SEC Week 3 picks: Tennessee-Florida a tough one; LSU's first test

Leadership in SEC East at stake for Tennessee, Florida (1:07)

Trevor Matich says the loser of Saturday's matchup between the Vols and Gators will likely be pushed out of the running in the SEC East. (1:07)

As with every week, ESPN writers Sam Khan Jr. and Alex Scarborough size up the weekend's SEC action and pick their winners for each game. Visit our college football PickCenter page for additional information on these games and many more.

Scarborough: Two weeks in, Sam, and we're doing pretty well picking these games. Not to brag, but I'm 23-2 while you're 21-4. You shouldn't have trusted Auburn to beat Clemson, but you were right about TCU taking care of Arkansas.

With that said, let's turn our attention to this weekend, which, to be fair, pales in comparison to Weeks 1 and 2 in terms of high-quality games. There are some sneaky-good matchups, though.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but we're both in agreement that Auburn beats Mercer, Alabama beats Colorado State and Georgia beats Samford. That Louisiana-Texas A&M game could get interesting after seeing how Nicholls State hung in there against the Aggies last weekend, but I'm not going to call my shot there.

The games I'm interested in starting out with are Purdue-Missouri and Ole Miss-Cal. To be honest, I'm not confident in either outcome. I'm going to take a flier on underdog Purdue and what Jeff Brohm will do offensively to that putrid Missouri defense. And since it's a night game -- yes, I think it makes a difference when you're going east to west -- I'll go with Ole Miss. Shea Patterson and that passing game are rolling and will get the best of Cal.

Khan: One of these years, I'll learn about picking Auburn (got burned at the height of Jeremy Johnson hype, too), but it won't be this year. No disagreement on the "gimme" games but obviously keep an eye on Texas A&M. That's a turbulent situation in College Station.

We're in agreement on Ole Miss. It's a coin-flip game but I love me some Patterson, so give me the Rebels.

As for Purdue-Mizzou, I'm going with the home team (Missouri). Given that Mizzou just fired its defensive coordinator (never a good sign when you're making firings two games into a season), it seems misguided, but I think the Tigers' offense can outscore the Boilermakers. This will be a shootout, but if they can take care of the ball better than they did a week ago and avoid a special-teams calamity, I think they pull it out.

One game I've been eyeing is Kentucky-South Carolina. I've been high on the Gamecocks from the season's start and I'm not changing that now -- I think they take this one -- but what do you think?

Scarborough: I've been more reticent on South Carolina than you -- its youth and lack of quality depth still worries me despite the program obviously heading in the right direction -- but I'm coming around. Maybe it's the dark horse to win the East. The combination of Jake Bentley and Deebo Samuel is so much fun to watch. I'm going to go with the Gamecocks. Kentucky, to me, just doesn't have enough firepower on offense.

The tricky game -- and I'm curious to hear your thoughts on it -- is Kansas State at Vanderbilt. Kyle Shurmur has been playing much better this season, but you'll have to forgive me for not being 100 percent sold on the Dores having a well-rounded offense.

At last check, Vegas has K-State as a 4-point favorite on the road. Feels like a big number to me.

Khan: I want to be bold and pick Vanderbilt, but I don't have the guts to do it. Offensively, Vanderbilt still has to win me over by doing it against better competition than what it has seen in the first two weeks. This Kansas State team is talented and experienced and I think just a tad too much firepower for Vandy. Give me the Wildcats in a close one. What about you?

Scarborough: I feel like I'm going to regret this, but I like Vanderbilt. I know what I just said about not being sold on the offense as a whole, but I love the defense and I love Ralph Webb. I think Webb carries the offense and the Dores win a low-scoring game.

Khan: Gutsy. I like it.

Scarborough: And if that happens, get ready for the world to feel upside down with Vanderbilt and South Carolina looking like top contenders in the East.

Khan: That would be ... interesting.

Two games left. LSU-Mississippi State is one, and, do we have any idea how good these teams are yet? Neither has been tested in the first two weeks.

Scarborough: I'm not confident in either team right now, to be honest. The thing I like about Mississippi State is that the defense is back playing with enthusiasm. The change at coordinator to Todd Grantham lit a fire under that bunch and it's going to lead to more big plays (i.e. sacks, turnovers). But against a talented defense like LSU's, I'm not sure how much running room Nick Fitzgerald is going to have. And if he can't escape the pocket, his receivers are a little underwhelming. Dan Mullen says Malik Dear may play, but there will be significant rust if he does. What's more, LSU is getting Arden Key back.

The most interesting piece of this, to me, is how well LSU's offense performs, though. Danny Etling and that bunch have feasted on lesser competition in BYU and Chattanooga. Matt Canada has shown some nice things, but it's hardly been the full playbook. Starting conference play, we'll really see how the new O.C. blends his scheme to fit LSU's strengths of running the football and working off play action.

I like LSU to win big, but it's those layers to the game that are most compelling to me.

Khan: Getting Key back is huge for LSU, but I wonder what he'll look like. He was away from the team all spring and an injury kept him largely out of training camp.

The Tigers shut down Fitzgerald last season, but he's a lot better of a player right now than he was then. And this will be the toughest test so far this season for Etling, Canada and LSU's new offense. Can the Bulldogs slow down Derrius Guice just enough to pull off the upset? I'm going to go out on a limb and say, yes, they will. Give me Mississippi State.

Lastly, the feature game, Tennessee at Florida. The Vols finally broke their losing streak in this rivalry last season and I like their chances with their offense to go on the road and take this one. I just don't feel good about the Gators being able to put up enough points. What do you think?

Scarborough: Clanga, Sam. Clanga. I like the pick.

As for Tennessee-Florida, this is a tough one. The impact of Hurricane Irma has to play a role in this, right? You have to imagine players' thoughts have been elsewhere. So while I feel like this is a game Tennessee should win, it's the exact reason why I won't pick the Vols. There's just no trust there. So in spite of my concern for the long layoff and in spite of what I expect to still be a poor offense from Florida, I'm picking the Gators at home in what I expect to be a sloppy game that comes down to the fourth quarter.

Khan: You're right about Irma. It does take a toll. I've been around Houston and Rice a lot lately -- teams that were temporarily displaced by Hurricane Harvey -- and I can tell you that the mental fatigue from that is real. It's easy to get fired up for a game when you've had to deal with all of this other stuff, but sustaining focus for an extended period when you've had your thoughts on more important things for so long can drain a team. I think it has an impact on many of the teams these storms have affected, including the Gators.

I teased you recently for not following your own advice and picking a Butch Jones team, now the shoe's on the other foot. I'm going with the Champions of Life and you're not. It shall be interesting, either way.