SEC Pickers Hit Home Stretch

Intrastate rivalries are the hot item on this weekend's SEC slate. Auburn visits Alabama meet for their annual Iron Bowl scrap, South Carolina visits Clemson, Florida visits Florida State and Tennessee visits Vanderbilt.

Like the 12 SEC football coaches, InsideTennessee.com analysts Jeffery Stewart and Randy Moore are looking to finish the season with a rush. Stewart went 7-3 on last week's picks, leaving his season's mark at 81-29. Moore went 6-4, dropping his record to 77-33.

Below are this week's predictions:

Jeffery Stewart's picks: It's rivalry weekend and rivalry games can bring out the best in teams and the worst in prognosticators. With that qualifier out of the way we venture forth in search of winners.

AUBURN AT ALABAMA: When this game was played in Birmingham, it was known as the Iron Bowl. Now that it has moved to the participants' respective campuses, it could be called the Iron Poor Bowl. Auburn has won three of the last four meetings in this series and is 4-0 at Bryant-Denny Stadium. The Tigers come into Saturday's showdown undefeated and ranked No. 3 in the country with the SEC West title already clinched. This one has a little extra intrigue with the SEC's top two running teams squaring off in what figures to be a bruising battle between physical squads. Alabama has the SEC's highest rated defense but Auburn isn't far behind and the Tigers have a much better offense. That edge and Auburn's momentum should be enough to carry the day in Tuscaloosa. Auburn 24, Alabama 13.

OLE MISS AT LSU: The Rebels were crushed by Arkansas last week along with their hopes of a sixth straight bowl bid under the direction of David Cutcliff. LSU is coming off an impressive victory over Alabama and appears to have righted itself after early losses at Auburn and Georgia. Even if Ole Miss was to play well, it simply doesn't have the personnel to pull an upset in Baton Rogue against a tenacious Tiger defense and an improving offense. LSU 34, Ole Miss 9.

TENNESSEE AT VANDERBILT: The Vols' dominance in this rivalry has been well documented and thoroughly disseminated throughout the week. It's hard to call this series a rivalry with UT winning 21 straight, but it is fair to say that these teams bear an intense dislike for each other. That's the Vols' ace in the hole because Vandy has a difficult time defeating any team motivated to play it. Example: Beating an SEC team was meaningful to Rutgers, and so, the Scarlet Knights did just that when they came to Nashville and scored an upset in October. Similarly, South Carolina caught the Commodores in the season opener in Nashville and posted a 31-6 pasting. The Dores even struggled, 19-7, to defeat Division IAA Eastern Kentucky at home. The X-factor in Saturday's contest is UT QB Rick Clausen aka "Mini C" who hasn't started a college game in more than two years. However, Clausen has received a full complement of reps the last two weeks in practice and his O-line is healthier than it's been since week three. Oh yeah, with a win Tennessee can also wrap up the SEC East title and return to the Conference championship game for the first time since 2001. Plus, the Vols have something to prove after the loss to Notre Dame. The odds of the Dores beating Tennessee are only slightly better than the odds Jim Morrison will return as the Doors front man. Expect strands of Rocky Top to reign supreme in Music City. Tennessee 30, Vanderbilt 7.

SOUTH CAROLINA AT CLEMSON: The Gamecocks did not come close to matching up with Clemson last year when the Tigers traveled to Columbia and scored an outlandish, 63-17, thrashing. That will certainly provide Lou's Crew with motivation, but Bowden's Boys have more momentum and have won the close contests at home this season. Clemson 27, South Carolina 21.

ARKANSAS AT MISSISSIPPI STATE: The Razorbacks won convincingly over Ole Miss last week while keeping their bowl hopes alive. Mississippi State is coming off an open date and the last time that happened, the Bulldogs scored a huge upset over Florida in Starkville. Arkansas has yet to win a road game this season which makes them suspect as 10-point favorites in this contest, but the Hogs have won five straight over the Dogs, including a 52-6 blowout last year. They'll probably make it six in a row but it may be much closer than most expect. Arkansas 24, Mississippi State 21.

FLORIDA AT FLORIDA STATE: I'm not sure Florida State is a good team, at least by its standards, but I know the Seminoles aren't a consistent team by anyone's standards. That leaves the door ajar for a potential upset with the Gators giving their all for the disposed Ron Zook, and FSU coming off an ACC road win at N.C. State. Florida has a big edge at quarterback and with a decent performance by its defense could pull off a November surprise. On the other hand, if the Gators liked Zook that much they would have never lost to Mississippi State. Florida State 20, Florida 17.

MICHIGAN AT OHIO STATE: This should be a no-brainer with the Wolverines coming in with a 9-1 mark against the Buckeyes at 6-4. But Michigan has struggled in Columbus and Ohio State has a chance to salvage its season with a victory. That should keep it close, but the Wolverines are gaining inertia as true freshman QB Chad Henne gains experience and that will provide the winning edge. Michigan 21, Ohio State 16.

VIRGINIA AT GEORGIA TECH: The Cavaliers haven't had the breakthrough season many predicted but they have managed to beat the teams they were expected to beat. The trick now is not be caught looking ahead to next week's game against Virginia Tech. Georgia Tech has provided good value in the underdog role, but has a history of struggling the week before playing rival Georgia. Virginia 34, Georgia Tech 27.

WISCONSIN AT IOWA: Wisconsin was waylaid by Michigan State last week and may not have the emotional constitution to defeat the Hawkeyes in Iowa City, where they have been dominate in home finales the last 11 years. Iowa 36, Wisconsin 27.

NORTH CAROLINA AT DUKE: It wouldn't be surprising to see the captains meet at midfield for a jump ball instead of a coin flip. I mean, can you think of North Carolina vs. Duke without envisioning a tobacco road basketball classic? Alas, this won't be that entertaining but it should be competitive. Tar Heels coach Jim Bunting has signed good talent over the last three years and that should spell the difference in this ACC contest. North Carolina 31, Duke 20.

Randy Moore's picks:

AUBURN AT ALABAMA: Auburn is 10-0 with only one close call in SEC play (a one-point win over defending national champ LSU), yet the Tigers may well be left out of the BCS Championship Game this year. That should provide a little extra incentive in this fierce in-state rivalry. Auburn 24, Bama 7.

OLE MISS AT LSU: The Rebels were taken to the woodshed by Arkansas last weekend in Fayetteville. Butt Whipping Part 2 is scheduled this weekend in Baton Rouge. LSU 31, Ole Miss 10.

TENNESSEE AT VANDERBILT: The Vols are down to their No. 3 quarterback and the Commodores will be fired up playing at home against their most heated rival. But you know what? It won't matter. Tennessee 27, Vanderbilt 10.

SOUTH CAROLINA AT CLEMSON: The Tigers crushed the Gamecocks 63-17 last year in Columbia. Clemson has been an enigmatic team this season, however, even at home. In emotional games like this, an early break often proves decisive. Clemson 28, South Carolina 24.

ARKANSAS AT MISSISSIPPI STATE: The Razorbacks made mincemeat of Mississippi last week, and they'll probably do the same with the Magnolia State's other SEC representative this weekend. Hog quarterback Matt Jones gets my vote as the SEC's most underrated player. Arkansas 31, Mississippi State 14.

FLORIDA AT FLORIDA STATE: Ron Zook's final regular-season game as the Gators head man should be interesting. If the Gators can hang tough early, they could get the win. If the early breaks go against them, though, they could get humiliated. FSU 31, Florida 20.

MICHIGAN AT OHIO STATE: Some analysts rate this the greatest rivalry in college football. I don't know about that but I do know this: Maurice Clarette won't be among the ex-Buckeyes on the OSU sidelines. Michigan 27, Ohio State 20.

VIRGINIA AT GEORGIA TECH: Now that the Cavaliers have been whipped soundly by FSU and Miami, they can go back to beating up on the rest of the ACC. Virginia 31, Georgia Tech 21.

WISCONSIN AT IOWA: The previously unbeaten Badgers were exposed by Michigan State last weekend. I look for more of the same this weekend. Iowa 34, Wisconsin 24.

NORTH CAROLINA AT DUKE: These are two of the South's weaker teams, yet each one has posted some stunning upset victories this fall. That should make for an interesting afternoon. North Carolina 27, Duke 24.


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