Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel
We've reached the penultimate weekend of the SEC's regular season, and two major games with BCS and division title ramifications loom.
Texas A&M will travel to Baton Rouge to take on LSU on Saturday afternoon with at-large BCS chances—and perhaps a second Heisman Trophy for Johnny Manziel on the line. The Tigers shut down Johnny Football last season, and if they repeat the feat, it could knock the Aggies down the bowl pecking order and give that defense some much-needed confidence after an up-and-down season.
Saturday night in Oxford, Ole Miss will try to play spoiler against Missouri, as the Tigers can't afford another conference loss in the SEC East race.
Can Dr. Bo Wallace spoil Missouri's SEC East dreams? Will Johnny Manziel's Heisman chances disappear in Death Valley?
Picks for those two games and the rest of the SEC slate are in this slideshow.
2013 record: 82-12 (5-0 last week), 52-39-1 ATS (2-3 last week).
All lines courtesy: VegasInsider.com.
Arkansas RB Alex Collins
Saturday, Nov. 23 at noon ET
Arkansas' 2013 season hasn't gone according to plan. The Razorbacks won three straight to start the Bret Bielema era but have lost seven straight since topping Southern Miss on Sept. 14.
That changes this week, as the Hogs will spring a much-needed home upset over the Mississippi State Bulldogs.
Arkansas' bread is buttered with a stout running game featuring Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams, and Mississippi State is fresh off a loss to Alabama in which the Bulldogs gave up 196 yards on the ground. Teams coming off of games against Alabama are typically beat up and ripe for the picking.
On top of that, both Mississippi State quarterbacks—senior Tyler Russell and sophomore Dak Prescott—are dealing with injuries, which could mean more playing time for freshman Damian Williams, who filled in for Russell last week when he injured his non-throwing shoulder.
"He was ready to go, came in and made a couple of nice throws and filled in for us," head coach Dan Mullen said in quotes released by Mississippi State. "I think in his mindset, he’ll get himself ready to play this week if he’s got to be our guy and start for us depending on the health of the other guys.”
Arkansas will rush for nearly 200 yards as a team, get a couple of timely turnovers and win an ugly game in Little Rock.
Prediction: Arkansas 21 - Mississippi State 17
South Carolina QB Connor Shaw
Saturday, Nov. 23 at 1 p.m. ET
South Carolina comes off an ugly win over Florida last week and gets to recover vs. Coastal Carolina in preparation for its season finale against in-state rival Clemson.
With the SEC schedule in the rearview mirror and a rivalry game next week, expect head coach Steve Spurrier to clear the bench this week. Running back Mike Davis and defensive end Jadeveon Clowney have both sat out of practice this week, according to ESPN.com.
Shon Carson can handle the load in place of Davis, and it's probably better for the Gamecocks to get Clowney ready for the Tigers and perhaps an SEC Championship Game appearance against either Alabama or Auburn.
The Old Ball Coach will play dial-a-score with the 10-1 Chanticleers and dial up a big one in preparation for Dabo Swinney, Tajh Boyd and the Clemson Tigers.
Prediction: South Carolina 45 - Coastal Carolina 7
Alabama head coach Nick Saban
Saturday, Nov. 23 at 2 p.m. ET
After coming out sluggish and committing four turnovers last week at Mississippi State, Alabama gets to tune up for one of the biggest Iron Bowls in history with a game against Chattanooga.
Something tells me those four turnovers are going to be brought up a time or 20 during preparation for the Mocs.
"I'd rather not have close games, but since we had one, the benefit is we had to go in some tough situations and circumstances, especially on defense, and came through a couple of times," Saban said on Monday according to TideSports.com.
Alabama will focus on ball security, let running back T.J. Yeldon get some rest for his ailing ankle, get some reps for the backups and focus on the de facto SEC West title game next week on the Plains.
Prediction: Alabama 49 - Chattanooga 7
Florida RB Kelvin Taylor
Saturday, Nov. 23 at 2 p.m. ET
Florida being nearly a four-touchdown favorite over anybody seems a bit steep, but the Gators played well last week at South Carolina considering they were starting freshman Skyler Mornhinweg for the first time in a hostile environment.
Mornhinweg managed the game well and had the ball in his hands late with a chance to win before making a critical mistake on an interception to Jimmy Legree with 1:22 to play. They Gators are going to stick with Mornhinweg at quarterback until Tyler Murphy's shoulder is healed, according to the Orlando Sentinel.
Whether it's Murphy or Mornhinweg at the helm, expect freshman running back Kelvin Taylor to build off of his 96-yard performance from the South Carolina game and the Gators to handle the 6-4 Eagles with relative ease.
Well, "ease" by Florida standards anyway.
It'll be close for a while, but the Gators will run and hide in the second half.
Prediction: Florida 31 - Georgia Southern 10
Saturday, Nov. 23 at 3:30 p.m. ET
LSU shut down Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel last season. Can the Tigers do it again?
Yes, they can and they will.
The Tigers haven't put together a complete game defensively yet, but they'll do enough to get the job done this week at home. Jermauria Rasco and Danielle Hunter will play contain, force Manziel to stay in the pocket and put pressure on defensive tackles Anthony Johnson and Ego Ferguson, and the talented LSU linebackers will clean up the mess.
They'll limit Manziel's impact on the ground, and Jalen Mills will have a breakout game at cornerback for the Tigers, capitalizing on a few mistakes made by Manziel when he's under pressure.
At that point, LSU's offense just needs to make sure they get seven instead of three, and against the Texas A&M defense, that's not exactly a tall order.
LSU forces the turnovers it needs and wins a shootout.
Prediction: LSU 45 - Texas A&M 38
Georgia RB Todd Gurley
Saturday, Nov. 23 at 7 p.m. ET
Georgia suffered a heartbreaker last week, digging itself out of a 20-point fourth quarter hole only to see Nick Marshall's prayer answered by Ricardo Louis with under 30 seconds to play in a loss to Auburn.
Luckily for the Bulldogs, they get a chance to take out their frustration on Kentucky this weekend.
This isn't the same beat-up Georgia team that we saw in the middle of the season. Running back Todd Gurley looks close to 100 percent, wide receiver Michael Bennett is back, and Chris Conley returned vs. Auburn after suffering an ankle injury against Vanderbilt, and Jonathon Rumph is finally making an impact for the Bulldogs.
It'll be the final game for quarterback Aaron Murray, and Gurley wants to send his quarterback out on a high note.
"Aaron has been awesome," he said in quotes released by Georgia. "Just being here for as long as he's been here he's done so much for this team and the university and it's going to be hard to replace him next year. He's definitely the best quarterback in SEC history. The record says it all."
Kentucky boasts the SEC's third-worst total defense (410.7 YPG) and rush defense (192 YPG), so expect a heavy dose of Gurley and Murray to open things up off of play action for an easy win.
Prediction: Georgia 42 - Kentucky 17
Vanderbilt RB Jerron Seymour
Saturday, Nov. 23 at 7 p.m. ET
It's a bit surprising to see Vanderbilt—a team that's won three of its last four including wins over Georgia and Florida—to enter Neyland Stadium against a sub-.500 Tennessee team as the underdog. But that's exactly where James Franklin's crew finds itself.
Something tells me that's how Franklin likes it.
But don't tell him that this is a rivalry, because it isn't.
"I think this is good for the state of Tennessee, I think it is good for our program and UT's program and I think it'll be good for the SEC," Franklin said in quotes released by Vanderbilt. "There is no doubt that you'd like this game to become a rivalry, those are fun games to be a part of. I just don't think this is there yet."
Expect Vanderbilt to put a ton of pressure on freshman quarterback Josh Dobbs. The 'Dores are fourth in the SEC with 68 tackles for loss on the season, and while Tennessee's offensive line is talented, it's only seventh in the conference in tackles for loss allowed (49).
Jerron Seymour will break a few big runs against a Tennessee defense that's given up the most runs of 20 or more yards in the SEC (22), and the defense will force Dobbs into a couple of critical mistakes to give the Commodores the win.
Prediction: Vanderbilt 24 - Tennessee 21
Ole Miss QB Bo Wallace
Saturday, Nov. 23 at 7:45 p.m. ET
I've been driving the Missouri bandwagon since September, before the Tigers went to Athens and upset Georgia.
Now, I'm jumping off.
Ole Miss will spring the upset on the Tigers on Saturday night in Oxford, notching a big win for head coach Hugh Freeze and sending the South Carolina Gamecocks to Atlanta in the process.
The Rebels are healthy defensively, are holding opponents to a respectable 310.75 yards per game over the last four games and have been moving the ball well offensively.
Quarterback Bo Wallace has thrown for more than 300 yards in four of his last six games, wide receiver Donte Moncrief has come along after a slow start, and Freeze knows how to put pressure on an opposing defense with that diverse running game.
Missouri will start quarterback James Franklin this week after Maty Mauk filled in admirably in his absence for the last four-and-a-half games. It won't matter.
Ole Miss will get pressure, force a couple of key mistakes and win a thriller on Saturday night in Oxford.
Prediction: Ole Miss 35 - Missouri 28