The latest installment of the Game of the Year in the SEC takes place in Tuscaloosa, where Alabama hosts No. 1 Mississippi State in a crucial SEC West clash. Elsewhere, Auburn tries to get back on track against Georgia in Athens; Florida hopes to keep its offensive momentum going against South Carolina; Arkansas seeks to break its SEC losing streak against LSU; Tennessee and Kentucky meet in Knoxville; and Missouri visits Texas A&M in a battle of former Big 12 rivals.
Week 12 Previews and Predictions:
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SEC Week 12 Game Power Rankings
1. Mississippi State (+8.5) at Alabama (3:30 ET, CBS)
These neighboring schools have played 97 times since their first meeting in 1896. Never has so much been at stake. Mississippi State is undefeated and ranked No. 1 in the nation. Alabama is 8–1 overall and 5–1 in the SEC. The winner will seize control of the SEC West race (though both teams still have significant challenges ahead) and be well-situated for a spot in the College Football Playoff. Alabama probably cannot afford a loss; the Tide simply don’t have enough quality wins (even with a potential win against Auburn) to make the four-team field with two defeats. So this game is obviously vital for Nick Saban’s club. Mississippi State is in better shape, but the Bulldogs have a difficult closing slate, with trips to Alabama and Ole Miss among their final three games. MSU has been outstanding on offense all season but has been mediocre (at best) defensively, allowing 548 yards to UAB, 526 to Texas A&M and 504 to Kentucky. And it will be these deficiencies on defense that will knock Mississippi State from the ranks of the unbeaten.
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2. Auburn (+2.5) at Georgia (7:15 ET, ESPN)
Certain weeks, Georgia looks like a top-five team in the country. Other weeks, the Bulldogs look quite average. Last Saturday was one of the good weeks. Georgia jumped out to a 21–0 lead at Kentucky and cruised to an impressive 63–31 victory. True freshman Nick Chubb was once again brilliant, rushing for 170 yards on only 13 carries — his fourth straight game with at least 140 yards. Chubb will be joined in the backfield this week by Todd Gurley, who was a Heisman Trophy favorite before being slapped with a four-game suspension. Gurley’s return will no doubt help, but it’s not like the running game was an area of weakness while he was out. Auburn must regroup after a shocking loss at home to Texas A&M. The Tigers battled from behind all game and had two opportunities to take the lead in the final minutes but fumbled twice in A&M territory. Many have assumed that loss eliminated Auburn from the Playoff picture, but the Tigers, if they win out, would have road wins at Kansas State, Ole Miss, Georgia and Alabama, plus a win at home vs. LSU. That would be by far the most impressive résumé for a two-loss team. Auburn by 3
3. South Carolina (+6.5) at Florida (12 ET, SEC Network)
Florida’s resurgence in recent weeks has coincided with the move from Jeff Driskel to true freshman Treon Harris as the starting quarterback. Harris wasn’t asked to do much in the Gators’ 38–20 win vs. Georgia two weeks ago, but he showed his entire skill set in last week’s 34–10 victory at Vanderbilt. Harris threw for 215 yards on only 13 completions and added 49 yards rushing and two scores on the ground in Florida’s 24-point win. For the first time in several years, the Gators’ offense appears to have an identity. Offense has not been the issue at South Carolina. It’s the Gamecocks’ inability to stop the other team that has led to their current four-game SEC losing streak. In the last two games, they have given up a total of 1,196 total yards, including a staggering 739 on the ground. Not good with the one-two punch of Matt Jones and Kelvin Taylor on the horizon.
4. LSU (+2) at Arkansas (8 ET, ESPN 2)
Let’s get this straight: Arkansas, a team that has lost 17 straight SEC games, is favored over LSU, which has won three of its last four league games — with the only lose coming in overtime to Alabama? Do the boys in Vegas believe the Razorbacks are ready to break through, or is this just a lack of faith in a young LSU team that is playing a true road game for only the third time this season? It’s probably a little bit of both. Arkansas has played very well at times this season and could easily have a win or two in the league. And LSU, despite its recent run of success, is still shaky on the offensive side of the ball. Last week, sophomore quarterback Anthony Jennings completed only 8-of-26 passes for 76 yards in the loss to Alabama, and he has not completed more than 10 passes in a game since the Tigers’ 36–29 loss vs. Mississippi State in September.
5. Kentucky (+8.5) at Tennessee (4 ET, SEC Network)
The stakes are high for these two programs, both with second-year head coaches and both desperate to reach bowl-eligibility for the first time since 2010. Tennessee, with a softer closing schedule, is in better shape despite having one fewer win than Kentucky. The Vols are rejuvenated after rallying to beat South Carolina in overtime two weeks ago, though coach Butch Jones spent the bye week advising everyone to pump the breaks on the Joshua Dobbs hype. The sophomore quarterback was brilliant at South Carolina but still lacks — according to his coach — the consistency needed to play the position at a high level. Dobbs will have to play well for his team to pick up win No. 5 on Saturday.
6. Missouri (+5.5) at Texas A&M (7:30 ET, SEC Network)
This is quite telling: The SEC East leader (Missouri) is a 5.5-point favorite over a team tied for fifth in the West (Texas A&M). And it’s not surprising. Missouri is 4–1 in the league despite averaging no more than 4.1 yards per offensive play in four of its five league games. The Tigers have gotten it done with a high-level pass rush, by forcing turnovers and by making clutch plays on offense down the stretch. Texas A&M got its swagger back last week with a stunning win at Auburn. With Mizzou and LSU both visiting Kyle Field down the stretch, a nine-win regular season is suddenly within reach.
Week 12 SEC Predictions
S. Carolina at Florida
Miss State at Alabama
Kentucky at Tennessee
Auburn at Georgia
Missouri at Texas A&M
LSU at Arkansas