Picks, Predictions and Prognosis for Every Week 11 SEC Football Game
We finally made it.
LSU vs. Alabama doesn't carry the major national title ramifications as its two immediate regular season predecessors did; but the Tigers still pose a threat to the No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide and have an outside shot of playing for the SEC Championship if they win out and get some help.
Both teams enter the contest coming off bye weeks, which gives both coaching staffs plenty of time to prepare for the Saturday night showdown.
Who'll win in Tuscaloosa between the Tide and Tigers? Picks for that game and the rest of the SEC's Week 11 slate are in this slide show.
2013 Record: 71-11 (6-0 last week); 47-32-1 ATS (3-2 last week)
All lines courtesy: VegasInsider.com
Auburn (-7.5) at Tennessee
Saturday, Nov. 9 at noon ET
Auburn is cruising right along at 8-1 with the No. 9 ranking in the BCS, and all signs point to a Nov. 30 showdown with Alabama in Auburn in what should be, as long as both teams hold serve, the de facto SEC West Championship Game.
The Tigers will hold serve this weekend against Tennessee.
Sure, Neyland Stadium is a tough place to play, but the matchups just don't favor Tennessee in this one.
Auburn leads the SEC and is sixth in the nation with 306.22 yards per game on the ground, and Tennessee chimes in with the worst rush defense in the SEC with 201.67 yards per game.
Despite the Tigers' success on the ground, that's not good enough according to running back Tre Mason (via: Justin Hokanson of AuburnSports.com):
Tre Mason: "We want to be the best rushing team in college football. We're working towards that goal." #Auburn averages 306 ypg.— Justin Hokanson (@JHokanson) November 5, 2013
While the matchup doesn't favor Tennessee, what should be more concerning for Vols' fans is that Tiger head coach Gus Malzahn keeps it as simple as possible in situations like this. Last week in a 35-17 win over Arkansas, the Tigers attempted just nine passes. It was clear what Auburn wanted to do, and the Hogs couldn't stop it.
Tennessee won't be able to, either.
Prediction: Auburn 35 - Tennessee 13
Vanderbilt at Florida (-10)
Saturday, Nov. 9 at noon ET
Florida enters Saturday's must-win game with Vanderbilt losers of three straight and desperate. A win over Vanderbilt on Saturday afternoon would get the Gators to 5-4 and would all but clinch a bowl game thanks to Georgia Southern's appearance on the schedule later in the season.
Meanwhile, Vanderbilt has had two weeks to prepare for the Gators after going on the road and getting smoked by Texas A&M on Oct. 26. Patton Robinette will likely start for the 'Dores at quarterback after starter Austyn Carta-Samuels left the game in mid-October with Georgia with a leg injury.
"The guy [Robinette] is young so we have to make him more comfortable so the more we do that, the more he'll continue to improve," Vanderbilt head coach James Franklin said in quotes released by Vanderbilt. "It has to be the guys around him who continue to make him comfortable."
He won't be comfortable.
Florida will get creative with pressure, rattle Robinette early, and Gator quarterback Tyler Murphy will find enough offense to get the Gators an ugly win.
Prediction: Florida 24 - Vanderbilt 13
Missouri (-14) at Kentucky
Saturday, Nov. 9 at noon ET
Missouri is still in the driver's seat in the SEC East, and the road to Atlanta goes through Lexington, Ky. this week—perhaps for the first time ever.
You saw just what Missouri was last week versus Tennessee. It's a dynamic offense that thrives on the ground, is effective in the passing game with big tall wide receivers L'Damian Washington and Dorial Green-Beckham and gets after the quarterback on defense with the best of them.
Kentucky has no shot.
Jalen Whitlow came back from ankle and shoulder injuries to lead the Wildcats to a victory over Alabama State last week, but Missouri's talented and deep rotation of defensive ends, led by Michael Sam, will have him running for his life on Saturday.
Expect Whitlow to make a few mistakes on offense, the Tigers to capitalize with takeaways and keep pounding the rock on the ground with Russell Hansbrough, Henry Josey, Marcus Murphy and quarterback Maty Mauk.
It'll get lopsided in a hurry.
Prediction: Missouri 35 - Kentucky 14
Arkansas at Ole Miss (-17)
Saturday, Nov. 9 at 12:21 p.m. ET
Ole Miss has had two weeks to pat itself on the back after upsetting LSU and plays host to an Arkansas team on Saturday afternoon that's lost six straight games by an average margin of 25.2 points per game.
Which Ole Miss team will show up on Saturday? A healthier one, that's for sure. Defensive end Robert Nkemdiche, linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche, defensive back Mike Hilton and linebacker Serderius Bryant all are practicing this week after various injuries, according to Hugh Kellenberger of the Jackson (Miss.) Clarion-Ledger.
Considering Arkansas is one-dimensional by necessity, that's bad news for the Hogs.
Quarterback Brandon Allen has completed just 40.4 percent of his passes (55-of-136) and thrown six picks and only four touchdowns against SEC competition. The entire Hog offense is based on running backs Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams, and Ole Miss has had two weeks to figure out ways to stop it with its stars on defense coming back.
Ole Miss will stay hot and continue the push towards a New Year's Day bowl, and Arkansas' bowl hopes will be officially gone after a big Rebel win in Oxford.
Prediction: Ole Miss 38 - Arkansas 16
Appalachian State at Georgia (-31.5)
Saturday, Nov. 9 at 12:30 p.m. ET
After escaping last week's cocktail party with a 23-20 win, Georgia gets a tune up this week when Appalachian State rolls between the hedges for a Saturday afternoon tilt.
Before everyone jumps all over the App. State upset bandwagon, let's take a step back for a minute. Just because the Mountaineers upset Michigan in 2007 doesn't mean they're going to upset every FBS team they play. This team is 2-7 and in last place in the SoCon.
Wide receiver Michael Bennett commented on the out-of-conference opponent.
"You can't look past any game," Bennett said in quotes released by Georgia. "That North Texas game we didn't play as good as we could have, and hopefully we'll jump up on App State and not let up."
Bennett and quarterback Aaron Murray need to continue to get comfortable with each other, after Bennett returned from a knee injury last week versus Florida. He's going to be a key contributor down the stretch, and with Todd Gurley clearly not at 100 percent despite his return last week, Georgia needs to get Murray and Bennett back in their old groove.
They'll do it this weekend, and the Bulldogs will play dial-a-score.
Prediction: Georgia 45 - Appalachian State 17
Mississippi State at Texas A&M (-19.5)
Saturday, Nov. 9 at 3:30 p.m. ET
Mississippi State and Texas A&M get to serve as the opening act on the CBS doubleheader, leading up to Saturday night's showdown in Tuscaloosa between Alabama and LSU.
So, in other words, Manziel gets four hours to make his Heisman case.
Mississippi State's defense hasn't been bad, but it's been inconsistent in the secondary and has nobody who can cover wide receiver Mike Evans. Bulldog head coach Dan Mullen recognizes that the Manziel/Evans connection creates problems all over the field.
"If Johnny Manziel scrambles around and throws one up and Mike Evans jumps over our guys and catches the ball, there’s not a whole lot you can do about that," Mullen said in quotes released by Mississippi State. "What you have to avoid is the scrambles around and having nobody near Mike Evans. That’s a problem. Or nobody is near another receiver, or all of a sudden they hand the ball off and nobody is in a gap. Those are the big problems."
Manziel will find Evans early, put pressure on the defense and then find some running lanes to put up 100 or more yards on the ground.
Prediction: Texas A&M 45 - Mississippi State 20
LSU at Alabama (-12.5)
Saturday, Nov. 9 at 8 p.m. ET
It's not quite the "Game of the Century" from two years ago, but LSU's visit to Alabama has enormous ramifications in the SEC West and BCS National Championship races. Alabama can't afford a loss and lose that benefit of the doubt given the landscape around the rest of college football this season, and LSU needs to win out and get help to make it to Atlanta.
Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban is not sleeping on LSU's offense.
"This is by far, to me, the most explosive, most talented offensive team that we've faced all year long," Saban said in a video released by Alabama on Monday.
Texas A&M and Johnny Manziel probably vehemently object.
After a hot start, LSU's offense has been remarkably average of late. Quarterback Zach Mettenberger has thrown four touchdowns and five interceptions over his last two games and gets his biggest test of the season this week against an Alabama team that boasts the best pass defense in the SEC (179 yards per game).
But Alabama's secondary hasn't been tested by potent passing attacks this season, so that's a bit deceiving. Still though, Alabama will generate pressure and force Mettenberger to make quick decisions, which will benefit the Tide secondary.
Both coaches will play this one close to the vest for a few quarters like prize fighters in a heavyweight match, and the first one to take a risk will probably be the one that goes home with a loss. That'll be LSU head coach Les Miles.
Alabama will run and hide late after three quarters of pounding the rock opens up big plays off play-action in the fourth quarter.
Prediction: Alabama 27 - LSU 14