It’s Division Decision Saturday. The SEC East and West could both be decided with two big games this Saturday. Meanwhile, the rest of the conference starts to jockey for those coveted bowl positions which, at the time of this writing, seem to weigh heavily in favor of the teams from the SEC West. Let’s look at the games.
Last Week: 6-2, Overall: 54-21
Florida (6-3) vs. South Carolina (6-3)
South Carolina is a team that can’t deal with success. They blew a big lead against Auburn and lost. They beat the number one team in the country (at that time) and turned around and lost to Kentucky. And now they come off a loss to Arkansas in a game where the Gamecocks came out flat as a board.
Florida, who took three on the chin in the middle of the season, seems to have found a work-around for the inconsistent offense. The Gators defense is still tough to move the ball against and they force a boatload of turnovers. That should scare South Carolina fans, as the Gamecocks have coughed it up at inopportune times this season in wins as well as during losses. Florida’s special teams can flip the field in their favor as well. The Gators will have to push the Gamecocks defense (which leads the league in sacks) out of the backfield in order to get the ball in the hands of their playmakers on the outside.
South Carolina hasn’t played well on the road and Florida can smell the blood and a trip back to Atlanta for another shot at the SEC Championship in December in the water. Florida will be too much for South Carolina to handle.
Florida 33, South Carolina 24
Auburn (10-0) vs. Georgia (5-5)
Georgia has defeated one team with a .500 record (Kentucky) while Auburn has downed six teams with winning records. That should tell you all you need to know about Georgia’s wins this year. Breaking it down even further, Georgia is 0-2 against SEC West teams this season (Arkansas, MSU) and didn’t look good in either game. Georgia faithful will tell you the four losses early on are an anomaly and that this is a dangerous team with a renewed purpose. They are drinking the kool-aid with two fists.
Auburn has flat-out dominated the back half of this season. In spite of very real defensive secondary issues, Auburn’s front line creates havoc for opposing offenses. Factor in QB Cam Newton and the top rushing game in the conference and Auburn looks like a team on the precipice of a very special season. Dropping four in a row to Georgia has been a tough pill to swallow for Auburn and they will get to watch the tables turn Saturday. Expect the Tigers to steamroll with much haste past the Bulldogs.
Auburn 31, Georgia 17
Alabama (7-2) vs. Mississippi State (7-2)
Alabama plays like a team that’s snake bitten by its own previous success. Head coach Nick Saban said as much after the loss to LSU.
Mississippi State plays like a team on a mission. No one thought Dan Mullen would do this much this soon with this team in Starkville. But the Bulldogs have rebounded from two early losses to string together an impressive season, including a stunning win over Florida, a “more talented” team, at least on paper.
Here’s an interesting note. Alabama is ranked 7th in the SEC in rush defense while Mississippi State boasts the conference’s 3rd ranked rush offense. Now the Crimson Tide still doesn’t surrender a ton of points, but that statistic is helped by some early season blowouts.
Mississippi State will give up some yards in the air but Alabama’s offense, which has playmakers in the passing game, lacks explosiveness to create opportunities for Alabama to build comfortable leads in a game. Call it a hunch, a gut feeling, but a week off for the Bulldogs coupled with Alabama coming off a demoralizing loss are the perfect recipe for an upset Saturday.
Mississippi State 20, Alabama 17
Tennessee (3-6) vs. Ole Miss (4-5)
Neither of these teams are very good. Ole Miss’ defense gives up a lot of points. In fact, they are the worst in the conference. Tennessee isn’t much better. The difference is on offense. Ole Miss can move the ball on the ground and score points. Tennessee can’t do either.
Ole Miss 26, Tennessee 16
Kentucky (5-5) vs. Vanderbilt (2-7)
Kentucky isn’t special on defense at all but that offense is a handful for any team. Vanderbilt can be a fly in the ointment but it doesn’t take a ton to move them out of the way. Big Blue has way too much for the Commodores.
Kentucky 34, Vanderbilt 23
Arkansas (7-2) vs. UTEP (6-4)
UTEP’s not a bad team but they haven’t played anything like the Arkansas offense this year. The Razorbacks have added a running game to the arsenal in recent weeks, which only creates more problems for opposing defenses. This is not a pushover, but should be a fine tune-up game as Arkansas prepares for Mississippi State and LSU to end the season.
Arkansas 35, UTEP 17
LSU (8-1) vs. Louisiana-Monroe (4-5)
LSU should be wary to avoid the hangover from the win over Alabama. While ULM won’t lay down in Tiger Stadium, they also don’t have much to push back with. LSU’s defense is phenomenal and the Tigers have figured out enough on offense to take care of business and win big here.
LSU 35, ULM 6