Georgia-Auburn and Alabama-Mississippi State are two of the conference’s most high-profile games of the season, but history indicates that picking these games isn’t as tough as it seems.
Two numbers tell you how this weekend is going to go: Seven and nine. The first one represents Auburn’s 0-7 record in its past seven games against top-10 competition. The second one represents Mississippi State’s nine-game losing streak to Alabama.
Along with Hans Heiserer, I broke down those matchups and the rest of the Week 11 schedule on Bud Light’s Predictions Among Friends, which you can view here. This post is an in-depth look at this coming weekend.
First, let’s get the small-time stuff out of the way:
- Louisiana dropped the “Lafayette” from the name of its athletic programs, but the move hasn’t made the Ragin’ Cajuns much better on the field. Ole Miss has a new sense of purpose after JUCO transfer Jordan Ta’amu threw for 382 yards and 4 touchdowns in a win over Kentucky, and the Rebels will ride their budding star to a big win. The pick: Ole Miss.
- New Mexico is in the midst of a four-game losing streak in which the Lobos have scored an average of 9.25 points. Texas A&M isn’t in the best place mentally, but the Aggies aren’t about to lose to this type of competition. The pick: Texas A&M.
No. 1 Georgia at No. 10 Auburn
Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET (CBS)
If we’re looking at the most recent games in this series, Auburn doesn’t stand a chance on Saturday. The Tigers have lost three consecutive games to the Bulldogs, averaging 9 points per contest in those losses. And, as mentioned in the introduction, Gus Malzahn’s team is also 0-7 in its past seven games against top-10 opponents. This is an Auburn program that has lost every major game it’s played since a November 2014 game at No. 4 Ole Miss.
Malzahn’s word of the week is “different.” He must hope the above narrative goes flying out the window at Jordan-Hare. But that’s a tough sell when No. 1 Georgia has been playing better football than just about anybody else in the country.
The most exciting aspect of this matchup is we might see Jake Fromm and Jarrett Stidham throw a combined 50 to 60 passes if both defensive fronts can hold their own against powerful running games. Both Fromm and Stidham have played second fiddle to talented backs for the majority of the season; Saturday could be a major breakthrough for one of them.
I like Stidham, but his receivers will have a tough time finding space against the Bulldogs, and the Auburn offense — still missing Kamryn Pettway — doesn’t have the same elite stable of running backs that Georgia boasts. Both defenses have shown cracks this year ―Auburn has given up at least 20 points in four consecutive games, while Georgia allowed Missouri to put up 21 in the first half ― but Georgia has been more consistent.
It will be an entertaining game decided in the fourth quarter. Expect the Bulldogs to finish stronger than the Tigers. The pick: Georgia.
No. 2 Alabama at No. 16 Mississippi State
Saturday, 7 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Bottle up Nick Fitzgerald, and you beat Mississippi State. Alabama did it last year in a 51-3 blowout win, and both Auburn and Georgia did the same in ugly Bulldogs losses this autumn.
If Mississippi State has trouble moving the ball and falls behind early, Dan Mullen’s team has a tendency to roll over. It’s not built to come from behind or lean on the pass. Fitzgerald is a gifted runner, but he has not really improved through the air this season; he’s been intercepted 10 times and is averaging just 6.2 yards per passing attempt.
Despite a rash of injuries to its linebackers corps, I have faith the Crimson Tide will expose Fitzgerald again this weekend. The pick: Alabama.
Arkansas at No. 24 LSU
Saturday, Noon ET (ESPN)
Arkansas coach Bret Bielema might get quarterback Austin Allen back this week, but the Razorbacks are still toast. At the time of writing, the Arkansas home page on our website features a story on athletic director Jeff Long “laying low” and an opinion piece that states Arkansas seniors “deserved better than this.”
Meanwhile, coach Ed Orgeron is firmly entrenched at LSU ― “firmly entrenched” is a relative statement in the SEC, meaning “he’s not at risk of being fired next week” ― and his team still has an outside shot at a major bowl game. Finish with wins over Arkansas, Tennessee and Texas A&M, and Tigers fans will once again be content with waiting for next year.
This one will probably get ugly. The pick: LSU.
Florida at South Carolina
Saturday, Noon ET (CBS)
Who’s going to be the hapless squad that loses to Florida? It wasn’t Missouri — winless in the SEC until the blowout of the hapless Gators last Saturday — and it won’t be South Carolina, either. The Gamecocks have been consistently strong on defense this season and haven’t allowed more than 28 points to any opponent.
The offense is still figuring itself out, but Jake Bentley and Co. won’t need to do much to help the Gamecocks get the W. The pick: South Carolina.
Tennessee at Missouri
Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET (SEC Network)
Missouri coach Barry Odom has done just about everything he’s needed to do to save his job after a horrible start. The Tigers played competitive football against Kentucky, gave Georgia a scare, beat up Idaho and Connecticut, and then destroyed Florida last weekend. Now, they’re one or two wins away from bowl season (a 5-7 Tigers team would have a strong chance at the postseason due to a high APR).
Nothing can stop this blistering Missouri passing attack. Drew Lock is now leading the country (!) in passing touchdowns with 31, with 21 of those coming in the last five games. And the Tigers defense has been promoted from “avert your eyes” to “hey, maybe they’ll show up.” Tennessee’s iffy offense won’t be able to engage in a shootout, let alone win one. The pick: Missouri.
Kentucky at Vanderbilt
Saturday, 4 p.m. ET (SEC Network)
Like Missouri, Vanderbilt is a candidate for a late-season push toward bowl eligibility. A high APR means the Commodores might only need one more victory to get it done, and I think that win will come this Saturday.
Kentucky is fading fast after a 5-1 start. The Wildcats have lost two of three and narrowly escaped a matchup with Tennessee two weeks ago. The defense has surrendered an average of 35.5 points over the past four games and is primed to give up several big plays to a Vanderbilt squad that has been one of the country’s best at getting into the end zone through the air.
On the flip side, the Commodores defense is horrific against the run, giving up an average of 211.6 yards per game, and the Wildcats have the personnel to make them pay. Expect plenty of points and a narrow win for the home side. The pick: Vanderbilt.
How do you see the games playing out this weekend? Let us know in the comments section below.