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SEC ’11 Week 13 Previews & Predictions: Rivalry Weekend

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The final week of the regular season for the Southeastern Conference has a lot riding on the outcomes of the games. The top three teams in the BCS are all in action against conference rivals where anything can and usually does happen.

I’m 62-23 (73%) on the year so far, with plenty of games that could go either way this week.

Conference Games

Arkansas (10-1) @ LSU (11-0)
The Arkansas Razorbacks are a hot team right now, riding a wave of offense that really sets them apart in the SEC. In fact, I’d go to say they play more like a Big XII team with how their offense (and not the defense) really determines how the game goes. Arkansas scored a win in this game last year and it is angling to make a serious move in the BCS again. The problem is the veritable wall of defense it is going to run into against LSU. But make no mistake, Arkansas wants this thing to be a shootout; that’s its game.

LSU will give up yards but it’s all between the 30s; it’s really hard to get points against the squad, particularly at home where the average margin of victory is 42-8. Another advantage to the Tigers is their ability to run the ball and Arkansas’s inability to really be effective in stopping the run.

This one will be close because I firmly believe Arkansas will bring its best game to the field. LSU is just too good on defense and can pound the ball and the Razorbacks into submission, thereby cementing the Tigers as the number one team heading into the SEC Championship Game.
Pick: LSU 24, Arkansas 21

Alabama (10-1) @ Auburn (7-4)
Upsets are rare in this game. So are blowout wins. Auburn’s played up and down all year and mostly down since being shellacked by LSU a few weeks ago. Alabama is in perfect position to play for the BCS Championship if it handles business Saturday. Alabama’s strength on offense hasn’t been the thing that’s worked in the last couple of games against Auburn.

The Tigers have keyed on the run and let the passing game of Alabama have almost free reign. That will no doubt be the Tigers plan again. The real issue is Auburn’s defensive and offensive lines which have been pushed around by much lesser opponents this season. Alabama has an advantage up front and it will need to lean on that to grind this game to their pace and wear Auburn out as the time goes off the clock.

Auburn will probably through the kitchen sink at Alabama early and then add in a heavy dose of RB Michael Dyer, but he’s not enough to win it for his team. It will take forcing turnovers and getting Alabama off the field on third down. But the Tigers defense does neither of those things well. There’s your difference in the game. Alabama will have plenty of opportunities for long sustained drives and if it weathers the initial offense surge Auburn is known for, the Crimson Tide should win the game comfortably though probably not by as many points as some predict.
Pick: Alabama 28, Auburn 13

Tennessee (5-6) @ Kentucky (4-7)
Tennessee QB Tyler Bray may still not be 100% but his presence alone makes a world of difference in the entire Volunteers game plan. Kentucky made a great effort and took advantage of a sluggish Georgia team last week to try and get closer to bowl contention, only to fall short once again. I don’t think Kentucky has the horses to hang in this game.

Tennessee can see a bowl game in sight, which would sweeten the sour taste of how sideways this season has gone for it. Tennessee has the better quarterback and that’s enough of a difference to make me believe it can beat Kentucky.
Pick: Tennessee 28, Kentucky 14

Ole Miss (2-9) @ Mississippi State (5-6)
Mississippi State owns a two-game winning streak over Ole Miss and there’s little doubt it will get to three this year. Ole Miss’s season ended when Houston Nutt was announced as a lame duck and was fortified when Ole Miss got dumped on homecoming by LA Tech. Mississippi State’s season hasn’t been spectacular and has disappointed some, but it has the building blocks for the future in place. Expect the Bulldogs to come out strong and simply overwhelm the Rebels in this one.
Pick: Mississippi State 26, Ole Miss 13

Out of Conference Games
Georgia (9-2) @ Georgia Tech (8-3)
Georgia is looking for their 10th straight win, taking on a team that has given it fits in recent years, as Georgia Tech’s triple option is a great equalizer for many reasons. Tech’s defense isn’t very good. When it wins, it is because teams can’t get their offense off the field (see Clemson). That’s the key to the game. The Bulldogs defense has improved a lot through the season and this will certainly be a test but they should be able to force a few stops. That will put the ball in the hands of that balanced attack and that offense will find plenty of room against Georgia Tech. It may be close early but I expect Georgia to pull away and win comfortably.
Pick: Georgia 35, Georgia Tech 21

Vanderbilt (5-6) @ Wake Forest (6-5)
Vanderbilt has trouble finishing games it should win. That’s been its story all year and it won’t end this weekend. It’s a combination of inexperience and lack of depth that keeps the Commodores from getting wins. Wake Forest is no world beater but it’s beaten better teams than Vanderbilt has this year. That, the home field advantage, and Vandy’s woes in closing any team out are reasons enough for me to give the edge to Wake Forest. Sorry Vandy but no bowl this year.
Pick: Wake Forest 28, Vanderbilt 24

Florida State (8-3) @ Florida (6-5)
Neither of these teams is where they want to be. Both have dealt with injuries and just downright inconsistent play. The difference in this one is Florida State has the players to do what it wants; it just has to execute. Florida is young and in a lot of spots (especially on offense), it doesn’t have the guys it needs to run the scheme correctly. Even as a road team, I like the Seminoles in this one.
Pick: Florida State 31, Florida 24

Clemson (9-2) @ South Carolina (9-2)
Clemson got flat out embarrassed against North Carolina State but make no mistake, it is still a dangerous team. South Carolina’s defense is stout but its increasingly vanilla offense is going to land it in hot water against a team like Clemson who can find yards and points in bunches. This one will probably go back and forth for a bit but I just see Clemson as a team with better talent, and that’s what matters.
Pick: Clemson 27, South Carolina 22

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