Here’s your weekly rundown of all the SEC action on tap for the final weekend of the regular season. As always, you’ll find everything from TV listings to the betting lines to our own predictions.
Enjoy the games, be safe, and best of luck to your favorite school this weekend.
Georgia Tech at Georgia
12:00pm ET on ESPN
Opening Line: UGA -14
Current Line: UGA -14
Storylines: Clean, old-fashioned hate.
Keys for Georgia: Focus on the task at hand. Georgia Tech’s got the triple-option offense and they’ve won three games in a row. But since late September they’ve also been rolled by MTSU (49-28), Clemson (47-31), and BYU (41-17). If Georgia’s focused on the Yellow Jackets and not next week’s SEC Championship Game with Atlanta and/or BCS title game hopes, the Dawgs should have enough offense to subdue the Insects from the Institute. (The best “Leonard’s Losers” nickname ever.)
Pick: Georgia 41, Georgia Tech 24
Kentucky at Tennessee
12:21pm ET on SEC Network
Opening Line: UT -14
Current Line: UT -13
Storylines: Wildcast players will be fighting for ousted coach Joker Phillips in his finale and they’ll be aiming for UK’s first back-to-back wins over Tennessee since 1976-77. The Vols players will be fighting for, er, uh, maybe their assistants and interim coach Jim Chaney? (Oh, and bring back the Beer Barrel trophy.)
Keys for Kentucky: Let QB Patrick Towles throw it a lot. Sure QB Jalen Whitlow should be able to gain yards against the Vols, too, but UT’s biggest weakness is its secondary. The Volunteers haven’t allowed less than three TD passes in a game since Georgia QB Aaron Murray threw for just two way back in September. Ex-Tennessee offensive coordinator Randy Sanders should air it out against his old team.
Keys for Tennessee: Run the football. Kentucky’s rush defense is 12th best in the league. With offensive coordinator Chaney taking over play-calling duties, there’s a good chance the Vols will go pass-crazy. If QB Tyler Bray’s head isn’t in the game, that could be a bad thing. The Volunteers should run the ball on the Cats, eat clock, and protect the defense the only way possible… by keeping it off the field.
Pick: Tennessee 24, Kentucky 21
Auburn at Alabama
3:30pm ET on CBS
Opening Line: UA -34
Current Line: UA -33
Storylines: Gene Chizik’s last Iron Bowl? Probably. Also, Alabama can book its trip to Atlanta with a win.
Keys for Auburn: Pray. Seriously, there’s nothing on paper that suggests the Tigers can go into Tuscaloosa and pull what would have to be considered the biggest upset in Iron Bowl history. The eye test doesn’t provide much hope, either. Chizik’s team will need an avalanche of Bama turnovers to win this one. Playing for pride rarely, rarely works when the team playing for pride faces a team playing for a potential national championship.
Keys for Alabama: Set the alarm clocks. Against conference foes, Auburn is allowing 216 rushing yards per game. Against conference foes, Alabama is averaging 201 rushing yards per contest. That’s a pretty good recipe for success so long as Nick Saban’s team isn’t looking down the road. In the Iron Bowl, that should not be an issue.
Pick: Alabama 38, Auburn 7
Florida at Florida State
3:30pm ET on ABC
Opening Line: FSU -7
Current Line: FSU -7
Storylines: If Florida can get the win in Tallahassee, the Gators’ would still have an outside chance of playing in the BCS Championship Game (should Notre Dame lose to Southern Cal). And there’s also a good deal of hate between these two programs if you needed any extra seasoning.
Keys for Florida: Find a passing game. We’ve been saying it for three weeks and it still holds true. QB Jeff Driskel is expected to get the start and his Gator offense can’t afford to be one-dimensional against an FSU defense that ranks #5 in the nation in scoring defense, #1 in rushing defense, #5 in passing defense, and #1 in total defense. UF will need to win the turnover battle, too. The Seminoles are minus-one on the year while Florida is plus-13.
Pick: Florida State 20, Florida 13
Vanderbilt at Wake Forest
3:30pm ET on ESPNU
Opening Line: VU -8.5
Current Line: VU -11.5
Storylines: The Commodores can with their eighth game of the season for the first time since 1982. Sweeping through November might also move Vandy up the SEC’s bowl pecking order and get them a berth in a game outside the Volunteer State. Maybe.
Keys for Vanderbilt: Don’t start celebrating just yet. At 5-6, Wake Forest will be fighting for bowl eligibility on Senior Day. The Dores are riding high after smashing in-state rival Tennessee 41-18 last week. But the Dores’ seven wins have come against Presbyterian (the smallest school in the FCS), Missouri (who lost QB James Franklin early in that game), Auburn (still winless in the SEC), UMass (1-10 in its first season in the FBS), Kentucky (still winless in the SEC), Ole Miss (just two wins in the SEC), and Tennessee (still winless in the SEC). In other words, don’t get cocky.
Pick: Vanderbilt 27, Wake Forest 17
Missouri at Texas A&M
7:00pm ET on ESPN2
Opening Line: A&M -16.5
Current Line: A&M -22
Storylines: Aggie QB Johnny Manziel is trying to win a Heisman Trophy. A&M can also up its BCS bowl hopes with another win. For Mizzou, the Tigers would be bowl-eligible with a victory, are making their third trip in three years to College Station, and QB James Franklin will be a gametime decision.
Keys for Missouri: Cash in on turnovers. Missouri — with Franklin or QB Corbin Berkstresser — will need to take advantage when A&M turns the ball over. The Aggies have coughed it up 19 times on the season and minus-six in turnover margin. But Mizzou is just plus-two in turnovers. The Tigers can’t afford to blow any chances against Manziel and company because it’s doubtful they’ll be able to slow the Aggies down for long. If a break goes MU’s way, they need to capitalize.
Keys for Texas A&M: Unleash Johnny Football. Missouri’s defense ranks in the middle of the pack in most SEC categories. And if Alabama couldn’t put a halt to Manziel’s Heisman express, it’s doubtful Missouri can. If Franklin and Mizzou’s offensive line had been healthy all year, perhaps this would one would be a showdown between a pair of exciting dual-threat quarterbacks. Instead, expect another one-man show from Johnny Football.
Pick: Texas A&M 42, Missouri 17
Mississippi State at Ole Miss
7:00pm ET on ESPNU
Opening Line: Pick ‘Em
Current Line: UM -1.5
Storylines: Ole Miss is aiming for bowl eligibility. The Bulldogs are targeting a nine-win season, a warm-weather bowl game and a fourth straight victory in the Egg Bowl.
Keys for Mississippi State: Win on third down. These teams are actually pretty even statistically (MSU #6 in total offense versus SEC foes, UM #7… MSU #8 in total defense versus SEC foes, UM #10). But the Rebels hold a distinct advantage on third downs. The Rebels convert 40.5% of the time (fourth best in the SEC) while the Bulldogs convert just 33.3% (12th best in 14-team league). State has a depth advantage. They need to grind on the Rebels. Converting third downs — and preventing Ole Miss from doing so — would go a long way toward allowing State to wear down a withered Rebel roster.
Keys for Ole Miss: Protect the football. If you’re looking for a big statistical advantage in this game, just eye the turnover margin stat. The Rebels are dead even on the season with 24 takeaways and giveaways. Mississippi State is plus-16. Only one team in the league — Arkansas — has thrown more picks than Hugh Freeze’s team. But as good as MSU’s secondary is on paper, the Bulldogs rank just 10th in the SEC in defensive pass efficiency. If QB Bo Wallace can be smart throwing the football, the Rebels could have some success through the air.
Pick: Mississippi State 28, Ole Miss 27
South Carolina at Clemson
7:00pm ET on ESPN
Opening Line: CU -4
Current Line: CU -4
Storylines: The hatred between these two teams would be enough to make this one watchable even if the teams weren’t ranked #11 and #12 in his week’s BCS standings. Steve Spurrier can put himself all by his lonesome atop Carolina’s list of all-time winningest coaches. The Cocks are trying to win their fourth game in a row against Clemson (which would be the first time since the ’50s that that’s happened). And Spurrier and Dabo Swinney tend to jaw at one another for 364 days a year. What more do you need?
Keys for South Carolina: Win the line of scrimmage. Carolina QB Connor Shaw and DE Jadeveon Clowney have been battling foot/ankle issues. They may not be 100%. Also, Clemson QB Tajh Boyd could throw on a USC secondary that’s allowed 11 touchdown passes and collected just three interceptions in its last four games (triple-option Wofford only threw three passes against the Cocks last week). With all those issues to worry about, USC needs to be the more physical team along the line of scrimmage, something that’s helped Spurrier’s squad win the last three games in this series. But if USC isn’t dominant along the offensive and defensive lines, the Tigers probably have too much firepower at the skill positions for Carolina to keep up.
Pick: Clemson 30, South Carolina 24