In & around SEC football: Week 9 Previews

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Alabama Week 8 Recap
For the second straight week, Alabama played one exceptional half and one terrible half. However, unlike the Arkansas game where the Crimson Tide built a double-digit lead and barely held on, Alabama fell behind Tennessee 20-7 at the half before storming back to win 34-20. Quarterback Joe Milton and the Tennessee offense were almost unstoppable in the first half, while Alabama struggled to move the ball in any capacity. In the second half, the Tide defense was impenetrable, while on offense Jase McClellan had his best game of the season in rushing for 115 yards on 27 carries and a touchdown. Alabama improved to 7-1 overall and 5-0 in the SEC as the Tide remain in the hunt for a playoff bid. Nick Saban’s team has the week off before hosting LSU on Saturday, Nov. 4.
Auburn Week 8 Recap
For the second straight SEC home game, Auburn had opportunities to beat a highly ranked team in the fourth quarter, but the Tigers failed to generate enough offense to pull off the upset. Ole Miss outgained Auburn 425-275, and AU only threw for 122 yards on the night. The Tigers also threw two interceptions, and while they forced two Ole Miss turnovers, the offense could not generate enough first downs to keep the defense off the field. Jarquez Hunter rushed for 91 yards and two touchdowns as the Tigers suffered their fourth straight loss to drop to 3-4 overall and 0-4 in conference play. Auburn hosts Mississippi State this Saturday (Oct. 27).
Week 9 SEC rankings
1. Georgia (7-0, 4-0)
2. Alabama (7-1, 5-0)
3. Ole Miss (6-1, 3-1)
4. LSU (6-2, 3-1)
5. Missouri (7-1, 3-1)
6. Tennessee (5-2, 2-2)
7. Texas A&M (4-3, 2-2)
8. Kentucky (5-2, 2-2)
9. Florida (5-2, 3-1)
10. Auburn (3-4, 0-4)
11. South Carolina (2-5, 1-4)
12. Mississippi State (4-3, 1-3)
13. Arkansas (2-6, 0-5)
14. Vanderbilt (2-6, 0-4)
Week 9 Previews and Predictions
Last week: 3-2; season: 55-12
Game of the Week: Tennessee at Kentucky (+3.5). After a disappointing loss to Missouri, the Wildcats had a week off to recalibrate before welcoming rival Tennessee into Lexington. Neither the Volunteers nor the Wildcats have a shot at winning the SEC East anymore, but this matchup will dictate how the rest of the season goes for both teams. Tennessee is fresh off a loss to Alabama, and Josh Heupel is tasked with reigniting his squad for another road challenge. Prediction: Kentucky 27, Tennessee 24.
South Carolina at Texas A&M (-14). A season ago, South Carolina was the biggest surprise in the SEC as the Gamecocks upset Tennessee and Clemson to end the year. This year, USC is 2-5, and it’s possible the Gamecocks miss the postseason altogether. Texas A&M already has three losses, and Jimbo Fisher’s seat is getting warmer by the minute in College Station. Fisher’s enormous buyout might save him this year and losing quarterback Conner Weigman for the season might also give Fisher an asterisk for 2023. Fisher cannot afford a losing season, however, which makes this game a must-win game for the Aggies. Prediction: Texas A&M 34, South Carolina 20.
Mississippi State at Auburn (-6.5). The Tigers have dropped four straight games, but their schedule is considerably lighter down the stretch until the Iron Bowl. Auburn will be favored in at least three of the next four games and possibly all four, but none will be easy wins unless the offense starts to improve dramatically. Mississippi State just knocked off Arkansas, 7-3, for Zach Arnett’s first conference win, and the Bulldogs were a 6.5-point underdog in that matchup as well. Prediction: Auburn 23, Mississippi State 16.
Georgia at Florida (-14.5). Both the Bulldogs and the Gators had this past week off, and Georgia will be without star tight end Brock Bowers for the foreseeable future. Bowers and Carson Beck have established a solid rapport, so Beck must develop another top target. Ladd McConkey should be healthier. The Georgia offense will need to be sharp, as the Florida offense continues to improve. Prediction: Georgia 31, Florida 17.
Vanderbilt at Ole Miss (-25.5). Lane Kiffin has Ole Miss in the mix in the SEC West and in the playoff hunt, and the Rebels should cruise to an easy win over the Commodores. However, Ole Miss will need Alabama to lose to LSU to have a chance to win the division, and Ole Miss still has a matchup with Georgia looming in November. Kiffin’s squad cannot afford any slip ups until then. Prediction: Ole Miss 41, Vanderbilt 13.

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