SEC Preview and Predictions for Week 8

It’s hard to believe, but Week 8 of the 2013 college football season is already here.

Despite the national media touting the apparent rise of the Pac-12 and the ACC, the SEC is quietly having another impressive year. The conference currently has eight teams ranked in the Top 25 (with three in the Top 10), all of which will be in action this weekend.

Following is a brief look into this weekend’s SEC lineup, complete with rankings, records, and predictions.

No. 22 Florida (4-2) at No. 14 Missouri (6-0)

The Tigers are one week removed from their biggest win since joining the SEC. The explosive Missouri offense has undergone a major shakeup this week, however, after quarterback James Franklin went down with a shoulder injury last Saturday at Georgia. His replacement is redshirt freshman Maty Mauk, who has all of six pass attempts on the season.

Mauk will be lining up against perhaps the top defense in all of college football. Coach Will Muschamp will no doubt attempt to rattle the freshman with an array of blitzes, while cornerbacks Loucheiz Purifoy and Vernon Hargreaves III try to lock down Missouri wideouts L’Damian Washington and Dorial Green-Beckham.

The Florida offense, meanwhile, will be attempting to get back on track after failing to reach the end zone last week. Quarterback Tyler Murphy will get his second straight road start, and he’ll have to manage another lively crowd. A formidable running game would be a tremendous benefit for the inexperienced junior in this one.

Missouri will be fired up at home after a huge win, but the loss of Franklin is too significant for the Tigers to overcome this week. Look for Mauk to struggle and for the Gators to escape with the victory.

Prediction:  Florida 24, Missouri 18

No. 24 Auburn (5-1) at No. 7 Texas A&M (5-1)

This showdown in College Station features two one-loss SEC West teams. Nick Marshall returns from an injury to quarterback an Auburn squad that has turned some heads in the SEC thus far. A win over highly ranked Texas A&M would nearly make the Tigers’ season.

The Aggies, meanwhile, had to battle hard for a road victory at Ole Miss last game, and could very well be in for another fight this Saturday.

The contest won’t lack for points, as both head coaches prefer fast-paced spread offenses. Outscoring Johnny Manziel, however, will prove too difficult a task for the Tigers. A&M should pull away in the second half, and thus keep its Western Division title hopes alive.

Prediction: Texas A&M 42, Auburn 31

No. 6 LSU (6-1) at Ole Miss (3-3)

Ole Miss tries to avoid a fourth straight loss to a divisional opponent, as Les Miles’ Tigers invade Oxford with their highest ranking of the season.

The Rebels came close last Saturday against Texas A&M, but a late field goal ended their bid for an upset. Quarterback Bo Wallace gets another crack at a top 10 opponent this weekend, and will likely come out swinging for the fences in front of a boisterous home crowd.

The Tigers, meanwhile, will try to establish a downfield passing game early on, before turning to running back Jeremy Hill to close it out down the stretch.

Ole Miss should keep it close for a half, but LSU has too many weapons on offense, and too much speed on defense.

Prediction: LSU 34, Ole Miss 20

Arkansas (3-4) at No. 1 Alabama (6-0)

Alabama continues its grueling schedule (sarcasm) with a home contest against struggling Arkansas. The Razorbacks limp into Tuscaloosa having lost four straight, while the Tide have beaten their last two SEC opponents by a combined score of 73-7.

Arkansas will try to establish a running game behind talented freshman Alex Collins, but CJ Mosley and the Alabama defense shouldn’t have any problems in this one. The Tide will continue to roll, while the Hogs will likely drop their fifth straight.

Prediction: Alabama 42, Arkansas 7

No. 15 Georgia (4-2) at Vanderbilt (3-3)

As Georgia attempts to rebound from its first SEC loss of the season, the Bulldogs couldn’t ask for a better matchup. Vanderbilt is still seeking its first SEC win, but James Franklin’s Commodores could very well find themselves on the short end of the stick again this Saturday.

Despite injuries to multiple offensive players, Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray should be able to manage the Vanderbilt defense. Commodores signal caller Austyn Carta-Samuels will likely make some plays against the Bulldogs secondary, but it won’t be enough to pull the upset.

Prediction: Georgia 34, Vanderbilt 21

No. 11 South Carolina (5-1) at Tennessee (3-3)

Tennessee has had two weeks to prepare for this divisional matchup, as Butch Jones’ squad was off last week. The Vols nearly upset Georgia two weeks ago, and should feel confident in their ability to go toe-to-toe with the highly-ranked Gamecocks.

On the South Carolina side, quarterback Connor Shaw and company lit up Arkansas last game for 52 points. But dominating on the road for two straight weeks in the SEC is extremely difficult. Steve Spurrier’s Gamecocks should pull it off, but they won’t have an easy time of it.

South Carolina 31, Tennessee 28

Saturday should make for another eventful day in SEC country, as two of this weekend’s contests feature ranked squads squaring off in key divisional matchups. For most teams, there’s no longer any room for error, so expect a full day of intense, hard-hitting football.