In & around SEC football


By Cole Frederick/Sports Correspondent

SEC rankings
1. Alabama (8-0, 5-0)
2. Georgia (8-0, 5-0)
3. Auburn (6-2, 4-1)
4. Mississippi State (6-2, 3-2)
5. LSU (6-2, 3-1)
6. Texas A&M (5-3, 3-2)
7. South Carolina (6-2, 4-2)
8. Kentucky (6-2, 3-2)
9. Florida (3-4, 3-3)
10. Arkansas (3-5, 1-4)
11. Ole Miss (3-5, 1-4)
12. Vanderbilt (3-5, 0-5)
13. Tennessee (3-5, 0-5)
14. Missouri (3-5, 0-4)
Week 9 Previews and Predictions
Week 8 record: 5-1 s
Season: 60-16
Saturday, Nov. 4
Game of the Week:
LSU at Alabama (-21.5). LSU has responded nicely after the humiliating home loss to Troy, and the Tigers can take over first place in the SEC West with a win at Alabama on Saturday. But Alabama has defeated LSU in six straight meetings dating back to the 2012 BCS National Championship game, and the Tigers have been shut out in two of those meetings. Alabama is entering the toughest stretch of its season, and the Crimson Tide offense will face its biggest challenge of the year against LSU. But Alabama’s defense will likely be too much for LSU’s inconsistent offense, and the Tide should win comfortably unless they commit too many turnovers. Prediction: Alabama 24, LSU 3.
Ole Miss at Kentucky (-3.5). The Wildcats became bowl eligible with their comeback win over Tennessee last week and can remain in the SEC East Division conversation with a win over the Rebels. Ole Miss lost a heartbreaking game to Arkansas, and the loss of quarterback Shea Patterson will continue to hurt the team down the stretch. A loss would likely eliminate Kentucky from the East unless Georgia is upset by South Carolina. Prediction: Kentucky 34, Ole Miss 27.
Southern Mississippi at Tennessee (-6.5). Butch Jones is still hanging on to his job, but it would be surprising if he was the Tennessee coach in 2018. The Volunteers are 3-5 overall and 0-5 in the SEC, and it’s possible they even miss a bowl game. Even if Jones rallies his team and they finish 7-5, it might not be enough to save his job. The schedule is more favorable down the stretch, but UT does not have any guaranteed wins left on the schedule. The Vols certainly should not overlook a decent Southern Mississippi squad this week. Prediction: Tennessee 24, Southern Miss 17.
Auburn at Texas A&M (+15). Despite Auburn’s di-sappointing loss to LSU, the Tigers can still win the SEC West if they win out and LSU loses again. Auburn had a week to rest and get healthy and now travel to College Station for an important matchup against the Aggies. Both Gus Malzahn and Kevin Sumlin need a win in this game for some job security, though Sumlin might be in more trouble than Malzahn after the Aggies’ blowout loss to Mississippi State last week. Since Texas A&M joined the SEC in 2012, the road team has won every game in this series. Prediction: Auburn 34, Texas A&M 20.
South Carolina at Georgia (-25). The Bulldogs have been one of the best teams in the country this season and dominated Florida, 42-7, to take a commanding lead in the SEC East. Only two teams remain that theoretically can catch up with the Bulldogs, and Georgia plays them both in the last month of the season. Kentucky and South Carolina each has two SEC losses but can still win the division if Georgia loses two games down the stretch. That doesn’t seem likely given how great Georgia has played this year, and the Gamecocks will need to play a near perfect game to pull off the upset in Athens. Prediction: Georgia 34, South Carolina 10.
UMass at Mississippi State (-28). Mississippi State was only projected to win between 5-6 games this season and already has won six after an impressive win over Texas A&M. The Bulldogs, who should have no trouble with UMass, still have games against two struggling West Division teams in Arkansas and Ole Miss. Dan Mullen is the second-best coach in the SEC, and the Bulldogs might have some trouble keeping him next season, especially if his former athletic director and current Florida AD Scott Stricklin offers Mullen the Florida job. Prediction: Mississippi State 48, UMass 13.
Western Kentucky at Vanderbilt (-11.5). If Derek Mason wants to lead the Commodores to another bowl game, his team desperately needs a win over the Hilltoppers. Western Kentucky isn’t as good as it has been in recent years, but Vandy has lost five straight games. The Commodores played better in the loss to South Carolina, but at 3-5 they don’t have much margin for error during the last month of the season. Prediction: Vanderbilt 27, Wes-tern Kentucky 20.
Coastal Carolina at Ar-kansas (-24.5). The Razorbacks have struggled drastically this season, and while Bret Bielema has had the support of athletic director Jeff Long, the Hogs must have a strong finish to the season to give Bielema some security. The comeback win over Ole Miss relieved some of the stress on Bielema, however, and Arkansas should have another win this Saturday. But the Razorbacks need to improve in the last month and must win two conference games if they wish to make a bowl game this year. Prediction: Arkansas 41, Coastal Carolina 16.
Florida at Missouri (-3.5). The Gators dropped to 3-4 after their blowout loss to Georgia, and third-year coach Jim McElwain was fired by the school. It wasn’t just the poor offensive performance that ended McElwain’s tenure; the coach claimed he and his team received death threats and failed to elaborate when school officials asked him about those threats. That led school officials to assume he made up the death threats, and when McElwain couldn’t back up the allegations up with evidence, the school decided to let him go. McElwain led Florida to back-to-back SEC East titles, but he was supposed to be an offensive guru the team has regressed offensively. Now, new AD Scott Stricklin will be tasked with finding a replacement, and that search will likely include big-name candidates such as Chip Kelly and Bob Stoops. Mullen will be an oft-mentioned name given his ties to both Florida and Stricklin, so the coaching carousel will have plenty of rumors in the SEC this offseason. Missouri coach Barry Odom led his team to back-to-back wins over Idaho and Connecticut, and while those won’t be confused with signature wins, they likely took a little pressure off of him entering the last month of the season. This is a good spot for the Tigers to win their third straight game, and Missouri could even be in position to reach a bowl game if they can steal a win here. Prediction: Missouri 27, Florida 23.

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