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SHANE SHACKLEFORD: Will the Cats Bounce Back Against Mississippi State?


UK running back Chris Rodriguez Jr. in a recent practice. (UK Athletics Photo by Jacob Noger)

During the 1980s (I know a long time ago for some of you), a popular computer-based movie came out titled Wargames. The basic premise of the movie is a government supercomputer goes haywire and threatens to instigate World War 3 unless a boy who is a computer geek can convince it to stop. I won’t bore you with the details.


The catchphrase of the computer (yes, it has a speaking role) is “Shall we play a game?” whenever it and the boy play a game titled surprisingly “Thermonuclear War.”


It’s the 80s, you just had to be there.


Last week, your fearless forecaster went a pedestrian 4-3 on the season (9-5 overall.) Last week’s games are below with my pick in bold:


Ole Miss 42, Kentucky 41

South Carolina 24, Florida 38

Missouri 12, Tennessee 35

Texas A&M 24, Alabama 52

Auburn 6, Georgia 27

Arkansas 21, Mississippi State 14

LSU 41, Vanderbilt 7


With the chaos that is the 2020 SEC football season, it dawned to me that every team in the conference could be classified into three categories. I thought it would be fun to mix our little game in with our Week Three predictions.


So without further ado, let’s play Revelation, Separation, or Desperation.


Mississippi State at Kentucky


For the Bulldogs, I will go with Revelation due to the early success of the Mike Leach Air-Raid passing system. The LSU upset is undeniable but as good as it was moving the ball against Arkansas, the Hogs’ defense held the Dawgs to just 14 points and the offense made just enough plays to pull the upset. It’s amazing how a week of film study can lead to a lack of surprises on Saturday. Arkansas proved it.


For the Wildcats, it has to be Desperation. The Cats sit at 0-2, a place they did not expect to be for sure. The problems the Cats have been monumental currently. The defense is getting blistered in the passing game, the kicking game is highly suspect, and are committing bad penalties and mental mistakes that cost them dearly. The Cats have to get it together and do it fast.


I feel like there will be an improvement in the UK secondary this week (coach Mark Stoops will get involved in the preparation). Arkansas cast the die on how to play the Air Raid; play cover three-zone defense and drop eight men into coverage. Doing this limits the Dawgs’ ability to spring the big play. The Cats must tackle well, too. If the UK run game can continue to gain huge chunks of yardage or even gain close to four yards per carry, then by all means the Cats can pull out their first win. If MSU starts pulling out big plays and quick scores like Ole Miss, 0-3 is likely. Against the grain again, give me the Cats in a good one.


PREDICTION: Cats 30, Dawgs 27


4 Florida at 21 Texas A&M


For the Gators, I’ll go with Separation. UF is beginning to become the monster they were under Steve Spurrier and Urban Meyer in previous seasons. The Gators are rolling on offense behind Heisman candidate Kyle Trask and the defense made strides Saturday against South Carolina.


The Aggies, however, get the title of Desperation. After struggling against Vandy and getting throttled against Alabama, Gig ‘Em needs a big win against a ranked foe to right the ship. Another loss could be devastating to the Aggies’ hopes for a breakout year.


Give me the Gators in a shootout as they take another step to a possible SEC East title.


PREDICTION: Gators 40, Aggies 30


South Carolina at Vanderbilt


Both teams get the title of Desperation. The Commodores are 0-2 after a narrow loss to A&M and a blowout loss to LSU. The buzzards are circling coach Derek Mason. It will take some sort of a miracle for Mason to hold onto his job in Music City. You can say the same thing for Gamecock coach Wil Muschamp. Those same buzzards are circling in Columbia. In a sloppy but hard-hitting affair I’m going USC in a close one.


PREDICTION: Carolina 17, Vandy 14


14 Tennessee at 3 Georgia


For the Vols, they’re a Revelation. The folks on Rocky Top have gotten back to their roots -- power run game, a hitting defense, and solid quarterback play. I’ve said it before; UT coach Jeremy Pruitt is a heck of a football coach.


Georgia earns the title of Separation after their manhandling of Auburn in the "South’s Oldest Rivalry.” QB Stetson Bennett IV has been rock solid as he solidifies himself as the signal-caller for the Dogs. Georgia’s running game is back and the defense is litter with guys who will play on Sundays.


This is the first real test for the Vols. Can they pull the upset? Absolutely. Will they this Saturday between the hedges? No. But the gap is closing.


PREDICTION: Dogs 27, Vols 21


Arkansas at 13 Auburn


Let’s talk about the Hogs first. I’m labeling them as a Revelation. After winning their first SEC game in their last 20 against a ranked foe in Mississippi State on the road in Starkville no less, Arkansas deserves a big pat on the back. The Razorbacks are gritty and tough, taking their persona from new coach Sam Pittman’s staff. Kudos.


For the Tigers, however, it's back to a familiar title: Desperation. For all the good feelings War Eagles had beating a ranked Kentucky team, all of that is gone after getting thumped at Georgia. Coach Gus Malzhan’s seat just got hot again. Although talented, the Tigers just can’t get over the hump in the SEC and become a power each season.


The Hogs will compete, but unfortunately for them, the Tigers have more arrows in the quiver right now.


PREDICTION: War Eagles 28, Hogs 14


2 Alabama at Ole Miss


Let’s talk about the Tide. The word for them is Separation. Once again, Bama reloads and runs roughshod through the SEC. After cruising at Mizzou and laying the strap to Texas A&M, Bama legend Nick Saban faces another former assistant in Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin. Kiffin has orchestrated a dynamic offense capable of putting yards and points up, so let’s give them the title of Revelation.


However, the Rebels defense isn’t very good, as highlighted by their allowing 51 points to Florida and 41 to Kentucky. Bama is known for taking your weakness, highlighting it, and gutting you because of it. The Tide have weapons everywhere. The Rebs will put some points up, but Bama is just too much.


PREDICTION: Tide 52, Rebels 21


Missouri at 17 LSU


For Mizzou, let’s go with Desperation only because the Tigers need a win to help salvage first-year coach Eli Drinkwitz’s inaugural season in Columbia. To his credit the Tigers have played hard so far and have some NFL prospects, but just don’t have all the weapons yet to make the next step up the SEC ladder.


For the Tigers, Separation is a good way at looking at their season to date. After desperation feelings were prevalent after the Mississippi State debacle, the Bayou Bengals got their feet under them in a comfortable win over Vanderbilt Saturday 41-7.


LSU needs another win to help them separate from that opening loss to get back to who they are- an SEC power. This game will help.


PREDICTION: LSU 40, Mizzou 15


Shane Shackleford is a regional sports columnist from Speedwell, Tenn. You can follow him on Facebook, Twitter, and at A Sea of Blue, KySportsStyle.com Magazine, and HarlanCountySports.com.

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