Williams are lethal when they are on the same page, the run game behind Tank Bigsby is nice, and the defense has some playmakers in the back end.


LSU finally got back to winning Saturday with freshman quarterback TJ Finley shredding the Gamecock defense. Could he be the new signal-caller for the Tigers and replacing Myles Brennan?


Both teams have great offenses and suspect defenses, so I look for a high-scoring affair at Auburn. Will Auburn's luck finally run out? I think it does. In a wild one, I’m going purple and gold.


PREDICTION: Geaux Tigers 42, War Eagles 30


Ole Miss at Vanderbilt


In a way, you have to feel for the Rebels. Although they are 1-4, they could be 3-2 if their defense hadn’t had major breakdowns at crucial times. Missed tackles, dropped interceptions, and blown coverages litter their season. Defensive coordinator DJ Durkin has to find a way to build that Ole Miss defense up or the Rebs are merely more than a novelty with their offense. The Rebs' offense of coach Lane Kiffin can’t score enough to compensate for the points and yards the defense is giving up.


Vanderbilt has finally had time to heal up from the COVID-19 virus and two weeks to prepare for the fast break Ole Miss offense. Unfortunately, though, Vandy just hasn’t got the athletes and defense to slow down the Rebel attack. The Rebels win big.

PREDICTION: Hotty Toddy 45, Dores 10


Mississippi State at Alabama


Poor Mississippi State. After lighting up Baton Rouge in its opener, the Air Raid offense of Mike Leach has sputtered to a near standstill. Two weeks ago, the Bulldog rushing game was nonexistent (20 carries, -2 yards). Without some balance, the Dawgs are in for a steep climb to the top of the SEC. The defense hasn’t been too bad, but not nearly enough to win.


For Alabama, I guarantee coach Nick Saban had the film on the Air Raid offense of Mike Leach a couple of days after he was hired in Tuscaloosa. The Tide will be prepared for it. The Dawgs will take a few shots down the field if the offensive line can give quarterback Will Rogers time to throw.


Doesn’t matter. I’m going to go Tide big in this one.


PREDICTION: Roll Tide 45, Air Raid U 17

Arkansas at Texas A&M


If you would have told me the most improved football team in the SEC would be the Arkansas Razorbacks, I guess we would have had a misunderstanding. Coming into the season, the Hogs had dropped 20 straight conference games and were a hot mess under coach Chad Morris. Now, though, Arkansas is a very balanced team under new coach Sam Pittman, my choice for SEC Coach of the Year. Their formula is simple: sound defense, great special teams, and balanced offense (sound familiar Wildcat fans?)


As for the Aggies, they seem to be turning the corner and making the next step to being an SEC power. They have the talent, coaching, and the resources in College Station, but they have always played second (or third) fiddle to Alabama and LSU in the SEC West. With the Tigers in a semi-rebuild, can the Aggies catch them and be the second-best team in their division?


This rivalry game goes back to the days of the Southwest Conference, so I expect a really good game. If the Hogs can keep the game close, they can win it late. If the Aggies get rolling on offense, then they win. It won’t be an easy game for either, but give me the Aggies at home.


PREDICTION: Gig Ems 31, Hawgs 24


Missouri at Florida


The second-most improved SEC outfit is the Missouri Tigers. After the up-and-down tenure of Barry Odom, coach Eli Drinkwitz has taken some pretty good talent and molded it into a good product in Columbia. Running back Larry Roundtree will be carrying the mail on Sundays next season, and quarterback Connor Bazelak is a rising star. The defense is led by linebacker Nick Bolton, another NFL talent.


Florida has been going through the COVID crisis, so it’s hard to predict how the virus and its aftermath will affect the on-field product. Before the outbreak in Gainesville, the Gators were easily the second-best team in the SEC East. I don’t think that has changed at all.


The game will rest on Mizzou’s offensive success against the Florida defense. The Gator offense will produce, but can the defense finally get some traction and help the offense out? If they can’t, Missouri has the pieces to win in Gainesville. I see the Gators’ defense having some issues, but not enough to cost them the game.


PREDICTION: Gators 35, Show Mes 21


IDLE: South Carolina, Tennessee


Shane Shackleford is a regional sports columnist from Speedwell, Tenn. You can follow him on Facebook and Twitter as well as media outlets Corbin Times-Tribune , London Sentinel-Echo, A Sea of Blue, KySportsStyle.com Magazine, HarlanCountySports.com, and Wildcat Sports Talk.

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