SEC Previews and Predictions: Week 11

Here's Jess Nicholas's rundown on Alabama versus LSU, Georgia-Auburn, South Carolina-Florida and the rest of the leagues this week.

Last week: 3-2 (60.0%)

Season: 54-15 (78.3%)

ALABAMA at LSU

Game within a game: Alabama defensive tackles vs. LSU interior line

When you break down LSU's season game by game, it's hard to find what exactly it is that makes the Tigers so fearsome. LSU's best performance might just be the 10-9 loss suffered to Auburn in week three. Wins over Troy, Florida and Vanderbilt were less than stellar. A boldface black mark was the 45-16 spanking suffered at the hands of Georgia. LSU's reputation is built more upon its considerable collection of talent, perhaps the best such assembly currently playing in the SEC. But one of those players – C Ben Wilkerson – will miss the Alabama game, and the rest of the season, with a knee injury. In his place, LSU has no good answer. Either the line will be reshuffled, or a part-time player like Doug Planchard will be forced to start. That's where the key match-up comes into play. For all the talk of Alabama's struggling passing attack, LSU is ill-equipped to beat the opposition throwing the ball. LSU is at its best when the tailback trio of Alley Broussard, Justin Vincent and Joseph Addai can run effectively. If Alabama can crash the middle and keep LSU's running backs bottled up, the game will be forced into the hands of quarterbacks JaMarcus Russell and Marcus Randall. It should be noted at this point that LSU is one of the worst teams in the country this year in taking care of the football. The Tigers are ranked 102nd in turnover margin, meaning tough defenses make the Tigers wilt. Alabama has just such a defense, although LSU's is statistically comparable to Alabama's and LSU has played better opposition overall. Alabama has a very real chance to pull the upset here, but everything must go right – particularly the harassing of LSU offensive linemen by UA tackles Jeremy Clark, Rudy Griffin, Anthony Bryant, Justin Britt, Dominic Lee and Chris Turner. LSU 19, Alabama 17

OLE MISS at ARKANSAS

Game within a game: Ole Miss QB poise vs. Arkansas home field advantage

Bowl hopes are on the line in a big way in this game, as the loser won't be playing in the postseason. The winner still has to go through LSU later in the year, though, so neither team is likely to make it in the end. For now, two teams with mediocre rushing attacks, decent passing games and poor defenses will fight in what could up being the closest game on the docket this week. At first blush, Ole Miss only has to contain Arkansas QB Matt Jones to win, but that is easier said than done, and Jones isn't likely to be well-contained by Ole Miss. The Rebels have the advantage in special teams, running game and most defensive aspects, but this game is in Fayetteville, which seems to be more disconcerting than most locales in the SEC for visiting teams. Given that Jones is probably going to be responsible for four or five scores, it will come down to the Ole Miss quarterback rotation of Ethan Flatt, Micheal Spurlock and Robert Lane and how well they can handle the pressure on the road. Given that Ole Miss has generally been a poor road team under David Cutcliffe, the outcome favors the Hogs. Arkansas 37, Ole Miss 29

GEORGIA at AUBURN

Game within a game: Georgia QB David Greene vs. Auburn CB Montavis Pitts

It's odd that the entire game this big may come down to one single match-up, but that may be the case here. Auburn's defense has a solitary weakness: It can be beat with the deep ball. And with CB Carlos Rogers a good shutdown corner, Georgia will need to pick on the other cornerback, the oversized-but-still-learning sophomore, Montavis Pitts. Greene doesn't have the greatest arm, but he is accurate, when he is on. The problem for Georgia this year has been playing up to potential – the Bulldogs haven't done it often, and it is necessary to even entertain the thought of an upset this magnitude. A second game-within-a-game will come up front on the Auburn offensive line, as C Jeremy Ingle is slowed by a leg injury and his backup, Steven Ross, is out for the season. If Ingle can't go, or if he gets hurt again in this game, Auburn will have to reshuffle the line, which can lead to communication problems. Georgia's defensive line is stout, and will try hard to exploit this potential weakness. If Georgia can cause problems in the backfield, coupled with the possibility of Greene picking on Pitts and his backups, an upset is possible. Here's betting it happens. Georgia 24, Auburn 17

SOUTH CAROLINA at FLORIDA

Game within a game: South Carolina DL vs. Florida RB Ciatrick Fason

This is another game that could potentially cause a team to fall from the ranks of bowl eligibility. Florida comes into this game needing one win to get to a bowl game, and the Gators have South Carolina and Florida State left on their sheet. Given that it is unlikely Florida is going to upset the Seminoles in Tallahassee, South Carolina seems like the best bet. The game will come down to how well Gator RB Ciatrick Fason can move the ball against the veteran Gamecock front seven, in particularly the middle of the defensive line. Everyone knows QB Chris Leak is going to throw for some yardage, even against USC's surprisingly good secondary. Fason's success (or lack thereof) will be the determining factor. For South Carolina, the Gamecocks are bowl-eligible and would appreciate some momentum heading into the offseason. Wins over Florida and Clemson would give the Gamecocks eight wins on the year. It will be a tall order to stop a second offensively successful team in as many weeks, especially since this game is on the road. As a result, look for the Florida players still loyal to lame duck head coach Ron Zook the going away present of a bowl game. Florida 37, South Carolina 27

VANDERBILT at KENTUCKY

Game within a game: Vanderbilt QB Jay Cutler vs. Kentucky secondary

And now we come to this game, which carries all the importance of a screen door on a submarine. Perhaps the most pertinent thing to be learned from watching this game is if either one can upset Tennessee in the last two weeks of the season and help put Georgia, which deserves the trip more, into the SEC Championship Game. The answer to that last question is "not likely." In the here and now, Vanderbilt actually finds itself favored in a second conference game (Mississippi State was the first), a sign that something weird is likely to happen to some sheep in Ireland, or the image of Elvis will be found tomorrow in the mildew on someone's bathtub. Vandy wins this game if QB Jay Cutler can navigate a Kentucky pass defense that has gotten quite stingy of late, as the Commodores find themselves ranked 18th nationally in that category this week. If Cutler can pass, Vanderbilt can run the ball well enough to help mask an underperforming defense. Vanderbilt 24, Kentucky 20

IDLE: Tennessee, Mississippi State


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