SEC football predictions: Will Nico Iamaleava get shot for Tennessee? Plus Alabama vs Ole Miss | Adams

Now that Tennessee football has dipped its toes in SEC waters – Swamp water to be precise − they should welcome a return to nonconference competition against a seemingly outmanned opponent.

A 29-16 upset loss to Florida in The Swamp last week created the need for a bounce-back game against UTSA on Saturday at Neyland Stadium. The Roadrunners have the potential to oblige.

UTSA is 1-2 after falling to Army last week without star quarterback Frank Harris, who was sidelined by a lower leg injury. The entire Roadrunners defense must have been battling fatigue by game’s end. Army had the ball for 44:25 in a 37-29 victory.

Tennessee 38, UTSA 13: The biggest question: How long will take UT fans to begin chanting, “We want Nico.” Nico Iamaleava, the five-star recruit, hasn’t played the past two weeks. But the more Tennessee’s offense struggles, the more popular he becomes.

Georgia 45, UAB 10: The first thing that comes to mind with new UAB coach Trent Dilfer is defense. But I’m not referring to UAB’s defense.

I’m referencing the 2000 Baltimore Ravens, who fielded one of the NFL’s great defenses. As a result, Dilfer quarterbacked his way to a Super Bowl ring.

The Ravens were so much better than the New York Giants, they could have won the Super Bowl with tackle Tony Siragusa at quarterback.

Mississippi State 23, South Carolina 20: The Gamecocks rank 128th out of 130 FBS teams in rushing yards per game (53.0). But I still think of South Carolina as a running team.

Why? Because almost every time I see quarterback Spencer Rattler, he’s running for his life.

His offensive line crumbles on contact. And his best wide receiver, Antwane Wells, is out for the game with a leg injury after making an early exit against Georgia. Nonetheless, Rattler somehow has managed to complete 71.3 percent of his passes.

Alabama 30, Ole Miss 23: Rebels coach Lane Kiffin can't beat coach Nick Saban. But he can recruit better transfer quarterbacks.

Kiffin added Southern California transfer Jaxson Dart before the 2022 season. This year, he signed Oklahoma State transfer Spencer Sanders.

Both had better resumes than Notre Dame transfer Tyler Buchner, who signed with Alabama, which has changed its 2023 goal from winning a national championship to setting a school record for most quarterbacks played in a single season.

And none of them will remind you of Bryce Young.

LSU 38, Arkansas 15: This is supposed to be an offensive era in college football. But you couldn’t tell it by how the Razorbacks have fared against the Tigers.

Arkansas has averaged 15.2 points per game against LSU in the past seven games, six of which were won by the Tigers.

Bad news for the Hogs: Mississippi State managed only 201 yards of offense and netted just seven yards in its first 16 plays in a 41-14 loss to LSU last week.

Texas A&M 37, Auburn 21: The Tigers lightly regarded passing game came to life in a 45-13 rout of Samford last week. Payton Thorne and Robby Ashford combined to pass for 340 yards.

But that’s not to suggest Auburn should hope for a passing duel with the Aggies. Texas A&M quarterback Conner Weigman has completed 70.5% of his passes and is averaging 303 yards per game.

Kentucky 34, Vanderbilt 17: If your goal is a fast start, consult Wildcats coach Mark Stoops about scheduling. The Wildcats are 3-0 against a schedule of Akron, Ball State and Eastern Kentucky, who have a combined record of 2-7.

The SEC has contributed to Kentucky’s fast-start philosophy by allowing it to play Vanderbilt in the Wildcats conference opener.

Missouri 27, Memphis 24: Who would have thought that after three weeks Missouri would have the SEC’s best nonconference win?

Never mind that the conference has a losing record against Power 5 nonconference opponents. Missouri is standing tall with an upset of 15th-ranked Kansas State last week.

That begs the question: How will it handle success?

Florida 41, Charlotte 17: I thought it was laughable that the Gators believed they could solve their quarterback problems by adding Wisconsin transfer Graham Mertz. I’m not laughing now.

ADAMS: Changing quarterbacks for Tennessee football won't fix all the problems in 2023

Although Mertz completed under 60% of his passes at Wisconsin, his accuracy has been exemplary with the Gators.

He has completed 75.3% of his passes while demonstrating composure and a steady hand in managing a new offense.

Record: 30-7 (.811), 14-10 (.583) against the spread.

John Adams is a senior columnist. He may be reached at 865-342-6284 or Follow him at:

This article originally appeared on Knoxville News Sentinel: SEC football predictions for Tennessee vs UTSA, QB Nico Iamaleava