Iron Bowl, Egg Bowl highlight big week
The final week of the regular season is highlighted by rivalry games in Tuscaloosa and Oxford. Elsewhere, Missouri attempts to capture the outright SEC East title; Texas A&M and LSU try to close disappointing seasons on a positive note; Tennessee seeks its sixth win to become bowl-eligible; and a quartet of SEC schools will play rivalry games against ACC foes.
Week 14 Previews and Predictions:
ACC | Big 12 | Big Ten | Pac-12
SEC Week 14 Game Power Rankings
1. Auburn (+9.5) at Alabama (7:45 ET, ESPN)
Auburn played its way out of the SEC West race — and a spot in the College Football Playoff — by losing consecutive games to Texas A&M and Georgia, but this game is still very important on the national scene. Top-ranked Alabama is one of three teams — along with Oregon and Florida State — that controls its own destiny to secure one of the four Playoff spots. A win over Auburn and in the SEC Championship Game — against Missouri or Georgia — likely would make the Crimson Tide the No. 1 seed. First things first: A very talented Auburn team awaits. Despite the Tigers’ struggles two weeks ago at Georgia — they scored only seven points and managed only 292 total yards — this is one of the top offensive teams in the nation. Last year, Auburn rolled up 393 yards on a healthy 5.8 yards-per-play average in its thrilling 34–28 win over Alabama. The guess here is Auburn will need to score at least 30 points to win in Tuscaloosa.
2. Mississippi State (-2) at Ole Miss (3:30 ET, CBS)
About a month ago, the folks in the Magnolia State were dreaming of an Egg Bowl featuring two undefeated teams, ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in the national polls. That hasn’t happened, but this is still the most anticipated game between these two rivals in decades. Mississippi State, 6–1 in the SEC, can advance to the league title game with a win over Ole Miss coupled with an Alabama loss to Auburn. And the Bulldogs are still very much alive in the hunt for a College Football Playoff spot even if they don’t win the SEC West. Ole Miss must regroup after a sobering 30–0 loss at Arkansas, the Rebels’ third straight loss in league play. This team was 7–0 not too long ago; now a 4–4 SEC record is a very real possibility. That’s not what the locals had in mind when they were storming the field after the epic win over Alabama.
3. Arkansas (-1.5) at Missouri (Friday, 2:30 ET, CBS)
This is suddenly one of the more intriguing games of the holiday weekend. Missouri is one win away from securing its second straight trip to the SEC Championship Game. The Tigers, who beat Tennessee in Knoxville on Saturday, have now won eight straight SEC road games. The key to Missouri’s success has been a defense that is allowing a league-low 4.19 yards per play against SEC opponents. The Tigers have 25 sacks in seven conference games and have forced 11 turnovers in their last five games. Arkansas has been arguably the most impressive team in the nation the past two weeks with wins over LSU and Ole Miss by a combined score of 47–0. Like Mizzou, Arkansas is getting it done on defense. The same unit that gave up 595 yards to Auburn, 523 to Texas A&M and 459 to Mississippi State allowed an average of 219.5 — including 49.5 on the ground — against LSU and Ole Miss. Points could be at a premium on Friday.
4. LSU (-3) at Texas A&M (Thursday, 7:30 ET, ESPN)
Despite the fact that both teams have a losing record in the league, there will be a ton of talent roaming the field in College Station on Thanksgiving night. The LSU offense has struggled over the last three weeks, scoring a total of two offensive touchdowns against Ole Miss (a win), Alabama (a loss) and Arkansas (a loss). The Tigers averaged an alarmingly low 2.3 yards per play in the shutout defeat at Arkansas. Texas A&M has some issues, but the Aggies’ offense has shown progress of late. They have scored a total of 68 points in their last two games — a win at Auburn and a home loss against Missouri — as true freshman Kyle Allen has become more comfortable in the offense.
5. Georgia Tech (+13) at Georgia (12 ET, SEC Network)
Georgia Tech clinched a spot in the ACC Championship Game last Thursday when North Carolina beat Duke. In a season with low (external) expectations, the Yellow Jackets have won nine games, including the last four by an average of 24.5 points. As usual, Tech is doing most of its work on the ground, ranking fourth nationally with 327.9 rushing yards per game. The Jackets have averaged 285.6 rushing yards against Georgia in the last five seasons but have lost all five games. The problem has been on the other side of the ball; Georgia has scored 30 points or more in all five of those wins, including 41 in last year’s victory in Atlanta. Georgia Tech’s task this weekend will be to slow down running back Nick Chubb. The true freshman has rushed for at least 100 yards in six straight games and is averaging 7.2 yards per carry for the season.
6. Kentucky (+12.5) at Louisville (12 ET, ESPN2)
Kentucky is seeking its first win since early October, when the Wildcats topped ULM 48–14 to improve to 5–1 overall. They have since lost five straight, all by 10 points or more. The defense has been UK’s biggest issue; the Cats have given up 41 points or more four times during the losing streak, including a total of 113 in consecutive losses to Georgia and Tennessee. Louisville is riding high after beating Notre Dame 31–28 in South Bend. The Cards were powered by a rushing attack that churned out 229 yards on 50 carries. True freshman quarterback Reggie Bonnafon only completed eight passes, but he averaged a healthy 22.5 yards on those eight completions. The Cards are now 8–3 overall and closed their first season in the ACC with a 5–3 record.
7. Florida (+7.5) at Florida State (3:30 ET, ESPN)
Will Muschamp’s final game at Florida will be on the same field as one of his finest moments as the Gators’ head coach. Two years ago, Florida closed the season with a 37–26 win in Tallahassee to cap off an 11–1 regular season. Since that late November Saturday, Florida is 10–13 overall while Florida State has yet to lose another game. The Seminoles have come close of late, flirting with defeat in each of their last five games. They have found a way to win each week and remain in control of their own destiny for a spot in the College Football Playoff. Florida will need significant production from its running game to have a shot in this game. Freshman quarterback Treon Harris has shown flashes of excellence but shouldn’t be trusted to get too much done against the FSU secondary. Last week, the Noles allowed 240 yards rushing to Boston College. If Florida approaches that number, this game could be very interesting.
8. South Carolina (+4.5) at Clemson (12 ET, ESPN)
South Carolina has won five straight in this underrated rivalry and has done so on the defensive end. Clemson, one of the top offensive teams in the ACC in recent years, has not scored more than 17 points in any of the five losses to South Carolina. Conventional wisdom suggests that will change due to the Gamecocks’ defensive struggles, but Clemson is having trouble scoring points of late. With true freshman Deshaun Watson slowed by an injury, Cole Stoudt got the nod last week in a lethargic 28–0 win over hapless Georgia State. The week before, the Tigers managed only 190 total yards in a 28–6 loss at Georgia Tech. Watson, who missed the final three quarters of the Tech game and the entire Georgia State game with a knee injury, is questionable this week. His return, assuming he’s close to 100 percent, would provide a nice boost to the Clemson attack. South Carolina has underachieved this season, but the Gamecocks have at least kept things exciting; each of their last five games against Power 5 teams have been decided by seven points or fewer.
9. Tennessee (-17) at Vanderbilt (4 ET, SEC Network)
The stakes are high for Tennessee, which needs to beat Vanderbilt to become bowl-eligible for the first time since 2010. The Vols are making nice progress under Butch Jones, but a loss to Vanderbilt would not sit well with Volunteer fans. The Commodores have been a disappointment in Derek Mason’s first season in Nashville. A third-straight win over Tennessee would no doubt be a huge boost for this program as it heads into the offseason, but there is nothing on the Dores’ 2014 rÃ©sumÃ© that suggests they are capable of winning this game. Vanderbilt is 0–7 in the SEC, none of its league games have been decided by fewer than 10 points, and it ranks last in the SEC in total offense and 12th in total defense.
SEC Week 14 Predictions
|David Fox||Braden Gall||Steven Lassan||Mitch Light|
|LSU at Texas A&M||LSU 21-20||LSU 31-27||LSU 30-20||A&M 21-20|
|Arkansas at Mizzou||UA 24-20||MU 24-21||MU 24-20||MU 24-21|
|Kentucky at Louisville||UL 35-14||UL 31-24||UL 34-20||UL 31-20|
|S. Carolina at Clemson||USC 28-21||CU 27-24||USC 30-27||CU 34-27|
|Ga. Tech at Georgia||UGa 31-21||UGa 34-23||UGa 38-27||UGa 41-24|
|Miss. State at Ole Miss||MSU 35-17||MSU 30-20||MSU 27-24||MSU 28-24|
|Florida at Florida St.||FSU 38-28||FSU 29-21||FSU 30-20||FSU 23-20|
|Tennessee at Vanderbilt||UT 42-14||UT 41-17||UT 34-13||UT 30-17|
|Auburn at Alabama||UA 31-21||UA 37-24||UA 34-24||UA 30-20|