Thursday, Nov. 18
Georgia State (6-4) at No. 10 Alabama (8-2), 6:30 p.m., CT
On some levels, this is a coup for Georgia State, being able to share a national stage with Alabama. But this might’ve been a good experiment in, say, 2013. Not now. Too soon, too soon. We’re fearful for the safety of the Panthers, who don’t belong on the same field with the Tide. Nick Saban should ease off the throttle pretty early on, giving his young guys a chance to shine — and his veterans rest heading into the Iron Bowl.
For those saying, “Oh, how bad can the Panthers be? They have six wins.” Those wins: Shorter, Campbell, Morehead State, Savannah State, North Carolina Central (OT), Lamar. Right.
Player to Watch: Eddie Lacy, Alabama RB. Just 38 carries this season. This is a great shot for the freshman to show he’s the Tide’s next great back. Except, you know, Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson, and especially Richardson, aren’t going anywhere soon.
Saturday, Nov. 20
Troy (5-4) at No. 17 South Carolina (7-3), 12:21 p.m., ET
TV: SEC Network
The dangers are inherent in this game. It’s a movie we’ve seen before: Win big game, flop the next week. But South Carolina will be mindful of the horror flick that was the second half at Kentucky. And it’ll learn from said lesson.
Look for a whole mess of points. Troy throws an average of 42 passes a game, but the Trojans are 103rd in the country in total defense. They just allowed 52 points to Florida International last week. Will the Gamecocks be looking ahead to Clemson and the SEC title game? Naturally. But they’ll have enough to make this relatively easy.
Player to Watch: Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina RB. Following up that 212-yard show at Florida, the freshman could rush for 100 yards in his sleep this week.
Appalachian State (9-1) at Florida (6-4), 12:30 p.m., ET
Florida continues its tradition of following the SEC regular-season finale with a SoCon team. (It was The Citadel a year ago, the Big South’s Charleston Southern the year before that. Too bad the College of Charleston doesn’t have a team.)
Appalachian State, as history tells us, presents more of a challenge than those other teams. These aren’t the Mountaineers of the earlier part of the decade, but they were ranked No. 1 in FCS for a time and they’re currently No. 2 in that poll. This is no slouch program, or “clown show” as Urban Meyer put it earlier in the week.
This would be a great opportunity for the Gators to iron out their offensive deficiencies. Specifically, Meyer needs to play Jordan Reed for an extended time at QB and see if he can piece together a gameplan for Florida State next week. Otherwise, UF might be looking at the unthinkable in Meyer’s sixth season: A seven-win season. This week is no gimme, either.
Player to Watch: Chris Rainey, Florida AP. App State has speed, but not Rainey speed.
Ole Miss (4-6, 1-5) at LSU (9-1, 5-1), 2:30 p.m., CT
Houston Nutt’s impassioned plea for patience this week was just sort of sad. Just really whiny and desperate, really. We all know this isn’t Nutt’s best team at Ole Miss. That’s fine. Just play on. We don’t need a lengthy sob story about injuries and blah, blah, blah.
Nutt said part of the speech’s message was to get the team fired up for the remaining games, against LSU and Mississippi State. In reality, especially after Tennessee put up 52 on the Rebs last week, it sounded as if Nutt was just preparing for the reality of two lopsided losses.
This will be one. LSU is a team motivated by the notion that, if things shake out a certain way, the Tigers could be right in the middle of the national title picture. Maybe they won’t, but they’ve got to keep winning to have that remote shot.
Player to Watch: Jordan Jefferson, LSU QB. He needs to continue the play he showed in the Alabama game in preparing for Arkansas next week.
No. 13 Arkansas (8-2, 4-2) at No. 22 Mississippi State (7-3, 3-3), 6 p.m., CT
A subtly big game in terms of shaping the postseason picture. Both are in line for New Year’s Day bowls, but which ones? Jerry Jones would love to have alma mater Arkansas in Dallas for the Cotton Bowl, even though the Hogs already played one game this season at Cowboys Stadium.
Mississippi State wants to shake off whatever that was last week at Alabama and prove it’s deserving of, perhaps, the Outback or Cotton bowls. It needs a win Saturday to get to the latter. With just a win next week against Ole Miss, it essentially guarantees it will be in either Atlanta or Tampa.
Arkansas, with Knile Davis and the added feature of the run game, is just too tough right now. Too much offense for even the vaunted cowbell.
Player to Watch: Ryan Mallett, Arkansas QB. Closes strong and could still nab second-team All-SEC QB.
Tennessee (4-6, 1-5) at Vanderbilt (2-8, 1-6), 6:30 p.m., CT
Still a meaningful November game for Tennessee, but not in the way the Volunteers are used to. Usually they’re gunning for a New Year’s Day bowl slot. This year, they just want a postseason spot, period. And they’re going to have to scramble to get there.
But the blowout of Ole Miss — which delivered Derek Dooley his first SEC victory, at long last — inspired some bowl hope. Freshman Tyler Bray has 10 TDs in the past three weeks, with half of those coming against SEC opponents. He seems to be picking up confidence as he goes.
Talented freshman Justin Hunter had three catches last week, and two were for touchdowns.
Vanderbilt will provide nothing more than a speed bump, setting up a rather big game next week between Kentucky and Tennessee. The Wildcats haven’t beaten UT since the Civil War, or something like that. And the Vols will need that one to become bowl-eligible.
Player to Watch: Justin Hunter, Tennessee WR. Still learning the Vols’ playbook, but his natural talent is shining against these weaker late-season opponents.