Fearless Predictions

SATURDAY'S FEATURED GAME

 
Alabama Crimson Tide NCAA Football Team No. 1 Alabama at No. 10 Arkansas
Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET
Line: Alabama -7.5
Arkansas Razorbacks NCAA Football Team

If Arkansas is ready to turn the corner, really ready to turn the corner, this is the game it needs to have. After a strong performance in a last-second win at Georgia, the Hog love is flowing for a team with a high-octane offense, a solid defense, and the type of quarterback who makes NFL scouts get warm and fuzzy feelings inside. Bobby Petrino’s team has been building towards this game and this moment, and after losing three straight in the series and getting destroyed in the last two against the Tide, a win would vault Arkansas to the front row in the national title chase. However, a win doesn’t assure an SEC West title with road trips to Auburn and South Carolina ahead, but the LSU game is at home, and if the Hogs are good enough to beat Alabama, they’re good enough to beat anyone left on the slate.

Why Alabama might win: The pass defense is working. Of all the areas on defense that needed retooling and reloading, the secondary was among the biggest concerns. The talent was undeniable, but how quickly could all the superstar recruits turn into primetime performers? Penn State has a nice receiving corps and David Cutcliffe’s Duke attack can wing it around the yards, but the Tide secondary has still been tremendous allowing just one touchdown pass with five interceptions. Even though teams have had to bomb away to try to keep up the pace, Bama has only allowed 362 passing yards on the season with the first three teams combining to complete a mere 41-of-92 throws. Ryan Mallett might get 362 yards in this game, but the Tide will win more than its share of battles.

Why Arkansas might win: The offensive line is playing well. Mallett is doing a great job of getting the ball out of his hands in a hurry, and he’s starting to answer his pro scout critics who suggest that he can’t make accurate throws on the move, but he’s also getting a ton of help from the front five. Georgia’s Justin Houston was a non-factor until one big play on a late Hog drive, and for the most part, the Bulldog pass rush was totally neutralized. As good as Alabama might be, the pass rush has been non-existent so far with a mere two sacks in the first three games and only nine tackles for loss. That’s not to say the defensive front seven doesn’t have the skill to get into the backfield, but it hasn’t needed to sell out in any way so far and it hasn’t had to provide much pressure to succeed.

What to watch for: All the attention will be paid to the matchup of Heisman candidates with Mallett and Ingram on display, and rightly so, but the key might be Alabama QB Greg McElroy. The nation’s leader in passing efficiency had his best game of the 2009 season against the Hogs, throwing for 291 yards with three scores. However, he’s not going to outbomb his counterpart. Mallett answered some questions last week about his inability to win on the road and his struggles late in tight games by engineering a brilliant win, and he has been nothing short of spectacular so far. Since coming to Arkansas, he has thrown for 200 yards or more in every game but one; last year’s 35-7 loss to Bama. He completed 12-of-35 passes for 160 yards with a touchdown and an interception, and if he can make amends, his NFL draft stock will shoot up from first rounder to possibly No. 1 overall.

Prediction:

  Alabama 27, Arkansas 23
Complete Fearless Prediction | GameTrax

 

NO. 6 TEXAS AT TEXAS TECH

 
Texas Longhorns No. 6 Texas at Texas Tech
Saturday, 8 p.m. ET
Line: Texas -3
Texas Tech Red Raiders

The last time Texas made the trip to Lubbock, the Red Raiders came up with, arguably, the biggest win in their history when Graham Harrell connected with Michael Crabtree for a miraculous game-winning touchdown to send the 2008 season into a tizzy. 21 months later, Texas is still really good, and Texas Tech still can’t get over the hump. While the Red Raiders haven’t exactly been lights out under new head man Tommy Tuberville, they have an honest chance of coming up with their second win in three years in the series if Texas plays like it has over the first two games. Trying to balance out the attack and trying to move on from the Colt McCoy era, the Longhorns have been sluggish at best, mediocre at worst, and while they beat Rice and Wyoming by double digits, they hardly looked like the national title contender everyone is used to. This begins a brutal stretch of conference games with no Big 12 home date until late October. There’s an oasis against UCLA next week, but the Oklahoma showdown comes the week after and the trip to Nebraska follows. If the Longhorns lose this week, the pressure will be on to be perfect the rest of the way. Tuberville is trying to prove that Texas Tech football can still succeed without Mike Leach at the helm.

Prediction:

  Texas 38, Texas Tech 34
Complete Fearless Prediction | GameTrax

 

NO. 8 NEBRASKA AT WASHINGTON

 
Nebraska Cornhuskers No. 8 Nebraska at Washington
Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET
Line: Nebraska -3.5
Washington Huskies

Nebraska is out to earn its No. 8 ranking, on the road, for the first time in 2010. Washington gets its second chance this month to make a national splash with a non-conference victory. In the first go-round, the Huskies came up short in Provo, losing to BYU, 23-17. While U-Dub got off the mat with a big second half to escape Syracuse, 41-20, beating the Huskers would provide tangible proof of how far the program has progressed in Steve Sarkisian’s second season in Seattle. After toying with Western Kentucky and Idaho, questions remain about Nebraska. Is the quarterback situation really solved? How close is the defense to last year’s edition? If the Huskers clear this hurdle in hostile territory, they will have to be viewed as more than just a Big 12 contender. The Huskers are turning back the clock, winning with a relentless running game and an opportunistic defense. Led by precocious QB Taylor Martinez and backs Roy Helu and Rex Burkhead, Nebraska is No. 3 nationally in rushing at 325 yards a game. But don’t ever dismiss the value of having the home crowd or the best player in the stadium. Washington QB Jake Locker has the skills to be a transcendent figure in this type of game, energizing the crowd in the seats and on the sidelines.

Prediction:

  Nebraska 31, Washington 23
Complete Fearless Prediction | GameTrax

 

NO. 12 ARKANSAS AT GEORGIA

 
Arkansas Razorbacks No. 12 Arkansas at Georgia
Saturday, Noon ET
Line: Georgia -2.5
Georgia Bulldogs

In a week when Florida is playing Tennessee and Clemson and Auburn are playing a tough non-conference game, this is the marquee game of the weekend and it’s the one that could have the biggest impact. It’s prove-it time for Arkansas and desperation time for Georgia. The Bulldogs couldn’t get the offense going in last week’s 17-6 loss to South Carolina, and the defense struggled to wrap up and tackle against Marcus Lattimore and the ground game. With four road games (counting the Jacksonville date with Florida) in five weeks coming after this week, a home loss would be disastrous. This is a very talented, very promising team that needs to play like it, or the seat could start getting very, very hot for head coach Mark Richt. The same pressure isn’t there for Arkansas, but with Alabama, a neutral site date with Texas A&M and a trip to Auburn to follow, a win between the hedges would do wonders before the rough stretch ahead. The offense hasn’t had any problems against Tennessee Tech and ULM, while the defense has stepped up its play against the mediocre opponents. With talented WR A.J. Green still serving a four-game suspension, can Georgia keep up if this gets into a shootout in any form? The Dawgs beat the Hogs, 52-41, in one of the most fun games of the 2009 SEC season.

Prediction:

  Arkansas 23, Georgia 20
Complete Fearless Prediction | GameTrax

 

NO. 10 FLORIDA AT TENNESSEE

 
Florida Gators No. 20 Florida at Tennessee
Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET
Line: Florida -14.5
Tennessee Volunteers

There was a time not all that long ago when this matchup would bring the sports world to a standstill. Now it’s just another game on the SEC slate. It’s not Florida’s fault, and while this might not be the tightest team Urban Meyer has fielded in his time in Gainesville, it’s still 2-0 with blowout wins over Miami University and USF. Tennessee has gone from being down to being in total rebuilding mode after getting its doors blown off in an ugly 48-13 home loss to Oregon. While the Vols played well against a far better Gator team last year, they lost six of the last seven games in the series, with double-digit losses in the last three. First-year head man Derek Dooley has a lot of work to do for the former superpower as the talent level isn’t remotely close to what it was a few years ago, and while being plucky is one thing, not having a chance to be in the hunt with the better teams is a problem. However, a win over Florida, even one against a Gators team that appears to be a shadow of its former self, would change things around in a big hurry, and would through the SEC East race into a tizzy. If the Gators are ready to show that the first two ugly games were an aberration and they come out roaring, then it might be back to business as usual. If the Vols lose this, an 0-5 SEC start is quite possible.

Prediction:

  Florida 31, Tennessee 10
Complete Fearless Prediction | GameTrax

 

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