SEC predictions: Week 7

We now dive into the second half of the season, which separates the contenders from the pretenders.

That goes for those of us trying to pick games, too.

I sort of feel the same way about my performance in the first half of the season as Alabama coach Nick Saban does about his team’s performance.

I haven’t proved …

Well, you get the picture. My mom might be reading, so I’ll leave out the gory details.

I missed both of the upsets last week, South Carolina’s 35-21 win over Alabama and LSU’s 33-29 win over Florida. I was 5-2 for the week.

For the season, I’m now 39-11 (.780), which is obviously not the kind of start I’d envisioned. But as Henry Wadsworth Longfellow once wrote, “Great is the art of beginning, but greater is the art of ending.”

By the way, I hear Les Miles is almost as big a fan of Longfellow as he is of Snoop Dogg.

Here are my picks for Week 7:

Auburn 31, Arkansas 27: Both teams have to answer pressing questions. Is Auburn’s secondary good enough to handle Ryan Mallett and that Arkansas passing game? Can Arkansas do what nobody has been able to do this season and keep Cam Newton in check? The Tigers get the nod because they’ve been clutch in the second half this season, while the Hogs haven’t scored any points in the fourth quarter since the Georgia game on Sept. 18.

South Carolina 24, Kentucky 21: This one has “Danger” written all over it for the Gamecocks, who are coming off the emotional high of taking down Alabama. Kentucky, meanwhile, is still hurting after losing on the final play last week to Auburn. The Wildcats are more than capable of pulling the upset and will take this game into the fourth quarter. But with running back Derrick Locke injured and not expected to play, the Wildcats will see their losing streak to the Gamecocks extend to 11 straight games.

Florida 28, Mississippi State 17: Nobody on the outside has a better feel for Florida’s program than Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen, who coached under Urban Meyer at Bowling Green, Utah and Florida. Mullen has Mississippi State’s program on the rise, too, while Florida is seeking to put a halt to a two-game losing streak. It looks like the Gators will get Jeff Demps back for this game, which is huge. Meyer has never lost three in a row at Florida, and he’s not about to start now.

Alabama 35, Ole Miss 14: If you haven’t noticed, Alabama coach Nick Saban isn’t in the best of moods. He’s not happy with the way his team played last week in the 35-21 loss to South Carolina, and he’s not happy with the way his team prepared. The bad news for the Rebels this week is that they just happen to be in the way. It’s the second of six straight games that Alabama will play against SEC teams coming off byes, but that won’t be a factor in this contest.

Georgia 23, Vanderbilt 13: The Commodores are hopeful of getting some guys back on defense, including middle linebacker Chris Marve, who underwent arthroscopic knee surgery a week ago. The Bulldogs finally broke through last week against Tennessee after losing four in a row for the first time in two decades. Georgia has a chance to go on a little run here and put a forgettable first half of the season in its rear-view mirror. A win over the Commodores will be the second step.

LSU 38, McNeese State 7: The Tigers and Les Miles just keep bouncing right along. They’re poised to go to 7-0 this week with McNeese State coming to town. The bounces have certainly gone their way this season, but give LSU credit for creating some of those bounces with hard-nosed play, resiliency and clutch performances. The defense also continues to play at a championship level, which is always a good sign in this league.