MO: It's been a wacky season – tons of upsets, including Vanderbilt on the road at South Carolina, the Commodores beating every team they were definitely supposed to beat and only losing to ranked opponents, even if half of those losses were indeed heartbreakers. You certainly can't call the season a complete success, even if we beat Wake Forest, but I also don't think we can call it a complete failure. But that's for history to decide, and right now, I'm more concerned with the goings-on of this week. Take to put down the gravy ladle and make some picks!
Georgia @ Georgia Tech
MO: So, lemme get this straight – Georgia's in the Top Ten in the country, and yet they have to hope for a Tennessee loss in order to play in the SEC Championship game next week? Just another point to show how ridiculously deep the SEC is this season. This is a classic in-state rivalry game, and while records have to be thrown out the window for a game like this, it's worth noting that Georgia Tech is just 1-2 against ranked teams this season, despite all three of those games being in Atlanta. All three of those teams were in the ACC, and with Georgia coming in as the SEC East leader, you'd have to think that things look bleak for the Jackets. I like Georgia Tech to keep this one close, and possibly take this into overtime, but I've gotta take Georgia here to win by 2.
JW: I understand what you mean when you say this is a rivalry game, but even the best of rivalries involve blowouts from time to time. Tech's a decent team, but the Bulldogs are on too much of a roll for the Yellow Jackets to give them much trouble. I'll freely admit that this is probably my SEC bias showing, but Georgia Tech's losses to BC, Virginia, Maryland, and Virginia Tech lead me to believe they're not exactly an ACC powerhouse. Add that to the fact that I think Georgia would have a strong shot at an ACC powerhouse, and you can get to my conclusion. I don't think it will be a blowout, but it won't be that close. Georgia by 12.
Florida St. @ Florida
JW: Did you all know that Tim Tebow's tears cure cancer? It's true….it's just a shame he never cries. The Mighty Tebow and his supporting cast host the Seminoles to close out their regular season after feasting on Florida Atlantic last week. FSU is sure to provide a tougher challenge as the Gators try to make a case for a BCS bowl bid, now that they're out of the SEC Championship / National Title hunt this season. It's worth noting that when Florida won the championship last year, they only beat FSU by only seven points (which, incidentally is one point more than they beat Vanderbilt by). Much like Georgia/Georgia Tech, this is another one of those storied rivalries where the rest of the season doesn't matter much. While Florida might have fallen off a little bit mid-season, I think they're yet another powerful SEC East team, and while Florida State should give them a decent game, I see the Gators pulling away late in this one. FSU will come with The Tebow with all they've got, but it still won't be enough. Florida by 7.
MO: This is one of four SEC-ACC rivalry games this week, and if I know us we're picking the SEC to go 4-0. Florida State has had a ho-hum 7-4 season, though they've beaten to of the three ranked opponents they've played this season, including then-#2 Boston College on the road. Aside from that game, though, they've really struggled away from Tallahassee, losing at Clemson, at Wake Forest, at Virginia Tech, and putting up just 16 points against a weak Colorado defense. Yes, this is truly a game where the regular season woes shouldn't matter, but in this case, I think they will. Florida also has Tim Tebow, the only player with anything to play for since he's still in the Heisman race. You have to think that Urban Meyer will eschew sportsmanship here, both because it's a rivalry game and because he knows that a big game from Tebow could give him the Trophy next month. I like Florida to win big in this one, tacking on some late scores when the game's already out of reach – let's say the final margin is 27.
Arkansas @ LSU
MO: LSU avoided the upset bug last week by surviving a hectic back-and-forth final quarter at Ole Miss. The Tigers now host an up-and-down Arkansas team that seems to choose each game whether they want to be excellent or average. After managing just 127 rushing yards against Tennessee two weeks ago, they ran for 206 yards against Mississippi St. last week, which is impressive, if not the 500+ yards we've seen from them before. As far as this week goes, I don't like the chances for the ‘Backs, though we've heard that before about unranked teams when they go up against Top 5 teams. LSU just seems to be locked in knowing that they're just two games from playing for the national title on what will essentially be a home field. This may be Darren McFadden's last regular season game before bolting for the NFL, but it won't be a good one, as LSU's defense will keep Arkansas' run game bottled up all night. I'll take the Tigers to win by 17.
JW: A lot of times when a team is at the top, it's easy for them to get complacent and feel like they just have to show up to beat anyone. However, I don't think LSU is in that position, as they've had enough scares and one tough loss to remind them not to take their ranking (or anything else) for granted. With the national championship game in sight, the Tigers will be focused and ready for Arkansas. McFadden might have a decent night, but against a team like LSU, that's just not enough. LSU's win over Ole Miss was certainly ugly, but I expect to see a much improved team this week, focused on clamping down on defense and moving the ball at will. I expect LSU to jump out to an early lead, and cruise to victory. Tigers by 14.
Clemson @ South Carolina
JW: Remember, way back when, all that talk about South Carolina contending for the SEC championship? Seems like a long time ago, doesn't it? Well, all that talk is certainly out the window now that the Gamecocks are riding a four-game losing streak and needing to win this game over Clemson to feel really good about their bowl chances. To pull off the win, they're going to have to beat a team that's nationally ranked and has a decent ACC record. However, when you look closer at Clemson's record, you see some blowouts of pretty bad teams, but every time they faced a good or great team, they've faltered. Clemson has losses to Boston College, Georgia Tech, and Virginia Tech this season. While that's certainly nothing to be ashamed of, keep in mind that they don't really have any truly "big" wins this season. Sure, the BC loss was a heartbreaker, but for me to really believe Clemson deserves that top-25 ranking, I need to see some better wins. Will a win over South Carolina be one of those coveted "Jay Williams Quality Wins"? Nope. The Gamecocks are in rough shape and appear to be in a downward spiral, capped by a 20-point loss to Florida two weeks ago. Will the bye week allow the Gamecocks to straighten themselves out and get that seventh win to lock down a bowl? I doubt it. While I definitely have an SEC bias, I think South Carolina has essentially given up on this season. Clemson will head into Columbia pumped up for a rivalry game and angry about their loss to Boston College. All the momentum and motivation will be on their side. Maybe next year, Steve. Clemson by 10.
MO: Momentum and motivation may be on Clemson's side, but South Carolina has had an extra week to rest and to prepare for the Tigers, and the last thing that any rival of Spurrier's needs is to give him an extra week to prepare. I know that a little of the luster has come off the Ol' Ball Coach this season, but he's still one of the better coaches in the country and he's got a team playing with nothing to lose. I like South Carolina to spring the mild upset here, winning by 6.
Alabama @ Auburn
MO: Wow. What can be said about the Louisiana-Monroe loss that Nick Saban hasn't already overblown? Alcoholism? Pearl Harbor? 9/11? Are you kidding me? I understand that the loss was disastrous, and that he has to take this seriously since it's his job, but come on! Let's put things into perspective, shall we? Luckily, Saban has a chance to win back his fan base by heading directly into enemy territory and defeating Auburn. You could say that Bama has about as much chance as a Sun Belt team has beating Alabama at home – whoops! That might be a comfort… Either way, I don't see Saban walking out of there with a win, and the Tide season – once promising – ends with four straight losses and the Bama faithful finding out that $4,000,000 can buy you a .500 season. Auburn by 14.
JW: So Alabama becomes yet another "bowl eligible" SEC team desperate for a seventh win. While many teams have fallen victim to being beaten up by the rest of the conference, it's hard for Bama to blame everyone else when they lose to Sun Belt teams. And while I prefer the SEC to be as strong as possible, I think I speak for most of us when I say that it's pretty funny watching a team like Alabama and a coach like Nick Saban implode on themselves the way this team has in the past week. But now that the Iron Bowl's here, are all bets off? Well, not exactly. Sure, Auburn hasn't looked so strong as of late, but at least their most recent losses have come at the hands of powerful SEC teams. What looked like a solid match-up a few games ago has turned into possibly a laugher, and we all know Tommy Tuberville will have no qualms about running up the score. While I think Alabama's on a bit of a, shall we say, downward trend, I think they'll muster all their strength for the hated Tigers. Will it be enough for the "shocking" upset victory? I don't think so, but I think it'll be closer than most would think. I think Auburn will win this year's Iron Bowl, but it won't be pretty. Tigers by 6.
Ole Miss @ Mississippi St.
JW: When was the last time the Egg Bowl was relevant outside the state of Mississippi? I'm sure someone could tell me, and I'm not one to do research on these types of things, but I'm willing to bet it's been a while. Mississippi State surprised a number of people this year with some quality upset victories, but has faltered a bit as of late. Ole Miss has surprised absolutely no one by starting at the bottom of the SEC and remaining there for the entirety of the season. And let's not forget the mass suspension of players this week for stealing things from a hotel. You stay classy, Rebels. The way Ole Miss's season has gone this year, this might be the first game that my mom (an Ole Miss fan and diehard football fan) decides to not listen to or watch. And can you really blame her? With the game in Starkville and Ole Miss being by far the worst team in the SEC, I have no choice but to go with the Bulldogs here, and I expect them to win pretty big. But don't worry, Rebel fans, I'm sure master recruiter Ed Orgeron needs just one more recruiting period to turn the corner! MSU by 17.
MO: Whoops! Sorry, Jay's Mom for all the offensive, slanderous, tacky, off-color and condescending jokes I'm made about the Rebels and their coach this season. That said – man, was I right. Ole Miss has really underwhelmed this season, while State has made an impact, becoming bowl-eligible for the first time under Croom and bringing football life back to Starkville. Of course, all of that means nothing in the Egg Bowl. The suspensions will hurt, I know, but I'm picking the upset here for a number of reasons. The first is that as bad as I've portrayed Ole Miss, I can't see them losing every SEC game this season. The second is that I don't see State, who has already achieved bowl status, coming out with as much fire as Ole Miss will this week. The third is the fact that I really just want to pick them so that I can use this last sentence. Ole Miss steals the Egg from State this year, getting away from Starkville on the tails of a 4-point win.
Tennessee @ Kentucky
MO: A wise friend of mine who was originally from Ohio and a die-hard Buckeye fan called the 2000 Outback Bowl between Michigan and Tennessee a game between "the devil and his brother." Now I know how she felt. I won't elaborate on my distaste for Kentucky (you can check last week's article for that), but it's hard for me to believe that I might actually root for Tennessee in any situation. This lines up to be a good game, even if Kentucky's offense has been a shell of itself in recent games. At the same time, though it's hard to argue about Tennessee's defense late in the game, especially in close games (as we're all painfully aware). My head says Tennessee wins this one in a close battle, my fist says the Wildcats get blown away in front of their home crowd. However, I'm picking with my heart and taking Kentucky for the simple fact that Tennessee punches their ticket to Atlanta with a win, and no amount of hatred for Kentucky would make me hope for that. Since I can't pick a double-forfeit or a giant asteroid to wreak havoc on the playing field, I'll take Kentucky to win by 1.
JW: Yeah, this is one of those games where no matter who wins, I won't be exactly happy about it. And as much as I hate to pick Tennessee to win anything, I'm also aware that they're a good football team and that like it or not, they will win quite a few games. Kentucky has managed to shed its "doormat of the SEC" image this year, but the past few games haven't been kind to the Wildcats. UK has to like that this game is being played in Lexington and not Knoxville, but that's just about the only thing going for them. And when you consider that they couldn't beat Florida or Mississippi State at home, then you wonder if the home-field advantage is really that much of an advantage here. Ultimately, the Volunteers are just a better team, and Kentucky is only a shell of what it was early in the season. Tennessee by 13.
Wake Forest @ Vanderbilt
JW: So here we are – at the end of another up-and-down Vanderbilt regular season. Now we have Wake Forest standing in the way of a .500 season and the slim hopes of a bowl invite. While the bowl issue is out of our hands (for the most part), we need to get to 6 wins and shake the streak of losing seasons. Wake Forest is by no means a pushover opponent, and I believe they'll give us a tough game. But while they're a good team in the ACC, I don't think they're any better than the Commodores. Wake has some nice wins, but also a few notable losses, including an embarrassing 44-10 loss to Clemson. I know Vanderbilt has disappointed several times this season, but those close losses lead me to believe that we can handle a middle-of-the-road ACC team. So, there you have it. I'm picking Vanderbilt to win this one. I'll be there at the game, and if you want to find me, just look for the loud guy with the woman standing next to him trying to pretend that she doesn't know him (I guess this applies to about 40% of the male fans at the game). While I have no idea what will happen bowl-wise, I do know this – Vanderbilt will get its sixth win this weekend. Commodores by 10.
MO: Wake Forest is indeed a good, and lest we forget, the reigning ACC champions. After two early losses, the team looked to regain elite status by rolling off six straight wins to go 6-2. However, they lost their shot of making this another special season by losing consecutive road games against ranked opponents in Virginia and Clemson. After last week's win against NC State they stand at 7-4, yet unranked. Vanderbilt has yet to lose to an unranked opponent this season, and I think that hold true through this week. Vanderbilt, who would reach the historic milestone of a .500 and bowl-eligible season with a win, simply has to more to play for in this game than a Wake team who's not even a year separated from winning the ACC championship. I'm got to say the team, energized by finally seeing a stadium filled with black and gold (even if that happens to be their opponent's colors as well) will come out on fire and should finally hold off a team in the fourth quarter to get that long-awaited number of wins. Vanderbilt, fittingly by 6.