In & around SEC football


By Cole Frederick/Sports Correspondent

Alabama Week 9 Review
It wasn’t Alabama’s best offensive performance, but the Crimson Tide still won comfortably in taking down, LSU, 24-10 last Saturday (Nov. 4) in Tuscaloosa. The Tigers actually outgained the Tide on the night, but a Ronnie Harrison interception of LSU quarterback Danny Etling led to an Alabama touchdown, and a 14-0 lead in the first half was all the Tide needed. Jalen Hurts completed 11 of 24 passes for 183 yards and a touchdown and ran for 44 yards and a score. Calvin Ridley caught three passes for 61 yards and a touchdown, while Bo Scarbrough rushed for 39 yards and a touchdown. Alabama improved to 9-0 overall and 6-0 in the SEC. The Tide travels to Starkville on Saturday (Nov. 11) for perhaps their toughest test of the season against Mississippi State.
Auburn Week 9 Review
The Tigers overcame a sluggish start to breeze past Texas A&M, 42-27, last weekend in College Station. Auburn racked up nearly 500 yards of offense in a balanced attack. Quarterback Jarrett Stidham led the way in completing 20 of 27 passes for 268 yards and three scores. Kerryon Johnson carried the ball 29 times for 145 yards and a touchdown, while Darius Slayton caught two passes for 99 yards and a touchdown. Ryan Davis hauled in seven passes for 80 yards and a score as the Tigers improved to 7-2 overall and 5-1 in conference play. Auburn returns home to take on Georgia on Saturday at Jordan-Hare Stadium in the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry.

SEC Rankings
1. Alabama (9-0, 6-0)
2. Georgia (9-0, 6-0)
3. Auburn (7-2, 5-1)
4. Mississippi State (7-2, 3-2)
5. LSU (6-3, 3-2)
6. Texas A&M (5-4, 3-3)
7. South Carolina (6-3, 4-3)
8. Kentucky (6-3, 3-3)
9. Ole Miss (4-5, 2-4)
10. Vanderbilt (4-5, 0-5)
11. Missouri (4-5, 1-4)
12. Arkansas (4-5, 1-4)
13. Tennessee (4-5, 0-5)
14. Florida (3-5, 3-4)

Week 10 Previews and Predictions
Week 8 record: 8-1
Season record: 68-17
Saturday, Nov. 11
Game of the Week:
Georgia at Auburn (2.5). While the rivalry between Auburn and Alabama is the most important within the state, the rivalry between Auburn and Georgia shares more history. The Bulldogs recently surpassed the Tigers in the series, holding a 57-55-8 advantage entering the 121st meeting between the two schools. Both teams enter this matchup in the top 10 in the polls, and Georgia is No. 1 in the College Football Playoff committee rankings. The Bulldogs already clinched the SEC East, and while the Tigers have two losses, they still control their own destiny in the SEC West if they win out. Georgia has had the upper hand in recent years in winning nine of the last 11 meetings. Auburn went on to win the SEC championship and play for the national championship the last two times the Tigers beat Georgia. The Bulldogs have a slight advantage on defense, while the Tigers have a slight advantage on offense. This game could come down to special teams and coaching, and the two coaches are certainly familiar with one another. Gus Malzahn and Kirby Smart have squared off against each other for years dating back to when the two were coordinators for Auburn and Alabama, respectively, and both have plenty at stake when their teams meet on Saturday afternoon. Prediction: Georgia 16, Auburn 13.
Florida at South Carolina (-7.5). Firing Jim McElwain didn’t do anything to solve Florida’s woes on either side of the ball. Missouri dominated Florida, 45-16, and now the Gators are in jeopardy of missing a bowl game. They travel to take on South Carolina this weekend. The Gamecocks are led by former Florida head coach Will Muschamp, who was ousted after four seasons similar to McElwain’s tenure at Florida. The only difference was while Muschamp’s offenses struggled, he was known for being a defensive-minded coach. McElwain was heralded as an offensive mastermind, yet his offenses were unproductive. Muschamp’s crew is already headed to another bowl game, and now he’ll look to enact revenge upon his former school. Prediction: South Carolina 27, Florida 17.
Louisiana Lafayette at Ole Miss (-17.5). Ole Miss interim coach Matt Luke won’t be returning as head coach next season, but he deserves some credit for this team not quitting. Ole Miss is banned from the postseason, and the Rebels are playing a backup quarterback and coming off of a heart-breaking loss to Arkansas last week. Yet the Rebels still played hard and left Lexington with an impressive win over Kentucky. The Rebels should get by Louisiana-Lafayette, and six wins is still possible with Texas A&M and Mississippi State remaining on the schedule. Prediction: Ole Miss 48, Louisiana Lafayette 20.
Alabama at Mississippi State (+14.5). Alabama won 24-10 over LSU but lost two key defensive contributors in the process. Linebackers Shaun Dion Hamilton and Mack Wilson are out for the season with injuries, joining fellow linebackers Christian Miller and Terrell Lewis as four linebackers likely lost for the year. Star defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick was also hobbled in the win but could return this Saturday against the Bulldogs. Mississippi State could pose a threat to the Tide with mobile quarterback Nick Fitzgerald leading the way, but the Bulldogs have struggled against elite de-fenses this season. Alabama will rely more on its offense this week, and while the passing game still isn’t as consistent as offensive coordinator Brian Daboll would like, there haven’t been many teams capable of slowing the Tide down. Prediction: Alabama 27, Mississippi State 10.
Tennessee at Missouri (-10.5). This matchup features one coach who might have saved his job versus a coach who almost certainly is a sitting duck. Let’s start with the positive. After a 1-5 start, it looked like Barry Odom wouldn’t be returning for a third year at his alma mater. But Missouri has now won three straight – including an impressive rout over Florida – and a bowl berth is within reach. On the other sideline, Butch Jones is still the UT head coach but might as well be updating his resume. The Volunteers beat Southern Miss last weekend, but at 4-5, it’s unlikely Jones can do enough to earn another year in Knoxville. The fan support has dwindled, and most likely there will be a new coach leading the program next fall. Prediction: Missouri 41, Tennessee 30.
New Mexico at Texas A&M (-18.5). After back-to-back blowout losses, it would be surprising to see Kevin Sumlin return to Texas A&M next season. The Aggies are now 5-4, and even if they win out and get to 8-4, it might not be enough to save Sumlin’s job. Texas A&M should beat New Mexico and will likely be favored over Ole Miss, but the Aggies still have a tough LSU team on the schedule. Add the Aggies to the growing list of SEC schools looking for a head coach this offseason. Prediction: Texas A&M 41, New Mexico 24.
Kentucky at Vanderbilt (-3). The Commodores need two more wins to reach a bowl game after they ended a five-game losing skid with a 31-17 win over Western Kentucky. The schedule down the stretch includes games against Kentucky, Missouri and Tennessee, so a bowl berth is certainly within reach for Derek Mason’s team. Kentucky already has reached six wins, but Saturday’s home loss to Ole Miss was not a good look for Mark Stoops’ team. This felt like a team capable of winning 8-9 games, and while that’s still in play, a loss to a reeling Rebels team wasn’t what the doctor ordered. Prediction: Vanderbilt 24, Kentucky 20.
Arkansas at LSU (-18). Here’s how difficult it is to coach in the SEC – Arkansas won last Saturday, yet Bret Bielema has faced more scrutiny from the fan base than ever before. To be fair, a one-point, come-from-be-hind win over 1-8 Coastal Carolina – a program in its first year in FBS – doesn’t exactly signify that a coach has rallied the troops. The Razorbacks were embarrassing in their performance against the Chanticleers, and at 4-5, there are questions regarding whether that was the last straw for Bie-lema. There was speculation that he needed at least six wins to retain his job, and while that’s still obtainable, it’s unlikely given that LSU, Mississippi State and a suddenly resurgent Missouri team remain on the schedule. LSU has righted the ship under Ed Orgeron, and while a loss to Alabama is never a good thing, the program seems like it’s in a better place under Coach O than it did after that awful loss to Troy. Orgeron and company can undo all the goodwill they’ve restored if they lose to Arkansas or Tennessee in the next two weeks, but it feels like he has LSU trending in the right direction. Prediction: LSU 31, Arkansas 10.

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