Back Week 12 SEC Primer

Back To SEC

Week 12 SEC Primer

By Matt Smith
Follow us at  Become a fan at the Facebook Page

Matt Smith previews week 12 in the SEC.

The Saturday before Thanksgiving generally leads to the SEC being the butt of jokes about its scheduling practices. In the past, this week has featured as many as eight non-conference games. There are only six this weekend, although the four-game conference slate isn’t particularly palatable either.

The league is likely to finalize its SEC Championship Game matchup this weekend barring a major upset by Arkansas, while three SEC teams may have their postseason fates determined by Saturday night.

Yes, the juices have flowed more in most weeks of the SEC season than this one, but these Saturdays are precious and few, and we’ll remain optimistic for a fun day of games. Let’s dive into Week 12 in the SEC.

This is a Big Week for:
Coach: Eli Drinkwitz, Missouri
Despite a defense with some laughable statistics, Missouri needs just one win to reach the postseason. With the season finale at Arkansas, it probably has to come Saturday at home against Florida. The Tigers struggled to close last week’s 31-28 win over South Carolina, but they played their best football of the season in building a 31-14 lead. If that level of play can continue against a potentially disinterested Gators team, Missouri should find itself in a bowl.

Player: T.J Finley, QB, Auburn
With Bo Nix lost for the season with a broken ankle, Finley will make his first start in nearly 12 months on Saturday night at South Carolina. The future of the LSU transfer is murky, but these final three games give Finley a chance to put himself in a position to potentially compete for the starting role in the spring. He’s a much different quarterback than his Nix, as his ability as a runner comes more from his size than his speed, but he has plenty of athletic gifts.

Unit: Alabama Offensive Line
Sorry, New Mexico State, but this week’s game with Arkansas will be the first test to determine whether or not the Crimson Tide have figured some things out after being unable to run the ball two weeks ago against LSU. The Razorbacks are solid up front and right in the middle of the SEC in run defense, but they’re less athletic than LSU. Another day without significantly eclipsing 100 yards on the ground should sound some potent alarm bells in Tuscaloosa.

Trivia Time
1. What one-time five-star recruit quarterbacked Arkansas’ last win over Alabama in 2006?
2. When was the last year in which Vanderbilt and Ole Miss did not play in football?
3. How long was Prairie View’s NCAA-record losing streak in the 1980s and 1990s?

Game Predictions
New Mexico State (1-9) at Kentucky (7-3, 5-3), Noon ET (SECN)
Announcers: Taylor Zarzour and Matt Stinchcomb
Series History: Kentucky leads, 1-0
Last Meeting: 2016 – Kentucky 62, New Mexico State 42
Line: Kentucky -36
Over/Under: 59.5
Poor New Mexico State. Whoever scheduled the Aggies playing at Alabama and at Kentucky in consecutive weeks should have to suit up at running back on Saturday. A repeat of the 104-point shootout from five years ago between these two teams is unlikely to be repeated. Kentucky will give thanks to a senior class that finished an even 17-17 in SEC play, a remarkable achievement given they came to a program that hadn’t had even a single .500 season in SEC play since 2006. After not finding the end zone last week in Tuscaloosa, we’ll give New Mexico State a touchdown this time.
Prediction: Kentucky 48, New Mexico State 10 (Kentucky/under)

Charleston Southern (4-5) at (1) Georgia (10-0, 8-0), Noon ET (ESPN+)
Announcers: Mike Morgan and Charles Arbuckle
Series History: Georgia leads, 1-0
Last Meeting: 2014 – Georgia 55, Charleston Southern 9
Line: N/A
Over/Under: N/A
The Buccaneers are coached by former Notre Dame running back Autry Denson. In his three seasons there, his teams have finished 6-6, 4-2 and is currently 4-5. A third straight .500 season could be achieved with a…never mind.
Prediction: Georgia 44, Charleston Southern 8

Tennessee State (5-5) at (25) Mississippi State (6-4, 4-3), Noon ET (ESPN+)
Announcers: Mike Couzens and Dustin Fox
Series History: First Meeting
Line: N/A
Over/Under: N/A
1995 Heisman Trophy winner Eddie George brings his first Tigers team to Starkville on Saturday afternoon. Tennessee State is the alma mater of NFL Hall of Famer and Super Bowl XX MVP Richard Dent. The Bulldogs are flying high after their massive comeback win last Saturday at Auburn. Quarterback Will Rogers can use this game to pad his stats for his coming All-SEC campaign before turning his attention to the Thanksgiving Night Egg Bowl clash vs. Ole Miss.
Prediction: Mississippi State 49, Tennessee State 14

Prairie View (7-2) at (16) Texas A&M (7-3, 4-3) Noon ET (ESPN+)
Announcers: Mike Couzens and Dustin Fox
Series History: Texas A&M leads, 1-0
Last Meeting: 2016 – Texas A&M 67, Prairie View 0
Line: N/A
Over/Under: N/A
You may remember Jawon “Puma” Pass, who had a cup of coffee at Louisville before Malik Cunningham took his job. Pass is now at Prairie View, and doing a fine job there, as the Panthers have lost just twice this season. It’s Senior Day in College Station for Jimbo Fisher’s first signing class, a group that should be proud of their efforts in bringing the Aggies program back to prominence after it bottomed out in 2017.
Prediction: Texas A&M 52, Prairie View 3

(21) Arkansas (7-3, 3-3) at (2) Alabama (9-1, 5-1), 3:30 p.m. ET (CBS)
Announcers: Brad Nessler and Gary Danielson
Last Meeting: 2020 – Alabama 52, Arkansas 3
Current Streak: Alabama – 14
Current Streak in Tuscaloosa: Alabama – 8
Line: Alabama -20.5
Over/Under: 57.5
For the first time under Nick Saban (in a non-COVID season), Alabama is playing an SEC opponent the week before the Iron Bowl. Arkansas has buried its mid-season three-game losing streak with three straight victories, and it now heads to Tuscaloosa with little to lose and a realistic, albeit slim, chance for a late-season shocker. Alabama’s offense is by no means crisp at the moment, but my concern for the Razorbacks will be generating points against a defense with the athleticism of Alabama. Against Georgia, LSU and Texas A&M, Arkansas has only managed a total of 36 points. The Crimson Tide will attempt to take star wide receiver Treylon Burks away. If they do that, I think this becomes a bit of a slog, with explosive plays from Alabama allowing them to pull away in the second half and cover this line.
Prediction: Alabama 38, Arkansas 14 (Alabama/under)

Florida (5-5, 2-5) at Missouri (5-5, 2-4), 4 p.m. ET (SECN)
Announcers: Dave Neal and Deuce McAllister
Last Meeting: 2020 – Florida 41, Missouri 17
Current Streak: Florida – 2
Current Streak in Columbia: Florida – 1
Line: Florida -8.5
Over/Under: 69.5
Why is Florida a two-score favorite on the road against anyone right now? I think there’s pretty good value here. Missouri isn’t good, but it hasn’t given up on the season, and finishing in a bowl game, even in a paradise locale such as Birmingham or Shreveport, would salvage this season. The Tigers’ run defense fared well against South Carolina, but Florida will present much more a passing threat than the Gamecocks did. Connor Bazelak was not great last week in his return from injury, but I expect a better performance this week from the Missouri quarterback, especially against a Gators defense that gave up 52 points to Samford. The weather appears to be a break for Florida, with temperatures in the mid-50s. This is simply too many points for a game that feels like a toss-up.
Prediction: Missouri 33, Florida 31 (Missouri/under)

Auburn (6-4, 3-3) at South Carolina (5-5, 2-5), 7 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Announcers: Mark Jones and Robert Griffin III
Last Meeting: 2020 – South Carolina 30, Auburn 22
Current Streak: South Carolina – 1
Current Streak in Columbia: South Carolina – 1
Line: Auburn -7
Over/Under: 44.5
It’s strange for two teams in opposite divisions to meet in consecutive seasons in the same venue, but that is the case with the Tigers and Gamecocks, who do battle in Columbia again after South Carolina’s 30-22 upset win last October. Auburn comes in banged up, with quarterback Bo Nix and kicker Anders Carlson both unavailable, and defensive lineman T.D. Moultry suspended for the first half after a targeting penalty last week. The Gamecocks made things interesting last week at Missouri after trailing 31-14, but ultimately succumbed on a day where the offense was inconsistent and the defense couldn’t contain Tyler Badie on the ground. South Carolina makes you show up and play hard to beat them. After the past week at Auburn, it’s fair to question how dialed in the Tigers will be. There’s certainly adversity, but I think there’s also resolve. It won’t be pretty, but Auburn will survive.
Prediction: Auburn 22, South Carolina 17 (South Carolina/under)

South Alabama (5-5, 2-5 Sun Belt) at Tennessee (5-5, 3-4), 7:30 p.m. ET (ESPNU)
Announcers: Clay Matvick and Rocky Boiman
Series History: Tennessee leads, 1-0
Last Meeting: 2013 – Tennessee 31, South Alabama 24
Line: Tennessee -27
Over/Under: 63.5
The Jaguars had a promising start to the season with three non-conference wins, but first-year head coach Kane Wommack’s team has struggled in Sun Belt play, and now a bowl appearance would require a massive upset either Saturday in Knoxville or next week against Coastal Carolina. Former South Carolina quarterback Jake Bentley was the starter for the first nine games for the Jags, but a torn MCL suffered two weeks ago has sidelined the sixth-year senior. Tennessee will have to create some energy last week after a humbling day against mighty Georgia on Saturday. Tennessee’s tempo has flustered most SEC defenses this season, and there’s little reason it won’t do the same thing to South Alabama on Saturday night.
Prediction: Tennessee 52, South Alabama 20 (Tennessee/over)

Vanderbilt (2-8, 0-6) at (12) Ole Miss (8-2, 4-2), 7:30 p.m. ET (SECN)
Announcers: Tom Hart, Jordan Rodgers and Cole Cubelic
Last Meeting: 2020 – Ole Miss 54, Vanderbilt 21
Current Streak: Ole Miss – 2
Current Streak in Oxford: Ole Miss – 3
Line: Ole Miss -37
Over/Under: 64.5
Holy sandwich game! After a huge win over Texas A&M with all the pomp and circumstance of College GameDay, and with the Egg Bowl looming just five days later, Ole Miss welcomes Vanderbilt to town, losers of 19 straight SEC contests. The Rebels have been dealing with significant injury issues for the last month, and with so much on the line in Starkville next Thursday, Lane Kiffin has to ensure his team is in the best shape it can be coming out of the game against the Commodores. That means an ugly game, and perhaps some success for Vanderbilt’s offense with Mike Wright expected to start at quarterback after leading two long touchdown drives against Kentucky last week. Maybe I’m getting Vanderbilt more credit than it deserves, but this line feels way too high.
Prediction: Ole Miss 38, Vanderbilt 17 (Vanderbilt/under)

Louisiana-Monroe (4-6, 2-5 Sun Belt) at LSU (4-6, 2-5), 9 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
Announcers: Brian Custer and Kelly Stouffer
Series History: LSU leads, 3-0
Last Meeting: 2014 – LSU 31, Louisiana-Monroe 0
Line: LSU -29
Over/Under: 57.5
The Ed Orgeron era begins to wind down with the Tigers’ penultimate game against head coach Terry Bowden and Louisiana-Monroe. Bowden went 2-1 in Tiger Stadium as the head coach at Auburn from 1993-1997, but even with an impressive win over Liberty on the 2021 resume, it would take a monumental effort for Bowden to head home with a winning record in Baton Rouge still intact. LSU will go back to Max Johnson under center this week after Garrett Nussmeier played most of last week’s loss to Arkansas with uninspiring results. LSU spent most of its remaining emotional capital against Alabama, so talent alone will have to carry the Tigers late on Saturday night.
Prediction: LSU 38, Louisiana-Monroe 14 (Louisiana-Monroe/under)

Best Bets
Last Week: 4-1
Season: 33-21-1
Boston College -2.5 vs. Florida State
Louisiana-Lafayette +4.5 at Liberty
Rutgers +17 at Penn State
Colorado +6.5 vs. Washington
Wake Forest +3.5 at Clemson

The Best Game I’ve Ever Watched On November 20:
Nov. 20, 1993: No. 9 West Virginia 17, No. 4 Miami (FL) 14
The Big East was still very much in its infancy as a football conference when it lucked into one of the biggest games of the 1993 season when 8-1, fourth-ranked Miami (FL) visited undefeated, ninth-ranked West Virginia for perhaps the biggest game ever played in Morgantown.

The Hurricanes still had slim national title hopes after recovering from a midseason loss to Florida State, while the Mountaineers, unranked in the preseason, still had not earned much national respect despite an unblemished record. A record crowd of more than 70,000 packed into Mountaineer Field for the showdown in Morgantown.

A quartet of West Virginia possessions in Hurricanes territory early in the game to build a big lead were largely bungled, as the Mountaineers managed just three points despite dominating the game and not allowing a first down until just before halftime.

After a touchdown-free first half, the offenses cranked up in the third quarter. Miami took the second-half kickoff 80 yards for a go-ahead score, but West Virginia answered with a short Jake Kelchner touchdown pass to Rodney Woodard.

The Hurricanes, which had lost multiple regular-season games just once between 1985 and 1992, were not done, as they answered early in the fourth quarter with a touchdown to take a 14-10 lead. With tension palpable in the stadium, the hosts stormed ahead with six minutes to go on a 19-yard touchdown run by Robert Walker.

The Mountaineers defense held, but the offense had to run out the final minutes. Kelchner underthrew a deep pass, but Jay Kearney tracked it all the way and fought off two defenders to make a 41-yard reception that allowed West Virginia to deny Miami a final chance to win the game and the Big East title.

The loss was Miami’s first as a Big East member. The disappointed Hurricanes would go on to the Fiesta Bowl, where they were blown out by Arizona in a de facto road game. West Virginia claimed the Big East title a week later with a win at Boston College, finishing 11-0 and earning a Sugar Bowl berth. The wild and wonderful party ended in New Orleans, as SEC champion Florida hammered the Mountaineers, 41-7. 

Tuesday’s Projected Top 10
1. Georgia (1)
2. Alabama (2)
3. Oregon (3)
4. Ohio State (4)
5. Cincinnati (5)
6. Michigan (6
7. Notre Dame (8)
8. Oklahoma State (9)
9. Wake Forest (10)
10. Ole Miss (12)
Dropped out: (7) Michigan State

Trivia Answers
1. Mitch Mustain
2. 1969
3. 80 games

Matt Smith - Matt is a 2007 graduate of Notre Dame and has spent most of his life pondering why most people in the Mid-Atlantic actually think there are more important things than college football. He has blogged for College Football News, covering both national news as well as Notre Dame and the service academies. He credits Steve Spurrier and Danny Wuerffel for his love of college football and tailgating at Florida, Tennessee, and Auburn for his love of sundresses. Matt covers the ACC as well as the national scene.