SEC Football: Previews and Predictions for Conference's Best Week 11 Matchups

Matt FitzgeraldCorrespondent IIINovember 5, 2012

BATON ROUGE, LA - NOVEMBER 03:  T.J. Yeldon #4 of Alabama carries the ball against Craig Loston #6 of LSU at Tiger Stadium on November 3, 2012 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

As exciting as college football was this past weekend, its best conference still has much more to offer in Week 11. With the strength of the SEC across the board, there's no telling what could happen any given Saturday.

Seemingly putrid teams have given many of the nation's elite stiff tests, but fans know they're in for a special treat when two conference foes square off.

Here is a closer look at the most exciting trio of those showdowns on tap for this weekend, with the rankings based on the most recent BCS standings.


Arkansas at No. 8 South Carolina

In the midst of head coach John L. Smith's bankruptcy (h/t USA Today), the Razorbacks haven't given up hope on salvaging a respectable season.

Their bid for a bowl game has been sustained thanks to three wins in the team's past four games. Last week's gutsy 19-15 home victory over Tulsa is something to build upon for the road trip to Columbia.

As desperate as Arkansas will be to break even at 5-5 in this one, the Gamecocks will be amped up to play in front of their home crowd coming off a bye week.

Connor Shaw may have just played his best game of the year for South Carolina against Tennessee, but the Razorbacks still have the edge under center with Tyler Wilson on their side.

This one has upset potential written all over it, and should be a hotly contested game considering the huge ramifications for both teams. A road trip to Mississippi State follows this one for Arkansas, capped off by a home tilt with LSU. It's pretty much a must-win scenario to keep their postseason hopes alive.

The home team should come out on top, though, as the Gamecocks continue to play inspired football in the absence of superstar running back Marcus Lattimore.

No. 21 Mississippi State at No. 7 LSU

It appears clear that the Bulldogs can't hold up to top competition after a second consecutive blowout loss to an SEC opponent. But Dan Mullen's program has made significant strides in 2012, and it will be difficult for the Tigers to recover from a devastating last-minute loss to No. 1 Alabama.

Freshman RB Jeremy Hill continues to excel in the backfield for LSU, but the biggest development in the 'Bama game was the outstanding play of junior quarterback Zach Mettenberger.

Until the game-winning drive orchestrated by the Tide's A.J. McCarron, Mettenberger easily looked like the best quarterback on the field, outplaying his Heisman contending counterpart.

That's bad news for Mississippi State, who had relied on an extraordinary amount of turnovers to roll to a 7-0 start.

Two games ago, the Bulldogs led the nation in turnover margin. In the past two weeks, they have totaled only one takeaway. 

This will be a huge redemption game for both teams, but it should be LSU's to win. Absent a few reckless decisions by head coach Les Miles—easy to harp on with hindsight being 20/20—the Tigers should have won against 'Bama pretty handily.

Barkevious Mingo and Sam Montgomery will be too much for the Bulldogs and the intelligent Tyler Russell to handle as the game wears on in Baton Rouge. It will be low-scoring and close in the first half, but the second half will favor LSU.

No. 15 Texas A&M at No. 1 Alabama

We have arrived at the main event. The Crimson Tide finally showed signs that they did in fact lose four defensive starters to the top 35 picks of the 2012 NFL draft.

Alabama yielded a whopping 435 total yards to LSU last week. For a team that was giving up less than 210 yards per contest entering the game, this was shocking. However, the discipline and pure determination that Nick Saban's team showed ultimately got them the road win to keep their dreams of a BCS national title repeat alive.

Johnny "Football" Manziel must be at least somewhat encouraged by the Tigers' performance.

The Aggies' freshman quarterback played an outstanding game against Mississippi State: 30-of-36 for 311 passing yards, with 129 yards on 21 carries and two touchdowns.

This outcome will all fall on the shoulders of Manziel and how well the explosive dual-threat QB can negotiate what had been the most dominant defense in college football until its most recent game.

ESPN First Take staple Skip Bayless says a lot of perceptibly crazy things, but it's hard to argue with his opinion here:

I give Johnny Football a shot next Saturday in Tuscaloosa.

— Skip Bayless (@RealSkipBayless) November 4, 2012

It will be by far Manziel's toughest test of the year, but he should have learned a lot from his three-interception performance against LSU. After all, Alabama's McCarron had thrown for less than zero yards in the second half until the deciding drive on the Tigers.

Having said all that, this seems like a game that Alabama could dominate at home.

That hostile of an environment for a freshman signal-caller will be incredibly difficult for Manziel to handle. He has mostly been phenomenal all year long in accounting for 31 total touchdowns, but Tuscaloosa is a whole different monster.

Texas A&M has only lost to LSU by five and Florida by three on an otherwise unblemished record.

The size of Alabama and its deep backfield will be too much for the Aggies to handle, and Manziel will be forced to take risks playing from behind that will result in crucial turnovers.

I give the Aggies a puncher's chance, but it's far too bold to pick them on the road despite the Tide displaying some recent vulnerability.