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All eyes are on the November 5 meeting between Alabama and LSU.
by Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden on twitter)
The the midway point of the 2011 college football in the rearview mirror, so Athlon Sports takes a look at the top must-see games left on the SEC slate.
1. LSU vs. Alabama (Week 10)
Nov. 5, All-Time Series: Bama leads 45-24-5
This one pretty much has it all: Coaching and fanbase storylines, divisional and conference title implications, Heisman Trophy candidates and a potential BCS National Championship berth. Despite dominating for most of this rivalry and winning two of the last three, LSU has had Bama’s number for the better part of a decade – winning six of the last eight meetings. These are arguably the two best defenses in the nation and will both make things tough on the running game. Therefore, whichever quarterback can convert key third and longs in the fourth quarter will likely set his team up for a national title run. These are two of the best rosters in the nation, but the edge goes to the better coach and home-field advantage. This has been targeted as the biggest game of the season nationally and through seven weeks, nothing has changed. This will be the brightest and most important spotlight of the 2011 college football season.
Athlon’s Prediction: Bama by 3
2. Alabama vs. Auburn (Week 13)
Nov. 26, All-Time Series: Bama leads 40-34-1
The Iron Bowl is one of the single greatest football games of the season each and every year. And while the 2011 edition might lack the national appeal of last season’s unbelievable come-from-behind Tigers victory, there will be no loved lost come November 26. Auburn has rebuilt quicker than expected and while there is loads of young potential running around the Plains, Alabama has too much veteran talent to miss an opportunity at payback. Especially when a BCS national championship could be at stake.
Athlon’s Prediction: Bama by 17
3. Arkansas vs. LSU (Week 13)
Nov. 25, All-Time Series: LSU leads 34-20-2
Arkansas has taken three of the last four from LSU, including a thrilling 50-48 win in Baton Rouge over the eventual National Champions in 2007. It is the Hogs only win in its last eight trips to the Bayou. The battle for control of the line of scrimmage will either make Jarret Lee and Jordan Jefferson’s job much easier or much more difficult. Should Arkansas win that match-up, it will be because Tyler Wilson and the excellent talent around him made plays down the field. The Hogs still has shown holes along the offensive line, so picking up yards on the ground against LSU sans Knile Davis will be a difficult task.
Athlon’s Prediction: LSU by 9
4. Florida vs. Georgia (Week 9, Jacksonville)
Oct. 29, All-Time Series: UGA leads 46-40-2
In one of the more exciting football games of the season, the Gators topped the Dawgs 34-31 in overtime last fall. The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party should be just as intense in 2011. Murray set a career high with his first 300-yard passing game (313) and tied his career best with three touchdown tosses. He also set a career mark with three interceptions (he had eight total in 2010). Georgia has eyes set on Atlanta in December and winning every game might be its only way back to the title game. And this is biggest conference test left for the Dawgs.
Athlon’s Prediction: Dawgs by 10
5. South Carolina vs. Arkansas (Week 10)
Nov. 5, All-Time Series: Arkansas leads 12-7
This will be the third in a brutal late season road swing for the Gamecocks. After visiting Mississippi State and Tennessee the previous two games, Steve Spurrier will have to have his team prepped for another nasty environment in Fayetteville. Especially after getting torched by Ryan Mallett and company in Columbia a season ago. Stephon Gilmore and the USC secondary will have to play better against Tyler Wilson than it did against Mallett (or anyone else in 2011 for that matter) – who completed 21 of 30 passes for 303 yards and a score in the 40-21 drubbing. With their star tailback to grind out first downs on the ground, it is hard to see a Connor Shaw-led Gamecock team scoring enough points to beat Tyler Wilson and the Hogs.
Athlon’s Prediction: Hogs by 7
6. Florida State vs. Florida (Week 13)
Nov. 26, All-Time Series: Florida leads 33-20-2
This will be the first matchup of new blood between Florida’s Will Muschamp and Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher. The two coaches became close friends during their time as assistants under Nick Saban and will certainly have to put aside personal feelings to square-off in this rivarly. The Gators were embarrassed in Tallahassee last year and will be looking to return the favor, while ruining Florida State’s bragging rights in the Sunshine State. Normally this game carries heavy national title implications, however, bowl eligibility could be on the line for one (or both) if the respective ships aren't righted immediately.
Athlon’s Prediction: Gators by 1
7. Florida vs. South Carolina (Week 11)
Nov. 12, All-Time Series: Florida leads 23-5-3
SEC East supremacy could be at stake should things fall right for Carolina. Florida’s stellar defensive line talent which has dealt with injuries and a brutal schedule will not have to deal with Stephen Garcia or Marcus Lattimore this time around. If the quarterback situation at Florida can be sorted out before Week 11, the Gators should be able to give South Carolina a run for their money. If they still cannot get consistent play from under center, then Carolina could be booking a trip to Atlanta with a win in this one.
Athlon’s Prediction: Cocks by 7
8. Clemson vs. South Carolina (Week 13)
Nov. 26, All-Time Series: Clemson leads 65-39-4
The battle for bragging rights in the Palmetto State should be an attractive matchup this year. The Gamecocks, despite major injuries and dismissals, still have eyes on an SEC East title, while Clemson is not only the talk of the ACC but is possibly the biggest surprise in the nation. Clemson has lost the last two in this series, including a 29-7 defeat last year. However, the Tigers have won six of the last overall nine matchups and tensions could be running even higher should the Tigers walk into Columbia with an unblemished record.
Athlon’s Prediction: Clemson by 7
9. South Carolina vs. Tennessee (Week 9)
Oct. 29, All-Time Series: Tennessee leads 22-5-2
Marcus Lattimore carried 29 times for 184 yards in the 14-point home win over the Vols last season, but No. 21 will not be around to visit Neyland Stadium for the first time in his career. The Cocks essentially ended Matt Simms career as the Vols starter a season ago and Tyler Bray looked good in the second half. However, Bray's hand injury will likely force Simms back into action in this one. He will need some help from crowd and a non-exsistent running game if he expects to lead Big Orange to victory.
Athlon’s Prediction: Cocks by 10
10. Georgia vs. Georgia Tech (Week 13)
Nov. 26, All-Time Series: Georgia leads 61-39-5
Todd Grantham has done as good a job of rebuilding a defensive front seven as anyone in the nation this season. But the Tech triple-option attack is a test of a different color. The Jackets are rolling up huge numbers on the ground, so Aaron Murray and Isaiah Crowell will need to control the clock in a game that could feature two teams who have already clinched berths in their respective conference championship games. There may not be anything but Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate on the line, but that should be good enough for the fans in this bitter rivarly.
Athlon's Prediction: Georgia by 1