These are trying times for Ole Miss, which faces the dual distraction of scandal and investigation, and can’t go to a bowl game because of self-imposed sanctions it hopes will be enough in the eyes of the NCAA. But the Rebels have perhaps been more competitive than anticipated on the field, last week completely dismantling a Vanderbilt team that had beaten a ranked opponent only a few weeks ago.
Ole Miss is still going to have to fight to keep its head above water, but the fact that the Rebels are at .500 with Alabama and Auburn behind them leads you to believe this team isn’t going to quit on interim coach Matt Luke as some initially feared. Quarterback Shea Patterson has been fantastic. It all adds some intrigue to the Rebels’ contest Saturday at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium against No. 24 LSU.
This is Ole Miss’ biggest remaining home game, and in a year with no postseason, it could feel like the Super Bowl in Oxford. Which Ole Miss do we get — the one that ran roughshod over Vanderbilt, or the one that bowed fairly meekly at Cal? Which LSU team do we get — the one that rallied in the second half against Auburn, or the one that lost to Troy and was blown out at Mississippi State?
The right combination makes this a real ballgame, something that’s reflected in the rather narrow Vegas spread. On a light SEC weekend (five conference teams are off), few matchups are more interesting. On to the predictions, with all kickoffs in Eastern time.
No. 24 LSU at Ole Miss: Rebels take Tigers to the brink
Led by Patterson behind center, the Rebels have a nice array of offensive skill-position players, but they’ve been contained against Top 25 opponents thus far. LSU played like the team everyone expected all season in the second half against Auburn, but is this Tigers renaissance for real? Nobody knows. Oxford should be jacked to the hilt for this one, with the Rebels offense keeping them in the game against Jekyll-and-Hyde LSU. It might not be enough for an upset. But it should be enough to offer another reminder that Ole Miss isn’t going to quit.
Kickoff: Saturday, 7:15 p.m., ESPN
Line: LSU by 6½
Prediction: LSU 35, Ole Miss 30
Idaho at Missouri: Mizzou snaps 5-game losing streak
Idaho is in its final season before moving back down to the FCS ranks, and it’s been a struggle for the 2-4 Vandals. Missouri has been a mess since that opening-weekend victory over Missouri State. Somebody has to win, right? The atmosphere at Faurot Field will hardly be electric for this one, but it’s probably Mizzou’s last chance to win a game at home this season. The Tigers may have just one other potential victory, at UConn. Take ’em while you can get ’em, fellas.
Kickoff: Saturday, noon, SEC Network
Line: Missouri by 15
Prediction: Missouri 45, Idaho 21
Tennessee at No. 1 Alabama: Tide provides CBS with another blowout
The CBS programmers are clearly gluttons for punishment. After airing Alabama’s 59-0 whipping of Vanderbilt, and then Georgia’s 41-0 rout of Tennessee, the Tiffany Network is back for what used to be one of the premier matchups on the SEC schedule — but this season shapes up as a complete mismatch. Alabama is averaging 43 points per game, Tennessee 22. In Bryant-Denny Stadium, it won’t be that close. The line is the largest in series history. Uncle Verne retired at the right time.
Kickoff: Saturday 3:30 p.m., CBS
Line: Alabama by 35
Prediction: Alabama 52, Tennessee 21
Kentucky at Mississippi State: Wildcats make it feel like 1984 again
That’s the last time Kentucky won its first two SEC road games. No question, the Wildcats remain something of an unknown even at 5-1, given how they’ve skirted by some lower-tier opponents. But plenty of doubts also remain about 4-2 Mississippi State, given that the rout of LSU doesn’t exactly hold the same significance it once did. Kentucky has a very good defense and a starting quarterback who makes very few mistakes, two things that usually travel well and help a team win on the road.
READ MORE: Kentucky thrives on playing away from home
Kickoff: Saturday, 4 p.m., SEC Network
Line: Mississippi State by 10½
Prediction: Kentucky 31, Mississippi State 28
No. 21 Auburn at Arkansas: Tigers’ ground game sends Hogs to another loss
Auburn is coming off a dreadful second half at LSU. Arkansas is coming off a dreadful past few weeks. The Razorbacks have been gashed by opposing run games, allowing an average of 236 yards on the ground to their last four Power 5 opponents. Now here come the Tigers and tailback Kerryon Johnson, the leading rusher in the SEC. The numbers don’t add up for the Hogs, who are staring at a fourth straight conference loss to open the season that will only increase the heat on coach Bret Bielema.
Kickoff: Saturday, 7:30 p.m., SEC Network
Line: Auburn by 15
Prediction: Auburn 27, Arkansas 17
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