Can Ole Miss beat LSU?

Surely, no one outside of David Cutcliffe's immediate family thought the Ole Miss football team would be 6-0 in SEC play heading into late November. But the Rebels are one victory from clinching the West Division title. The bad news is, they must post that victory this Saturday against powerful LSU, ranked No. 3 nationally.

If the Rebels lose, they probably won't win the West, even if they bounce back to beat Mississippi State in the ''Egg Bowl'' on Thanksgiving night. Instead, the division title would go to LSU -- which also will finish 7-1 in league play if it beats Arkansas Nov. 28 in Baton Rouge -- by virtue of its head-to-head win over Ole Miss.

So, this weekend's LSU-Ole Miss game is huge. Here's how our experts see the showdown, along with this weekend's other SEC matchups:


ALABAMA AT AUBURN: Auburn has lost its last three SEC games in a row after winning its first four. The Tigers were spanked by Georgia last weekend but the homefield advantage should prove decisive against Alabama. Auburn 28, Alabama 21.

MISS. STATE AT ARKANSAS: The Bulldogs have lost 38-0 (to Bama) and 59-21 (to Tennessee) the past two weeks, making November ''The Long Goodbye'' for Jackie Sherrill. Look for Arkansas to add another sour note to his swan song. Arkansas 34, Miss. State 14.

KENTUCKY AT GEORGIA: Kentucky could hang tough if Georgia comes out flat, but the Wildcats always find a way to lose against the SEC elite. I'm guessing they'll find several ways to lose this week. Georgia 31, Kentucky 14.

CLEMSON AT SOUTH CAROLINA: Carolina gave Florida fits before losing last weekend, so the Gamecocks could be hot as a pistol this Saturday ... or they could be flat as a pancake. Which cliche' do you like best? Carolina 24, Clemson 20.

VANDERBILT AT TENNESSEE: All good things must end, they say, but I can't see Tennessee's 20-game winning streak against the Commodores ending at Neyland Stadium this Saturday afternoon. Tennessee 38, Vanderbilt 10.

LSU AT OLE MISS: I predict Ole Miss' Eli Manning will be quarterbacking the New Orleans Saints this time next year, and LSU's Nick Saban will be coaching the Chicago Bears. But first, they're going to play a football game in Oxford. It'll be unforgettable. LSU 24, Ole Miss 20.


ALABAMA AT AUBURN: The annual Iron Bowl comes with its share of rust this year given two disappointing seasons by Auburn (6-5) and Alabama (4-7). The Tigers were picked by some to win the national championship but instead will finish third in the SEC West. The Crimson Tide expected more than a four-win season after last year's success and the talent returning. Bama's lost its share of close games, including two overtime defeats, and hasn't handled adversity well. Neither squad should have any problem getting motivated for this one. Bama has better balance, but Auburn has the better team and the home field advantage. Auburn 24, Alabama 16.

MISSISSIPPI STATE AT ARKANSAS: Jackie Sherrill once castrated a bull to motivate his team for a game against Texas. This week he may elect to swallow link sausages to pump up his squad for the Razorbacks. All he'll get is indigestion. He should save the links for next week's Egg Bowl and turn his pregame ploy into a Grand Slam breakfast. There just isn't enough fight left in these Dogs to make this into a contest. Arkansas 41, Mississippi State 10.

KENTUCKY AT GEORGIA: The Wildcats are coming in off a loss to Vanderbilt while the Bulldogs are fresh off a big win over Auburn. Given those circumstances Georgia could overlook Kentucky — but would it really matter? The Bulldogs can bring the heat on Jared Lorenzen and Kentucky isn't good enough on the ground to effectively counter. Without it's offense to control the ball and put points on the board, the Wildcats' defense will be unable to contain UGA's array of weapons. Georgia 37, Kentucky 17.

CLEMSON AT SOUTH CAROLINA: South Carolina needs a win to avoid a losing season and to become bowl elgible. Lou Holtz hasn't had consecutive losing seasons since he started his head coaching career at William & Mary in 1969 and posted three straight. On the other hand, Holtz is only 2-12 in November contests since he's been at South Carolina. Something has got to give. The Gamecocks were very game against the Gators last week, but two emotional efforts may be too much to ask. Clemson 24, South Carolina 21.

VANDERBILT AT TENNESSEE: The Vols are seeking a BCS invitation and hold out faint hopes for an SEC title shot. Vandy is hoping to end 20 years of frustration against their arch enemy and to record two straight conference wins to end the 2003 season. There are still question marks around Tennessee's offense and UT's defense will be tested by Jay Cutler's ability to run and throw. The Vols should prevail in the last home appearance for 23 seniors, but Vandy won't be candy. Tennessee 27, Vanderbilt 17.

LSU AT OLE MISS: The Rebels have surprised everybody this year outside the Magnolia State and they have a chance to pull the biggest surprise of all with the Tigers coming to Oxford. A win over LSU could do for Eli what an 11-1 mark couldn't do for Peyton — win the Heisman Trophy. But Saban's team plays great defense and the clock has to eventually strike midnight. LSU 30, Ole Miss 21.

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