Nearly Flawless SEC Football Selections

Mr. Mettenberger, meet Mr. Hubbard. Everyone is looking for the key to making the pick in this week's Alabama game at LSU. We have given more than usual attention to trying to deduce the most important aspect of this most important game and have determined that it will be the Alabama pass rush against LSU.

Alabama, 8-0 overall and 5-0 in the Southeastern Conference, could make a big step towards the SEC Championship Game and, thereby, the BCS National Championship Game with a win over LSU, 7-1 overall and 3-1 in SEC play. The Fighting Tigers, meanwhile, have their backs to the wall since suffering a loss at Florida.

We have heard one postulation that the most important key is the LSU defensive line, but we're not buying that. The LSU defensive line – indeed, the entire LSU defense, is going to be good. More important is can Alabama's offensive line, considered the nation's best, carve out some room for Bama running backs and protect quarterback A.J. McCarron. But we think most important is whether the Crimson Tide pass rush can make LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger ineffective and thereby make the Tigers one dimensional.

To be sure, LSU has good running backs, but without the threat of pass they'll have a hard time against a Bama defense that gives up 57.2 yards per game rushing.

In this week's Nearly Flawless SEC Football Predictions, we think Adrian Hubbard may be the key. If Bama's 6-6, 248-pound sophomore outside linebacker can beat an LSU offensive line that has been adjusted because of injuries, that could tip the balance in favor of Alabama.

Also making it easy to predict an Alabama win is the play of Tide quarterback AJ McCarron in last year's 21-0 win in the BCS National Championship Game. In fact, we think the LSU hangover from that game may play a big role in the confidence factor for both teams.

The game kicks off at 7 p.m. CDT Saturday in Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge with CBS televising No. 1 Alabama against No. 5 LSU. Alabama 24, LSU 9.

Almost everyone is expecting Georgia (7-1 overall, 5-1 SEC) to be Alabama's opponent in the SEC Championship Game on Dec. 1 in Atlanta following the Bulldogs win over Florida last week. Georgia may have a little more of a fight on its hands than it expects this week when Ole Miss (5-3, 2-2) visits Athens. This is the CBS game with kickoff at 3:30 p.m. EDT (2:30 central) and we're tempted to pick the upset because of coaching. Georgia 30, Ole Miss 27.

Mississippi State (7-1, 3-1) was flying high until last week when the Bulldogs were brought back to earth by Alabama. State won't get pounded like it did by Bama, but Texas A&M 6-2, 3-2) brings a different kind of misery in quarterback Johnny Manziel, a one-man offensive machine. The difficulty of this pick is that teams usually do poorly the week after playing Alabama. And teams often do poorly the week before playing Alabama. State played Bama last week and A&M plays the Tide next week. Kickoff is at 11 a.m. CDT on ESPN2. Texas A&M 35, Mississippi State 27.

You can throw the record books out when Vanderbilt goes to Kentucky. Do they really keep football records? Actually, Vandy (4-4, 2-3) looks like it might be headed to a bowl game after back-to-back wins over Auburn and Massachusetts. But the Commodores can't afford to slip against the Wildcats (1-8, 0-6), who might be caught looking ahead to next week's game against Samford. Kickoff is at Noon EDT (11 a.m. central) with television coverage by ESPNU. Vandy 28, Kentucky 21.

Which team has the better 1-7 record, New Mexico State or Auburn? We're liking the Tigers since it's homecoming for Auburn, but does anyone really care? We also know that Auburn (1-7, 0-6) is accustomed to the kickoff time, which will be at 11:30 a.m. CDT with CSS televising the game. Auburn's offense hasn't been very good, but on the other hand neither has its defense. Auburn 27, New Mexico State 25.

Missouri (4-4, 1-4) has new tee shirts celebrating the Tigers' first every SEC win, a 33-10 romp over Kentucky last week. Tee shirts are quite the fashion at football games in Gainesville, where Missouri goes to meet Florida (7-1, 6-1) this week. The Gators were in a generous mood last week, out-giving Georgia and probably losing the SEC Championship Game berth to the Bulldogs. Kickoff in the swamp is Noon EDT (11 a.m. CDT) with television coverage by ESPN. Florida 35, Missouri 14.

Troy (4-4) outplayed Mississippi State earlier this year, although the Bulldogs pulled out a victory in that game at Troy. This week the Trojans go to Knoxville, where tickets are probably available to see Derek Dooley's Tennessee (3-5, 0-5). Kickoff is at Noon EDT (11 a.m. central) with television coverage by Fox Sports. Tennessee 31, Troy 17.

Arkansas (3-5, 2-3) also goes out of conference this week, and the Razorbacks seem to be getting better with wins in two of the last three games. Arkansas can't expect an easy time of it against Tulsa (7-1). We wouldn't be Nearly Flawless if we didn't predict an occasional upset, and how can you go too far wrong picking against the Hogs. Kickoff is at 11:21 a.m. CDT with the SEC Network televising the game. Tulsa 31, Arkansas 21.

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