Rivalry week is always interesting in the SEC. Sure some teams have more to play for than others but each of these games will play a role in bowl seating as the SEC prepares to send a boatload of teams to the college football postseason.
Last Week: 5-0 Overall: 63-24
(Home team listed first)
Article first published as SEC Week Thirteen: Rivals Take Center Stage on Blogcritics.
Beyond all the hyperbole of this year-around rivalry this game boils down to just a few things. Auburn has run the ball with authority all season but especially the latter part of the year and not just against the chumps. Remember, this is the team that racked up 430 yards on the ground against a stout LSU defense. However, that was a home game.
Alabama's offense has not been the juggernaut many predicted but still has three established playmakers in RBs Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson as well as WR Julio Jones.
Many will point to Alabama's losses to teams Auburn beat as reason enough to pick the Tigers but recall those were road games for Alabama. Auburn's three road game opponents combined aren't nearly as stout as Alabama's defense which while still young and not what it was last year, is very good. At home this year, the Crimson Tide is allowing only an average of around 9 points while scoring over 27. Auburn in its road games is scoring nearly 35 a game but the Tigers defense is spotting the home crew 26 points.
All of that points to a game that is going to be close and in that case, the edge goes to Alabama. Auburn hasn't been stopped this year but they have been limited and Alabama's defense is good enough to at least slow Newton down. The Tiger defense hasn't stopped anyone in conference this year and Alabama can score in a variety of ways. They're also the home team made up of veterans who have been in these situations before.
Alabama 27, Auburn 25
Arkansas definitely has the offense to hang with just about any team and the recent addition of a running game makes it even more dangerous. While the defense has been suspect at times it seems to have improved over the season. LSU has been up and down on offense but they appear to have figured out enough of what works to win both close games and shootouts. Arkansas's performances against South Carolina and Mississippi State are noteworthy and show signs that this team has matured and they've done it at home and on the road. These games are often back and forth and the same can be expected here. In the end, the edge goes to the Razorbacks.
Arkansas 34, LSU 31
If the good South Carolina shows up, they should win this game handily. The problem is there's no guarantee that will happen as twice this year (Kentucky and Arkansas) the Gamecocks have failed to fully get off the bus and wound up on the wrong end of the scoreboard at the end of four quarters. (The loss to Auburn was, in many ways, Cam Newton's coming out party.) Clemson, while not a bad team, clearly has problems with consistency and they'll need their best game along with the Gamecocks' patented fading act to get the win. Expect Steve Spurrier to have his birds ready to pounce as they prepare for the SEC Championship game with Auburn next week.
South Carolina 31, Clemson 20
You know how a lot of teams have taken it to Texas out in the Big 12 after years of getting worked? Well, the same scenario is happening to a Florida squad who's got to be as eager to get to the off-season as they are to play another down. Florida State has been good in fits and starts and they've been bad as well. The Seminoles have three things going for them in this game: 1) they lead the nation in sacks and Florida's offense has been anything but stellar this year; 2) when they are "on" their offense can be as balanced of an attack as any team sports; and 3) they get this one at home and they feel like they owe one to Urban Meyer's Gators. This won't be pretty but Florida State gets a chance to exercise some frustrations on their cross-state rivals.
Florida State 23, Florida 17
Kentucky hasn't knocked of UT in longer than most of us have been alive. While Tennessee's road to bowl eligibility has not been the most glamorous, this team has grown quite a bit over the season. A home game in Knoxville along with Kentucky's shaky defense give the edge to the Volunteers.
Tennessee 33, Kentucky 28
Georgia Tech doesn't really have a defense. Georgia doesn't really have anything beyond Aaron Murray and A.J. Green worth paying attention to. Georgia whipped a better Tech team last year and they should be able to get by this crew this year if they can stop complaining about referees in the Auburn game that is.
Georgia 32, Georgia Tech 14
There's a lot of smart people who go to these schools. If it was a scholastic competition, it'd probably produce more drama and points. At halftime they are going to gather and see who can perform the first 20 minute transplant. Vanderbilt's been so close in these games and having the home field gives them enough of an advantage to send Robbie Caldwell out with a win for the year.
Vanderbilt 27, Wake Forest 24