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Week Twelve SEC Primer

By Matt Smith
SouthernPigskin.com
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Looking ahead to week twelve in the SEC.

The Vitals

(16) Mississippi State at Arkansas, Noon ET (CBS)
Announcers: Carter Blackburn, Aaron Taylor and Rick Neuheisel

Louisiana-Monroe at (6) Auburn, Noon ET (ESPN2)
Announcers: Jason Benetti and Kelly Stouffer

Mercer at (1) Alabama, Noon ET (SEC Network)
Announcers: Tom Hart, Jordan Rodgers and Cole Cubelic

Kentucky at (7) Georgia, 3:30 p.m. ET (CBS)
Announcers: Brad Nessler and Gary Danielson

UAB at Florida, 4 p.m. ET (SEC Network)
Announcers: Dave Neal and Matt Stinchcomb

Wofford at South Carolina, 4 p.m. ET (SEC Network Alternate)
Announcers: Mike Morgan and Barrett Jones

(20) LSU at Tennessee, 7 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Announcers: Bob Wischusen and Brock Huard

Texas A&M at Ole Miss, 7 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
Announcers: Mike Patrick and Tommy Tuberville

Missouri at Vanderbilt, 7:30 p.m. ET (SEC Network)
Announcers: Taylor Zarzour and Andre Ware

5 Things I Want to Know

1.     Will Kentucky fare better against a different group of Bulldogs?

The Wildcats were pummeled by Mississippi State in Starkville, 45-7, four weeks ago, and now head to Athens for another battle with a group of Bulldogs. The situational circumstances are more beneficial to Kentucky this time around, as the game falls in between rivalry games for Georgia with Auburn and Georgia Tech. Had Kentucky not allowed a last-second touchdown pass to Ole Miss two weeks ago, this game would have been for the SEC East title. Now with nothing to lose, can the ‘Cats make this game interesting?

2.     Does Ole Miss stay hot?

Ole Miss has won three of its last five, losing only to LSU and in a monumental collapse against Arkansas. The Rebels offense has lit up Kentucky and Louisiana-Lafayette the past two weeks, and it’s not unreasonable to say that Jordan Ta’amu might be the quarterback of the future in Oxford, not the injured Shea Patterson. Saturday brings a visit from Texas A&M, which hasn’t beaten Ole Miss since Johnny Manziel’s final year. A win would push the Rebels over .500 and have their confidence soaring heading into Thursday’s Egg Bowl.

3.     Will Tennessee play with any fire?

Florida hasn’t gotten a boost from playing under interim coach Randy Shannon. Tennessee will look for a spark in its first game under interim coach Brady Hoke. LSU has lost only to Alabama since Oct. 1 and appears poised to finish with 10 wins for the first time since 2013. The Vols aren’t good enough to win this game, but if the effort is there, this can be a game into the fourth quarter. Hoke has always been a players’ coach, but with a miserable season only eight days from ending, it won’t be easy to have this group champing at the bit to play on Saturday night.

4.     Will we get 0-7 vs. 0-7 next week?

It hasn’t happened since 2012 when Kentucky and Tennessee came into their finale winless in league play, but we may see it again next week when the currently 0-6 Vols host currently 0-6 Vanderbilt. The Commodores are the more likely of the two to get in the win column this week with Missouri coming to Nashville, but it would still be a surprise given the state of the team’s defense and the red-hot offense coming in from Columbia. We’ve been waiting for a complete performance from Vanderbilt since the schedule began to ease up in mid-October, but it hasn’t happened. Can Derek Mason’s team circle the wagons on Senior Night?

5.      Can UAB beat Florida?

It would have sounded ridiculous in the summer to suggest a team that didn’t play football for the past two seasons could play with the two-time defending SEC East champions, but here we are. The Blazers have a dangerous offense behind running back Spencer Brown, who has 1,177 yards in 10 games. The defense is also very steady, allowing more than 25 points just once in the past eight games. There’s still a huge athleticism gap, and Florida was at least a little better last week against South Carolina than it was against Missouri, but how are the Gators going to be fired up for this game? This would be UAB’s biggest win since upsetting Nick Saban-led LSU in 2000.

Trivia Time (answers below):

1.     What LSU transfer quarterbacked Tennessee’s last win over the Tigers?
2.     What in-state FCS team upset South Carolina in 2015?
3.     In what year did UAB play in its only bowl game in program history?

Predictions

Last Week: 6-2 SU, 5-3 ATS
Season: 73-20 SU, 48-40-4 ATS

Mississippi State (-12) at Arkansas: Bret Bielema’s final chapter as Razorbacks head coach may have been written when athletic director Jeff Long was fired earlier this week. Long, who hired Bielema five years ago, had maintained his support for him despite a miserable 4-6 season. This has the logistics of a trap game for Mississippi State in between Alabama and Ole Miss, but Dan Mullen’s teams rarely lose games they’re supposed to win. I’m laying the points, as the Bulldogs will chew up the clock with their dominant ground game going against a porous Arkansas defense. Mississippi State 34, Arkansas 13.

Louisiana-Monroe at Auburn (-37): Matt Viator has done a nice job guiding the Warhawks to a 4-5 record, but bowl hopes are virtually non-existent with Saturday’s game at Auburn and the Dec. 2 finale at Florida State. Auburn won’t have its “A” game after playing nearly perfect against Georgia and with the Iron Bowl on deck. Put the game out of reach in the second quarter, get the backups in, and get ready for Alabama. Auburn 38, Louisiana-Monroe 14.

Mercer at Alabama (NL): The Bears forced five turnovers in a 24-10 loss to Auburn on Sept. 16, but don’t figure to be so lucky against Alabama, which has lost just five all season. Like Auburn, Alabama will play most of its eligible players and just try to get through the game without any more serious injuries.  Alabama 42, Mercer 3.

Kentucky at Georgia (-21.5): Georgia hasn’t played the week after a loss in more than a year, but with playoff hopes still very much alive, the Bulldogs should respond well. Kentucky continues to overachieve at 7-3, as the Wildcats finally put together a complete performance in last week’s rout of Vanderbilt in Nashville. The ‘Cats are pretty good against the run, but the secondary has been very vulnerable, so expect a bounceback performance from Jake Fromm. Two scores make my decision on which way to lean: Georgia 31, Mississippi State 3, and Mississippi State 45, Kentucky 7. Georgia 35, Kentucky 10.

UAB at Florida (-10.5): This is going to be a competitive game, but my gut tells me this will be a late cover situation for Florida. UAB is headed for an 8-4 finish with woeful UTEP on deck, but failing to hold a second-half lead in The Swamp for have the Blazers and their fans stewing about a huge missed opportunity, even in a magical season for the boys from the Magic City. Florida 29, UAB 17.

Wofford at South Carolina (NL): South Carolina plays its annual in-state FCS opponent in the Terriers, who come in at 9-1 and will enter the FCS playoffs as a national title contender. Both teams have bigger fish to fry, with the Gamecocks welcoming No. 2 Clemson to Columbia next weekend. Wofford will be focused enough to keep this interesting into the second half, but South Carolina will earn win No. 8 on the season. South Carolina 31, Wofford 14.

LSU (-15.5) at Tennessee: Predicting how a team will play with an interim coach is nearly impossible, but I get the sense that the Volunteers players aren’t too upset about Butch Jones no longer being around. LSU’s offense is still too inconsistent to lay this many points on the road in what could be a cold, wet night in Knoxville. The Tigers will win with their ability to control the clock, but Tennessee will come up a pretty decent upset bid before falling. LSU 27, Tennessee 17.

Texas A&M at Ole Miss (-2.5): This line seems like a bit of an overreaction to Ole Miss’ two-game winning streak. The Aggies are the better team, so I’m going to snatch these couple points and hope they can snap a three-game skid to the Rebels. It won’t be enough to save Kevin Sumlin’s job, but it will be the team’s best performance since the eight-point loss to Alabama six weeks ago. Texas A&M 35, Ole Miss 32.

Missouri (-8.5) at Vanderbilt: If you took the Vanderbilt of September and the Missouri of October and November, you’d have a pretty decent football team. The Tigers have feasted at home on two the most tumultuous teams in the league the past two weeks, and now face a team without an SEC win for the second straight game. The Commodores defense is getting the wrong foe at the wrong time, with only potential inclement weather in Nashville being able to slow the Missouri offense. Missouri 38, Vanderbilt 21.

Best Bets

Last Week: 2-2-1
Season: 29-23-3

Louisiana-Monroe +37 vs. Auburn
Georgia Tech -6.5 at Duke
Rutgers +11 at Indiana
Tulane +9.5 vs. Houston
Notre Dame -18 vs. Navy

Trivia Answers

1.     Rick Clausen (2005)
2.     The Citadel
3.     2004

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.