Three weeks. Teams have just three weeks left to make their marks on 2016.
This last stretch of November can unravel teams, as it did LSU last year. Or it can save seasons and squeak teams into the College Football Playoff (see: Michigan State).
What’ll be the final story for your team? For some, Saturday will play a huge role in its outcome. Texas A&M will try to push on without quarterback Trevor Knight against a wounded but still dangerous Ole Miss team. Florida will try to recover from last week’s thrashing against former-coach Will Muschamp and the Gamecocks. Auburn needs two more wins for an improbable SEC West division title.
There’s a ton at stake, and there’ll be just as much fun. Let’s get to some predictions, shall we?
(All kickoff times ET)
Mississippi State at No. 1 Alabama: The Nick Fitzgerald INT streak continues
The Bulldogs’ sophomore quarterback has put up some pretty dang good numbers this year: 2,544 total yards, including 839 on the ground, and 24 touchdowns in nine games. He ran for 182 yards and scored 4 touchdowns in his team’s massive upset of Texas A&M last Saturday. But Fitzgerald has also been part of a troubling trend: five straight games with at least one interception. He’s thrown 8 of them since Week 5. Here comes the Crimson Tide. They “only” have 9 interceptions this year— that’s middle of the pack in the SEC — but their secondary is still among the best in the country, even without ballhawk safety Eddie Jackson. Fitzgerald will have major trouble running against that front seven, and the relentless pass-rushing quartet of Tim Williams, Jonathan Allen, Ryan Anderson and Dalvin Tomlinson should force him into at least one bad mistake this weekend.
Kickoff: Noon, ESPN
Line: Alabama -29
Prediction: Alabama 43, Mississippi State 17
South Carolina at Florida: Coach Boom gets his payback
This would be a colossal win for Will Muschamp. He may not say it publicly, but his players definitely realize the major personal stake their coach has in this game. Florida (6-2, 4-2 SEC) has played a pretty weak schedule to this point and lost decisively to its two toughest opponents (Tennessee, Arkansas). The Gamecocks are heating up, with three straight wins and an upset of the Vols. They’ve looked better on offense with Jake Bentley at quarterback. One eye-popping stat: South Carolina is one of just six teams to not allow 30-plus points in a game this year. The others? Michigan, Ohio State, LSU, Auburn and Washington. Florida is without “injured” quarterback Luke Del Rio, who has played terribly of late, and will be going with Purdue transfer Austin Appleby. If South Carolina can keep the Gators defense honest with Bentley — and for what it’s worth, they’ve given up 562 yards passing in their two losses — then Muschamp has a real shot at sticking it to his old team. Expect an ugly game.
Kickoff: Noon, CBS
Line: Florida -11.5
Prediction: South Carolina 17, Florida 13
Kentucky at Tennessee: The SEC East gets a little less confusing
The Vols got their wakeup call two weeks ago from South Carolina, and they’re not about to overlook a Kentucky team that’s ahead of them in the division standings. Tennessee’s offense will give it’s attention to a Wildcats squad allowing 30.4 points per game and win comfortably. With a Tennessee win and a Florida loss, Butch Jones & Co. would have a 3-3 SEC record and control their own destiny in the East. Florida travels to LSU for its conference finale, while Tennessee gets Missouri and Vanderbilt. Who’s ready for Alabama to crush the Vols a second time in Atlanta?
Kickoff: Noon, SEC Network
Line: Tennessee -13.5
Prediction: Tennessee 34, Kentucky 22
No. 9 Auburn at Georgia: Jacob Eason hits 250 yards, but Bulldogs held under 15 points
For as good as the Tigers have been defensively, they’ve been susceptible to the pass in the past two weeks. Chad Kelly went off for 465 yards and 3 touchdowns, while Vandy’s Kyle Shurmur completed 24 of 38 for 221 yards in last Saturday’s narrow win. In all, Auburn allowed opponents to pick up chunks of yards here and there, including 80 passing plays of 10-plus yards. Georgia freshman Jacob Eason, already owner of the “clutch” label, is still growing but getting better as the season wears on. He should find fellow first-year standout Isaac Nauta for a few big gains. Overall, however, the Bulldogs’ tendencies to settle for field goals in the red zone will keep the game in Auburn’s hands.
Kickoff: 3:30 p.m., CBS
Line: Auburn -10
Prediction: Auburn 20, Georgia 9
Vanderbilt at Missouri: Upset alert
The consensus junk game in an otherwise pretty good Week 11 slate, Vandy somehow enters this game as an underdog. Even though the Tigers will get the Faurot Field advantage, they’ve hardly been competitive in any of their Power Five games this season — especially on the defensive end. The Commodores have a win over Georgia, played Auburn tough and a defense that’s been underrated. This is an easy pick as far as “upsets” go.
Kickoff: 3:30 p.m., SEC Network
Line: Missouri -3.5
Prediction: Vanderbilt 26, Missouri 25
No. 24 LSU at No. 25 Arkansas: Fournette, Guice rebound big-time
LSU took a tough loss in Death Valley, but if there’s one thing we can be absolutely sure about with Coach O, it’s that he’ll be fired up. The Tigers seemed to have bought into the message and should be fired up to play the team that’s been their other Kryptonite in recent years. The Hogs coaching staff — and Bret Bielema in particular — received deserved praise for some changes they made on the defensive ball coming out of their bye week. The changes seemed to pay off in Saturday’s 31-10 beat down of Florida, which was held to 12 yards rushing and without an offensive touchdown. But let’s remember: The Gators offense is pretty terrible and hasn’t faced stiff competition in the SEC East.
Kickoff: 7 p.m., ESPN
Line: LSU -7
Prediction: LSU 30, Arkansas 24
Ole Miss at No. 8 Texas A&M: Shea Patterson starts, but Trayveon Williams shines
It has now been reported in multiple places that the Patterson quarterback era will begin on Saturday for Ole Miss. The former 5-star is physically ready, one would think. Given the success of other SEC freshmen this season we can probably expect a decent game out of the kid. Without a full-strength Myles Garrett, the Texas A&M defense looked pretty susceptible in last weekend’s shocking loss. But with Trevor Knight done for the year, the real star will be the Aggies freshman tailback, Williams. He’s explosive, and the Ole Miss run defense is non-existent. Bet on a big day from the little guy.
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m., SEC Network
Line: Texas A&M -10
Prediction: Texas A&M 35, Ole Miss 24