Even though it’s FCS week in the SEC football season, there still are several compelling games on the schedule.
LSU and Florida are facing off in one of the games of the weekend. Ed Orgeron is trying to hold onto a job, while Florida is trying to win the division. Other programs are trying to sneak their way to bowl eligibility after inconsistent seasons.
Here are the top 5 SEC games you should be watching this weekend:
No. 16 LSU vs. No. 23 Florida
1 p.m. Saturday in Baton Rouge, La. (SEC Network)
This game was originally scheduled for months ago in Gainesville, but it has now become a decisive game for the SEC East race. If Florida loses this game, Tennessee is in the driver’s seat for the East title. The Vols only have games against Vanderbilt and Missouri left to clinch.
While this game started being about Florida, Orgeron, an interim coach, has re-energized LSU and has it poised to be the second-best team in the SEC. Playing in Death Valley will be a worst-case scenario for a Florida team that was recently obliterated by Arkansas.
Leonard Fournette isn’t at full strength, but it might not matter. Derrius Guice has proven more than capable of running over teams. Florida’s front seven is also banged up, which puts the Gators in a tough spot. Florida will have to score some points against LSU’s top-rated defense to stand a chance. Good luck.
Vanderbilt vs. Ole Miss
8 p.m. Saturday in Nashville, Tenn. (SEC Network)
These two teams are fighting just for bowl eligibility, but Ole Miss has suddenly become appointment television. True freshman QB Shea Patterson led his first career game-winning drive against No. 8 Texas A&M last Saturday in an outstanding second-half performance at Kyle Field.
However, Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason is a great defensive mind and now has film on Patterson to study. Linebacker Zach Cunningham is perhaps the best defensive player in the SEC and will be a critical component of the Commodores’ attack against him.
Vanderbilt will be eliminated from bowl contention with a loss, but the Rebels are simply the better football team at this point. The Commodores have been unable to create offense consistently, which has severely limited their output. That won’t change against a hungry Ole Miss team.
No. 19 Tennessee vs. Missouri
3:30 p.m. Saturday in Knoxville, Tenn. (CBS)
Tennessee has struggled the past few weeks, but now has an opportunity to still win the SEC East. However, the path to Atlanta goes through Missouri — the Vols have zero room for error.
Missouri is fresh off Barry Odom’s first conference win over Vanderbilt. The Tigers’ offense has developed consistently, but the defense is ill-equipped to match up with Tennessee’s physical front. Quarterback Drew Lock will have to have one of his best games to keep the Tigers alive.
After an embarrassing loss to South Carolina, Tennessee is starting to play with more emotion on both sides of the ball. Getting Cameron Sutton back last week was a great boon and should be even more valuable against Mizzou’s passing offense. Josh Dobbs has to continue to play efficiently.
Mississippi State vs. Arkansas
7 p.m. Saturday in Starkville, Miss. (ESPNU)
This might not be the sexiest game of the weekend, but it’s an important one for Mississippi State. The Bulldogs are in the midst of a six-year bowl streak but sit at 4-6 and just on the outside looking in. A win over Arkansas in vital.
Arkansas has historically played exceptionally well in November, but the Razorbacks stumbled last week against LSU. Granted, the Razorbacks are still the better team, regardless of inconsistent offensive performance. Mississippi State does have some hope.
The Razorbacks have struggled mightily defending the run, including allowing LSU to rush for 390 yards and 5 touchdowns last weekend. Mississippi State QB Nick Fitzgerald is one of the truest dual-threat quarterbacks in the conference. He is tied for No. 7 in the conference with 854 rushing yards. He’s on track to narrowly get to 1,000 rushing yards at quarterback.
No. 15 Auburn vs. Alabama A&M
7:30 p.m. Saturday in Auburn, Ala. (SEC Network)
This obviously won’t be the most competitive game, but it will be an important sign to determine if the Tigers can rebound after a tough performance.
Auburn QB Sean White had easily the worst game of his career against Georgia, completing just 6 of his 20 passes for 27 yards and an interception. While Georgia’s defense is decent, White admitted later he was dealing with an injury and didn’t tell his coaches. It will be interesting to see how Auburn handles it.
There’s obviously no reason to play White against Alabama A&M if he’s not healthy — the Tigers can handle things without him. Coach Gus Malzahn announced Jeremy Johnson will steer the ship this week. It will be interesting to see how he performs and the reaction of the crowd to the somewhat disgraced former starter.