Nearly Flawless SEC Forecasts
We can assure you we would have picked Alabama to beat Western Carolina by about seven touchdowns, probably 49-0, just as we would have predicted easy wins by all the other SEC teams playing cupcakes before their rivalry games this week. There were some somewhat difficult predictions last week. We would have selected Vandy to beat Tennessee, but not by 41-18. We thought LSU would have a tough time beating Ole Miss, and they did. We probably would have missed Mississippi State romping Arkansas and Missouri losing to Syracuse.
But we're back in business this weekend, beginning with Alabama (10-1 overall, 6-1 SEC) hosting Auburn (3-8, 0-7). CBS will televise the game beginning at 2:30 p.m. CST Saturday. Alabama is playing for the SEC Western Division title and the opportunity to go to Atlanta on December 1 to take on East champion Georgia for the SEC Championship, and possibly the chance to go to Miami for the BCS National Championship Game in January. And therein lies the problem. It is not often that either team is looking ahead when Alabama meets Auburn.
This year Alabama has to guard against looking ahead to championship games. Auburn may be looking ahead, too -- looking ahead to dumping its coaching staff. We believe that Nick Saban will have his team focused on winning the state championship. Alabama 35, Auburn 10.
The weekend begins Friday when LSU (9-2 overall, 5-2 SEC) goes to Arkansas (4-7, 2-5). CBS will televise the game beginning at 1:30 p.m. CST Friday. This looked like a critical game when the schedule was announced, but in all probability it means nothing more than which bowl game the Fighting Tigers will play in. The Razorbacks may or may not have done better with Bobby Petrino as head coach, but it has been mostly bad for the Hogs and doesn't look to get better against LSU in Fayetteville. LSU 31, Arkansas 21.
Georgia has already sewed up the SEC East, but that doesn't mean the Bulldogs can coast this week. Georgia (10-1, 7-1) plays host to in-state rival Georgia Tech (6-5) of the ACC. ESPN will televise the game beginning at noon EST (11 a.m. CST) Saturday. To be honest, we haven't paid much attention to Georgia since the blackout game in Athens a few years ago, but you have to take an 11-1 team seriously – even a Mark Richt team. Seriously. No, seriously. Georgia 35, Georgia Tech 21.
You can throw the record book out the window when they play the Egg Bowl. There is interest in this game through much of Mississippi, and there is something on the line for Ole Miss (5-6, 2-5) when the Rebels host Mississippi State (8-3, 4-3). ESPNU will televise the game beginning at 6 p.m. CST Saturday. If Ole Miss can win, the Rebels will be in a bowl game and Coach Hugh Freeze will be in the conversation for SEC coach of the year. Mississippi State 30, Ole Miss 21.
Since Freeze isn't going to win coach of the year after losing to Mississippi State, perhaps Kevin Sumlin at Texas A&M (9-2, 5-2) will, particularly if the Aggies can get past visiting Missouri (5-6, 2-5). The Missouri Tigers also have the chance to get bowl eligible with a win. ESPN2 will televise the game beginning at 6 p.m. CST Saturday. Based on what we've seen of both teams, there will be a lot of kissing in Kyle Field, since A&M men get to kiss their dates after every Aggies touchdown. They must love Johnny Manziel. Texas A&M 41, Missouri 21.
Will there be an employment booth set up outside Neyland Stadium Saturday when Kentucky (2-9, 0-7), which has fired Joker Phillips as head coach, visits Tennessee (4-7, 0-7), which has fired Derek Dooley? The SEC Network will televise the game beginning at 12:21 EST (11:21 central time). It's a shame someone has to win this game. Tennessee 49, Kentucky 13.
The SEC invented an end-of-season-rivalry game for Vanderbilt, part of the general mess of league expansion in 1992. Once upon a time the Commodores ended their season with Tennessee, and the next week Tennessee and Kentucky played. But the SEC decided every team had to have a game before the SEC Championship Game so as not to have an advantage. And boy has that worked to keep the Commodores from dominating that championship game. The league gave Vanderbilt (7-4, 5-3) a non-conference "rivalry" game against Wake Forest (5-6) of the ACC, and so the Commodores head to Winston-Salem to meet the Demon Deacons. ESPNU will televise the game beginning at 3:30 p.m. EST (2:30 central time) Saturday. Vanderbilt 31, Wake Forest 17.
Don't look now, but the team that had to block a punt to defeat Louisiana-Lafayette two weeks ago could be thinking about sneaking into the BCS National Championship Game. Florida (10-1, 7-1) will be at Florida State (10-1) of the ACC Saturday. ABC will televise the game beginning at 3:30 p.m. EST (2:30 central) time Saturday. It's former Saban assistant (Jimbo Fisher at FSU) vs. former Saban assistant (Will Muschamp at Florida). It takes several things for the Gators to make it to the BCS National Championship Game, and those things would include it having to be another SEC vs. SEC match-up. First things first, the Gators have to defeat the Seminoles. Florida 21, FSU 17.
In addition to Vanderbilt, Georgia, and Florida ending the season against ACC teams, so does South Carolina (9-2, 6-2), which goes to Clemson (10-1) Saturday. ESPN will televise the game beginning at 7 p.m. EST (6 p.m. central time) Saturday. Former Tide player and assistant coach Dabo Swinney is head man at Clemson and longtime SEC coach Steve Spurrier coaches the Gamecocks. So it's up to Spurrier's team to keep the SEC perfect in rivalry games against the SEC. Clemson 34, South Carolina 27.
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